Should I Be Using Photo Presets?

When I make an image with my iPhone, I’ll do a quick edit of exposure, contrast and often apply one of the built in gray scale filters. Done.

But think about how much processing the iPhone has performed on that image even as it’s being captured. I get mid day landscapes with beautifully exposed blue skies and fluffy, contrasty clouds that I don’t think I could achieve with my camera kits. It’s all backend machine learning which has migrated in some measure to the RAW file processing in current products, but mostly in the form of presets.

New Orleans Dumpster Leica Q2

So of course using presets is a great strategy for processing images from cameras, if it achieves the desired effect. One of the joys of film photography is that the film characteristics provide a very specific modification of the raw photon flux because of color sensitivity and contrast curves.

There a quite a few companies making good presets like Nik and Mastin Labs. This image was processed with DxO’s FilmPak which provides lots of really nice film presets. They are using sophisticated software to manipulate images to get very specific effects, ones that I don’t believe I could ever duplicate.

Not all photography need be casual in the way I’ve defined it. Expression in the darkroom is an art in itself and requires a base capture as a starting point. But the work of photographing- capturing images and developing technique- the eye for light, form and composition, can be impeded by the laborious process of computer post processing that not every image needs. Quality suited for purpose. It’s easy to get the global look of the image right. It’s the local changes- the dodging and burning we did in the dark room that provides the next step to draw in the viewer.

I think of an image like this as about 80% done. If I want to develop it further, I’d print a 4 x 6″ print and look at it from time to time until I understood what I might do to express a bit more of what it’s like to see a dumpster in New Orleans. But for now I like the composition and the blur of the landscape. Ideas that I hope I’ll bring to future image captures.