Before I start on this post as you know, I am now working part time for DxO the makers of PhotoLab 6, PureRAW3 and the Nik Collection of plugins for Photoshop, Lightroom and Affinity Photo.
Today what I want to talk about is raw conversion software. As a photographer you probably already have one that you use. I have used a few of them in the past and my current favourite is DxO PhotoLab6, I actually started using it before I started to work for DxO. You could say I liked the software so much that I started to work for them. But in all honesty, I did see the ad for my role on LinkedIn jobs and really only applied for it, as I was using DxO software.
The reason I use it is particular to me, I like the way it handles colour and the workflow that I have adopted. which is:
Import, sort and add meta data with PhotoMechanic.
Raw conversion and image adjustment colour, tone highlight recovery dust removal, cropping sharpening in Photo Lab6 (in other words the basic file preparation) often I can just use these two programs, especially for my street and documentary photography.
Affinity Photo If however I am making a portrait image and need to the retouch an image then I will now use Affinity Photo for this task, sometimes Photoshop as I am still more familiar with it than Affinity Photo however as I use Affinity more I am getting more family with it and feeling less inclined to open photoshop.
So my use of photo programs goes like this Photo Mechanic -> PhotoLab -> Affinity Photo (if needed) -> Output.
Now your use and needs will vary. I have found that as I have used Photoshop ever since 1997 I have had a lot of experience and memory of where things are and what things do so I have probably forgotten more than I have remembered at this stage whereas for me Affinity Photo as I have not used it so extensively is still relatively new to me and I sometimes have to think before doing something which does not happen when I use Photoshop.
When I was teaching photography I would teach a different workflow as people wanted to learn the industry standard and that consisted of Lightroom or Bridge for importing, adding metadata and rating images. then Lightroom for raw conversion or alternatively Camera Raw inside Photoshop to do the raw conversion and if any retouching was required then into Photoshop for the retouching. Now more can be done inside Lightroom including what would have before been considered retouching.
So the work flow would have been Lightroom (Bridge) -> Photoshop (& use Plugins inside Photoshop) -. Output.
At times, I decided that I wanted to use Capture One Pro as its colour science was better (or I preferred it) than Lightrooms. I would alternate between the programs as it really depended on the camera system that I was using at the time. Images from Sony cameras to me looked better in Capture One Pro and when using Canon cameras the Images looked better from Lightroom. And this leads me to my point of todays writing.
And maybe the best way I can describe what I want to say is to use the analogy of film processing. When a Black and White film is processed in one developed it has a different range of tones and contrast to that of another developer and I thing that digital images also when processed that is when converted from raw files in different raw convertors appear different. They have a slightly different feel, a different rendering of tones, contrast, highlight recovery and colour science for each brand or even each model of camera. The thing that I hear often in reviews of raw conversion software, is that one is better than an other at different aspects of the process or more often one does not match the other, so the reviewer works to try to make the convertors produce image that look the same. Now for me that would be a real horror, if they did as the advantage of having different raw conversion programs on ones own computer, is that you can make your images look different by just processing them in different raw convertors and playing to each raw convertors strengths. So why don’t we do this more often, I suspect it is something to do with cost and something to do with our familiarity of one raw convertor program over another. So with this in mind I would encourage you next time that the images you are making do not fit your normal way of seeing the world, that why not try out a new raw convertor to see how you can use that to produce images that are different to your normal way of expressing your photographic vision.