Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Do Aliens like Olympus Raw? Another encounter with the little gray guys (or girls its hard to tell!)

Having more time to work with Alien Skin Exposure X2 and reviewing how my Olympus OMD EM1 Mark 1 files behave in this software. So far, I like what I see. Having deeply used both Lightroom and Capture One for years I can really see no drop off in quality in my RAW files. The one thing the other two applications have that X2 does not is camera RAW presets. These will alter the overall image upon importing to reflect a camera setting, ever so slightly changing the appearance of the image. Personally I rarely used them because I make so many global changes to my images that these presets just do not matter.
The last few months Exposure X2 has become my primary workflow application. When Alien Skin updates their RAW camera support to include my Panasonic Lumix LX10 I will do another review looking at those files. So for now lets talk about the Olympus EM1 files.

The first image below shows the metadata and overall exposure with clipping turned on in the histogram. Before moving on, I do want to mention how I like the metadata module. Alien Skin has four fields to add all the necessary contact info. By selecting all your images in a folder at once you can simply add to these data fields once and effect all the images. Clean, simple, and fast. The one field missing is keywords. I had brought that up with the technical staff at Alien Skin and was told that would be included in some future version. Just found it strange how that was not included up front. Now back to the image. With clipping on the red at the top of the image and blue around the front of cabin are the two most extremes.

Original file with clipping on.

Adjusting just for the highlights I was able to retrieve detail in most of the sky but more importantly the dogwood blossoming flowers. Adjustments are quick and linear.
Highlight recovery.

Moving highlights back to neutral, next was shadow recovery. Looking at the original image this area of the cabin is almost black in shadow. Olympus RAW file response to shadow recovery has been very good in Exposure X2. Detail was pulled out and was very workable.
Shadow recovery

Zooming in on the front of the cabin I have a very usable cabin with shadow recovery. Again RAW file support is on par with the other big names out there in how I use software in my workflow. I am not a pixel peeper. This image is zoomed in 100% to show the latitude of the adjustments.
100% zoom showing usable recovery of shadows.

When I select an image that will be made into my artwork I will push these sliders to their limits just to see how the image will behave. This gives me a baseline as to how I will go about brushing in my adjustment layers. Ultimately I end up with something like this coming from the RAW file. All from a very bright day with hard light and almost black shadows in my area of interest.
The Finished Product
So in summary the quality and latitude of Olympus RAW files and Alien Skin Exposure X2 has been a very good match in my creation of artwork. I have been able to push/pull burn/dodge to my hart's content. It has been equally as good as Capture One and better than Lightroom for my style creation. One other feature I like to mention is using the eye dropper to select the white balance. In Exposure X2 moving the eye dropper across the image the white balance will change in real time. You also get a magnification lupe that follows the eye dropper and allows you to easily see which pixel you have selected. Very nice touch.

Lastly, Alien Skin has posted on their blog some major updates coming soon. Very excited about what they are doing. Specifically the new layers module. This REALLY fits into my workflow. I would love to see them add artistic brush layer support from Snap Art into this module. Thereby brushing in various art styles into the image. Now that would be a cool feature.

Now for the shameless plug. Want to see where all this leads? Head over to Silver Streams Galleria to see how I put it all together.

Until next time. Be careful about those alien abductions. You may just start using their software. Now where is my ray gun....