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Thread: Processing MM files

  1. #1
    Member MichaelToye's Avatar
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    Processing MM files

    I think we all have slightly different methods for editing our work. Here's a post on how I process my Monochrom files.

    How To Process Leica M Monochrom Files (follow up) The Stormtroopers Are Coming!
    __________________________________
    Leica M Monochrom, 35mm Summicron-M f/2 Asph
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    Re: Processing MM files

    Thanks for sharing! Always helpful to compare notes. I find it's always a balance between clarity and tonality for the MM. I love that pop and contrast, but sometimes I lose the subtlety if I push it too far
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    Re: Processing MM files

    Michael--

    Thanks for the post and the link to your other workflow post for the MM. It really helped me get a better handle on the possibilities. Of course, this is probably going to cost me, as I sold my M8u a few months ago, kept the M9, and have been thinking--hard--about the MM.

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    Re: Processing MM files

    Norm you should take the plunge! I had the chance to buy M9p and the new M at very compelling prices and after comparison I always kept my MM. Even though the M comes close in terms of BW performance (but cannot match in terms of tonality and ultra high ISO) the workflow is a lot longer if you shoot mostly B&W. Also the simplicity, and the ability to use my old filters are key decision makers for me.

    Now they can be had at bargain prices (relative). I've seen them go for as low as 6500
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    Re: Processing MM files

    Sigh...Yes, I've contacted a couple of dealers who have had some demos w/ factory warranty. Just missed one at $6800-, but haven't seen one as low as $6500. With my preferred kit being 21-35-75, live view is not of much interest and, while the M240 seems great, I do a lot of low light shooting. I have had problems with the M9 electronics, and have needed some repairs, but still like the way the CCD chip renders, especially compared with the Mandler designed lenses. So it looks like MM, when I come up with a demo at the right price [or close].

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    Senior Member JohnBrew's Avatar
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    Re: Processing MM files

    Michael, thank you for posting your workflow with the Mono. I have enjoyed your posted images very much. I rented a Mono for a week and quickly found a workflow which worked well, but then I have years of experience with bw and bw conversions.
    I have to wonder why you are sharpening your images at all.
    I tried SilverEfex (twice!) but found I could achieve the same results with Curves and filters. I guess it just shows there are many ways to reach the desired result.

    I ordered a Mono but chickened out before it could be delivered. I decided 8 grand is just too much for a camera body. Now 7 sounds okay, though

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    Member MichaelToye's Avatar
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    Re: Processing MM files

    Thanks for replying John. As to sharpening, I prepare images for print and the sharpening is mainly for that but, on resize for the net, the images look nicely crisp without 'crunching'.

    Thanks
    Michael
    __________________________________
    Leica M Monochrom, 35mm Summicron-M f/2 Asph

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    Re: Processing MM files

    Your workflow is so complicated, I wonder why go through all the trouble? Isn't a B&W camera supposed to give good results right out of the camera? Especially at this price?

    And this got me thinking: how good is your pp/workflow with a file from another camera? If the end result is similar, well...

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    Re: Processing MM files

    Quote Originally Posted by NB23 View Post
    ... Isn't a B&W camera supposed to give good results right out of the camera? ..
    I'm interested to hear answers to this question. One short answer is, No.

    The files from the Monochrom are linear, flat and extremely malleable.
    Ed

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    Member MichaelToye's Avatar
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    Re: Processing MM files

    Quote Originally Posted by NB23 View Post
    Your workflow is so complicated, I wonder why go through all the trouble? Isn't a B&W camera supposed to give good results right out of the camera? Especially at this price?

    And this got me thinking: how good is your pp/workflow with a file from another camera? If the end result is similar, well...
    Interesting questions.

    I simply expect my camera to record the scene as accurately as it can. Overall contrast or the emphasising/de emphasising subjective portions of an image is all my creative influence.

    The combination of my shooting style and processing gives my photos a common look, but the images are sometimes processed differently.

    Hopefully I'm not rambling, but I prefer the camera is unbiased and records the scene so I can influence the images in my own flawed subjective way.

    I'm not sure what the intended direction of your post is, but I sense you wonder that all this 'work' means the camera can't be that good or that any other camera could take the MM's place as a capture device?

    I can't speak for anyone else, but I thoroughly enjoy the entire photographic experience with my M. The photo walks and the processing. I've been processing B&W images for 10 years and I like I can take 'shortcuts' with SEP2 and I'm happy with my workflow... which takes me 2-5 minutes to process each image.

    I hope my response was in some way constructive
    Michael

    ps, my only other decent compare camera is a 5D Mark II. Its files are not as pliable as the Monochrom's in terms of B&W manipulation and do lose highlights and shadow detail very easily.
    __________________________________
    Leica M Monochrom, 35mm Summicron-M f/2 Asph
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    Re: Processing MM files

    Quote Originally Posted by NB23 View Post
    Your workflow is so complicated, I wonder why go through all the trouble? Isn't a B&W camera supposed to give good results right out of the camera? Especially at this price?

    And this got me thinking: how good is your pp/workflow with a file from another camera? If the end result is similar, well...
    I wonder when it was in the history of photography that good B&W photographs ever came 'right out of the camera'? A rhetorical question, because the answer is 'they never have', with any camera and at any price.

    The art of the darkroom, even for famous press photographs, has always been a integral part of the B&W image, and all that has happened now is that the darkroom is replaced by post processing, but the 'art' is still important. It is a hopelessly innocent question to expect the camera to produce images that perfectly reflect what the photographer wants and has in his/her mind's eye. How does the camera know how you like your contrast, or cropping, or sharpening? All the camera knows is what a technician at Solms programmed into it as a safe do-it-all default setting that is a good enough starting point for most people.

    Read 'Magnum - Contact Sheets' to see how manipulation and the photographers choice has been a part of film photography over the years, then realise that post processing in digital is no different.

    Steve
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    Re: Processing MM files

    Quote Originally Posted by NB23 View Post
    Your workflow is so complicated, I wonder why go through all the trouble? Isn't a B&W camera supposed to give good results right out of the camera? Especially at this price?

    And this got me thinking: how good is your pp/workflow with a file from another camera? If the end result is similar, well...
    Though mine is quite different than Michael's, it is equally (if not more) " complicated".

    Would love to hear from you, with examples, how you do it in a simpler way - with any camera file.

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    Re: Processing MM files

    Quote Originally Posted by NB23 View Post
    Your workflow is so complicated, I wonder why go through all the trouble? Isn't a B&W camera supposed to give good results right out of the camera? Especially at this price?

    And this got me thinking: how good is your pp/workflow with a file from another camera? If the end result is similar, well...
    IMO, there isn't a digital camera on the planet that gives good finished results right out of the camera ... anymore than any film camera did ... color or B&W.

    As mentioned, the MM provides linear files with the potential of being processed to meet the "eye of the beholder" subjectivity when processed. In other words, the idea is to provide a malleable creative tool rather than one that uses some more homogenized notion of what is right.

    With that in mind, how complex or simple one's work flow may be is irrelevant IMO ... the end result being the priority.

    Personally, I work out of Lightroom 4 using PS6 and Nik Silver Efx Pro as "open-In plug-ins". I find this method gives me the most control because it gives me three programs to influence the outcome, and each has certain processing tools that the other two do not have.

    With the LR DNGs, I always "open-in" Photoshop because it provides layers to work with ... so when I select the Nik program under PS Filters, it opens as a layer over the original file.

    I do not have a set or "canned" workflow, as each image is different and requires processing by eye ... which is very similar to how I worked in my B&W darkroom for 30+ years.

    Since I use this camera for paying work (mostly weddings), I am dealing with hundreds of images at a crack ... however it doesn't take any longer to process MM files to finished form than any color shot. You develop a sort of rhythm after awhile and pretty much know which preset to use for certain lighting conditions, and so on.

    Here's a time saving trick I learned some time ago ... and frequently use it as the first step after initially opening the MM DNGs in PS ... go directly to the Gradient Map and select the B&W square ... it'll provide a pretty decent tonal range as a base to work with when you then open the file in Nik Silver Efex.

    Another trick I use is to tone the top Nik PS layer with a touch of blue ... this increases the snap with rich blacks without touching the levels. Then slightly lower the opacity of that layer to allow the more neutral tone map original to ever so slightly peek through ... making the lights and mids a bit warmer. It is all very subtile, and often doesn't show on the web, but looks great in print form.

    - Marc
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    Re: Processing MM files

    Quote Originally Posted by 250swb View Post
    I wonder when it was in the history of photography that good B&W photographs ever came 'right out of the camera'? A rhetorical question, because the answer is 'they never have', with any camera and at any price.
    Of course, they didn't. But isn't that why we are here? Trying to do something that is difficult and doesn't always work, just for the kick of enjoying it when it does work out nearly 'right'? Obviously, the answer is yes. Even for me and my dedicated freezer full of film, my fridge full of chemicals, and my numerous film cameras - either I'm just raising the bar for my own entertainment, or I am a full-fledged masochist. For reasons of nostalgia, loyalty to my father, tradition and possibly simple olfactory memory, I would rather spend an afternoon in the dark inhaling fixer (oohhh, fixer!) than farting around with Photoshop. Nonetheless, I appreciate that the MM gives me better files than my MP or M7, with no extra effort. I may have to sell that freezer and its contents given that small but destructive fact. It is the first camera that doesn't leave me with any residual guilt for using digital over film. It might seem silly, but this will take me a little while to digest and get used to.

    Chris
    Hundreds of rolls of last-batch Plus-X might soon be available!
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    Re: Processing MM files

    Quote Originally Posted by chrism View Post
    snip...It is the first camera that doesn't leave me with any residual guilt for using digital over film.... snip

    Chris
    +1 and well said
    Ed

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    Re: Processing MM files

    Quote Originally Posted by 250swb View Post
    The art of the darkroom, even for famous press photographs, has always been a integral part of the B&W image, and all that has happened now is that the darkroom is replaced by post processing, but the 'art' is still important. It is a hopelessly innocent question to expect the camera to produce images that perfectly reflect what the photographer wants and has in his/her mind's eye. How does the camera know how you like your contrast, or cropping, or sharpening? All the camera knows is what a technician at Solms programmed into it as a safe do-it-all default setting that is a good enough starting point for most people.
    I remember getting my first digital camera in the late '90's--a Kodak DC5000 I believe--and being amazed at what I could do with the files in Photoshop, the colour manipulation and textures you could add...it was endless! I also recall feeling a little guilty doing these manipulations on a computer and that I wasn't doing real photography because film and a darkroom were not involved.

    Some years later I was watching a documentary about Ansel Adams. They talked about the hours upon hours he would spend in the darkroom getting his pictures to look the way HE wanted them to look. I no longer felt guilty about digital photography and using computer software to manipulate my images.
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    Re: Processing MM files

    Quote Originally Posted by mtsullivan View Post
    Some years later I was watching a documentary about Ansel Adams. They talked about the hours upon hours he would spend in the darkroom getting his pictures to look the way HE wanted them to look. I no longer felt guilty about digital photography and using computer software to manipulate my images.
    And I think Ansel Adams would have been one of the first to adopt digital, or at the very least thoroughly test it out.

    There is often a single moment of revelation and people 'get it'. I have taught photography and showing people how a little edge burning, or brightening a face, or darkening the background, changes the power of an image, and they see other photographs with a new eye from then on. I think I have posted this link before, but it shows the notes Don McCullin made for the darkroom printer on one of his iconic Vietnam photographs. It is clearly a difficult negative, but the difference between the powerful but insipid original and the final image (probably best seen printed in a good book), is remarkable.

    We Made This Ltd

    Steve

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