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Thread: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

  1. #1
    Mitch Alland
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    Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Taking up Ian's suggestion, below are two sets of portraits that I've posted previously — taken with the GDR2/GT-1 combination at ISO 400 and 800, respectively — to which I've applied the Alien Skin Tri-X pushed 2 preset. In each set the first picture is the one I posted earlier, using the grain-like noise of the GRD2, and the second one is with the Alien Skin grain. I sort of like the "less exquisite" look of the Alien Skin pictures, but do you think the grain needs to be larger, like in ShiroKuro's "Painting her nails" series? But, then, how do I achieve in Alien Skib the sort of grain ShiroKuro has applies?















    —Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1026877...89168260/show/

  2. #2
    7ian7
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Cool, Mitch!

    Even though I find the new versions a bit overcooked — too punchy and dark, with some nice info sacrificed — to my eye they still have a gutsiness that feels very "real". Did you start from scratch for the new ones? I'm guessing that the program is ideally designed to evaluate and then convert a color image.

    I find that the "film-like" essence comes across even with extremely judicial use of the plug-in, or by selecting "film" settings that I don't remember in their real form as being particularly grainy. Or by using grain-only settings. Or all those other variables the controls have on offer in the dialogue box. And the color settings are inspiring too.

    I'll be interested in seeing what you come up with, and hearing about your take on how images run through this plug-in translate in to large prints.

    Ian

  3. #3
    Super Duper
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    Maggie O's Avatar
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Just as an alternative idea, I put a layer of HP5 ISO800 grain over the image. (I got the photos of grain from someone over at LUF):

  4. #4
    Mitch Alland
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Maggie, although your HP5(800) grain may be more attractive I'm beginning to feel that, once one makes this picture so grainy, the higher contrast of my Alien Skin version is more suitable. Can you send me a copy of the HP5(800) grain and let me know how to use, and I can attempt a high-contrast version with it?

    —Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1026877...89168260/show/

  5. #5
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Quote Originally Posted by Mitch Alland View Post
    Maggie, although your HP5(800) grain may be more attractive I'm beginning to feel that, once one makes this picture so grainy, the higher contrast of my Alien Skin version is more suitable. Can you send me a copy of the HP5(800) grain and let me know how to use, and I can attempt a high-contrast version with it?

    —Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1026877...89168260/show/
    I'll send you the HP5, along with a Tri-X 1600 and a T-Max 3200, too.

    Here's my attempt at a higher contrast version, using the brightness/contrast layer and a curves layer in CS3. The grain is a separate layer in PS, set to "multiply." :

  6. #6
    Mitch Alland
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Thanks, Maggie. Ugh, this last one has too much contrast even for me! But maybe not, perhaps I'll try going in this direction without blocking up the shadows quite as much.

    —Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1026877...89168260/show/
    Last edited by Mitch Alland; 26th February 2008 at 20:34.

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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Mitch,
    I like the Alien Skin on your first shot but I'm not wild about it on the second shot. The face and left side of the wall are too similar and the amount of grain on the face is too distracting and overdone especially since the grain doesn't show up on the white wall on the right.

  8. #8
    Mitch Alland
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Quote Originally Posted by 7ian7 View Post
    ...Even though I find the new versions a bit overcooked — too punchy and dark, with some nice info sacrificed — to my eye they still have a gutsiness that feels very "real". Did you start from scratch for the new ones? I'm guessing that the program is ideally designed to evaluate and then convert a color image...
    No, Ian, in these two versions I simply applied the Alien Skin "Tri-X pushed 2 stops" to the final TIF files and then used a curve to lighten mainly the low and mid-tones that got much darker than the original picture with the increase in contrast. I like the resulting grittiness, and am not sure than I mind them being "overcooked": the idea I have is that a photograph is it's own reality, like a poem; and the reason that I try to stay away from "exquisite" rendering, like in the original versions of these two pictures is that many photographers feel that that is closer to "reality". But a photograph is not reality; it is, rather, a form of expression.

    And in the case of both of these two beautiful young women one can express just the surface, such as the sweet look of the first one, or a more deep and less obvious truth that I'm interested in, which both women have as they are not shallow people. That, to me, is what the harsher and more contrasty versions express, as well as showing their beauty.

    I tried starting with the original DNG files but the results were not as good, maybe because I just tried very quickly.

    —Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1026877...89168260/show/

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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Quote Originally Posted by Mitch Alland View Post
    But, then, how do I achieve in Alien Skib the sort of grain ShiroKuro has applies?
    —Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1026877...89168260/show/
    Mitch

    When you are in Alien Skin Exposure, you select the film type (for example Tri-X 400 Pushed 2 stops) in the Settings Tab. There are six Tabs total, one of them is labeled Grain - Here you can play around with the quality of the grain. The other Tabs provide some nice tools as well.

    In the settings tab there is a folder for Grain as well and gives you soem presets for different types of grain.

  10. #10
    Mitch Alland
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Quote Originally Posted by TEBnewyork View Post
    Mitch,
    I like the Alien Skin on your first shot but I'm not wild about it on the second shot. The face and left side of the wall are too similar and the amount of grain on the face is too distracting and overdone especially since the grain doesn't show up on the white wall on the right.
    Yes, I have the same problem with the white wall not showing grain.

    —Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1026877...89168260/show/

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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Quote Originally Posted by Mitch Alland View Post
    Yes, I have the same problem with the white wall not showing grain.

    —Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1026877...89168260/show/

    Mitch, go to the grain Tab and you can increase the grain in the highlight, shadow, and midtones separately. You can make it stronger in just the highlights, for example.

  12. #12
    Mitch Alland
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Thanks, cmb. I'll try that.

    —Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1026877...89168260/show/

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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Quote Originally Posted by Mitch Alland View Post
    I sort of like the "less exquisite" look of the Alien Skin pictures, but do you think the grain needs to be larger, like in ShiroKuro's "Painting her nails" series? But, then, how do I achieve in Alien Skib the sort of grain ShiroKuro has applies?
    along with adjusting the grain highlights. shadows, etc., you can adjust the grain "roughness" in Alien Skin so you can make it bigger and grittier.

    there are also the grain only settings that can be added additionally to bring out highlights or shadows or give it the huge salt and pepper type grains. Alien Skin really allows you to go mad and then fine tune everything to perfection.

  14. #14
    Senior Member ShiroKuro's Avatar
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    The grain does not have to be larger ..I think for certain images the larger grain works well .... The first portrait I like the original .It goes well with the sweet and innocent look of the girl . The second portrait I think the grain works ... though is not necessary ... it adds to the moodiness of the girl .... Both images stand on there own with out the added grain effect.. adding grain for the sake of grain is not going to save an image. If an image is strong I think it gives one a lot more creative possibilities .

    I did not add grain to the shots in the Nails thread .The camera was set at ISO 1600 ,using Alein Skin as my Black and white conversion/ Ilford Delta 3200 no grain .Trying to see if the image would be useable at this high ISO setting ..Rather would I choose this setting shooting in available light handheld ...... Is there a difference taking an image at ISO 400 and adding grain or simply using the image as it is .... using what the sensor produces in a situation that may warrant a high ISO in low light ? Anyway that was sort of my thinking when trying this out ....

    Charley

  15. #15
    Mitch Alland
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Quote Originally Posted by ShiroKuro View Post
    The grain does not have to be larger ..I think for certain images the larger grain works well .... The first portrait I like the original .It goes well with the sweet and innocent look of the girl . The second portrait I think the grain works ... though is not necessary ... it adds to the moodiness of the girl .... Both images stand on there own with out the added grain effect.. adding grain for the sake of grain is not going to save an image. If an image is strong I think it gives one a lot more creative possibilities...
    Charley, actually I've been resisting using Alien Skin Exposure because I've always disliked conceptually trying to make digital look like film: rather, I've just been trying to get a look that I like. I only tried it today at Ian's suggestion in your Nails thread. Before, seeing this posting of yours I played around some more with AS and then decided to just try to increase the contrast of the two pictures because I rather like the look of the GRD2 grain-like noise at ISO 400 — the two pictures below are the original two files to which I have only added contrast. To me the expressive effect is the same; and I like the GRD2/ISO 400 grain. I haven't tried to match the tonality of what I did in AS above: indeed, I've pulled the highlights back a bit — I tend to go with what I like at the moment that I do it. I think that this two latest pictures with the heightened contrast is more of what I what I want than the original pictures or the AS versions.








    —Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1026877...89168260/show/

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    Subscriber Member TRSmith's Avatar
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    I've followed this thread with interest and would like to say Mitch, that I always enjoy your photos. They challenge me a bit, and force me to go beyond my own thinking about what a photograph "should" look like. I need that. Your photos are instantly recognizable as being yours, and I envy the fact that you have what amounts to a strong personal style.

    Years of producing conventional black and white prints for clients has left me with some deeply rooted prejudices. I may not always agree with your choices, but I truly appreciate that you are willing to nudge things in a direction guided by your own vision.

    Here is my own "conventional" take on your wonderful photo (with added punch and some grain-like noise.)
    Last edited by TRSmith; 27th February 2008 at 05:45.

  17. #17
    Mitch Alland
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Quote Originally Posted by TRSmith View Post
    I...Here is my own "conventional" take on your wonderful photo (with added punch and some grain-like noise.)
    Thanks for the kind words, TR.

    Your version makes me think I've got to make it punchier by strengthening the highlights, thereby increasing the contrast. After all these years of looking at a monitor sometimes it takes making a print before one really knows what one wants. I think if I had printed the last version of this picture I would have seen immediately that I needed to boost the highlights.

    —Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

  18. #18
    7ian7
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Hi Mitch,

    I totally agree. My usage of the word "real" has nothing to do with something that is accurate to what the scene or person really looked like. It's about impact.

    I seem to vacillate between attempting desperately to retain information and then letting it go, in the name of a gutsier final image. Gutsy usually wins, and any details that fall away are in most cases not missed. Sometimes running the plug-in — or selecting the "High Contrast" preset in a PhotoShop Curves adjustment layer, is a quick way to gauge how gutsy an image can be, instead of timidly inching my way there.

    I was — and am — turned off by the name Alien Skin, which doesn't do justice to how sophisticated the plug-in is. I'm not concerned with legacy for legacy's sake, I'm simply enthusiastic about any tool that helps me make a picture look how I know it should look.

    I love it when independent programmers take legacy aesthetics head-on; even if the results aren't the answer to everything. In the digital realm, there is too often this kind of tacit agreement that consumers will abandon our principles about fidelity and aesthetics, in order to embrace the convenience of ... progress. That's fair to a certain extent, but sometimes I feel like that dynamic risks eroding my expectations of what a picture can be.

  19. #19
    7ian7
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Maggie, your use of the grain layer looks cool. Can you post those grain files somewhere for all of us? I don't think the grain feature is the best thing about Alien Skin, but you may also find the way it does handle grain really cool. Totally customizable.

  20. #20
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Quote Originally Posted by 7ian7 View Post
    Maggie, your use of the grain layer looks cool. Can you post those grain files somewhere for all of us?
    Come and get it!

  21. #21
    7ian7
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Thanks, Maggie.

  22. #22
    Senior Member ShiroKuro's Avatar
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    Thanx Maggie O ; )

  23. #23
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    Re: Using Alien Skin with SSCs

    My pleasure!

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