Value of Camera Processing

Taking some snapshots today led me to thinking about the “value” of using the on-camera processing options to take pictures as Black and White or Sepia (or even low colour), rather than taking every shot as high colour and doing any processing in Photoshop. Now for clarification purposes, I do not have a “real” DSLR (Kodak Z650) so taking the pictures in RAW is not an option and therefore some camera processing is inevitable.

Today, as I was snapping some pictures of country houses and landscapes, I realised I was often switching between Black and White, Sepia and High Colour. Not a massively difficult task but time consuming – in some instances I was taking three pictures of each “shot” rather than a single high colour one.

Common sense was screaming out to me that I should just take the high colour, but the residual technophobe in me seems to distrust Photoshop, so I had to experiment a little. I took three shots of a fairly neutral landscape scene, black and white, sepia and high colour, then passed the high colour JPEG through photoshop and made copies in black and white and sepia. The only other PC processing these images have had is a pass through Advanced Batch Converter to resize them into something which can be shown here.

In order, the images go – Black and White (Camera), Sepia (Camera), High Colour (Camera), Black and White (Photoshop) and Sepia (Photoshop):

Experiment Image in Black and White - Rowallane Garden - 1 Jun 06 Experiment Image in Sepia - Rowallane Garden - 1 Jun 06 Experiment Image in High Colour - Rowallane Garden - 1 Jun 06 Experiment Image Converted to Black and White - Rowallane Garden - 1 Jun 06 Experiment Image Converted to Sepia - Rowallane Garden - 1 Jun 06

Now, I am notoriously bad at spotting the differences between pictures and I am certainly poor at telling good ones from bad, but personally I feel the Black and White in photoshop is “better” than the on-camera action but the sepia is a different matter. They have produced a very different effect so I cant really say which is “better” but I feel the photoshop version doesn’t really capture the “aged” look you expect with this finish.

As to the experiment results, I am still a bit unsure. This work in photoshop only took a few moments (open picture, go adjustments, select greyscale, click “OK” – slightly longer for sepia but broadly similar), however I can imagine doing this to lots of pictures would take eternity. Also with photoshop, the urge to tweak each pic a little more (adjust contrast slightly, exposure slightly, saturation etc) has to be fought off – each extra stage adds to the time burden of the task.

On the grounds that I am probably only going to want one in ten pictures in Black and White or Sepia, taking three shots on each picture (just in case) seems madness and I will try to resist it in future, although if I am taking a run of Black and White pics (or sepia) then it is probably faster to set the camera and snap away.

Needless to say, this is only valid if you have photoshop. Lightroom makes thinks very different but since the beta timed out, I am no longer able to check it out. I dont really know about any other image editor packages so I cant comment about them.

I would certainly like to hear what other people think.