music

Editing RAW on the Go with Lightroom Mobile by Simon Abrams

I had an awesome time at the Afropunk Battle of the Bands at the Knitting Factory the other night. All of the performances were incredible and dynamic (of course I think my friend Gbenga's band, Olu Bliss should have won, but I’m biased like that).

Anyway, it was a fun opportunity for me to indulge in a little bit of concert photography in an intimate, low-pressure setting. I got some great images, and I thought I’d use this as an excuse to write a bit about how I use Lightroom Mobile to begin processing a shoot like this on the go.

Lightroom Mobile is Adobe’s free mobile companion to the desktop version of the software. It has a ton of powerful editing features, and If you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber, it syncs back to the desktop, so you can continue editing on the big screen when you’re back at your computer. There are a lot of plusses about this workflow, but there’s also at least one significant downside, which I’ll get into later. With that said, let's get into it.

Import and Review

The show was in Williamsburg, which meant that I had time during the longish subway ride home to download my photos to my iPhone, using the handy SD to Lightning adapter that’s usually in my bag. I popped the card in the reader, connected it to the Lightning port, and opened the Photos app, (which is the only way to get images off an SD card onto your phone). Next, I tapped Import, then Import All. Boom - done.

Once the images were downloaded from the card (it took a while; I entertained myself by people-watching on the train), my next step was to open up LR Mobile and create a collection to hold the images from the event.

Now that I had those images in Lightroom on my phone, I was able to easily swipe through and do a quick review of my shots from the event, adding “Pick” flags to the shots I liked the most, and then filtering the view to focus on just those flagged images. Just as I was finishing up, I got to my stop. Nice.

One of the major advantages to a workflow like this is that I can now easily share a couple of my favorites from my fancy mirrorless camera (with its big sensor and great low-light performance that few mobile phones can match - I'm sorry, but them's the facts) on social media in a very immediate way. And since I’ve already done some initial rating/triaging of images, when I get back to the desktop, a big chunk of the work is already done. I can then spend a little more time and process the rest of the images from the shoot more carefully. Plus, it's a great way to kill time while traveling. Sweet!

The Caveat: Color Profiles

Okay, so this part is gonna get a little technical, but I feel like I have to talk about it. We all know that RAW images are great, because they give you more control over how you expose the highlights and shadows of your image. Lightroom has a default recipe called Adobe Standard that it uses to apply specific color, hue, saturation, etc. to every RAW file you import. On the Desktop, you can choose from a range of built-in profiles; you can even go as far as to set a specific RAW profile to be applied on a per-camera basis, but this option isn’t available in LR Mobile.

Okay. Stay with me; I realize that I'm off on a tangent here. The preview image you see on the back of your camera when you’re shooting is generated by a built-in, secret-sauce profile that your camera automatically embeds in the RAW files it saves. Why this matters, is because I’ve noticed that sometimes when I import images into LR Mobile, the second I start tweaking sliders and making adjustments, LR’s default profile (Adobe Standard, remember?) gets applied, and suddenly my image looks dramatically different than it did a second ago. Whaaaaat!?

Note the solarization, aka distorted colors, in the performer's face. It looks kinda cool, but that's not what the scene looked like when I shot it.

This happens to me especially with low-light images, with funky lighting—aka concert lighting. As far as I know, the only way to fix it, is to hop over to the desktop version of Lightroom and apply a profile other than Adobe Standard to your images. In the Develop module, scroll down to the Camera Calibration panel and choose something other than Adobe Standard. If I’m using my Fuji X100S (as I was the other night), I usually choose PROVIA/STANDARD, because I believe it’s similar to the internal profile Fuji cameras apply, so it should bring it back to something close to what that original preview image looked like. Phew.

 Lightroom's built-in camera profiles.

Lightroom's built-in camera profiles.

Oh look - no more solarization! 

The good news is, this change in profile syncs back to LR Mobile, so you can continue editing there if you like. I know it makes for a clunky workflow, but judging from the complaints on Adobe’s forums, this seems to be a known issue. I really hope they figure out a way to fix it in a future version of the app.

Wrap it Up

Okay, this turned out to be a lengthy, tech-heavy post, and it has quite a large caveat, so take that into consideration. But I can definitely recommend this workflow as a way to get a jump-start on importing and triaging images while on the go. And it's a great way to quickly share some favorite shots on social networks - as long as they don’t need to have a different color profile applied (which you can only do on the desktop).

MacSparky on Apple AirPods by Simon Abrams

A reasoned first take on Apple's AirPods from David Sparks, aka MacSparky. His take confirms my expectation that they won't work for me, as the current EarPods that Apple ships with every iPhone fall out of my ear with the slightest movement of my head, so I never use 'em. Plus, I like something that has a little noise reduction, if not noise cancellation, so I can block out the annoying chatter on the subway.

I'm still bullish on the tech, though, specifically Apple's W1 chip, which improves pairing and wireless sound quality. I have personally tried the new BeatsX wireless headphones, which also feature the W1 chip, and will probably get a pair of those when they're available.

Phife 4 Pres by Simon Abrams

simon-abrams-phife-4-pres

I ran into Phife on a flight to Savannah 20 years ago. I guess I hadn't mastered the indifferent-New-Yorker-that-doesn't-get-star-struck thing, because I asked him for an autograph, and he was gracious enough to sign my sketchbook.

RIP Phife.

Photo Notes: Wiz Khalifa and Nitti Scott at Webster Hall by Simon Abrams

 Wiz Khalifa performs at New York City's Webster Hall - October, 2014

Wiz Khalifa performs at New York City's Webster Hall - October, 2014

I've always loved shooting concerts. It's really satisfying capturing the energy of the crowd and the showmanship and stage presence of great performers. One of these days, I'm going to make good on one of my long-time goals, and get press credentials, or find a way to shoot a concert in an official capacity.

 Wiz Khalifa

Wiz Khalifa

 Opening act Nitti Scott performs at Webster Hall

Opening act Nitti Scott performs at Webster Hall

These were shot at this year's Advertising Week Wrap-up party at Webster Hall. I love the Advertising Week shows, because it's always a great opportunity to get access to incredible performances by some top-notch acts, including N.E.R.D, John Legend and The Roots, Big Boi, Wyclef Jean, and B.o.B. The performances are usually held in a relatively intimate setting, and it doesn't hurt that it's free for us industry types. I've made some of my favorite photographs at these events over the years.

Incidentally, for you photo nerds that like to pixel-peep, here's a 100% crop of one of the above images from the show, which are almost straight-out-of-camera (I think I tweaked the brightness/contrast ever so slightly in the Photos app on my iPhone). If you must nit-pick, yes, you can see a little softness, and yes, the pixels are a slightly chunky, but damn - I was standing at least 40-50 feet away from the stage!

   1/200s, f2.8, ISO6400.

 1/200s, f2.8, ISO6400.

I still can't get over the incredible low-light performance of the Fuji X100S, especially as it doesn't seem that long ago that I was still shooting with my Canon Rebel XT, and never dared go above ISO 800. That's a difference of four full stops of light, which means I would never have been able to make this image on that camera without using a flash or some additional light source.

One other note: in previous years, I would have been fully locked and loaded with my Canon 7D and L-series 70-200mm f/4 lens at these Advertising Week concerts, and as I said, I've made some images that really made me happy as a result of using that setup. Lately, though, I've been scaling back and am happy to take a more minimal approach to shooting - particularly when I'm on vacation, or shooting for myself and not for a paid gig. Not that I wouldn't shoot paid work with the Fuji; it's just that if I'm not being paid, I'm realizing that there's really no good reason to put in the extra effort of carrying all that extra gear. Simpler, most of the time, is better.

Anyhow, I had a great time at the show, despite not being a huge Wiz Khalifa fan. It happened to be my birthday, and there was open bar, so I'd say that worked out quite well.