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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

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Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Old Dogs
Old 07-17-2019   #1
Bill Pierce
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Old Dogs

As a film darkroom junky turned digital darkroom junky, I tend to play with any new image processing program that sounds interesting. Over the years thatís been a lot of programs that now sit idle on my computer. In the end I keep coming back to the first program I used many years ago, Photoshop, and its little brother (sister?) Lightroom. For a long while there were problems with the non Bayer files from Fuji which were solved by including Iridient Developer and Iridient X-Transformer in the work flow. Thatís less mandatory today. I continue to use the Iridient programs from within Lightroom which handles the majority of my image processing needs, but I know longer think it is an absolute necessity.

Obviously, Iíve settled on the programs that I am most familiar with and, for that reason, am probably most proficient with. To be honest, I donít see a great difference in the final results of many of the processing programs when they are used well. But if someone has a reason to think that another processing program produces better results than the two oldsters I use, I would certainly like to hear about it. And, by the way, better isnít just talking about image quality. It can mean more efficient image recall and indexing, a more understandable or simpler interface, a cheaper price - in other words why you like it more than my two old dogs.
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Old 07-17-2019   #2
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I did like you when digital was out for about 8-10 years. I went through as many as I could. And I agree with you I did not think the "final results" were much different. It was like chasing better results with different developers.

The only one that I keep now besides PS is RAW Therapee. RT has a steep learning curve but sometimes I use it for color correction (manual). I also use Color Perfect as a plugin with PS (along with their MakeTIFF and RAW perfect).

EDIT: Strangely, Color perfect really is helpful when used with scanned negatives of C-41 or E-6.
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Old 07-17-2019   #3
Rob-F
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The first one I tried was photoshop elements. I liked it for being able to correct perspective--converging verticals. I liked it for a few other things too, like cloning to remove unwanted areas from an image. I even took a whole car out of a shot. But when Aperture came out, I really fell in love with it. It didn't have the perspective correction or cloning, but what it does have is just great for my purposes. I can brighten an image, sharpen it, enhance the color, bring up dark areas, tone down light ones. To this day I rarely use anything else. But I did buy Lightroom, and it is still on my computer, but I'm not comfortable with it. I have lost images by filing them improperly. I bought the book, and read about how to file properly, but I just don't like it, not when the Aperture setup is so foolproof and easy. I know some of the real experts like Chris Crawford can do a better job with Lightroom than with Aperture. But for me, it's a wonderful program! I started with a 2009 iMac. I've added a 2013 Macbook Pro so as to have a newer computer that can run Aperture. Pretty soon I'll look into maybe getting a 2017 or so iMac or Macbook, maybe a 17" so I can keep using Aperture for a long time. Maybe forever.
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Old 07-17-2019   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
As a film darkroom junky turned digital darkroom junky, I tend to play with any new image processing program that sounds interesting. Over the years that’s been a lot of programs that now sit idle on my computer. In the end I keep coming back to the first program I used many years ago, Photoshop, and its little brother (sister?) Lightroom. For a long while there were problems with the non Bayer files from Fuji which were solved by including Iridient Developer and Iridient X-Transformer in the work flow. That’s less mandatory today. I continue to use the Iridient programs from within Lightroom which handles the majority of my image processing needs, but I know longer think it is an absolute necessity.

Obviously, I’ve settled on the programs that I am most familiar with and, for that reason, am probably most proficient with. To be honest, I don’t see a great difference in the final results of many of the processing programs when they are used well. But if someone has a reason to think that another processing program produces better results than the two oldsters I use, I would certainly like to hear about it. And, by the way, better isn’t just talking about image quality. It can mean more efficient image recall and indexing, a more understandable or simpler interface, a cheaper price - in other words why you like it more than my two old dogs.


Over the years I have used various versions of Photoshop (PS), Photoshop Elements (PE), Adobe Lightroom and Corel Paintshop Pro (PSP). Plus a few other odds and sods that I have tried briefly.

The main difference I noticed over the years has been the ease of learning / ease of use of some editors compared to others. I have not used Photoshop for some years, but back then I had a view that it was very powerful but expensive and also mostly optimized for graphic designers, not photographers. That meant it was difficult to use without heaps of training and experience. Back then like some other common photo editors, processing of an image often required more steps to complete, as some filters we now take for granted were not yet available (or lacked the features and sophistication they now have) but you could work around this if you had the requisite knowledge. So it also tended to be slow to use. I expect that this may well have changed over the years with PS and that newer versions are better for photographers now - I have not checked. Photoshop Elements was somewhat easier to use and perfectly adequate for photographers (I preferred it over PS as it came with more filters needed by photographers than did PS and was much, much cheaper to buy ) till Lightroom came along which frankly I thought outclassed PE for photographic purposes. In particular its ability to perform simple, straightforward "foundation" edits with sliders etc without a lot of fuss. And its ability to copy edits from one image to another simply without building and saving "actions" speeds up processing of multiple similar images terrifically.

I eventually settled on the combined use of Lightroom and Corel Paintshop Pro as you can run PSP under Lightroom and "drop into it" at the click of a button just as you would with any other plugin - which is effectively what PSP becomes when run this way. I continue with PSP because it has some features I prefer over Lightroom - eg the ability to straighten an image and fix perspective errors when the camera has been tilted works much better in my view than the Lightroom tool. This is but one example. Moreover it supports Layers which can be quite important and time saving in some situations (e.g if an image was badly over exposed a fix using layers involved duplicating the main layer then changing the blend mode to "multiply". This was and is a simple and very effective way to increase image contrast, tone and density at a single click and it seldom needs much tweaking so is quick. The two layers are then flattened and the job of rectifying the over exposure is usually done.).

Once any edits are complete within PSP (having first opened the image in PSP from within Lightroom, at the click of the save button the edited image is automatically exported back to Lightroom to complete any final edits etc. I usually start with Lightroom perform basic edits and then decide if any editing in PSP is needed - about maybe one in 7 -10 images need this treatment so it is not an everyday event. However I will much more often use Nik Efex Suite run under Lightroom as a plugin for some editing treatments. This has become a key part of my workflow. Many photographers will not need this as they do not process their images as much as I tend to (for better or worse). But I still find that some of its filters are better designed than some in Lightroom or PSP.

The big area where Lightroom excels by comparison with every other editor I have tried is in the area of correcting blown highlights and pulling image details out of excessively dark areas. I have not found any thing better yet. Other than this I can not say that I have seen marked differences in final outcomes from the intrinsic capabilities of specific editors - they can all turn out excellent images. However the key in getting the best out of an editor is user skill.

Some editors are harder to master and also slower to use for certain tasks hence the results may differ for this reason.
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Old 07-18-2019   #5
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My main tool now is Lightroom, though I have used Capture One in the past. Transitioning to the LR user interface was awkward I thought, until I got used to it. Had to read the book! For organizing files, I use the Mac's Finder and set it up the way I want. I'd prefer not to be dependent on another program for organizing, and this is what the Finder is for!

For record-keeping, I use the FileMaker database, keeping notes on each batch of related exposures... Date, location, subjects, equipment, prints made and sold or given. So I can later locate the file number of an exposure through searching on any of many data points.

I might mention a useful auxiliary program I've used for years, mainly to resize the full-size TIFFs exported from LR converting to smaller jpegs for upload (adjusting jpeg compression level to achieve a suitable file-size and quality) and for sending others on thumb drives. GraphicConverter is shareware, with a nerd-friendly interface and very versatile. It can do it all from RAW to the final jpeg if needed, and may display a group of files in a thumbnail catalog page as LR does.
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Old 07-18-2019   #6
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I started with Aldus PhotoStyler back in 1992 and then onto PhotoShop 2.5, and have pretty much stuck with PhotoShop ever since.

I'm still on CS5, as it does pretty much all that I need for business and personal work. For black and white, it's a combination of CS5 and Silver Efex Pro 2.
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Old 07-18-2019   #7
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I use Lightroom 6 with Iridient X-Transformer. Mainly because I'm familiar and comfortable using them and they get good results. I don't do a great deal of post processing. Worrying that I'll eventually have to decide on the subscription model or a new program, I downloaded Luminar 3 and Capture One as possible substitutes. So far, I'm unimpressed with either of them and I've made no real effort to learn their capabilities. They sit idle on the computer.

In the past, I've used Lightroom Elements (hated it), Paint Shop Pro (loved it but it wasn't available for Macs), Picasa (limited but free and easy and useful when used with other software) and various camera maker's software bundles.
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Old 07-18-2019   #8
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I prefer compose on the spot, check exposure and do WB during the same. If it is critical.
I might remove few pimples in PP, but I see no reason, need in heavy manipulation of reality.

I could see the reason for PS for those who needs it in real estate or for any other business, but my photography is not manipulated documentary.
So, LR is more than enough. I could use it as MAM and I could use it for resize.
This is it.
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Old 07-19-2019   #9
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I started with Elements and found it limiting so I moved on to PS CS 2. I still work with Bridge and PS CC. I have never liked Lightroom and its catalog system, so even though I have it as part of a CC subscription I almost never use it. I've looked at a few alternatives from time to time but have been scared away by the inevitable learning curve that comes with new software. If Adobe decides to make CC a lot more expensive then I will have to revisit the question.
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Old 07-19-2019   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peterm1 View Post

The big area where Lightroom excels by comparison with every other editor I have tried is in the area of correcting blown highlights and pulling image details out of excessively dark areas. I have not found any thing better yet.
Right you are.
Many Aperture users are disappointed when they try Lightroom, because there was never/will never be a photo processing/editing program that is as well-integrated into the MacOS as Aperture was.
However, these same Aperture fans are always greatly pleased when they discover the exposure recovery capabilities of Lightroom.

Quote:
Originally Posted by peterm1 View Post
Other than this I can not say that I have seen marked differences in final outcomes from the intrinsic capabilities of specific editors - they can all turn out excellent images. However the key in getting the best out of an editor is user skill.
This also my observation. Of the programs I have recently used or tried, Lightroom, Aperture, Capture 1 and On1 produce virtually identical prints, but the path to the print that is the most capable, best organized, and the least annoying is Lightroom.
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Old 07-19-2019   #11
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I started using Photoshop around 1991 as a picture editor at work and have used it steadily since then, but I now use Lightroom for basic adjustments and cataloging.

LR intregrates well with PS, it's easy to pass photos between them, for processing that requires layers. I don't like LR's print interface, I prefer to hand that off to PS. And LR doesn't do CMYK exporting.

I also use Capture One when tethering and think it still has the best basic RAW developing, and batch processing (multiple file sizes in one click). It also integrates pretty well with Photoshop, and it easily does the CMYK exports that many clients want.
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