SilkyPix

Missing the Obvious Again

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Infrared GX1 image of Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island, Northumberland.
Infrared GX1 image of Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island, Northumberland.

I have just answered a question posted on yesterdays blog and it made me realise I am missing the obvious again. This time it was that most people reading my blog have probably never seen a direct conversion from a RAW infrared file. Neither will you probably know what all this problem is with white balance and why I was so concerned. Here then are some examples that hopefully will put this right. All are created from the same RAW file used for the image at the top of the page and I have done no other adjustments to the files beyond what I explain below.

This first example is what you get in Lightroom when you set the camera white balance to AWB and all the other sliders are at 0.

Rely on your cameras auto white balance and Lightroom and this is what you get
Rely on your cameras auto white balance and Lightroom and this is what you get

The next example shows what you get in Lightroom when you set the camera white balance correctly for infrared light. Better but still not correct.

Set the camer white balance correctly for infrared and Lightroom makes a better job but still not right
Set the camer white balance correctly for infrared and Lightroom makes a better job but still not right

Here is the same RAW file in SilkyPix using the correct Infrared white balance. Notice the difference in colour from the Lightroom image. In this image there is much more information in all three colour channels and it makes for a better conversion to black and white.

The correct white balance converted in SilkyPix is much better and almost right
The correct white balance converted in SilkyPix is much better and almost right

The next example shows what happens in SilkyPix when you set the white balance using the white balance picker on the grass near to the castle. This is how the file should look before converting to black and white. This gives a nice spread of information in all the channels and makes for a high quality conversion. Even though a lot of the information in the B and G channels is probably interpolated by the RAW converter, it still appears to be a better conversion and that’s what I am interested in.

Use the white balance tool in SilkyPix to target the grass and you get the correct result
Use the white balance tool in SilkyPix to target the grass and you get the correct result

In this final example, I have done a channel swap between the Red and Blue channels to create a false colour. Not to everyone’s taste but it can be quite effective.

False colour created by a Red, Blue Channel swap. Interesting.
False colour created by a Red, Blue Channel swap. Interesting.

Missing the Obvious

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Old Church Ruin in Infrared
Old Church Ruin in Infrared

I am always on the hunt for new ways to do things that can improve my photography. You only need to achieve a few small quality improvements and it can quickly add up to dramatic improvements in your work. One area that I had been exploring was RAW converters and some of you might have seen an earlier post I made about Photo Ninja which looked very promising but was quite expensive. My decision was therefore to stick with Lightroom which performs well.

More recently with my new found passion for Infrared photography, I have identified that Lightroom isn’t good for processing RAW files from my converted GX1. The quick explanation of this is that Lightroom can’t set a white point for the infrared image and you end up with an image which is red. This then prevents you from using a technique called channel swapping to produce false colour but it also appears to detract from the quality of the final image when working in black and white. My search was on then for a RAW converter to use with my infrared images.

I returned initially to Photo Ninja which did a good job and allowed me to set a correct white balance. Unfortunately the cost put me off although I did come close to making a purchase and probably would have if it wasn’t for RAW Therapee.  This is a free RAW converter which performs well and has some nice features such as allowing me to do a channel swap during the RAW conversion. The only problem is that it’s tricky to use.

I moved on to search for another free RAW converter “Bibble” which it seems has been purchased by Corel and is now sold as Corel Aftershot. This works well enough and is good price. I just had a niggling feeling that I shouldn’t make a purchase just yet.

After a lot of searching and experimentation I remembered that Panasonic Cameras capable of shooting RAW images are packaged with a special version of the SilkyPix RAW converter. This is version 3 of the SilkyPix Developer Studio that has been limited to only working with Panasonic cameras. Whilst it won’t convert my Canon and Sony files it will process my GX1 and LX5 images fine.

After initial experimentation with the latest version I found the images to be super quality, containing lots of detail, appearing nice and sharp, with good colour and being free from noise. They are in my opinion better than those from Lightroom (both traditional and infrared images). Here is a section of the image above at 100% (click the image to zoom in).

100% sample from infrared GX1 file
100% sample from infrared GX1 file

The real decision maker for me is when I received an email the day after offering an upgrade to version 5 developer Studio (still limited to Panasonic cameras) for JPY3800 (about £24). Decision made!

I am now therefore using SilkyPix for my infrared RAW conversions and am extremely pleased with the results.