Although my principal tool for Raw file development is Apple Aperture, every now and then I play around with other applications, mainly Iridient Developer and Photo Ninja. Each application has it’s own look and character, not unlike different film types in Ye Olde Days. Aperture is fairly neutral, or at least I’ve trained it to be. A little like Kodak Ektachrome. Iridient is even more neutral, very laid back. It brings to mind cool forests and fresh sea breezes. Not exactly Instagram. Photo Ninja is pretty wild. It’s also very, very different in how it is set up, and is very clear that it knows best. Photo Ninja could be the Fuji Velvia of Raw developers.
Actually, the reason I got into another mini-round of comparing versions and messing around is that I was finding Aperture’s very weak noise reduction tools were falling short of what I needed on a high contrast shot from a few days ago.
But then I decided to unleash Photo Ninja on a couple of Antarctic iceberg shots, and, well, wow.
This is what Aperture, with some input from me, made of this shot:
And this is what Photo Ninja made of it, straight out of the box:
The Photo Ninja look to me has a very “American” feel to it. I don’t mean anything dismissive about that, it’s just that American landscape photographers tend to go for a stronger palette (although there are exceptions, for example my friend Ira Meyer, who generally goes for a more subtle tone in his excellent Antarctic work).
Photo Ninja also cranks up the micro contrast, which can be pretty impressive, but unfortunately, is all or nothing - there’s no way to mask it or dilute the strength in different regions as one can in Aperture.
Although sometimes I like what Photo Ninja gives me, in fact what I usually get from it is a hint of a different direction I could take the image in. My personal preference of these two versions is the first, more muted one, which probably one of many reasons I don’t grab many people’s attention. Whatever, I’m doing it for me, mainly.