Editing Leica Q2 Monochrom raw files
When I first ordered the Leica Q2 Monochrom, I thought that editing the raw files would be very similar to editing a film scan. You just bump the contrast a little, sharpen, and export, but this is not the case at all. Editing or I should say learning to edit their monochrome files has been completely different from what I expected.
The unedited raw file from the Leica Q2 Monochrom has two general issues when you first open it in Lightroom or any editing program of your choice. The first problem stems from the sensor and how it handles highlights. When you are shooting, you have to be very careful not to blow your highlights so you will most likely be underexposing an image in the field so most shots will start off being a little dark and muted. The second problem with most files will be that they are extremely flat when you first open them, regardless of the exposure you captured them with.
So this sounds like an easy fix, or at least it would be with digital color files. You just raise the shadows, up the contrast, and maybe drop down the blacks a little. But that does not work very well with the Leica Q2 Monochrom files. I had to play around and edit a lot of different images before I found a method that seems to work for me. The contrast slider doesn’t really work very well with the monochrome files but I found that if you use the Dehaze slider and raise that a little, it really does add a lot of contrast into the image and then the rest of the edit is pretty much easy.
How much you use the Dehaze slider is up to you but I already have an orange filter on the Leica Q2 Monochrom so my images might have more contrast than someone who is shooting the camera without a filter. But the Dehaze really is good at adding some contrast to an image and reminds me of shooting film and pushing it one or two stops in development. The only issue I have with the Dehaze slider is that you can take it too far and your file can look almost like it was HDR. Once you have gotten the contrast that you are happy with, the rest of the edit is really easy.
The next thing that you really should know about the raw files from the Leica Q2 Monochrom is how pushable the raw files are. Once you have the raw file, you can push the shadows a lot, raise the exposure and still control the highlights. So those slightly underexposed raw files are perfect for editing. I have been able to push some raw files by almost a whole stop with almost no issue with noise or blown highlights.
But for some strange reason, editing photos taken during the day and photos shot in low light need a different approach to editing.
Once the sun has set for the day and you are shooting in the dark, using the Dehaze slider has much less effective and you will have to rely on the normal editing that you would use on most images. But most files shot at night seem to take on more contrast, to be honest. From my time playing with the Leica Q2 Monochrom, this sensor really does start to sing once the light starts to fade and the ISO goes up.
Shooting at high ISO’s at night still gives you files that you can play around with but once again there are some strange things that happen as you edit the file. My original shoot was about half a stop underexposed so and once I pushed the shadows, the image became a little noisy. The noise is not terrible but I did decide to use some noise reduction in Lightroom and it did something very interesting.
Now I will apply the noise reduction and notice what happens with the exposure of the image.
I have never seen this happen in a color digital shot before, but with the monochrome shots, when you add some noise reduction, it actually drops the exposure of the whole image. So in order to correct this, I had to bump up the exposure by almost one whole stop. Luckily these raw files can take a beating and handle the pushing in editing but seeing this behavior tells me that there is still a lot that I need to learn with these raw files.
When shooting portraits of people, the editing is pretty normal. The Dehaze slider is still a great tool to add contrast to the overall shot but I think the Leica Q2 Monochrom could give you some different problems with shooting people. The images that the camera captures are incredibly detailed and sharp. Almost too sharp and can show too many wrinkles and imperfections. I found that I tended to drop the clarity down a little with portraits, just to soften the image a little.
Now I am sure most men don’t care too much if they have some crow’s feet around their eyes but this could become an issue with any females you are shooting. I can imagine that if you were working with a model, you might have to spend some time touching up the skin as these files are crazy detailed and sharp. Luckily I am not really a portrait photographer so this really does not worry me too much.
Editing photos from the Leica Q2 Monchrom is really very easy once you have dealt with the contrast issue. The files don’t need to be adjusted a lot, to be honest, so you can usually finish your edits very quickly. I would guess that I didn’t spend more than 60 seconds on each edit unless I was experimenting and trying to learn about the raw files. One of the benefits I think the Leica Q2 Monochrom will have for most shooters will be the time it will save editing your images. Once you have worked out the style that you like, you could quickly edit a batch of photos and get back to shooting again. I still have a lot to learn about this sensor and the raw files that it produces but that is the fun part. Shooting and exploring. What more could you ask for.