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Thread: Raw Workflow, external editors and tiff

  1. #1
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    Raw Workflow, external editors and tiff

    Hi

    I am trying to figure out what the quality difference and post processing maneuverability are between Raw and 16 bit Tiff (if any). Do I limit my post processing options if I switch from Raw to Tiff too early, and if so, what do I limit and why exactly?

    The real-world reason I ask this is that after reading the excellent workflow tutorial, which lists the preferred order of steps as follows, I am unsure about what the drawbacks are of moving from Raw to Tiff too early in the workflow:

    1. White Balance - temperature and tint adjustment sliders
    2. Exposure - exposure compensation, highlight/shadow recovery
    3. Noise Reduction - during RAW development or using external software
    4. Lens Corrections - distortion, vignetting, chromatic aberrations
    5. Detail - capture sharpening and local contrast enhancement
    6. Contrast - black point, levels and curves tools
    7. Framing - straighten and crop
    8. Refinements - color adjustments and selective enhancments
    9. Resizing - enlarge for a print or downsize for the web or email
    10. Output Sharpening - customized for your subject matter and print/screen size


    I plan to use an external editor for steps 3 and 4 (and 10), which means that I have to move from Raw to Tiff quite early in this workflow. Will that hurt?

  2. #2
    Glenn NK's Avatar
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    Re: Raw Workflow, external editors and tiff

    Quote Originally Posted by Tman View Post
    Hi

    I am trying to figure out what the quality difference and post processing maneuverability are between Raw and 16 bit Tiff (if any). Do I limit my post processing options if I switch from Raw to Tiff too early, and if so, what do I limit and why exactly?

    The real-world reason I ask this is that after reading the excellent workflow tutorial, which lists the preferred order of steps as follows, I am unsure about what the drawbacks are of moving from Raw to Tiff too early in the workflow:

    1. White Balance - temperature and tint adjustment sliders
    2. Exposure - exposure compensation, highlight/shadow recovery
    3. Noise Reduction - during RAW development or using external software
    4. Lens Corrections - distortion, vignetting, chromatic aberrations
    5. Detail - capture sharpening and local contrast enhancement
    6. Contrast - black point, levels and curves tools
    7. Framing - straighten and crop
    8. Refinements - color adjustments and selective enhancments
    9. Resizing - enlarge for a print or downsize for the web or email
    10. Output Sharpening - customized for your subject matter and print/screen size


    I plan to use an external editor for steps 3 and 4 (and 10), which means that I have to move from Raw to Tiff quite early in this workflow. Will that hurt?
    First off, you can't get better quality than what you start with - and the best starting point is RAW (but lets' not get into RAW/JPEG arguments here).

    What software are you planning on using as this can have a bearing on what you do.

    I do all the steps in Lightroom, so I don't have to convert the files from RAW. Step 3 is done by LR very well, and many photographers are finding that most of their PP can be done in the newer version of LR.

    Step 10 - if the image is used for screen viewing, (posting on a website) keep in mind that many viewers don't even have a colour managed browser, let alone a calibrated monitor. No one is going to post a 16 bit TIFF or DNG file for onscreen viewing.

    If using LR, I would even question the value of converting to any other format. And unless your camera puts out 16 bit files, is there is any advantage in converting to 16 bit? There is one exception I can think of; using Zerene Stacker, it's recommended to convert files to 16 TIFF prior to stacking - but they are gigantic files and very quickly fill up a HDD (my 30D RAWs run around 7 MB or so, and converted to 16 bit TIFF, become 123 MB - which is ridiculous of course).


    Glenn

  3. #3
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Raw Workflow, external editors and tiff

    Hi "Tman",

    The only comment I would make is that you may find that leaving the Levels (6) until after Local Contrast Enhancement - LCE (5), results in loss of image detail when applying the LCE.

    I use PSD, rather than Tiff, for my intermediate saves. I use CS5 (and previously Elements).

    Could you do us a favour and Edit your Profile, then add a first name in the Real Name field and an idea of where you are in the world in the Location field - thanks.

    Welcome to the CiC forums from ...

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    dje's Avatar
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    Re: Raw Workflow, external editors and tiff

    Hi Tman,

    It would help a lot to get a clear answer if you told us what software including version numbers you are using.

    Dave

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    Re: Raw Workflow, external editors and tiff

    You don't have to follow any suggested workflow exactly. It is just a suggestion which somebody (maybe quite a few people) finds good for them. You can vary the order of editing or leave out a few items if that suits you better.

    For example, leveling and crop is stage 1 for me. Local contrast enhancement, if I use it, would be well down the list and after the Raw conversion.

    Quite a few of those steps aren't suitable for me because I often want to do part of my image adjustment using layers and masks to selectively apply the effects.

    But do try to do as much as possible during Raw conversion.

    And as Dave said, Psd or the native format of whatever software you use may prove better than Tiff; and with smaller files. Although Tiff is universal which can be handy if you want to share files with another person.

  6. #6

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    Re: Raw Workflow, external editors and tiff

    The short answer is "anything you CAN do in your RAW converter you SHOULD do in your RAW converter". Often it won't make any visible difference (but sometimes it will) but whilst the file is in the RAW converter you still have linear gamma (ie "all the information") -- once you pass it through to TIFF then range compression and expansion has taken place and data has been discarded. Whether or not it data you'll need later is the $64,000 question.

    Basically - if you're using a good RAW converter like ACR - then there are no reasons to convert to TIFF early that I can think of. Personally, I find most parametric adjustments considerably easier to do in ACR rather than Photoshop (especially things like GND filters).

  7. #7
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    Re: Raw Workflow, external editors and tiff

    Wow, so many helpful answers in less than a day! Thanks so far to everyone who helped. I'll try to comment and provide more detail in the order the replies came in:

    @Glenn: My camera outputs 14bit Raw files, that's the only reason I was mentioning 16bit Tiffs (as opposed to 8bit Tiffs, which would mean lost information).

    @DaveH: Thanks for that hint about keeping steps 5 and 6 in that order. Profile updated as requested.

    @DaveE: I am using Aperture 3.4.3, which has no lens distortion correction possibility. I plan to use PTlens as an Aperture plugin, thus my question if switching from Raw to Tiff in step 4 already will be a problem

    @Geoff: So, I could just move steps 3 and 4 towards the end of the workflow (after step 8) without any quality loss? That would immediately solve my problem.
    I also crop much earlier in the workflow, but obviously, cropping early will not harm quality. As for the format, I am using Tiff only because it's lossless and the plugins can work with it. I am not currently use Photoshop.

    @Colin: Thanks, the thing with the "linear gamma" is what I wanted to know, so there IS less information in the Tiffs than in the Raws, which would at least theoretically mean lower quality or worse, lower maneuverability during post processing. The only reason I even think about using Tiffs is that Aperture cannot do everything I want, and the plugins that can do it require Tiffs.

    Thanks everybody,
    Toby

  8. #8

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    Re: Raw Workflow, external editors and tiff

    Yes, that is correct, Toby. You can move these editing options around or miss out some if they don't apply to your specific image.

    They are arranged in a particular order simply because that is what works best for most people when editing average photos.

    When, working on a tricky image I often do a little bit of basic settings on Exposure/WB etc then drop down to the saturation control. And when that looks about right, return to exposure for another tweak, etc.

    The danger with this is that because each adjustment changes something about the image, you can end up 'chasing your own tail'. These standard recommended procedure orders try to prevent too much messing around by creating a simple structure to the editing process.

    This is particularly useful for beginners in photo editing.

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    Re: Raw Workflow, external editors and tiff

    Quote Originally Posted by Tman View Post
    The only reason I even think about using Tiffs is that Aperture cannot do everything I want
    Perhaps the "answer" is not to use Aperture

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