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Thread: Post Processing Overview

  1. #1
    Ricco's Avatar
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    Post Processing Overview

    Hi all, chasing some advice from those more knowledgeable than me.

    I currently shoot all my photos in JPEG. Through a bit of research on forums like this I see the benefits of moving to the RAW format and would like to do so. However, before I flick the switch on the camera I was hoping to clarify a few points and get some more information. This is mainly to understand what else the JPEG to RAW triggers. There are a few parts to the question which I'm hoping for help on.

    Where my confusion stems is where software such as Adobe Photoshop or GIMP step in. As far as I can make out, the "fiddles" with RAW images such as white balance and the like happen across the entire image. I assume programs such as GIMP then do fine tuning of areas of the image (I have seen discussions in these forums about lightening areas of the image, e.g. a face or eyes). So my question is a little about the workflow. Do you get the RAW image right, convert to JPEG and then do fine tuning from there or are you still working in RAW? There is talk in the tutorials about sharpening - is this a RAW manipulation or JPEG? If it is RAW, does this happen in selective areas of an image or across the whole?

    The other part of the question is more around software. I run on a Mac and use iPhoto to organise and store all my photos due to the user friendly nature and accessibility. I have also downloaded GIMP for that fine tuning aspect (as I'm new to this I thought I'd try out the concepts before switching to a more expensive software package). Now while GIMP is fine for playing with individual images, the interface back to iPhoto probably isn't ideal. Hence GIMP becomes more of a "play with on selected images only" basis. What I mean by this is that I wouldn't use GIMP for all images, just ones that I thought were of the quality they should go further. Is this correct?

    Previous threads mention the need for a RAW convertor such as RAW Therapee and I assume that this fits in before the GIMP (see earlier query) and probably separate to iPhoto. The impression I get is that the RAW manipulation happens across all images (although it can be done in bulk). Again, not sure how it interfaces back to iPhoto.

    Would something like Aperture fill this void between RAW conversion / organisation and touch up? I know this works well with iPhoto in terms of library management but apart from a few sentences on the Apple website, it doesn't really tell me its RAW abilities.

    I realise that I probably haven't asked to many specific questions and the above may be a little unclear in places but I was just hoping to get a bit more information around this space before I head down the RAW path.

    Thanks in advance.

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    Re: Post Processing Overview

    Ricco,

    I'm only an "advanced beginner" but I'll have a go.

    Use RAW for all your images except perhaps where you need to do continuous shooting, then use jpeg to get a faster rate. You will need a fast SD card though as you'll be frustrated with the time it takes to write the RAW file to the card.

    In Camera Raw you can do selective and whole image mods. Once opened in (say) PS, I save the image as a TIFF, then do my manipulations in PS CS5, saving different versions of the image until I'm satisfied. Delete the unwanted TIFF files but always keep the RAW file.

    You can then resize the TIFF file and save it as a jpeg for posting.

    You can sharpen in Camera Raw or use the Unsharp mask in CS5. I find I get better results using the unsharp mask in CS5.

    I won't comment on the Mac software. My Mrs has a Macbook and it drives me nuts trying to figure out how to do things. I would recommend PSE. I started with PSE7 and used it for a year before stepping up to PS CS5. Using PSE makes the transition to CS5 much easier.

    If you are a student or have a child who is, buy your software here. Not much of a discount on PSE but CS5 is a lot cheaper.
    http://www.educationsoftware.com.au/


    Cheers,

    Mark

  3. #3

    Re: Post Processing Overview

    UFRaw (open source) works seamlessly with GIMP but as far as I know you cannot batch process. The 'free' software comes at a price but usually it just means that you just have a few more steps in your workflow (a few seconds at most!). Failing that try the software that came with the camera. It may work for you.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Post Processing Overview

    Ricco

    Hopefully you're starting to get the idea from the posts from the guys above.

    Generally, the advice from anyone who is serious about photography is ALWAYS shoot RAW. I believe the only people who shoot JPEG regularly on a professional basis are newspaper photographers whose work is getting sent back electronically to the office and placed directly into the newspaper. But that's all about speed and convenience and the image does not need to be of the highest quality (very good images, but not of fine art quality).

    A JPEG is a finished product on which the camera has done all the post-processing. It's applied many of the settings that, if shot in RAW, you would apply in post-processing (PP). But, of course, in PP you have control, not the camera. And that's one of the things you always remind those folks who say, 'Ah, but PP is cheating. You're interfering with what was really there'. Well, if you shoot JPEG, the camera is already doing that for you.

    Shooting RAW is like giving yourself the opportunity to create the vision that you saw when you pressed the shutter button. I'm reading Ansel Adam's, "Examples ...." at the moment. To understand what he did in the darkroom, in terms of both developing his negatives and then printing is an education in post-processing. Of course, in this digital age, we're now doing it on computers.

    RAW is just what it says on the tin. It's the raw, unprocessed data. It comes out of the camera looking pretty dull and flat. It's your realisation of the vision that you saw through the viewfinder that makes it into a picture. As Pops has said on here many times, "The camera is a box in which you store photographs. The picture is behind your eyeballs."

    So processing the RAW file is like developing the negative. You need to start off with software that processes RAW data. UF RAW, Raw Therapee (there are others) are two of the Open Source (free, but you can make a donation) packages available. I use DxO Optics, a commercial product. Most of the world uses, of course, Adobe's ACR (Adobe Camera Raw). And because it's by far and away the most popular RAW processor in the world, there are far more tutorials, guides etc etc about it than anything else.

    I believe that ACR comes bundled in with Adobe's editing software, such Elements and Photoshop and the two form a seemless package together, in the same way, as Steve said, UFRAW and the GIMP work together. My use of DxO doesn't work seemlessly with the GIMP. I have to save files as TIFFs and then import them into GIMP where I immediately save them in the GIMP's native .xcf format. The I delete the TIFF. So, I've now go the original RAW file, an .xcf file and, eventually, at the end of this, I will also have a finished JPEG formatted for electronic display. If I'm ever going to print a picture, then I'll go back to my .xcf file and make a TIFF or a large JPEG for that purpose.

    Editing programmes like the GIMP, Elements, Photoshop, pick up the image after RAW processing. And it's in there that all those things you've mentioned take place (selective this, masked that, etc etc) The extent of what you can do is only limited by the amount of time you devote to learning. I believe Adobe's latest incarnation of Photoshop will even make you a cup of tea if you ask it nicely!

    There is a huge amount you can do in the RAW processing software. For example, I shoot almost exclusively for Black & White. I do almost everything in DxO Optics Pro 6. The Gimp is usually only brought in for the final touches such as Sharpening, Dodging & Burning, any Tone Mapping I want to do, and Levels adjustment.

    As for when you save it as a JPEG - right at the very end of all of the above.

    Moving to RAW is another step up the learning ladder. But, if you're serious about your photography, then the satisfaction you will get from creating your own finished product, rather than letting the camera do half of it for you, is enormous.
    Last edited by Donald; 24th January 2011 at 07:29 AM.

  5. #5
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    Re: Post Processing Overview

    Quote Originally Posted by Ricco View Post
    Would something like Aperture fill this void between RAW conversion / organisation and touch up? I know this works well with iPhoto in terms of library management but apart from a few sentences on the Apple website, it doesn't really tell me its RAW abilities.
    Hi Ricco,

    Sorry I didn't see your post earlier. I don't believe you mentioned what kind of camera you were using. Nevertheless, I can tell you that Aperture 3 supports (i.e. decodes and edits) RAW files from all but the most recent cameras; the list of supported cameras is here ). Or if you prefer, you can have your camera manufacturer's software decode the RAW file and then import it (the RAW file) into Aperture for editing. I use Aperture and I am pretty impressed with it, but I am fairly new to photo editing and cannot give you an informed assessment of how it stacks up against GIMP or Elements. The one major deficiency I have run into so far is that it does not correct lens distortion. Aperture will work seamlessly with your existing IPhoto library, however, and a lot of its tools will already be familiar to you. If Aperture 3 supports your camera's RAW files, I would encourage you to try the trial version and see how you like it. I could do my best to answer any questions you might have.

    Best,
    Janis

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    Re: Post Processing Overview

    ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) which ships with PSE and PS comes with preprogrammed distortion settings for common camera/lens combos and has custom settings as well. It covers both my Canon and Sigma 10-20mm lenses.

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    Ricco's Avatar
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    Re: Post Processing Overview

    Great thanks. I think I've got most of the answers. The point of the original query is that I do want to shoot in RAW, I just want to find out what I need to support it. I think free software will only take me so far and it looks like an investment in Aperture or photoshop is coming up.

    Colin - can I confirm something, I think you have partially answered it - if I have interpreted right, GIMP picks up after conversion to JPEG (or TIFF) and not direct from the RAW file?

    Also, I assume work on something like GIMP would only happen on images where you are taking them further (e.g. printing, competition, display etc) whereas something like the photoshop RAW conversion would be on every image.

    Aside from the above, it sounds like I'll go down the track suggested by Janis in getting the trial version of Aperture.

    As a final additional question, it looks like I am going down the RAW track, does this kind of mean that I will end up with multiple images on my computer - all my RAW files (negatives) and those that I post process?


    Thanks

  8. #8
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Post Processing Overview

    Ricco
    Quote Originally Posted by Ricco View Post
    Colin - can I confirm something,
    I think you're maybe meaning me, as Colin hasn't posted a response to you. (But I'm much nicer anyway!)

    I think you have partially answered it - if I have interpreted right, GIMP picks up after conversion to JPEG (or TIFF) and not direct from the RAW file?
    No, not after conversion to JPEG. Saving it as a JPEG is the very last step in the whole process. If you use UFRAW with the GIMP, then, from memory, you just press 'export to GIMP' when you're done in UFRaw. The GIMP opens up and your image is there waiting for you. You do what you want to do and then save it as a JPEG.

    In DxO, which I use - you can't hook-up DxO and the GIMP together. So, I save it as a TIFF. Then I open the GIMP and from 'Open Image' choose that file. So, I now have a TIFF in the GIMP. You could carry on working on and then make the JPEG at the end. It's just habit that I make it into a GIMP .xcf file and then dump the TIFF.

    Also, I assume work on something like GIMP would only happen on images where you are taking them further (e.g. printing, competition, display etc) whereas something like the photoshop RAW conversion would be on every image.
    Well, sort of. I know what you are saying. But, the reality is that in order to properly finish an image, I've never just stopped at the RAW conversion stage. There is always something to do in GIMP, even if it's only sharpening. Every image that comes out of a camera in RAW needs sharpened in PP. So, the reality is that's there's never a 'I don't need the GIMP' picture.

    As a final additional question, it looks like I am going down the RAW track, does this kind of mean that I will end up with multiple images on my computer - all my RAW files (negatives) and those that I post process?
    Yes, but it's not as bad as it sounds. What I end up with is:

    • The RAW file
    • The .xcf file
    • A JPEG sized for electronic presentation, and for some of them
    • A JPEG sized for printing

    Two golden rules now kick in.

    1. Always, always back up your files. If you have a crash you lose everything. People on here back everything up onto not just one, but two or three different external media (just for added security)
    2. Never, ever delete your RAW files. You may think you've got the image you want from it and you'll never need it again .... and then you'll discover the reason that you do want to go back to it.
    Last edited by Donald; 24th January 2011 at 12:46 PM.

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    Re: Post Processing Overview

    I think everyone has it pretty well covered, I'll just say that if you go the Adobe route, the transition fron ACR (the RAW processor) into either Elements or Photoshop CS5 is as seamless as Donald (a lovely chap) describes for getting from UFRAW to GIMP - an automatic transfer, with no file saves or opens involved.

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    Re: Post Processing Overview

    Thanks all and apologies Donald. I was probably reading another thread at the same time and got confused.

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    Re: Post Processing Overview

    Having tryed most editing software I would strongly recommend that you invest in Adobe Lightroom 3 and learn to use it. They have several video tutorials on the Adobe web site which will show you what a wonderful tool it is. Then, after using this program to process all of your RAW images for several months or so, decide whether or not you want to fuss with more local corrections. If so, get Photoshop. I personally find that Lightroom 3 handles 98% of all my requirements and only rarely do I fuss with CS3.

    BTW...the RAW file is never, never, never changed...it remains...how shall I put it...Raw. The edits allow you to produce a jpg, Tif, PSD, etc.

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    Re: Post Processing Overview

    Quote Originally Posted by bmpress View Post
    Having tryed most editing software I would strongly recommend that you invest in Adobe Lightroom 3 and learn to use it.
    I know that a lot of people feel this way (but I'm not one of them!).

    Seriously, I think it depends on what you're shooting. If you're shooting eg weddings where you have a LOT of images and you want to batch process as many as possible and generally handle hundreds of images at a time then LR is as good as it gets. If you're "out and about" and shoot a couple of hundred images then either LR or PS (or more specifically Adobe Bridge, which comes with Photoshop) will do the job well (I use bridge for studio shoots which typically involves 4 to 8 sets & a total of 400 to 700 frames). At the other extreme, if I'm shooting landscape I might have the same composition set for a couple of hours, and tale over 100 frames as the light changes -- for this it'll be Photoshop all the way.

    Horses for courses. In terms of sheer image manipulation potential, Photoshop wins hands down (and it isn't even close).

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    Re: Post Processing Overview

    I see nobody has yet covered UFRaw very well. As this is what I use for processing my raw shots, I will give an overview of it's current features. First of all it supports basically any camera's raw format, so camera compatibility shouldn't be an issue. UFR integrates fully with GIMP, meaning no need to save as any format before editing. It integrates lens correction and advanced black&white conversion (lightness, value, channel mixer), has the ability to contrast adjust and perform color tweaking in program.

    If you want to use GIMP several people have told me that they wouldn't have purchased PS if they had known about it. Also if you learn GIMP there is basicly zero learning time if you move to PS. Though I have tried PS I still prefer GIMP to it, and would be willing to write tutorials if needed.

    -Sonic

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    Re: Post Processing Overview

    I have a related question, as a relative newbie, I use a proprietary RAW processor (Canon DPP), to do image manipulation, and convert and save to jpg as a last step. This wasn't a big, thoughtful decision, it just came in the box with the camera (60D), and I found it easy to use. With the various adjustments in this late version of DPP, it seems reasonably flexible and powerful. But, I admit to ignorance here.
    Now, I am considering that might be limiting my options, and am thinking that PSE is the place to start down the Adobe trail. Advice? (Also related is that I am currently using an old and slightly Windows XP--I have the impression that some of these are quite processor intensive.) Would PSE be much better? Thanks in advance.

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    Re: Post Processing Overview

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Donham View Post
    Would PSE be much better? Thanks in advance.
    Hi Richard,

    That question reminds me of the old Navy posters "More than a career ... it's an adventure!" (I think it was navy?). Anyway ...

    It's a bit like that with Adobe products; although there are other products out there that can do a lot of what the likes of PS, PSE, and LR can do, the Adobe products are a bit like a 5 mile train in that they have SO much enertia. There are a gazillion books written about them (or just parts of the program) ... there are many many video tutorials ... there are many many help forums all geared around them. And of course the software itself all integrates beautifully, and by-and-large it's very stable and relatively bug free. So in my opinion it's more of a case of "why wouldn't anyone want to use it"? In the case of PS that could possibly be answered by the one word "price", but PSE is dirt cheap, and also incredibly powerful -- and trial versions are available.

    So if you decide to take a different route that's fine, but you're going to need to invest more time trying to find "how to" answers, especially to the more advanced stuff because "Photoshop" is often the only language the gurus speak.

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    Re: Post Processing Overview

    Thanks, Colin--good answer. I remember those posters, and so the mental image makes the prospect seem even more enjoyable. Elements seems like the best entry point for me. Cheers,
    Richard

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