Old 05-07-2009, 03:23 PM   #1
KevinM
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Default Experimenting with RAW and have questions....

Folks,

I've been shooting LF JPEGs for a couple of years and am generally pleased with what I get. But with so many folks extolling the virtues of shooting RAW, I've decided to experiment a little and see if buying more memory cards and bigger auxiliary hard drives is really for me. Seriously, I'd like to see what quality advantages might win me over from the "dark side". I will be doing some shooting this weekend and plan to shoot RAW+Fine JPEG at least some of the time.

I shoot Nikons...I have a D40x and a D90. I do all of my postprocessing now in PSE 6. The only Nikon software I have is whatever came with the cameras....ViewNX, I think. I believe that PSE 6 can read NEF files and with an upgrade, I think it will handle all of my cameras.

Questions:

1. Can PSE 6 do the entire job of processing a RAW file? I am particularly interested in exposure adjustments. Since I shoot JPEGS, I always nail the exposure , so I'm not EXPECTING to have to do this.....but it is touted as one of the chief advantages of RAW. So can I do this with PSE 6?

2. If the answer to Question 1 is NO, what else do I need?

3. As far as workflow is concerned, what will be different from what I do now?

Right now, I do the following:

- Level
- Crop
- Adjust Levels, Shadows/Highlights, Brightness/Contrast, Saturation
- Sharpen
- Resize
- Resharpen Lightly

Will I need to mess with color? I nearly never have to do that now.

Sorry for so many questions, but it is high time I learned what all of the RAW fuss is about.

Thanks!
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Old 05-07-2009, 04:01 PM   #2
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I use PSE 3. PSE uses a limited version of the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) that full PS uses (you download the same update file, but PSE knows which ACR features to turn off). You control exposure (= roughly right side of histogram), shadows (left side), brightness (shift the entire distribution represented by the histogram), contrast (spread the distribution). It also controls sharpening. It then passes the image into regular PSE - think of ACR as a front end, a first step. It does everything I need to do.

To me there are two keys. First, white balance, you can change it if what is captured isn't right. There is one slider for temperature and one for tint. You are ok with your color so that won't give you much, but then once you have the ability you may see that you can put it to good use.

Second, if you blow highlights, and it seems I am always blowing out the red channel, you can use exposure and brightness to fix it. So you see an indication of what areas are blown, and you can adjust the exposure and brightness sliders until they are blown no longer. Makes a big difference some times, such as my recent Metra shots, where the red would often blow and if uncorrected the engine color would be off because part of its color mix would be gone. CSX nose yellow also blows out frequently at the auto exposure settings (which I presume is similar to what the camera would do for a jpg) and I can see the difference in shots that I adjust the settings vs not.

You do that and it comes into PSE and your workflow from then on is basically the same. So it is an addition to workflow, except that it will reduce the extent of adjustments you make later to levels etc because you do them in the first step.
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Old 05-07-2009, 04:37 PM   #3
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I, frankly, am a newbie to RAW, but will add that I just saved a trip by having shot RAW. My Richmond photos included some really blown out images. I had shot both RAW and JPEG. The JPEGs could not be saved. I opened the RAWs and voila... sliders to the rescue... there were the images fully retrievable.
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Old 05-07-2009, 06:05 PM   #4
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I find the meters and auto white balance on my D40 and D90 so accurate that I rarely need to adjust the RAW image.

But as noted above when you need it you need it. For some reason the following image was way underexposed.....so much so that I had to adjust the "exposure" slider all the way to the right. I was surprised that such dramatic adjustment did not produce artifacts or weird lighting effects. And even after that the shadow/highlight tool came in handy. But without RAW this image would have been totally lost.

Image © John West
PhotoID: 273109
Photograph © John West


In general I find the images from the D40 and D90 need minimal post processing adjustment beyond cropping (which includes leveling for me), resizing, and the occasional resharpening if I convert from tif to jpg.
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Old 05-07-2009, 09:33 PM   #5
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Thanks for the comments guys!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JRMDC View Post
I use PSE 3. PSE uses a limited version of the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) that full PS uses (you download the same update file, but PSE knows which ACR features to turn off). You control exposure (= roughly right side of histogram), shadows (left side), brightness (shift the entire distribution represented by the histogram), contrast (spread the distribution). It also controls sharpening. It then passes the image into regular PSE - think of ACR as a front end, a first step. It does everything I need to do.
Does this mean that when I open a RAW file in PSE 6, I will see options and controls that I don't see with a JPEG? I guess I always assumed that I needed some sort of front-end program like CaptureNX to make gross adjustments to the NEF file and import it into PSE. I guess not, huh?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Freericks
I, frankly, am a newbie to RAW, but will add that I just saved a trip by having shot RAW. My Richmond photos included some really blown out images. I had shot both RAW and JPEG. The JPEGs could not be saved. I opened the RAWs and voila... sliders to the rescue... there were the images fully retrievable.
This is precisely why I'm considering shooting at least some of my shots in RAW. On any given trip, you get a lot of run-of-the-mill-non-RP-suitable stuff. But when the light is good and the action is interesting, you can't risk blowing it. As both you and Dennis L. (in another thread) have indicated, we all spend lots of money to get these shots, we need as much "insurance" as possible that the money shots turn out well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John West
I find the meters and auto white balance on my D40 and D90 so accurate that I rarely need to adjust the RAW image.
I'm really impressed with colors in Nikon-generated JPEGS. If the RAW files are anything like that, I won't have much to do either. I constantly read threads here in which folks talk about correcting color etc. I virtually never have to do that. I guess I've never regretted staying with Nikon when I went digital.

Now off to Best Buy to get a gross of 8GB memory cards!!
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Old 05-07-2009, 10:33 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinM View Post
Does this mean that when I open a RAW file in PSE 6, I will see options and controls that I don't see with a JPEG? I guess I always assumed that I needed some sort of front-end program like CaptureNX to make gross adjustments to the NEF file and import it into PSE. I guess not, huh?
Correct, you will see such options and controls. PSE comes with its own front-end program, a slimmed-down version of Adobe Camera Raw, just like PSE is itself a slimmed-down version of PS.
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Old 05-08-2009, 12:30 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JRMDC View Post
...PSE comes with its own front-end program, a slimmed-down version of Adobe Camera Raw, just like PSE is itself a slimmed-down version of PS.
I wonder. Adobe seems to move in strange and mysterious ways. I run PSE 6on my Mac laptop, and Photoshop CS2 on my Mac desktop. The version of Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw with my PSE 6 version has more "stuff" than the version with Photoshop CS2. But since CS2 is a much older program, that might have more to do with it than Photoshop versus PSE. It may also have to do with the particular camera RAW, since each camera seems to have its own version of RAW.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinM View Post
I'm really impressed with colors in Nikon-generated JPEGS. If the RAW files are anything like that, I won't have much to do either. I constantly read threads here in which folks talk about correcting color etc. I virtually never have to do that.
Keep in mind that the colors (not to mention contrast and sharpness) you see in JPEG images from your Nikon may have already been "processed" inside the camera in accordance with certain standard "templates". That is one of the differences between RAW and JPEG.....RAW is just that...RAW. When I sort downloads on the computer, the JPEGS almost always look a bit better than the RAW images. So when you start with RAW images you may in fact find yourself having to do stuff that has already been done for you in JPEGS. But that also means more control over the results.
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Old 05-08-2009, 12:53 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John West View Post
I wonder. Adobe seems to move in strange and mysterious ways. I run PSE 6on my Mac laptop, and Photoshop CS2 on my Mac desktop. The version of Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw with my PSE 6 version has more "stuff" than the version with Photoshop CS2. But since CS2 is a much older program, that might have more to do with it than Photoshop versus PSE. It may also have to do with the particular camera RAW, since each camera seems to have its own version of RAW.
That is about it, but I'll clarify. ACR, like most software, is updated over time, both to add functionality and also to support more cameras. However, Adobe frequently stops supporting old software with the latest ACR. Thus, my PSE3 (roughly the same vintage as CS2, I vaguely recall) can not be updated with the latest version of ACR and thus can not process raw files coming out of a Canon 40D, much less anything newer. (Yes, each camera has its own version of a raw file. For example, obviously any expansion of megapixels must necessarily change the nature of the raw file.) So if I ever upgrade my camera body, into the calculation I must factor in an upgrade to my software.

PSE 6 is much newer than CS2 so it can use a much newer version of ACR even though PSE is a downrated version of PS.
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Old 05-08-2009, 01:06 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JRMDC View Post
PSE 6 is much newer than CS2 so it can use a much newer version of ACR even though PSE is a downrated version of PS.
My question is, which I did not state very clearly, is ACR for PSE really more limited than ACR for PS.
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Old 05-08-2009, 01:26 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John West View Post
My question is, which I did not state very clearly, is ACR for PSE really more limited than ACR for PS.
I won't take the time to find a comprehensive or current comparison, but if I look at my book "RAW 101" by Jon Canfield I see in the table of contents that the PS CS2-only capabilities (the book is copyright 2005) include cropping and color sampling. A page in the book indicates that the CS2 version also has chromatic aberration adjustment, lens vignetting, curves, and camera calibration/color adjustment.

Owning only PSE, I have no clue how capable any of these features are.
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Old 05-08-2009, 07:34 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinM View Post
This is precisely why I'm considering shooting at least some of my shots in RAW. On any given trip, you get a lot of run-of-the-mill-non-RP-suitable stuff. But when the light is good and the action is interesting, you can't risk blowing it. As both you and Dennis L. (in another thread) have indicated, we all spend lots of money to get these shots, we need as much "insurance" as possible that the money shots turn out well.
Even if you get the exposure spot on, shooting RAW will bring you advantages. You will find that even on the best exposed shot there will be details hidden in the shadows that can be recovered to enhance the picture. I find this most useful when shooting steam. Even in good light the smokebox area is often underexposed as its frequently in shadow because of things like smoke deflectors. A small layer mask adjustment in Photoshop will reveal all the smokebox door detail. If the shot were a JPG, all this detail would have been discarded during the compression process.
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Old 05-08-2009, 08:55 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John West View Post
Keep in mind that the colors (not to mention contrast and sharpness) you see in JPEG images from your Nikon may have already been "processed" inside the camera in accordance with certain standard "templates". That is one of the differences between RAW and JPEG.....RAW is just that...RAW. When I sort downloads on the computer, the JPEGS almost always look a bit better than the RAW images. So when you start with RAW images you may in fact find yourself having to do stuff that has already been done for you in JPEGS. But that also means more control over the results.
Right. That's one of the reasons I've resisted shooting RAW until now. From a color standpoint, I have indeed been very satisfied with the processing that the camera does on the JPEGS....and concerned if I could do as well. RAW images have always looked washed out to me. Although I am a bit of a control freak, the color area is one place where I have been very comfortable letting the camera do its thing.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Wizzo
Even if you get the exposure spot on, shooting RAW will bring you advantages. You will find that even on the best exposed shot there will be details hidden in the shadows that can be recovered to enhance the picture. I find this most useful when shooting steam. Even in good light the smokebox area is often underexposed as its frequently in shadow because of things like smoke deflectors. A small layer mask adjustment in Photoshop will reveal all the smokebox door detail. If the shot were a JPG, all this detail would have been discarded during the compression process.
I've seen shots on RP that were taken with poor sun angles that still had shadow detail I could never have pulled out of a JPEG without really messing other things up. I am looking forward to seeing what is possible.
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Old 05-08-2009, 06:26 PM   #13
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Kevin wrote, "......From a color standpoint, I have indeed been very satisfied with the processing that the camera does on the JPEGS..."

One of the things I find scary is the "auto everything" adjustments on the lastest version of PSE I have are so good that sometimes they do a better job than anything I can do manually. I hate it when the computer is so much smarter than I am.......but it sure speeds up the work flow!
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