art, photography, technical

editing a raw file

Wow, what a long time! I started this post back in March 2015! ūüė≥ūüė≤ Unbelievable!
Recently, I got again a question on my workflow, so I decided to finally finish this post. Hint: This post contains some links to software manufacturers. No one paid me anything for getting a link or had any influence on my opinion.

Besides creating jpg files directly in-camera many digital cameras are able to create raw files instead of the JPG or in addition. Raw file means saving the bare information captured by the sensor and not processing it in-camera. This has a couple of advantages. A few years ago, I already published a post on these advantages.¬†Many years ago, I decided to capture only raw files and process them myself afterward to have more control over the process and the final look. No, don’t get me wrong, I don’t use any filters. In only do, what was necessary back in film days.

In the past, I already published some posts covering how I store my images and a bit about, why I’m doing the extra work for raw development. Some of the benefits of doing it this way are in this post. I really encourage you to click on the links and read a bit about the background. Although most recent digital cameras are really great in creating good-looking JPGs, you still have a lot more in raw.

I’m using dedicated raw-processing software and it’s not Lightroom, because this software needs so much unnecessary work which stands in the way where I’d have to work around. The workflow is complicated and not straightforward. And, you’re locked into the software when you want to keep access to your own work.

The DAM (Digital Asset Management) would be nice for the final images, but it’s absolutely the wrong way to import all undeveloped images only for deleting a huge portion right after the import. A database makes additional problems when being used that way and slows down the computer over time. You can google for these problems and find gazillions of people suffering from them. An often recommended solution of having a separate catalog for each job on the other hand leads the whole idea ad absurdum. (btw. the same is true for the recent versions of Luminar, and that’s the reason why I left their affiliate program). Not being able to save all your edits outside of a catalog also hinders you to get your image edited by someone else and get the edits back for learning from the outcome.

These are my steps after coming back from a job or a trip:

  1. copy all images in a dedicated folder on my internal disk named with the date and a tiny description of the contents (i.e. 20210507 – garden birds)
  2. create a first backup of the whole bunch of images, which will hopefully never be used
  3. import the GPS data into the image files (only for trips)
  4. normalize the file names when having used more than one camera body to get them in the right order again. My naming scheme is YYYYMMDD_hhmmss-XXX_xxx.NEF. I guess the first and second part of date and time is easily understandable. I take this information from the metadata of each file: the time of releasing the shutter. The XXX stands for a 3 digit code of the used camera body followed by 4 numbers. These third and fourth parts are given to the file by the camera at creation time. The metadata are pieces of information stored in the images by the camera at the time when the image is captured.
  5. create a second backup on a second external disk. This one is my backup in case of an emergency.
  6. open up a digital light table to check the images and select the ones to get processed.
  7. create a sub-folder called “edit” and copy all selected images in this folder, direct the raw processor to the edit folder and process the images
  8. the final steps are already in the post, I mentioned above.

In this post, I want to describe the actions I do in my raw processor. You know, I started photography more than 40 years ago and run my own lab in those days.  And the options I had in those days are still the steps I do in digital photography:

  1. remove some blemishes and dust-spots
  2. brighten the shadows and darken the lights to get a better balance in the image if necessary
  3. balance the horizon if necessary
  4. correct the with balance if necessary
  5. boost the vibrance or increase the saturation if necessary
  6. crop, if necessary
  7. post-sharpening
  8. export to jpg

You see, my workflow is quite easy and straightforward. It costs me a maximum of approximately 2 minutes per image. Some of the actions can be bundled and applied to a couple of images at the same time to speed up the work. But, in general, I’m not a big fan of such bundlings, besides the export to jpg.

You might ask, what kind of software you can use. There are a couple of commercial products around. All I know, offer trial versions for a couple of days/weeks: DxO Photolab, Capture One Pro (free versions for some Fuji and Sony cameras available), OnOne Photo Raw, NX Studio (free, Nikon only – afaik Canon has something similar), and some open-source products, which are also free of charge: Rawtherapee, Lightzone, ufraw, digikam, Darktable. Affinity Photo is more a replacement for Photoshop or Gimp, although it also has a good raw development module. Photoshop brings kind of a lite-version of Lightroom for raw development called Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and Gimp incorporates either ufraw or Rawtherapee, depending on the operating system you’re using. There might be some more products in the market, which I didn’t mention here because I don’t know them. So, this list isn’t complete. Sorry!

Although the open-source products usually have a background in the Linux community, they are also available for Windows and macOS. I worked with all of them a bit and would recommend either Lightzone or Rawtherapee. ufraw is a bit like Adobe Camera Raw for Photoshop. Darktable has the same mechanisms as Lightroom. So, it’s unusable for me. I don’t want to import the raw files into a database and stick with this single database because all of my edits are in that database. A corrupt database could make me lose all ever-done edits. DigiKam is an all-in-one solution: fat but mighty. I like the organizing module very much: DAM = Digital Assets Management. For some time, I’m using Excire Foto for DAM. You see, the linked post is quite old. I have to write a new one. This product is amazing.

For modern lenses, it is extremely important to have software being able to adjust and correct lens failures: barrel or cushion distortion and achromatic abbreviations. Back in the film days, the good lenses were designed for not having them. Nowadays it’s easier (and cheaper for the manufacturer) to create a piece of software to correct the failures. All the software I mentioned above is IMHO able to work that way. On the other hand, I have a lot of old lenses, which don’t need such corrections.

In case, you want to start developing your photos, I’d recommend either DigiKam, because it is an all-in-one solution, or Lightzone / Rawthereapee. In case, you need some image manipulation tools, try gimp. You can find tutorials on the relevant homepage I mentioned above or on YouTube. Although there are rumors of Gimp would be complicated, that’s not completely true. Also, Photoshop is very complicated, but there are more talkative called-by-themselves experts telling it otherwise because they are kind of experienced because of extensive usage. Each software is complicated on the first try. But, open-source software usually has a very active community willing to help when you’re investing at least a bit of time reading or watching (YouTube) tutorials. The other option is, to give one of the commercial software a try and download the trial version. Also, commercial software needs you to learn how to handle them. So, giving open-source a try first, won’t cost you any money. When talking about commercial software, I like DxO Photolab the most followed by Capture One Pro. When it comes to image manipulation software, I’m using Gimp and Affinity Photo. In the past, I used Photoshop CS6, but it’s not necessary anymore. First, I need such software only for approximately 10-20 images a year, on the other hand, Gimp has everything, I need. A few weeks ago, I published an article on one of my use cases for image manipulation software on NikonRumors and here in my blog.

I tried all the products I mentioned above last year when I had to investigate a replacement for my raw development software. Although the last update was in 2012 it run well and gave me the flexibility, quality, and tools I needed. Unfortunately, the developer decided to retire the software. For some years I was unable to re-install it if there were a reason to do so, but the recent updates of the operating software of my computer made the tool even completely unusable. So, I needed to find a replacement and I did. Recommending software to someone else is not easy because everyone has her own workflow, her own requirements, and her own wishes. So, you have to try on your own and find the software fulfilling all of your requirements to the best.

Below, you can see two screenshots from while developing a raw image in LightZone. The final image is on the top of this post.

browsing a folder with raw files with the folder structure on the left and the metadata of the selected image to the right

 

a couple of presets on the left, first developing step on the right and seeing the distribution of light in the image (Zone Model of Anselm Adams) in the upper right corner

 

Read the steps on the right from bottom to top. The last step is missing: sharpening

In this image, it was necessary to darken the highlights to recover the fine structures in the petals. In-camera development would have left only completely white spaces. From the raw file, I was able to recover the fine lines in the petals as well as the stamens. The erected twig was removed afterward with image manipulation software (Gimp) as well as the cropping.

Take care and happy snapping ūüėä

art, photography, technical

How to select your best photo from the bulk

Back, in film days it was easy. You took a film with 20,24 or 36 shots on your trip and gave it to the lab after coming back home. Or, depending on your destination, you even were able to find a lab in your trip location. A few days later you got your developed film and a bunch of prints, depending on your type of film and the selected service. But, this was quite expensive. 1 film containing 36 shots with development and prints was as expensive as a todays 32 GB SD-Card from a medium quality brand (or a 128 GB SD card, when including inflation considerations).

But, what can I do with a 32 GB SD card compared to the 36 shots on film? Do you remember my post on jpg vs. raw? Assuming, one photo needs 25 MB storage, I’d be able to take about 1.300 photos with only one card.

While I’ve chosen my frames very carefully to avoid bad shots when I was photographing on film, I now often waste room by taking additional shots for different angles, take safety shots in tricky situations or when standing on wobbling ground. Or I try different settings, or taking redundant shots from similar plants / flowers / landscapes / posings ¬†… – you name it. This results in¬†a full memory card with lots of photos to be checked.

In my last post on this I mentioned the star system, for¬†marking bad shots with a waste-bin, good shots with 1 star. Next filter¬†all shots and select those with 1 star and mark the best of these with 2 stars. Repeat this until 5 stars are given to your best shots from that trip or shooting. This is a good workflow for finding the best shots, but it won’t help to find and compare similar photos taken in different places or on different trips or on different times. Here you’re on your own – up to now.

Maybe you’re stumbled upon Google’s image¬†search, where you can put an image in the box¬†designed to put the search term into and Google will show similar images from the web.

You can have this on you own computer, too. How? With the new app “snapselect” by MacPhun.

At the first start the app asks you for your images folder. Next, all images in this folder and all other folders below this starting point are read and indexed. For my image folder containing about 10,000 images this step lasted about 30 minutes or so. It creates a folder inside your home directory (Library/Application Support/com.macphun.snapselect_1.0.0) to store small pieces of data for each of the scanned images. In my case this folder needed¬†about 1,1 GB of my hard disk space. But, this is necessary to do the magic: comparing the images and show similar images from all over your image folder, regardless when and where you took that image. Instead of this, it can also use your Lightroom, iPhoto or Aperture catalog. But, I haven’t tested one of these, because I don’t use any of them.

Imagine: you can select one photo of a red rose, adjust the accuracy slider and see every red rose on your disk. The accuracy slider is to define how much the equality of the images should be Рor, in other words, how similar the selected images are supposed to be.

screenshot1Now, you can choose i.e. the best photo for a competition or select the photos to keep or keeping only the best photos on your disk or whatever else you want to reach. In my screen shot above* I selected a folder containing some RAW files containing birds of prey taken at the fall festival in Middelkerke (Belgium) last year. You can see how snapselect grouped the photos showing similar birds and in similar poses. This is really a fantastic help when it comes to select photos.

This is one of the fantastic features of the new snapselect. Go and get your own trial and check it out! You can get it from your Mac App store.

Take care!

* (click on the image to see it bigger)

architecture, art, culture, history, photography, travel

Eglise St. Jeanne d’Arc de Rouen

is also a church, but an unusual one.

This church is very modern, similar to St. Joseph in Le Havre, but much different. The similarity is only in being modern and unusual.

The shape of this church is like ocean waves.The bell hangs outside under a small roof directed to the market halls. The church and the market halls are connected by parts of the roof and the same in style. The highest wave forms the tower, but in front of the church is a very high cross instead of locating it on the tower.

This church is Continue reading “Eglise St. Jeanne d’Arc de Rouen”

culture, photography, travel, world

The Parisian Metro

There is a metro system in Paris, able to bring you to any place of the city. Following the stairs under the ground you’ll find long tunnels with tiled walls. The tunnels are quite light and kind of clean. On some tracks you’re faced with strong cold wind. Others smell a bit strong. Many stairs are on your way down to the platforms, sometimes Continue reading “The Parisian Metro”

art, culture, history, landscape, meeting, photography, travel

I’m back …

.. from a city with a cuddle factor.

For a few days I was in Paris, France, with some friends. Lodging in a Hotel near Place Pigalle at Montmatre: Small room, tiny bath and an elevator giving room for only 2 thin people (max 225 kg) on a platform of approx. 60 cm to 60 cm.

The area around Place Pigalle is an area with many music instrument stores and souvenier shops. It’s also an area with many theatres Continue reading “I’m back …”