Image-processing Workflow Considerations

Summary – A properly exposed Raw capture usually needs little post-processing beyond the conversion from Raw to tiff or jpeg. This is not to suggest that the Raw capture may not need some processing – just that Nik, OnOne, Topaz, Etc. packages are usually not needed. If used, they tend to tempt the user into going too far.

11-11-2013 1-35-38 PM.


A good Raw conversion program

Can normally provide all of the image processing needed

Assuming the in-camera capture was done properly

Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) is an example

The full version in LR or PS (PSE’s isn’t as effective)

 Swiss-army type plug-in suites may be helpful

But are needed only a small fraction of the time

and – They often make things worse

If we don’t know when to stop


Here’s an example –

1. Capture

The scene’s dynamic range wasn’t over the top, but

Shooting toward the brightest part of the sky required care

Too much exposure and we get a blown out sky

Too little and the shadow details are lost

I opted to expose for the highlights (once lost, lost forever)

The sky was important

In doing this, the shadow areas weren’t totally blocked

(not against the left side of the histogram)

and – I knew they were recoverable and further

Noise in the shadow areas would be unnoticeable

Due to the nature of the dark objects (rough stone)

Here is what I saw at capture when examining the camera’s

Histogram & “blinky display”

Perfect for my needs

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If your first inclination with this scene is

Make a HDR image

Wrong; it’s not necessary

Especially if, like me, a realistic image is your goal

HDR often makes your goal more difficult to achieve

2. Raw Conversion

In just 2-3 minutes, the following is what came out of LR’s ACR

Click for full size view

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The only ACR feature used – beyond BASIC – was

The selective adjustment brush

Restored some sky detail after basics were done

Enhanced near tombstone’s detail after basics

Left unused are these other LR adjustments (not needed)

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The take-away –

A well captured image has little or no need of

Swiss-army software suite post-processing

Add this to the take-away of my previous post which said that

Craftsmanship is only a small par of an extra-ordinary image

Composition, creativity & communication

are more important

Swiss-army tools and their post-processing are

Just a small part of craftsmanship

If your in-camera craftsmanship is up to par


The role of Swiss-army suite post processing

Begins to come into perspective

Other things are far more important to

Making your extra-ordinary wall-hanger or competition winner

Anybody & everybody can nail craftsmanship (or should)

You need to go the extra step (or three)

Which have nothing to do with software


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8 thoughts on “Image-processing Workflow Considerations

  1. I like the composition of this photo, Ed. Where did you find this cemetary? It looks ancient. Love these old tombstones.


    • A little Episcopalian church near Freeman Patterson’s home in New Brunswick, Canada. You’re right, it is very old. Attend a FP workshop and you’ll probably visit it. The inside is equally interesting.

      The composition is based on one of my standard cemetery camera angles – getting down & close to the residents. 😉

  2. Selective adjustment brush — to do what? Bring up the exposure on the stone? If so, that is HDR to me, although a manual one, since you’re using the wide exposure range of the RAW and compress the information into the JPEG/TIFF’s exposure range.

    • I guess that might be one notion of HDR – but not necessarily a common one.

      Most consider HDR to mean a dynamic range that is greater than that which can be captured by a given camera/sensor combination. That is not the case here as can be seen by the starting histogram where, except for the minor “blinkies” every part of the capture is within the histogram’s bounds. The Raw data’s exposure range, in this case, was not greater than what you termed tif/jpeg range and no compression per se was done – just shifting. All highlight/shadow recovery, as you well know, isn’t HDR. HDR, by definition contains completely blown whites and or blocked shadows – totally blown or totally blocked mean zero recoverable data which is not the case here).

      All I did was shift some shadow areas to the right. If shifting tones in this manner meets your criteria for HDR then every image that has its exposure adjusted is HDR it seems – and Ansel Adams with his dodging & burning was thus clearly an HDR-master, unless I’m missing something in terms of your viewpoint.

      The fact that the shift was done via the brush is immaterial – simply a convenience to more accurately target where the shadow recovery took place. Look at it as nothing more than dodging.

      • Ah, now I understand better. To me, HDR is more dynamic range than your output device would usually provide (while you specify it as your input device’s limit). Reason for my opinion is that I have seen HDR software which takes a single RAW and creates an HDR image out of it. I may be wrong though, who knows.

        And I have to admit that I didn’t read out of your original post the fact that your original RAW’s dynamic range was not wider than a JPEG/(8bit)TIFF. Since that was so I agree, even to my definition, no HDR then. The world makes sense again 🙂

        • Glad that we agree. Single image HDR is a gimmick for those who like the “HDR-look” as opposed to the HDR technique. Has nothing to do with real HDR – just a name & look.

          • Well, we may converge but maybe not quite agree yet 😉 I sense that what you mean by single-picture HDR is say take a source JPEG and have it’s luminance compressed but still theoretically be able to display the same dynamic range as before. Whereas my idea is taking a RAW which has more dynamic range than a monitor, printer or JPEG format could cover and bring that RAW’s range into the output device (=monitor, printer, JPEG format)’s range. Ie I really mean compressing some range into a narrower range another device is limited of rendering.

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