still confused about editing RAW

Discussion in 'Digital Discussion & Q&A' started by MACollum, Jan 15, 2007.

  1. MACollum

    MACollum TPF Noob!

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    I've been reading a lot about this but I'm still confused. I think that I'm starting to understand it (just when I was ready to give up on RAW and go back to JPG). There's only so much you can do with levels so I understand that curves are the way to go. My pictures usually come out underexposed (too dark, I think underexposed is the word for too dark) so I've been keeping it on auto because I just can't seem to get the exposure right when I do it myself. I take pictures of basically everything, though in the summer I take lots of pictures of flowers and wildlife. Since it's winter I'm somewhat limited and practice on my kids, chickens and ducks. 4 of my chickens are white and one is black. I mention that because I have a lot of exposure problems when photographing them.

    Anyway, when you edit curves, the extreme dark is on the bottom left corner and the extreme light is on the top right corner. When you pull the point from the left side does it lighten the dark parts only or the whole thing? And the same for the light? How do you know whether to drag the point up or sideways? I'm trying not to blow out the white part but when I use levels it usually blows out or I have to leave the picture too dark in parts. I'd really like to get better but when I try to apply what I learn I'm usually disappointed. Not ready to give up though, there's always auto mode!
     
  2. Peacemaker636

    Peacemaker636 TPF Noob!

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    Are you using Photoshop? If you are, you could try the shadows/highlights adjustment, to adjust the dark areas while keeping the white's from blowing out, and vice-versa.
     
  3. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    What software are you using?

    Having curves set up as you describe (lower left corner = black, upper right corner = white) pulling a point up lightens the tone, and down darkens. Going left to right only changes the selected tone, or in the case of the very ends, black and white, can be used to compress or expand the tonal scale (move black to the right to compress, move white to the left to compress).

    Try putting a bunch of anchor points spaced evenly along the line. Then just move one at a time up or down. Then remove the ones that will help make a smooth curve.
     
  4. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    It really helps if you get your exposure right in the first place.

    The thing you have to watch out for...or at least be aware of...is the latitude of tone that you can capture in one shot. If you have both a black and a white chicken, for example...you will probably loose detail in one...because the right exposure for one...is way off for the other one.

    Levels or curves won't fix a bad exposure. I use levels to even out or spread out the exposure (as seen in the histogram). I use curves to add mid-tone contrast.

    Have you tried the shadow/highlight tool in PS? I think it's only in the CS & CS2 versions. This might be a better tool for what I think you are trying to do. It does have it's limitations though.

    All that applies to either RAW or JPEG images. One advantage to using RAW, is that you have more leeway with adjusting the exposure when you make the conversion. If you have too wide of a range of tones...you might want to try making two conversions (one for the shadows, one for the highlights) and then combining them in photoshop and blending with a mask.

    If you haven't already, check out this site http://www.luminous-landscape.com/ Lots of good 'how to' and 'understanding' type articles to do with Photoshop, Levels, Curves etc.
     
  5. MACollum

    MACollum TPF Noob!

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    I sometimes use photoshop but prefer to use the software that came with the camera (Digital Photo Professional), the reason being that it's very tedious getting the pictures into photoshop. I have to do it one at a time and it takes about 2 minutes per picture. It's much easier to do the curves in the camera's software. I'll try shadows/highlights sometime I'm sure though :) I usually have a LOT of pictures to fix.
     
  6. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I've tried Digital Photo Pro...It's OK...but I preferred just to use the Photoshop RAW converter, Adobe Camera RAW.

    Not too long ago, I downloaded Raw Shooter Essentials...it's much better than either. I suggest you give it a try...it may really help your RAW workflow.
     
  7. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    This might help: http://www.thegoldenmean.com/technique/curves1.html

    An important thing to remember is that the line is what is affecting the tones, not the points you are dragging around. The points are effecting the line, but it doesn't matter where they started at all, only how they make the line look.
     
  8. MACollum

    MACollum TPF Noob!

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    I usually single out the birds because of focus issues. My problem is that the whole picture is too dark. It's trickier to edit pictures of the white chickens because I don't want the white to be blown out. I just can't seem to get the picture to look light enough when I don't use auto mode.

    As for the articles on Luminous Landscape, I've read them and sort of understand the concepts but am somewhat unclear on how to apply them to what I do. I guess what I'm trying to find is a starting point. I think I'm screwing up all over and if I had something good to start with, I could apply one thing at a time but my pictures are a train wreck to begin with. LOL
     
  9. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Maybe you need to work on the initial exposure...rather than the post processing. Shooting either a white or a black subject will trick the camera's meter and you may need to make adjustments to the exposure.
     
  10. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    They are great articles, but I've found that it helps to read articles from a few different people if I'm having trouble grasping something. Sometimes a person will say something in a different way and it will just click. I usually link to the LL site too, but I thought the one above might trigger something for you. If not, keep playing with it. Try starting with a good image to see what it does to that when you move things around.
     
  11. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Good point Mark.

    Here is another site with plenty of good articles.
     
  12. auer1816

    auer1816 TPF Noob!

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    When editing for exposure, it's usually best to use BOTH levels and curves. Start with the levels adjustment and bring the arrows inward to hit the edges of the histogram. This will effectively stretch out the histogram so that is spans from black to white. THEN go in and edit the curves. Since you adjusted the levels to stretch the histogram, you won't need to mess with the endpoints of the curves adjustment. You can then pull the mid-section up or down in various places to get the mid-tones correct.

    But as Big Mike said, these tools won't fix a really bad exposure. Once your histogram is clipped at either end, you can't retrieve the information that should have been there.
     

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