Time Element in PostProcessing

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by skieur, Jun 7, 2010.

  1. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

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    Almost all pros and advanced amateurs postprocess their images as a basic part of the photographic process. They do it, not just to correct mistakes but to solve some of the inherent weaknesses in the tone, colour and contrast limitations of digital photography in some lighting situations.

    Without a doubt Photoshop CS5 gives the photographer virtually total control over every aspect of digital imaging. To use this program successfully and to get your money's worth, there are two requirements.
    The photographer needs to have an extreme visual sensitivity to what constitutes just the right amount and not too much postprocessing.
    He/she also needs to be familiar with every function of every feature of the program to reach and not cross the line between the amount of postprocssing necessary and too much postprocessing.

    These two requirements presuppose that the photographer has tons of expericnce in taking and evaluating photos, an artistic eye for colour and detail, as well as lots of practice using photoshop. That is certainly not the majority of photographers. Is it any wonder, therefore that Photoshop tends to be under-used or over-used/abused?

    Then the time element or workflow comes into the picture, particularly for the pro as well as the bottom line question as to what postprocessing changes can really be seen as an improvement. Put another way, can fine-tuning tonal variations or colour be "too fine" or the changes too minor for most viewers to even notice?

    One approach to saving time is to vary the amount of postprocessing with the nature of the project and the use of the photos. Product photography and magazine covers would require that you use everything you have in terms of postprocessing methods and plug-ins. Public relations photography or work for small-size print folders would require less work in post. Projected images might require major lighting or contrast changes but fewer changes in fine details which would not be highly visible on screen.

    Software-wise, Photoshop, Paintshop Pro X3, and Nik and other plug-ins can all contribute to speeding up workflow in a variety of photographic projects. The photographer however needs to become comfortable using a variety of software and picking the right programs for the particular project.

    skieur
     
  2. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I don't think there's a limit to what constitutes too much detail in the professional realm. The only thing that ultimately matters is if the effort involved is sustainable.

    Your average $500 cheap wedding photographer won't spend as much time or attention to detail as your $10000 one would. But it you're getting paid a fortune then spending an hour or two fine tuning a single fashion shoot image is likely well worth your time.

    Too minor for people to notice ultimately boils down too much effort to justify an increase in price. If people don't notice, they don't pay more, and you end up getting youself priced out of a job as your competitors are raking in the dough due to knowing exactly how much effort to put into a given dollar value.

    At least in an ideal free market :)
     
  3. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

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    Not so much a matter of too much detail, but rather alternative approaches that may be more appropriate for some projects. PaintShop Pro will get you to the same results as Photoshop a very large percentage of the time according to an older comparison I read in Popular Photography. The difference however is one or two clicks and the use of sliders in PaintShop Pro versus 15 steps and layer masking in Photoshop.
    Nik's Viveza plug-in allows one to select a part of the image and make changes to lighting, colour, contrast, hue, saturation etc., all with only one click.

    My point is that if the results are the same or too close to notice, then a flexible approach to the use of postprocessing programs may be worthwhile for some projects.

    Moreover in the area of detail, if the detail does not show up because of the limited resolution of the projection equipment to be used, then how much time should be spent in fine tuning that area of the images?

    skieur
     
  4. brianT

    brianT TPF Noob!

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    I absolutely agree. Most of the time when I post-process it's for the sake of correcting what the camera couldn't capture which is primarily dynamic range, but also lens distortion, vignetting, color, etc..
    I couldn't agree more.
    I don't agree that even professionals need to know every function of every feature of the program, and I would venture to say that's it's doubtful that any professional actually knows every feature. I'm not a pro-photographer, but I've been using photoshop for over 10 years (8 professionally in a non-photograph industry) and I don't know every single nuance of all the features. Maybe one day I will. I could say the same thing about other software and among dozens of professionals I've worked with that they don't know every feature of the product. Point is, as you stated earlier in your post, it's more important for the photographer to have an extreme visual sensitivity to what constitutes just the right amount and not too much postprocessing. And largely what that means is having a "good eye". In technical terms that means understanding value, hue, intensity, composition and lighting. Also known as the core foundations of art.

    When it comes to amount of time spending post-processing each photo, I find it very important to know which photos are worth processing. A lot of things like poor focus point, too much noise, etc.. are things that I instantly deny a photo of any time. But mostly poor composition means a photo is not worth the time, because it's hard or nearly impossible to fix poor composition. Composition is a choice that needs to be made in the field or studio. I guess that's why I see more photographers shooting tethered to a laptop computer -- easier to judge composition and detail than the tiny LCD screen on the camera.

    When a photo has all the elements in place: good composition, interesting subject, and good lighting, I find it rarely needs any processing.

    This is the reason why I love Capute NX2. It's very quick to make selective changes among contrast, color, etc.. It would be very, very, very nice if the program allowed making selective (masked) changes to exposure (and not just changing exposure of the entire image). I believe this feature will becoming in the future -- I hope :)
     
  5. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I wonder how much of a resource hog it'll be if that feature does make it into the program.
     
  6. brianT

    brianT TPF Noob!

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    I assume you mean the feature I mentioned (selective exposure)? It probably would be a resource hog for early implementations. But if it worked I'd use it. The other thing I'd like to see is layers in RAW files.

    I'm no programmer or computer expert, but in the end even RAW files are just data, just a whole lot more than jpegs or other formats. The first editing software to allow masked changes to exposure, white balance, and also use layers will have a lead on the next generation of RAW editing -- assuming the implementation of these features is done well.
     
  7. irfan

    irfan TPF Noob!

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    You most certainly do NOT need to know every feature in a software program... all you need to know is what you want to do with the image. If you dont care to clone out anything from your images because you feel its blasphemous, why on earth would you need to know how to do that?

    Photoshop is fit for tons of applications, of which photography is just one of. Its used in medical imaging, statistics, forensics, graphic design, and a trillion other things. Many features can be used across the board, but many features are also pretty useless for basic photo corrections.

    All you need to know is what you want to accomplish. The value of the time and effort it takes to get there is up to you to decide
     
  8. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Sorry I wasn't being serious. Just taking a dig at the fact that Capture NX2 takes about 1.5GB of RAM when processing a single picture and many! seconds to to apply even a basic exposure change.

    I like the program. It has nifty features, but the fact that it is borderline unusable on a 4 core computer means Nikon really need to re-think how their software is designed. In a thread that is talking about the time element of processing it's a scary thought that software pitched to do everything a professional needs takes so long to do it.

    As for the first editing software to allow masks ... Lightroom has had a gradient and paintbrush applicator to all manner of settings for a long time. It's not as powerful as photoshop's layers, but in my opinion 95% of what I do with layers I can do with these tools in Lightroom. The biggest glaring omission from what I remember is that I can't apply selective sharpening. :( Though finally, and I mean FINALLY Lightroom has lens based adjustment profiles for vignetting and distortion :)
     
  9. brianT

    brianT TPF Noob!

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    No doubt Caputre NX2 is a resource hog. And it would be great if they re-engineered it for the next major iteration. I get by pretty well using NX2 on a Intel Core Duo 2.4 GHZ with 3GB ram. Yes, some processing is way too slow, but the program still works well. Once the program uses about 1.8GB of ram for a single image it crashes though, which could be the system running out of memory.

    I'm not sure if you're a NX2 user, but one thing that speeds up the entire editing process is to make sure the noise reduction 'intensity' slider is set to zero. Zero is off (no noise reduction). It seems the noise reduction algorithm is really slow to process, and everytime another function is done (levels, color, etc..) it takes longer because its re-processing the noise reduction. So basically, just apply noise reduction as a last step.

    NX2 allows masks for all functions of the programs, including noise reduction and sharpening. Honestly, I've NEVER used either of those functions to an entire image -- they're always masked. The 'Color Control Points' in NX2 (which I believe are the same as Nik's plug-ins), are 'intelligent masks' where instantly you can select a range of tones and colors of an object like foliage against a blue sky. This masking technology alone is what speeds up RAW editing because it's super fast to apply and edit. Plus, an additional mask can be applied over the control point for more fine tuning. The Color Control Points in NX2 are one feature that don't really slow the program down much, as you can have a lot of them and they work fast.

    What can't be masked in NX2 (or any other program that I know about) is white balance and exposure. For this you basically need to save separate images (tiffs) then use photoshop to blend any number of images together. This is the old fashioned way, which works well as photoshop is an extremely powerful tool. But this method moves away from RAW editing because you're image is now a TIFF or PSD or something. Point is, moving this rasterized data into photoshop is time consuming. If quick masks for exposure can be created directly in the RAW editing program, a lot of edits to fix exposure would be way faster.

    Of course, we all know that adjusting exposure to a single image is limited by a couple stops plus or minus. Colors and tones are not consistent. Therefore if a RAW editor allowed the use of layers like photoshop does, you can copy and paste a different bracketed photo onto an existing one in the RAW editor, align them if necessary, then mask in or out what is wanted.

    Am I asking too much? I don't think so. And I do think some clever engineer is working on these features.
     
  10. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Cool I'll have to give the noise reduction off trick a try. Never got that far with Capture NX. I couldn't get past the exposure settings and the control points without thinking this is too slow to be useful. May have to give it another go, it does make sense. I noticed that's a big difference between Capture NX and Lightroom is that Lightroom does not apply some of the finetuning controls on the image when it's not zoomed to 1:1. Things like de-fringing, noise reduction and sharpening.

    Lightroom does have a masking ability using the gradient tool and painter that works on exposure. Actually that's about all I ever use it for.

    I sort of do think you're asking a bit much of a RAW editor like CameraRAW and it's Lightroom bastard child to support stacking of RAWs, but only because they typically serve as a platform for importing photos into photoshop. What you say does make sense for a standalone program like CaptureNX which isn't trying to sell itself as a side tool to Photoshop. Stacking feature would be nice though. :)
     
  11. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

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    True, but from a practical point of view, it makes little sense to spend $700 plus on CS5 if you are only going to use 25% or less of the functionality of the program or for that matter spend four times as long doing post in CS5, than could be accomplished in another program.

    To each his own of course, but it seems that despite the fact that many here seem to own Photoshop, their photos seem to be missing any indication of its use. Even threads where attempts at editing have been done, there have been major basic weaknesses.

    Perhaps, it would be more beneficial from a financial and time perspective for many to realize that yes, they do need to postprocess their images, but no, they really don't need Photoshop to do the job.

    I use several programs for postprocessing and no one has recognized which ones were the result of using Photoshop, which returns to my point that although Photoshop is a great program, you can get to similar results using other programs and in the process save time and money.

    skieur
     

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