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Workflow for image mosaic/stacks


TPF Noob!
Sep 19, 2014
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I typically shoot in raw, edit in LR5 (capture sharpening, WB, tone adjustments, etc.) and then import into CS6 for further editing (convert to TIFF, creative sharpening, further tonal adjustments). I like to do all of the initial capture sharpening and tonal adjustments in camera raw before the image is pixelized (converted from raw format) so this workflow works fine for single images but for images that are generated from multiple photos (HDR, panoramas, focus/star trail stacks) I am having trouble wrapping my head around an appropriate workflow that will allow me to edits in camera raw before the images are pixelized.

Typically I import as layers from LR5 to CS6, add masks, combine layers for stacks, etc. but at this point it seems like the images have been pixelized and any further tonal adjustments like, white balance are not being performed on the raw image. For images that will only stack 2 or 3 photos (i.e. landscape HDR by hand using layer masks) I import from LR5 to CS6 as smart objects (which embeds the raw file in the image so that the photos are not pixelized), add layers, save as PSD then open in LR5 to perform basic adjustments (sharpening, tone, etc.). There is no option to import multiple images as smart object layers from LR5 to CS6, I do that manually, 1 image at a time which would take up too much time when combining ~60 images to create star trails or a focus stack.

1) am I correct in that once you use the export to photoshop as layers option in LR5 the images are pixelaized and any adjustments made will no longer be to the raw image?

2) does anyone have any suggestions or examples of their own multi-images workflow?

Any thought/comments are greatly appreciated!
The Raw file is pixels from the moment the file is created.

ACR/LR Develop module apply a variety of algorithms to make the pixels in the Raw file look like what we see in real life.
Edits made in ACR/LR Develop module change values in line commands that affect how those algorithms make the file look.
That is what makes ACR/LR a parametric image editing application and means no pixel actually gets changed.
Edits made in ACR/LR then are saved in an XML sidecar file so the Raw file is not changed in any way.
Thanks Keith, I suppose my real question is: when exporting from LR to photoshop ("Edit in...") what is the difference between the "open as smart object in photoshop" and the "open as layers in photoshop" options? It seems like smart objects embeds the native raw format so that ACR adjustments can still be applied (also displays "the smart object must be rasterized before proceeding" when attempting to apply tools like the brush) whereas the "open as layers in photoshop" does allow editing tools like the brush to make edits to the image.
When I do a stack, panorama or HDR I normally do all the regular adjustments in LR so that the only adjustment to the photo is going to be the final processing to make the stack, pano or HDR. In some cases I use a TIFF file, other times I don't want or need to spend the extra time so just work with JPG files.

When I do plan to work with JPG files I may go back and redo some processing in LR on some images, export, and then reprocess the composite image just to minimise how much processing I would apply to a JPG image.

I expect a lot can depend on how you plan to use the final image. It can also depend on the software. I don't have LR CC so I have not tried it's pano option using Raw files.
I've tried adding the adjustments (synchronized to all photos) before exporting from LR5 to CS6 but it is hard to visualize what the final will look like, depending on how many photos will be combined. One option may be to combine the images, make note of the appropriate adjustments and then go back and make the adjustments before export. This sounds time consuming though. Seems like a "export to photoshop as smart object layers" in LR may be a good option or have an overlay option in LR in which you can stack images for focus stacks/star trails, etc. I've heard LR6 has a panorama feature but haven't played around with it yet.
Hi there. My HDR has been a journey over 6 or so years now. I started as overblown crap. I read. I watched. I practiced. Today... my HDR is much better. I would say 80% of my images are natural HDR. Some come to my mind as different, so I go with it. Sometimes it works and sometimes not. And to each the artist.
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