Yet another RAW vs JPG question :)

jjd228

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This is more of a technical question. I don't want to start a "my way is better than your way" argument.

As a software developer I like to have the fullest and most low level control over everything I do, so the idea of shooting in RAW mode appeals to me.

The thing is this: If I take a shot in RAW+JPG mode so I have both files, and look at the images side by side, the JPG looks "better." Obviously this is because the camera is doing all sorts of things to enhance/fix the image before it creates the JPG. So if I was to shoot in RAW only mode I would always be wondering if the results I get after I'm done in Camera Raw are as good as the camera-created JPG would have been.

So what I'm asking is, what is the Camera Raw workflow that is typically used when the RAW file is first opened? My plan (as a learning experiment) is to take a shot in RAW+JPG and without looking at the JPG try to develop the file in Camera Raw and then compare it to the camera's JPG and see if I can get mine to look as good.

Thanks!
 

480sparky

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Perhaps the JPEG looks better because the raw file is simply demosaiced and none of the camera settings have been applied yet.




Here's my workflow for PPing raw images:

Post Processing Workflow:

To start:
• Create sub-directories on hard drive
• Create virgin hard drive copies (second internal hard drive)
• Download image files
• Import geotag data
• Cull worthless frames (exposure way off, OOF, etc.)
• Rate (star) remaining frames
• Batch Rename image files
• Batch insert XMP/IPTC data
• Insert keywords
• Select & rate images

Now the fun begins:
• Load a single raw file into Capture NX2
• Duplicate of original for comparison (Ctrl+D)

Then, adjust original image file if necessary:
• White Balance
• Picture Control
• Noise Reduction
• Active D-Lighting

Then on to:
• Curves
• Exposure compensation
• Contrast
• Highlight Protection
• Shadow Protection
• Saturation

Camera & Lens Correction:
• Color Moiré Reduction
• Image Dust Off
• Lateral Color Aberration
• Axial Color Aberration
• Auto Distortion
• Red Eye
• Vignette Control

Further color corrections:
• Luminance, Chroma and Hue
• Color Booster
• Saturation & Warmth

Now to adjust focus & sharpness:
• Gaussian blur
• High-Pass Filter (my favorite step!)
• Unsharp Mask

Next:
• Add grain/noise
• B&W Conversion
• Colorize
• Color Range Contrast
• Sepia
• Tint

May still need to do the following:
• Color Control Point
• Auto Retouch Brush
• Straighten / Rotate
• Crop (either freehand or specific aspect ratio) This I rarely do at this point.... I typically wait until I know what size print I'm making.

Time to:
• Save raw file (neat thing about raw.... the original sensor data is not overwritten... just the adjustments I made are added to the file. So if need be, I can always delete the steps at any time in the future and return the file to the original downloaded state!).
• Rename, adding "Sell Name" to filename and save as a Jpeg in a separate file.

Export a JPEG to GIMP for:
• Cloning any areas that need it.
• Correct Perspective Distortion.
• Crop to final aspect ratio for printing (again, typically I don't do this until I know what aspect ratio I need to print).
• Any other step that CNX2 cannot perform.


Create a resized image for posting on web.
• Add copyright info to EXIF file.
• Add watermark & create custom gradient.
• Add custom-color drop shadow.
• Rename file, go to website for uploading.





-----------------------

I don't bother shooting JPEGS much any more. I can take the raw file and 'see' the result..... usually because I 'saw' it in the field to start with.
 

orb9220

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+1 480sparky step by step. Good info there.

Depends on camera you are using?
As to Nikon if you use Nikon Capture NX 2 Photo Editing Software.
Then it will retain those in-camera settings.

3rd party like Lightroom does not.

For me Raw only as to me Raw +jpg is more to deal with.
And in Lightroom or darktable on linux just comes down to workflow that becomes automatic.
Importing I assign general tags first import them to a Year/Month/Day folder structure created on import.
Trim down the imports on images that don't make the initial cut.

Then apply sharpening and NR when necessary after adjusting curves.
Apply any adjustments to Color WB,Saturation,etc...

Usually never spend more than 2-3 mins on any image. Special cases can climb to 10-20 mins max.
And 100 images usually doesn't take me more than an hour to a half to finish.
But do learn to become proficient in learning your post editing software.
Many skimp on that end. And to me Post work is just as important as taking the image.

Many programs have presets,filters that you can also apply for effect.
And adjust to your liking from there.

Again comes down to software you intend to use.
And how much time you will invest in learning it.
.
 

Big Mike

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So what I'm asking is, what is the Camera Raw workflow that is typically used when the RAW file is first opened? My plan (as a learning experiment) is to take a shot in RAW+JPG and without looking at the JPG try to develop the file in Camera Raw and then compare it to the camera's JPG and see if I can get mine to look as good.

In some situations, the difference in how the final image looks, is negligible. But the raw file has the potential to look better, or at least to look better to you, the one who is making the raw adjustments before 'developing'.

In-camera raw processing (shooting jpeg) does seem to be improving though. And so, I'd think that for many scenarios, the camera is doing a pretty good job of it. But there are still difference, it's just up to you to figure out if you need or want to take control of the process to have access to those differences.

Here is an article worth reading.
Why Raw -- Part I
 

Buckster

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The JPG has been processed to the standards of the engineers who built the program that does that in the camera. It doesn't know what it's looking at or what's important or how to make any choices at all. It just makes a series of pre-programmed adjustments, reduces the file size by discarding most of the information it started with, and spits out an image according to those adjustments and reduction. The photographer has a limited array of choices that can be made in the camera's menu prior to taking the shot, but it can take quite a bit of time and effort to drill down to make those choices on the fly. Most modern DSLRs therefore have buttons or settings that allow the photographer to pre-program several choices and switch to their preference on the fly much easier.

The RAW makes no assumptions about what the photo is about or what's important. It leaves all those decisions to a human being who must assess the individual photo on it's merits and make some decisions about how best to process that particular photo, which is done outside the camera using editing software. It throws away no information, leaving it to the human to use it or not. It provides the ultimate in getting the shot exactly as the photographer sees fit.

Shooting in RAW + JPG allows the photographer to move quickly through their images, accepting those that were rendered in JPG to the photographer's satisfaction, and still allowing the photographer to process the RAW files from those where the JPG did not render a satisfactory final image. It is, in essence, the best of both worlds.

Balancing the "worth it" factor:

  • JPG takes the least amount of space on the card, but provides limited ability to process to satisfaction if it didn't come out right.
  • RAW takes up more space on the card, but provides the most ability to process to satisfaction.
  • RAW + JPG takes up the most space on the card, but provides the best of both worlds, as described above, and memory cards aren't that expensive these days.
 

Derrel

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I was reading some of Thom Hogan's site the other day, and found this snippet, which I pasted to a document, mainly because what he said mirrored my own,personal experiences earlier this year.

"Still, one has to be impressed with the D3x's abilities at high ISO values, especially from in-camera JPEGs, which seem very well tuned (put another way, it's difficult to get better high ISO work from NEFs than the camera's internal conversion does)." from http://www.bythom.com/nikond3xreview.htm

I've been a fan of shooting RAW + JPEG for a number of years, dating way back to the era before ACR, and before batch processing...back to the time when raw image "developing" was very slow, and very time- and labor-intensive, and computers were quite slow, and the software options were pretty limited and feeble, in comparison to what we have today in terms of computing power, software options, and software efficiency and simplicity. What I have found in both the Nikon D2x and D3x models is that the in-camera JPEG, in-camera noise reduction, and in-camera overall image processing is actually VERY well-suited to both of those cameras. With the newer camera, at higher ISO's in artificial lighting indoors, the camera's ability to remove lens chromatic aberration, to remove lens vignetting, and to adjust the contrast curve to the scene brightness and overall dynamic range, is very,very,very good...and when shooting RAW + JPEG and using AUTO-ISO settings, the camera-created JPEG images look as good, or better, than what I can make using normal Lightroom adjustments. I shot several indoor family events this spring, and was remarkably impressed with how the camera processed my RAW + JPEG images.

When a Nikon pro like Hogan said, "it's difficult to get better high ISO work from NEFs than the camera's internal conversion does," I found that he was not just saying that without good reason.
 

KenC

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Whether you're better off with raw or jpeg and what your workflow should be if you do shoot raw both depend on what your goal for the image is. For a lot of the stuff I do I find that jpeg files (or camera displays from raw images) are oversaturated or oversharpened or too light in the mid-tones, or some combination of these. So I shoot raw and get each image I process the way I want it, even though some of them might have been just fine as jpegs. I don't process a high volume of images, so I don't mind the extra time in the raw converter.

If you don't have any complaints about how the SOOC jpegs look and/or process a huge number of files, the calculation may come out differently.
 

amolitor

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When a Nikon pro like Hogan said, "it's difficult to get better high ISO work from NEFs than the camera's internal conversion does," I found that he was not just saying that without good reason.[/SIZE][/FONT]

Ctein agrees. I cite this pretty often, but might as well again: There is evidence that the in-camera noise reduction is better than what can easily be done in post. In theory, in-camera NR can be much more hardware aware, and could in theory actually tune itself to the specific sensor and hardware combination in your body. I don't know whether it DOES, and if it did it might be kept quite secret anyways.

The bottom line, though, is that in-camera noise reduction has been observed in the wild to be much better than expected, and somewhere between extremely difficult to impossible to improve upon outside the camera.

Your manufacturer, and your camera model, may or may not exhibit this behavior.
 

Derrel

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I highly respect Ctein's decades of experience, and his age, wisdom, and logical,scientific approach to the world. I think his supposition that in-camera NR "might be" hardware-aware reflects his cautious,scientific approach. I'll be so bold as to recklessly CLAIM that in-camera noise reduction in Nikon cameras *is,indeed* hardware-aware,sensor-aware, and is also fully color-aware as well. I think it's pretty clear that the Noise Reduction, and the tone curve adjustment, and the automatic CA removal in JPEGS, and the automatic vignetting correction, and indeed, the entire image processing chain, is "tweaked" for each specific camera/sensor setup. Nikon has proprietary information, and electronics (a hardware aspect) that they tune.

One of the biggest issues we have today with modern cameras is the complexity of the machines. The majority of "experts" today will not let the camera make many, or "any", critical exposure/processing decisions. Instead, the majority of "experts" today insist on setting every single exposure/processing parameter to DEFAULT, or to OFF, and then insisting that they possess special skill and knowledge, to process raw data better than the camera designers and engineers who work for Canon or Nikon or Sony.

One of the more interesting issues is the way that,today, certain camera/lens makers are relying on SOFTWARE to eliminate known lens flaws, like vignetting or distortion, and thus are able to make lower-cost lenses which suffer from aberrations that would be expensive to correct in lens making, but which software can perform pretty easily. Panasonic is a leader in this, and Olympus does some as well. The CPU's in lenses are useful devices that can "tell" the camera about what the image looks like, and how to correct for its vignetting issues, and so on.
 

amolitor

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For me just about the coolest thing about digital is that since the thing is inherently color separations, fixing chromatic aberration is almost trivial, if you've characterized the lens adequately. Allegedly you could do the same thing in the darkroom if you were making separations (e.g for dye transfer) but I think you kind of needed to be a wizard, and obviously you didn't have as much flexibility - you can't perform arbitrary transformations on each separation, only alter the degree of enlargement, really (which is, supposedly, almost all you ever need to do -- but still).
 

Scatterbrained

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Derrel, I don't know how it is with Nikon, but with Canon, so long as you have the latest version of DPP, you have their latest processing algos. That means the digital lighting optimizer, Nr, etc. Meanwhile you still have the benefit of being able to shoot in raw, WB, run DLO and NR, and then export a 16 bit TIFF to Lr or Ps. Personally, I don't bother with it because I'm quite happy with what I get from Lr and Ps, but I keep DPP up to date for my IR camera, which Lr can't WB correctly.
 

Gavjenks

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That's really annoying if the camera has built-in hardware superior noise reduction, and yet they don't give you an option to carry that into the RAW. I'm not aware of any such option on my camera, assuming is is indeed hardware aware.

This forces you then the CHOOSE between better noise and better lightness/color bit depth. Which is dumb. If the in-camera noise is better, then I would want to be able to have my "RAW" become a "RARE" (rarely done, as in cooking ha ha... .... cough), and have the noise reduction applied already, but not the other settings.
 

amolitor

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Shoot RAW+JPEG and blend to suit, basically. It works fine, according to Ctein!
 
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jjd228

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One of the biggest issues we have today with modern cameras is the complexity of the machines. The majority of "experts" today will not let the camera make many, or "any", critical exposure/processing decisions. Instead, the majority of "experts" today insist on setting every single exposure/processing parameter to DEFAULT, or to OFF, and then insisting that they possess special skill and knowledge, to process raw data better than the camera designers and engineers who work for Canon or Nikon or Sony.

Glad you said this. I see more and more photographers shooting in RAW/Manual mode because it's the cool thing to do. Never mind that their camera is so much more sophisticated than it was only a few years ago and can do many things better than they can do it manually.

If I'm shooting a picture that will *only* be used on the web, I can't find one thing I can do with a RAW file that I can't do with a high res JPG. All of the same adjustments and tweaks can still be made. You can even open the JPG in Camera Raw if you really want to.
 

Derrel

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I've been shooting RAW + JPEG for around a full decade now, most of the time. I've seen the performance of the cameras go from poor, to average, to good, to excellent. Over the last 12 full years, I've seen in-camera JPEG image quality improve remarkably. Again, this post is in the Beginner's Forum. I'll just reiterate what I quoted Thom Hogan about: "It's difficult to get better high ISO work from NEFs than the camera's internal conversion does." Nikon's D100 produced some of the darkest, flattest, ugliest, worst JPEG images one could ever have to fear dealing with. Really a baaaaaaad in-camera JPEG engine. Awful! Canon used to produce bright, snappy JPEGs, whiole NIkon protected highlights with a flat tone curve that rendered darkish, dim,ugly SOOC images. That has been over a decade ago!

I personally think it's a bit of a disservice to use the phrase RAW versus JPEG, as if there is only ONE option, only one best practice; there is the very easy option of using BOTH formats. Storage is big these days, and cheap. There is more than one way to arrive at a destination. We have two well-known experts, Hogan, and Ctein, telling hardcore, "serious" photo enthusiasts something that they mostly HATE to hear--that the cameras themselves these days are as good at processing the data, or better than, the skill level of many shooters.

My current line of thinking is that RAW + JPEG is a better option today than it used to be in the past. Especially for beginner, and intermediate-level shooters who might very well NOT have the neccessary software, skill set, time, or inclination,need,or desire, to hand-process or even batch-process every single raw capture they make.

My second thought on that is that what I call the newer-sensor cameras now have very wide scene DR, and low noise, and excellent electronics and sophisticated processing, so that the old paradigm that was established six,seven,eight,or ten years ago...is actually not so well-grounded as it once was. And, different cameras may be tuned a bit differently.

For beginners and intermediate shooters, I think the answer might very well be "Raw and JPEG". It's no longer 2002. Again...this is the beginner's forum, and I could care less how good Joe Expert or George Expert is at processing RAW data using XYZ software apps, etc.,etc.. The problem is,almost every time this issue comes up, we only hear from people who advocate doing it "their way", or no way at all.
 
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