Tue 24 Feb, 2009
Tags: Graphics, Photography, Software, Tutorial
In this part I am going to focus on the uploading, file storage and management, and developing of the RAW file. I have mentioned a number of times in the previous installments that Adobe maintains a RAW file format that is the closest thing to a RAW standard as there is in the photo industry. I convert all my files to DNG upon downloading them to my computer. The advantages are few but in my opinion very important.
- First, the hope that DNG will eventually be adopted by all manufacturers as their native RAW image; if is far more likely DNG will be adopted than any other format.
- Second, all most all other formats require a separate side car file to store development instructions once you have developed your picture, one side car file per picture file. That side car must always be in the same folder as the RAW file or your development work is lost. It is easy to accidentally separate the RAW file from its side car. DNG stores the development instructions within the DNG file itself so that they are always together.
- Third, if you are willing to spend the storages space, DNG can also store the native file in the DNG file so that you can always go back to it. The DNG file of course grows by approximately a factor of two if you do this.
- Fourth, DNG is compatible with more applications than any other format, and Adobe is quicker than all application providers to provide updates as new cameras come on the market.
- And of course, like all RAW formats, DNG is a lossless compressed file and generally smaller that the native files (provided, of course, you don’t store the native file in the DNG file).
Above left is the import box Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 provides. Click to enlarge the image and look at the features I have highlighted. Look at the File Handling drop down box at top. “Copy photos as Digital Negative (DNG) and add to catalog” is selected. This is Lightroom’s instruction to convert the native RAW file to a DNG RAW file and add it to the Lightroom library. The folder selected under “Choose” will be the folder Adobe uses to create an additional folder, one for each calendar day, for which there are pictures to import. For example, suppose I took three pictures on 1/1/2009, nine pictures on 1/9/2009 and five pictures on 1/15/2009. Three folders would be created by Adobe; 2009-01-01 containing three pictures, 2009-01-09 containing nine pictures and 2009-01-15 containing five pictures. All three folders will be placed in the folder selected by “Choose”. I create a folder once a year under My Pictures with the name of the year, in this case “2009 Picture Album”. For the entire year I import to this folder and then Adobe creates a folder for each day a picture exists in the library.
I have two cameras. Sometimes I take pictures on the same day with both cameras. When I import the first camera’s photos a folder is created for the pictures taken on that day. When I import the second camera’s photos Lightroom recognizes that a folder already exists and uses it for those photos. See Windows Folder box above right.
Again looking at Adobe’s import box “File Naming” section you will see that I chose “Filename” from the drop down menu. This instructs Lightroom to use the same file name as assigned by my camera (the extension will of course change to .dng). I like to keep the same file name for traceability and because I have more than one camera and can tell immediately which one a photo was taken with. If I want to change the name of a photo, or batch a name change to many photos, I do that after development while saving them as a JPEG file.
In the “Information to Apply” section I have a custom “SRWW Shop” preset for developing. In theory you should use a gray card for every session of photography to get the white balance correct. However, if you know that you environment is always the same you can characterize it over a number of sessions and then create a preset which can be applied at import time. This preset does not alter the digital negative (DNG file). It simply instructs Lightroom to apply a set of development instructions before creating the preview. You can further alter the instructions or add to them later. This saves a lot of work in cases where the environment is always the same, like a wood shop. Of course, if you have days where the environment is substantially different, such as the sun being particularly strong and shining directly through the window at a piece you are trying to capture, by all means go back to using a gray card.
Lastly, in the “Metadata” section I have chosen another custom preset. This one saves my personal information and copyright data and applies it to every picture that is imported. Lightroom provides for easy capturing of these presets and you can create multiple presets if you wish. They are very handy and save you a lot of work.
Now let’s take a look at the development process. I am not going to attempt teaching you how to use Lightroom in this tutorial. It would have to be a separate series of tutorials well beyond this one. But I will introduce you to its major pieces and you can decide whether you wish to learn more from this point. Since we just imported some photos we will begin with the Library View above left. Enlarge the image and take a look. The white lettering over the photo area tells us almost everything about the capture including the camera model, exposure settings and lens used. The histogram gives you a quick view of exposure. This is a histogram of the photo as it exists AFTER the preset and any development changes are applied, not as it is imported. Notice the JPZ Metadata has been applied which you can tell because my name has been applied in the Copyright box.
On the lower left you can see the library organization which looks almost identical to the Windows Folder box of earlier. You can also see that next to the folder for each day is a number indicating the number of photos taken on that day. Notice that the calendar year 2008 Picture Album has a summary of 1403 photos. That is the total number of photos that exist in the library for calendar year 2008. I should mention that not all of my photos are in this library. I only import RAW files into Lightroom. If I shoot JPEG, which I often do (I call them snapshots), I place them in another Adobe application library (Photoshop Elements), along with any JPEGs I produce from RAW DNG files. This is a personal choice. I view Photoshop as a serious development tool which I use for developing RAW files that I intend to keep as negatives. Snapshots can be processed in either Lightroom or Photoshop Elements, and Photoshop Elements, I believe, is a better photo organizer.
If I now choose the Development View I can see the tools available for altering the exposure, color, contrast, sharpness etc. The picture above right is the same as the one in the Library View but I have chosen “As Shot” for WB. Enlarge the picture and study it. Even though I imported it with the SRWW Shop preset, I can always go back to the As Shot view. Now I can examine the histogram of the RAW file. Note the White Balance (WB) Eyedropper tool. I will explain that later. Note also that I can always go back to the imported view with SRWW Shop applied by clicking on the first entry in the “History” drop down. At right you will notice the tools provided for developing. There is a slider at right so access many more. I am not going through each of these in this tutorial. Suffice it to say they are very powerful and for the most part intuitive. The development engine in Lightroom 2.0 is the same engine in the most recent versions of the very popular Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) that most professionals use. I suspect more professionals now use Lightroom than ACR because of its additional features. Before going on compare the image in the Development View with As Shot selected to that of the Library View with SRWW Shop applied. Look at the white of the bench for instance and you can see the preset does a very good job.
Now let’s look at a typical photo. I do a lot of photography outside the shop but since this is a tutorial for woodworkers we will look at one I took for inclusion on my website and in my portfolio. I started with a test shot at left. Since this shot was taken in my house and I have no developing preset for this situation I used a Gray Card. Oh wait! It’s a “White Card”. Actually it is a white sheet of laser printer paper. I have a number of Gray Cards, but sometimes I am lazy and don’t fish them out. A “White Card” works fine. This RAW file has not been color corrected. You can see the “White Card” is not white. The lighting in my dining room is a weird combination of incandescent and daylight, complicated by the fact that my post-and-beam Douglas fir construction plus the pinkish glass lamps surrounding my lights creates this rather unusual lighting. Also, there was a rather strong bluish glare on the front from daylight which I eliminated by asking someone to strategically stand by the corner of the piece. My message here is that you don’t need expensive lighting and other gadgets to take good pictures. In this case a piece of paper and a helpful person was good enough.
Look now at the same photo, at right, after using the WB Eyedropper and clicking on the “White Card” in the Development View. Voilà! It looks pretty good. There is a remaining bluish shadow on the end (I didn’t have enough helpers), but the colors are quite accurate and the exposure is reasonable, though I may make some small changes in exposure and sharpness before proceeding to Adobe Photoshop. If you remember from a previous tutorial, there is a blurring filter physically on top of the sensor in almost all digital cameras. This helps to create more accurate colors from the Bayer pattern. But it also means that almost every RAW image needs a little sharpening to “reverse” the effects of this filter. JPEG images get this adjustment in camera.
This concludes Part 6 of Woodworkers And Digital Photography. But before leaving I want to give you a glimpse of what we will cover in the next and final installment which will focus on Adobe Photoshop. The picture at left is the same as the previous two after operating on it with Adobe Photoshop. Notice I removed most of the bluish shadow. I include a back light and chose a background color that is consistent with the piece. This photo is now ready for my portfolio and web site. Stay tuned for Part 7.
Powered by Zoundry Raven