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RAW Processing Workflow


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RAW Processing Workflow

11 Jun 2021 10:18PM   Views : 483 Unique : 239

It doesn't matter if you shoot RAW or jpg you still need to process your images but there is more to consider for RAW. I want to share my workflow which I've refined over the years to something that works for me.

The question of workflow was prompted by comments in the ephotozine Critique Gallery. Having a workflow (your 'method') should suit your purpose ad be as efficient as you can make it, along with good practise. I'm limiting this blog to straightforward RAW image processing. Creating mono versions, images with particular effects or image from film scans have their own requirements. I'm specifically talking about Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software but the same principles apply whether you're using something like Capture One or Lightroom.

The files are downloaded from the card to a folder on the computer, for example 'Landscapes 2021'. Navigating to that folder in DPP brings up the files, there's no import procedure. I go through all the files, deleting those that don't come up to scratch such as those that are unsharp or someone has their eyes closed. Storage is cheap, but there's no need to keep stuff you know you won't ever want to use. Experience tells me what may or may not be useful.

Lens correction data is applied automatically for things like vignetting, chromatic aberration and distortion. Adjustments are made to the Black Point, followed if necessary (and they aren't always) to the White Point and Mid Point and Shadows. Contrast and Saturation are also adjusted, again if necessary. Colour Balance is adjusted too. All those adjustments are available on the same tab and take less time to do than it takes to read this paragraph. I tend to leave the Noise Reduction at the default as I reckon Canon know the best parameters for each camera and ISO setting. If cropping is required or a horizon needs levelling, I do this now.


The Basic Adjustments tab

Those basic adjustments are often all that's needed, and don't take long, becoming second nature. Adjustments can be applied to a batch of images which saves a lot of time. I set the Picture Style to Neutral so I make the choices as to how colours appear, using the adjustments for selective colour channels for saturation and tone. So, for example, I may deepen a blue sky in a more controllable manner (than using an in-camera setting) as you might when using a polarising filter. Boosting red and yellow in autumn scenes is something to consider though I can't say it's something I've particularly wanted to do.


The Lens Correction tab

Once I'm happy with the changes I create 16 bit tif files. These are the best colour conversions, containing a lot of information. They're also the best starting point for different versions including mono. It's worth repeating that for good mono conversions start with the best colour image you can. Even if I want a faded colour or distorted colour (for example cross-processing effects) starting with a good original gives you the most flexibility with regards to adjustments.

I write captions for each image together with a list of keywords. In Lightroom I add these in the relevant fields which become embedded in the converted tif images. When using DPP I copy and paste the information from a text document (spell checking is welcome, especially with my typing!) into Adobe Bridge, where I can apply it to multiple files where appropriate. Captions are so important, and useful. There's no room for the old excuse of not knowing where a photo was taken or who it is in the image. Crikey, even Windows can reveal a caption in an image file.


Colour Adjustment

Once I've created tif files I use the Tools > Batch Rename in Bridge. You can of course set DPP (and Lightroom) to create renamed images. I prefer to leave it until I've fully assessed those tifs and decide on keepers. Coming back, say, a day later gives me time to look anew.

How you choose to rename your files is up to. There are numerous ideas around so find one that works works for you. Personally I've settled on the format Short Description Year Month File Number so I end up with something like BCLM 2019 May 01. For the hundreds of images I've taken at the Black Country Museum they'll all have a unique name. I could, for example, replace the name of the month with a number so I can arrange them chronologically within a year. However, it's easy to see at a glance just by reading the file name hat the month is. Many years ago at the start of my career we specified dates with the name of the month in just to be clear as the US and Japan have different ways of setting out dates compared to the UK. The method stuck.


BCLM 2019 May 01

When I create other versions, such as mono and toned images I add a letter suffix, so a mono version in the above example would be BCLM 2019 May 01b, a different conversion or sepia toned version would be BCLM 2019 May 01c, and so on. There are further hierarchical conventions I could use but one letter serves my purposes (life's too short to go on about them here and anoraks aren't allowed!). For images uploaded to ephotozine, my website and blog, or use in a calendar, I create separate jpgs, often with a border but also as a record of what I have uploaded, with further letters, Thus we'd have, for example, BCLM 2019 May 01epz so I wouldn't overwrite a jpg used for, say, uploading to an online print site.


BCLM 2019 May 01a

My workflow may not be perfect for some but as it is I'm comfortable with it and well conversant with the software I use so I get what I want efficiently.

All text and images Keith Rowley 2021

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