Comparing Tools and Workflows

jjbongjjbong Major grinsPosts: 244Registered Users Major grins
edited November 29, 2010 in Grad School
I would like to start a discussion comparing digital darkroom techniques, specifically those using (primarily) Photoshop with those using other tools.

The background and motivation are as follows. I use Photoshop almost exclusively, following for the most part Dan Margulis' Picture Postcard Workflow. I spend mybe 5-10 minutes on each photo, depending on the problems I encounter.

I am completely ignorant of other tools, such as Lightroom. Since I'm happy with the results I get, I'm not motivated to spend the time or the money on other tools. I upgrade Photoshop only rarely (I'm currently running CS3, for example), as the workflow doesn't use very exotic mechanisms.

For all its merits, Photoshop-based image enhancement has one major disadvantage. That is, it takes a fair amount of time to develop the skills to use it. The question is to what extent you can get results as good (or even better) using tools that are less complex, and easier to learn.

I think such a discussion is useful only if it is very concrete. What I am proposing is to examine various tools and workflows by using them on sample images. I am willing to contribute images for this, and I imagine that others who are interested would, also. Several of us could then work through each image, explaining the steps involved, and we could all discuss the results.

The value of this discussion will be to those who aren't already deeply invested in a particular set of tools and workflow.

Before I take the time to work up an image for this purpose, I want to see whether there's enough interest (i.e., whether there are others who will participate).

I think Graduate School is the appropriate place for this to occur.
John Bongiovanni

Comments

  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaPosts: 14,443Super Moderators moderator
    edited November 28, 2010
    I am looking forward to participating in this thread with you John. I want to see how you process your files, and I will offer my approach as well for comparison, with step by step instructions.

    I do have one comment, and it may not be one you want to consider in this thread. That is that the change in the RAW engine in CS5 ( ACR 6.3+ ) or in LR 3.3+ are so superior to the RAW engine in CS2, CS3, CS4 that it may make it difficult to compare our edits. Adobe updated their camera profiles in CS5/LR3 and they are vastly superior to those of the earlier Adobe engines - better color profiles, more choices of profiles, much better control of noise management as metadata instructions in the Raw editing, and vastly better sharpening with real time masks, and the introduction of real time lens profiles for conversion of RAW files as well.... This was not widely advertised by Adobe, but I found the RAW engine much, much improved in ACR 6.3+ I actually process most of my routine RAW edits in LR3.3, unless I anticipate needing Smart Objects where I create multiple renderings of a single file and then blend them in Photoshop.

    I have gone back to re-edit RAW files from a 20D or a 40D that I processed several years ago, and find I can do a much, much better job with the newer RAW engine in CS5/LR3. Better Chromatic aberration correction, less noise, better sharpening, and better control of color balance. The improved control of noise does not quite reach that of NoiseWare in my hands, but it begins to come close, and good enough in many images.

    I look forward to your comments on this topic as well.

    I agree this is what I think the Graduate School forum is intended for. I am sure we will have several other readers participate as well.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • MarkRMarkR Accused Shill. Posts: 2,099Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 29, 2010
    It's an interesting topic-- one I don't feel very qualified to describe. Having said that, I'd like to point out David DuChemin's book Vision and Voice, in which he describes his own Lightroom workflow (almost entirely from the Develop module, however) and the creative choices he makes to bring his images's "voice" closer to his "vision." It is not a howto book in the traditional sense, but it does tackle what I think is an interesting question that sometimes gets lost: what does it mean to "improve" an image, and how do you get there?

    The only downside is that I think he reaches for the split toning tool a bit too much. YMMV. If nothing else, his work is always eye-opening.
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaPosts: 14,443Super Moderators moderator
    edited November 29, 2010
    He has lovely work, and I should learn more about spit toning, as it is something I know very little about, and use less...

    My own images are not finished until they match what I "saw" in my mind's eye, NOT what the camera "saw". Many of my final images bear little resemblance to the actual un-processed RAW files. I am not a scientist, or a photo-journalist, or a documentarian, but just a guy with a camera trying to put on paper what I felt at the moment I pressed the shutter. Maybe split toning would help me do that better, at times.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • jjbongjjbong Major grins Posts: 244Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 29, 2010
    pathfinder wrote: »

    I do have one comment, and it may not be one you want to consider in this thread. That is that the change in the RAW engine in CS5 ( ACR 6.3+ ) or in LR 3.3+ are so superior to the RAW engine in CS2, CS3, CS4 that it may make it difficult to compare our edits. Adobe updated their camera profiles in CS5/LR3 and they are vastly superior to those of the earlier Adobe engines - better color profiles, more choices of profiles, much better control of noise management as metadata instructions in the Raw editing, and vastly better sharpening with real time masks, and the introduction of real time lens profiles for conversion of RAW files as well.... This was not widely advertised by Adobe, but I found the RAW engine much, much improved in ACR 6.3+ I actually process most of my routine RAW edits in LR3.3, unless I anticipate needing Smart Objects where I create multiple renderings of a single file and then blend them in Photoshop.

    Is there a way on SmugMug to post raw files? This would solve comparing RAW and Photoshop workflows.
    John Bongiovanni
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaPosts: 14,443Super Moderators moderator
    edited November 29, 2010
    I don't think so, but one can email most of them as an attachment via gmail I think. They can be compressed by Stuffit or Zipped first to make them a bit smaller.

    Or they can be uploaded to an iDisk for an Apple user. Anyone can them download them...

    Or they can be snail mailed via a disk too. That still works.

    If you have SmugVault you can upload RAW files to Smugmug, but I am not certain whether anyone else can access those files. I do not have a Smugvault account myself yet.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • jjbongjjbong Major grins Posts: 244Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 29, 2010
    I think the way to approach this is to start with some "normal" images, that is images without large problems to correct, and then get more aggressive.

    I also think it useful to summarize Dan Margulis' Picture Postcard Workflow, which is pretty much what I use.

    From a tactical perspective, how should we structure this? I'm guessing a thread for each image or workflow/tool description.
    John Bongiovanni
  • jjbongjjbong Major grins Posts: 244Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 29, 2010
    pathfinder wrote: »
    My own images are not finished until they match what I "saw" in my mind's eye, NOT what the camera "saw". Many of my final images bear little resemblance to the actual un-processed RAW files. I am not a scientist, or a photo-journalist, or a documentarian, but just a guy with a camera trying to put on paper what I felt at the moment I pressed the shutter. .

    Excellent description of what the craft is about. The camera sees differently than we do. What we do in post is try to bring what the camera saw close to what we saw.
    John Bongiovanni
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaPosts: 14,443Super Moderators moderator
    edited November 29, 2010
    I think perhaps a separate thread for each image - then each poster,who has a different workflow, can follow it in the same thread - that way all the different approaches will be in the same thread and not get separated or disconnected... It would be nice to only have one poster at a time add their workflow, so that they are not interspersed and hard to follow.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
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