Raw Processing Software Options

I am looking at software at the moment.

For a while I was working with Linux. I really loved the operating systems, I have used a few of them from Ubuntu, to Mint, to Crunchbang, but good RAW processing software is hard to come by on that side of the PC fence. I find the programs which are easy to use give poor results, while the ones which give good results are extremely complex. I had found a compromise with a fairly straight forward interface and good results from Darktable, but after it crashed and had to be completely reinstalled not once but twice, I decided to move back to Windows.

Everyone seemed to be using Adobe Lightroom, so I felt it had to have something going for it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. I downloaded the trial of Lightroom version 5, and it was so slow that I could cook and eat a three course meal in the time it took to process a couple of photos. It turns out that if you are running it with sate of the art computer equipment, Lightroom is the best thing since sliced bread. Seeing how I only bought my “barely adequate” laptop last June, I don’t intend to pay out twice as much again for another one.

I have been getting along fine with Canon’s Digital Photo Professional, but I feel I would like something a bit more workflow oriented. Something I can use to organize, tag, and process my photos. Basically an Adobe Lightroom which will work on my PC.

After some research, I ended up getting the free trial of Corel’s Aftershot Pro 2, and I must say I am impressed. I am pushing it hard before the 30 day trail expires. I have been editing landscapes, sunsets, and this evening some portrait work.

Now when I say I’m pushing it hard, I mean that I am testing it with the photos I got wrong. The photos I got so wrong in camera that I simply couldn’t use them no matter how much editing they got. Photos like this one from my shoot from a couple of years ago with the lovely Sarah…

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As you can see, totally overexposed. I made the mistake of thinking I was set to Aperture Priority, but I had accidentally switched to Manual. I had a whole sequence of photos which were unusable.

But now after running it through Aftershot Pro 2…

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It is still a bit overexposed, but has gone from being embarrassing, to being acceptable. The colours are more vivid, the shadows stronger. I would be happy to show this to someone, but when you go for a black and white…

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Everything is right again. I overexposed to get that look. Honestly, it’s more artistic right?

So, I’m continuing with my testing, but it’s looking more and more like Corel may be getting some of my hard earned cash yet…

Craig Lucas

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Dakota

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I met this lovely young lady named Dakota, along with her younger brother back in October 2010. Recently, her mother came into the photo-lab, and told me the very sad news that she had passed away last September, after a long battle with Leukemia.

I often admit to being an emotional person at the best of times, but with children, I am a really big softy. The news affected me deeply. At first I thought it was because she was a similar age to my own daughter, but on reflection it’s more than that. I knew Dakota. I may have only known her for the half an hour while she was in front of my camera but as a portrait photographer, I like to have a connection with the people I photograph and I definitely achieved that with this little girl. My current sadness is one of the risks involved with that connection.

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Looking at the images I took that day, I remember Dakota so well. At the age of four, she was quiet, yet confident, and although she didn’t say much, those beautiful eyes of hers spoke volumes. There was so much love for her little brother, although it also came with that “long suffering” look of all big sisters.

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I met Dakota’s mother again yesterday, and she gave me permission to write this post, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. She told me that the photos I took bring some comfort, and that she looks through them regularly. I’m so very glad that they help, and My deepest sympathy goes to all of Dakota’s family and friends.

Craig Lucascol-8

Location, Location, Location…

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As you may have guessed from my photos, I love taking pictures outdoors. I am always looking for new places to photograph, and locations for photo-shoots.

With a very hectic work and family life, I need places which are near to home, about an hour’s drive is about my limit, especially if I bring the kids as their patience runs out in about half that!

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Yesterday I visited the picturesque village of Moone in County Kildare. The girls had a great time in the playground there, and we also visited the Moone High Cross, a place I’ve  heard quite a lot about since we moved to the area eleven years ago, but I had never gotten around to visiting.

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Both the village and the High Cross are bursting with photographic opportunities, so I’ll definitely be heading back that way again soon.

Craig S Lucas

A day after the Communion…

Eileen asked me a month ago, to take photos at her son’s communion, but as I had already committed to another client for the Bennekerry communions on the 10th May, it was out of the question, I only get one Saturday off work per month you see.

She contacted me again recently to see if I could manage the Sunday instead for a photo-shoot and this time I was available.

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The photo-shoot was held at her home, and I found it far less stressful, and much more relaxed than trying to get everything done after the ceremony, at he church, when everyone just wants to leave and go back to whatever celebration has been organized. I think in future, this is the way to go…

Click on the photo above to see the full gallery

Craig Lucas

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Jpeg or Raw?

RAW
Processed RAW
Jpeg
JPEG straight from the camera.

I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of this conundrum for years. I have read so much information about it since I first went digital, and it just gets more and more confusing.

The information tends to fall into two camps.

1) Raw is best, you get wider dynamic range and get to process each photo for the best quality.

2) Jpeg is best, it is quick and easy and gets results straight from the camera.

While I really like high quality images and want the best my camera can produce, whenever I have used Raw in the past it has taken ages to process them, and I’ve never been overly impressed with the results. The photos come out either the same as the jpeg, or worse, looking flat and uninspiring.

So I have been using the Jpeg format for the past 15 years or so with the occasional attempt RAW to see if I can squeeze some extra quality out of my photos. Recently things changed.

You may have seen the album of my photoshoot with Ruth here: http://wp.me/P3XBcM-20

RuthThis photoshoot was done entirely in RAW as I have recently discovered a piece of software called Darktable. It is a free program that I have read is similar to Adobe’s Lightroom.  Unfortunately for most, it is not available on Windows, but as I am using Linux, it was easy enough to download and get running. It is also available to Mac users I believe.

Now I am convinced.

This is the first time I have processed RAW files and been impressed by the results.  The colours are perfect, the sharpening tool just works, and I was very impressed with the noise removal on some of the awkward photos where I got it wrong on the ISO.

However, not all situations are suitable for RAW files. Family snaps generally wouldn’t be as important as to require the extra time involved with processing. Also with high speed photography which would be common for sports subjects, the large RAW files take a good while to record, slowing down the camera. Jpeg’s will give a much higher burst rate or ‘frames per second’ and in some situations getting several shots off so that you can choose the best one, would be far more important that that little bit of extra saturation in the colours.

So my answer to the question “JPEG or RAW?” would be to use both.

Judge the situation and make your decision. For something a bit special, I would go with RAW. Weddings, Christenings, specific Photoshoots etc. For general, snaps, holiday photos, or sports photography, stick with JPEG. The Camera’s processing will be close anyway.

Craig Lucas

Rathwood Forest Trail

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The Photo-shoot I had planned at Rathwood, near Tullow, County Carlow, had to be canceled due to my model having injured herself. Get well soon Sarah.

Never having been to the location, I decided to go anyway and drag along the rest of the family. I really wanted to get a feel for the place and have a look around to see whether or not it was right for the photo-shoot I have in mind.

I wasn’t disappointed.

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There were a lot of lovely backdrops on The Forest Trail and I got some lovely shots of the kids. I can’t wait to get back there for a serious photo-shoot. I’m also looking forward to exploring some of the deeper forest trails, a bit more off the beaten track!

Craig Lucas

 

Ruth’s Photoshoot at Duckett’s Grove

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I had a lot of fun on Friday afternoon. A camera and a pretty girl, what more can I say?

My young friend Ruth agreed to come with me to Duckett’s Grove in Carlow for a photo shoot. It was her first time modeling, and she was fantastic. She was a little nervous to begin with but it didn’t take long for her to relax and enjoy the experience.

Thie photo above is my personal favourite. I had made a comment to her about the way she was looking at me, her forehead had wrinkled up slightly. She found this hilarious, and I got the most natural shot of her laughter. Totally spontaneous and easily the best of all of them.

Craig Lucas