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…

IMG_6198_CR2_embedded

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…

IMG_6198_1

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…

IMG_6198

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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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