Other Useful Features

Many of the correction tools that used to be the exclusive preserve of Photoshop or image processing plug-ins are now an integral part of today's RAW converters. You will have to decide for yourself whether these are useful to your own personal workflow, but you can always simply ignore them if they are not what you need. If you intend to convert your RAW images to 8-bit JPEG rather than to 16-bit TIFF, editing the RAW version will usually lead to less image quality loss than if you correct your JPEGs later.

Image versions and snapshots • You will often want to try out different conversion settings or work on multiple versions of the same image. Only a few RAW converters offer versioning functionality, among them Nikon Capture NX, Aperture, Lightroom, and Bibble 5. Lightroom addresses this issue with its elegant virtual copy system. Here, the original image remains untouched, and each copy consists of an additional set of separately stored correction and settings parameters.

The Photoshop snapshot system makes a temporary copy of a particular image state that you can then recall at any time during a session. Lightroom, LightZone, ACR, and Capture NX have similar functions.

Some converters allow you to step back through the corrections you have made (usually using Q-K-fzl/Q-^l-fz"]).

Image upsizing • If you want to print your images in large formats, enlarging (or upsizing) them at the conversion stage often produces better results than subsequent enlarging. Some RAW converters have upsizing functionality built into their conversion processes - Adobe Camera Raw and RAW Developer both produce very good upsizing results.

Cropping and rotating • Cropping an image at the conversion stage produces a smaller image file that is then easier to handle during subsequent correction processes. All RAW converters have crop and rotate tools.

Black-and-white conversion • We love monochrome images, but we always shoot them in color, even if our camera has a dedicated black-and-white shooting mode. Most RAW converters have built-in monochrome conversion functionality, and ACR and Lightroom have the best of the bunch. RAW Developer includes a total of six different black-and-white conversion variants. Black-and-white RAW conversion is discussed in more detail in section 10.7, page 406.

Tone curves • RAW converters often include tone curve functionality like that found in Photoshop. This often includes a range of preset curves with a more or less pronounced S-curve for adjusting midtone contrast.

Using Color Samplers • It is very useful to see the effect of a particular color adjustment on other colors in an image. ACR allows you to place up to nine color samplers in a preview image, whose RGB values are then displayed and adjusted in real time.

Figure 5-23: Two versions of an image. The image file itself is only present once, but it has two stored sets of correction parameters. These are Lightroom preview thumbnails.

Figure 5-23: Two versions of an image. The image file itself is only present once, but it has two stored sets of correction parameters. These are Lightroom preview thumbnails.

Settings

In ■ BSiW Corves Adj SharpNR Oot M Convert To "Black S, White"

Use: ( Hue

CIELab Lightness Luma Desaturate Intensity

3

90

Chrorr

/ Custom Tone

LO

jw

Channel Mixer

L-L

Figure 5-24: RAW Developer includes six different black-and-white conversion variations.

Figure 5-24: RAW Developer includes six different black-and-white conversion variations.

Figure 5-25: : ACR allows you to place up to nine color samplers using lt*l.

Figure 5-25: : ACR allows you to place up to nine color samplers using lt*l.

Bibble, Canon DPP, Nikon Capture NX, DxO, Lightroom 3, and ACR (as of 6.1) all include this type of function.

> DxO Optics Pro [68] is a highly specialized lens correction program that includes a good quality RAW converter.

The program is based on specially generated camera/lens profiles and corrects perspective distortion cleanly and effectively. Silkypix also includes perspective distortion correction tools.

> Selective corrections and sharpening require a lot of computing power in order to function smoothly and produce real time preview updates.

Adaptive tonal value adjustments • Tone curves are not always the most intuitive method for making selective tonal adjustments. Adaptive tools (similar to the Photoshop Shadows/highlights tool) that take neighboring pixels into account are often easier to use. The Fill Light and Recovery sliders found in ACR, Lightroom, and most other converters are good examples of easy-to-apply adjustments.

Lens corrections • Even the best photographic lenses produce visible optical errors. You can correct them using your RAW converter or later in Photoshop. These errors include:

► Vignetting (darkened image edges)

► Distortion (usually in "barrel" or "pincushion" form)*

► Chromatic aberrations

► Perspective distortion due to acute shooting angles or ultra-wide-angle (or fisheye) lenses

The decision regarding what to correct and where depends on the availability and quality of the tools at your disposal. Built-in, profile-based lens correction tools are still rare in RAW converters.

Vignetting is seldom a critical factor with our own lenses, but where it is present, we perform the basic correction for this and chromatic aberrations using our RAW converter. We then perform other, finer corrections using Photoshop or specialized plug-ins.

The range of correction tools available in RAW converters is continually expanding to meet demand. The most flexibility is required if you want to produce finished images for Web, slideshow, or print output directly in an all-in-one environment. The advantages of all-in-one tools are non-destructive image editing, effective use of disk space, and the fact that you don't have to switch programs to complete image processing. Most all-in-one implementations are not as intuitive as Photoshop layers and masks -at least, not for those of us who are used to the "old way" of doing things.

We would still like to see better integration of panorama and HDR tools into the workflow. Lightroom and Photoshop are made by the same manufacturer, and as a consequence, the newest versions are increasingly well integrated concerning the HDRI and panorama functions of Photoshop.

Multiple monitor support • Multiple monitor setups are the norm on most professional and semi-professional digital photographic desktops. Most image browsers allow you to place the preview window on your main monitor while placing your tool panels and other settings windows on a secondary screen. RAW converters are still not as capable, mostly offering single-screen solutions like the one found in ACR. Aperture, Bibble 5, Light-room, and Capture One allow you to place the preview window on a second monitor, while Aperture and SilkyPix allow you to place the tool panels elsewhere on the desktop. RAW Developer, Bibble, and Capture NX are full-fledged multi-monitor applications. Again, we hope that future versions will introduce improvements in this arena.

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