SX50 – Shooting RAW – Development and Processing
In this segment we share some further descriptions of our method for processing the RAW images we’ve taken with the SX50. The examples illustrated here were converted with Digital Photo Professional, which is the Canonware editor included with the camera on CD. We have also made some conversions with the DXO Optics Pro 8 trial, and hope to explore Lightroom 4 as well shortly. We may have more to say about these other software editors also in a future article.
First, let me say that just as we prefer to shoot in Manual mode, we also always process each image individually and manually rather than use any scripted, batched, or automated processing. Every image is different, and if we select any given capture for processing, it will be processed based on its own individual characteristics. So you won’t find any prescribed settings or processing recipes here. I will however, outline our workflow and share the reasoning for the steps and methods used.
Converting RAW to TIFF
We begin by bringing the chosen RAW (.CR2) file into Digital Photo Professional, and selecting “Before/after compare” in the View menu.This allows continuous judgements to be made as we develop the image. The available adjustment tools under the RAW tab are arranged in a logical sequence from top to bottom in the tool pallette. In this example the Brightness adjustment slider is reduced to correct for the somewhat harsh lighting in the shot… (note the recovery of highlight detail this provides).
Several options are then provided to correct White Balance. The drop down menu defaults to “Shot settings”, which is the WB selected in the camera when the image was taken. We usually set the in-camera WB to either Daylight or Cloudy depending on weather conditions, because Auto-WB can change unpredictably based on the specific light and color within the focus area while shooting. In this image however, I found the Auto WB menu choice provided more natural color for this scene, and so the Daylight setting in the camera was over-ridden. Alternatively, an eye-dropper tool allows selection of the white point by clicking within the image, or the Tune button can be used to fine-tune WB based on a standard color temperature wheel. Customized settings are saveable as presets for future selection, but we don’t really use this feature.
The next section provides a drop-down menu of preset Picture Styles which automatically set all of the individual settings below the histogram to a variety of predetermined “styles”. We use this selector to choose a best starting point for each image (in this case “Faithful”) and then further fine tune the settings as needed. Clicking the image toggles the view scale between “fit to window” and 100% views (we recommend using high resolution views when adjusting sharpness settings), … and additional viewing scale choices are available both in the View menu and by way of cntl-key shortcuts.
Noise Reduction, RGB tone curves, Chromatic Abberation, and Lens Distortion controls are provided under the RGB, NR/ALO, and Lens tabs. We are not currently using DPP for these corrections however, preferring to transfer minimally developed TIFF files into Photoshop for finishing. The File menu offers several options for saving and converting your developed RAW files into various formats, either for further editing or as fully developed images.
Processing the TIFF in Photoshop
After loading the converted TIFF image into Photoshop, our first step is cropping. Many and most of our finished images are cropped to some degree, even those taken at close range and full-reach. It is indeed rare (for us) that a chosen frame was composed perfectly in camera… so I’ll usually crop a little for balance and/or to remove unlovely elements from the edges and so on. This also makes further editing faster and more efficient.
Next we adjust levels. Photoshop allows finer adjustments of Highlights, Mid-tones, and Shadows (than can be done in DPP) via the histogram and slider controls in the Levels tool. Overall exposure adjustments are always best done on the cropped frame, disregarding any unused portions of the original capture.
Sharpening and Noise Reduction are both key aspects of post-processing, but unfortunately these are generally not compatible processes. The problem inevitably arises that NR will tend to reduce fine details, and Sharpening increases the visibility of noise. There are noise reduction products which go a long way toward eliminating this natural conflict, but when applied universally to the entire image some compromise is still unavoidable. So we apply these processes selectively whenever possible. Careful selection and masking allows noise reduction to be applied to the oof backgrounds separately. And then by inverting the selection, sharpening can be applied to the in-focus foreground only. Thus avoiding the sharpening of background noise, and the loss of detail in the subject. This method has the secondary benefit of subtly enhancing the perceived focus… which is sometimes seen as a kind of 3D effect.
Many photographers perform sharpening as the last process before saving the finished image btw. But we do a very slight “pre-sharpen” at full size prior to resizing for web presentation, and another “finish sharpen” pass at screen resolution.
So here then is the finished image from the conversion sample at the beginning of this article:
Processing should usually be subtle, but the effect it has on our images can often be profound. Here are a couple more “before and after” slides illustrating the processing of RAW images from the SX50:
Additional sample images and further discussions on processing RAW SX50 images can be found here: