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Old Dec 18, 2012, 11:26 PM   #1
filmbuff
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Why do my RAW photos look better in editing?

I've always shot in JPEG but I got a new Nikon D5100 so I decided to shoot in RAW+JPEG to see if I could get better editing results. I noticed right off the bat that the RAW photos look way better, they have much more dynamic range. Even the "neutral" image setting on the camera tends to make it too contrasty.

I tried editing the RAW photos in iPhoto but noticed right off the bat that when I export them as JPEGs they look a lot more flat and desaturated compared to how they look in the software. While I edit them in iPhoto they look rich and colorful (even oversaturated), then I export them and they look terrible.I decided to try the View NX2 software that came with the camera and I got a similar result to iPhoto. I edited a RAW photo, saved it in the software, then exported it and when I opened it the exposure looked right but the colors were very flat.

Just to make sure it wasn't the viewer I'm using (Xee) I compared an edited photo in Xee to Preview and they looked exactly the same.

Other info:
I'm using a 2012 MBA 13" with the Samsung screen
The laptop is set to the default "color LCD" color profile
The camera is set to sRGB
JPEGs seem fine.
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Old Dec 19, 2012, 12:07 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filmbuff View Post
I tried editing the RAW photos in iPhoto but noticed right off the bat that when I export them as JPEGs they look a lot more flat and desaturated compared to how they look in the software.
Try looking at the settings you have for iPhoto to export Jpegs at. It sounds like it's way over compressed to me.
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Old Dec 19, 2012, 12:19 AM   #3
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Try looking at the settings you have for iPhoto to export Jpegs at. It sounds like it's way over compressed to me.
I'm exporting them at maximum quality. I don't think the problem is in the export, because if I open the .nef file in Preview and iPhoto at the same time, and put them next to each other, the one in iPhoto looks way more saturated. When I export it however, all that saturation goes away. It makes it impossible to edit because I have no idea what it will look like until I export.
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Old Dec 19, 2012, 01:33 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filmbuff View Post
I'm exporting them at maximum quality. I don't think the problem is in the export, because if I open the .nef file in Preview and iPhoto at the same time, and put them next to each other, the one in iPhoto looks way more saturated. When I export it however, all that saturation goes away. It makes it impossible to edit because I have no idea what it will look like until I export.
.NEF files are never going to look the same, given that they're heavily interpreted. After that like if you process to tiffs or jpegs, issues can arise due to color management problems. You seem a bit confused about dynamic range. Ideally you'd be able to get it to a point where the way it looks in something like photoshop or lightroom matches a program like preview to a reasonable degree. If the display profile is too far off, it can cause problems in that regard. Usually they should be close though.
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Old Dec 19, 2012, 07:07 AM   #5
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I use Aperture and don't use I photo. If it was Aperture I would suggest:

1) Check to confirm what your eyes are telling you, export an image and import it back. Then check your histograms to see the resulting change between the RAW and the JPEG. There should only be a small difference between the two.

2) This may by too obvious but...if you're importing both RAW & JPEG from your camera, double check to make sure that you're converting and exporting the RAW image and not the JPEG.

3) In Aperture you can create "Image Export Presets" that will not only establish JPEG compression quality but other settings as well (gamma adjust, DPI and colour profile). Check these settings.

Last edited by Cheese&Apple; Dec 19, 2012 at 03:12 PM.
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Old Dec 19, 2012, 11:33 AM   #6
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Also, don't export as sRGB. That is the lowest common denominator colour space. It is designed to show just the colours that an average monitor can display, and will discard/shift all colours that fall outside of that limited range. If your monitor happens to be average and happens to be smack dab in the middle of this "average" range then in theory you shouldn't see much difference between the RAW and sRGB. However, if you monitor better than average, or if your monitor is calibrated off to one side then you will not be seeing some colours.

Try exporting as aRGB (or AdobeRGB - same thing, really). This is a wider gamut, and suitable for most printing jobs.

Good Luck.
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Old Dec 19, 2012, 01:29 PM   #7
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Don't rule out that Samsung monitor. I have a 23in. Samsung and the colors always look much brighter and more vivid than they do on the second display viewed on my '08 MBP. I have to cross check my editing on the built in screen to make sure they will look ok on the web.

My monitor is from the same year as my laptop. Its a technology one notch below IPS. I think it's called PVA or Super-PVA.

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Old Dec 19, 2012, 02:58 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snberk103 View Post
Also, don't export as sRGB. That is the lowest common denominator colour space. It is designed to show just the colours that an average monitor can display, and will discard/shift all colours that fall outside of that limited range. If your monitor happens to be average and happens to be smack dab in the middle of this "average" range then in theory you shouldn't see much difference between the RAW and sRGB. However, if you monitor better than average, or if your monitor is calibrated off to one side then you will not be seeing some colours.

Try exporting as aRGB (or AdobeRGB - same thing, really). This is a wider gamut, and suitable for most printing jobs.

Good Luck.
This good answer also reminds us of how incredibly nerdy color and printing still is in the computer world. It would be nice to see Apple do something helpful here, taking a few people off of social networking to deal with something useful.
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Old Dec 19, 2012, 03:19 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snberk103 View Post
Also, don't export as sRGB. That is the lowest common denominator colour space. It is designed to show just the colours that an average monitor can display, and will discard/shift all colours that fall outside of that limited range. If your monitor happens to be average and happens to be smack dab in the middle of this "average" range then in theory you shouldn't see much difference between the RAW and sRGB. However, if you monitor better than average, or if your monitor is calibrated off to one side then you will not be seeing some colours.

Try exporting as aRGB (or AdobeRGB - same thing, really). This is a wider gamut, and suitable for most printing jobs.

Good Luck.
This is a really weird way of explaining it. The actual sRGB gamut was based off an average display circa 1995, although many nice displays have used it effectively. The OP is using a notebook. Its gamut is likely narrower than sRGB in certain spots. I don't see how this could be the source of the OP's woes. Even if you own a display that can show Adobe RGB, it doesn't mean every image will exercise those limits. Assuming relative colorimetric conversion, you wouldn't see the difference on most images. A few values clipped at a single channel level won't drastically affect the way saturation is perceived. I like Adobe RGB too, but I don't think that's the issue here at all.

I almost forgot I meant to comment on the in camera settings. Any processing software can interpret these things differently. Typically you have a much better range of options when processing outside the camera. Just realize that the macbook air display may not be able to deliver a perfect match to an "ideal" print.
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Old Dec 19, 2012, 03:20 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by carlgo View Post
This good answer also reminds us of how incredibly nerdy color and printing still is in the computer world. It would be nice to see Apple do something helpful here, taking a few people off of social networking to deal with something useful.
Funny, I don't recall the OP saying anything about problems with Apple and printing.
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Old Dec 19, 2012, 05:31 PM   #11
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This is a really weird way of explaining it. ....
Apologies... I'm wrong, but not for the reason you stated. So Bad News and Good News.

I saw the sRGB in the OP and skimmed the rest. I would have been correct, if the OP was using JPGs exported from the camera in the sRGB colour space. Except we are talking about RAW files .... so that is not the issue.

Unless, the OP is exporting from his editing apps in the sRGB space. Then it may still be a problem. The only way to make a RAW file to fit into an sRGB space is to discard information. Depending on the image, perhaps a lot of information.

But I don't believe iPhoto even gives you that option.

@OP: What happens when you export as other formats, other than JPG?
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Old Dec 19, 2012, 06:18 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by snberk103 View Post
Unless, the OP is exporting from his editing apps in the sRGB space. Then it may still be a problem. The only way to make a RAW file to fit into an sRGB space is to discard information. Depending on the image, perhaps a lot of information.

There are a few points here. One is that Adobe RGB can't cover the entire gamut of information that is output by a modern digital camera. Photograph something bright red with an ambient metered exposure. You'll see channel clipping in Adobe RGB under many lighting conditions as the saturation will exceed what the gamut can contain. Just processing in Adobe RGB doesn't mean you're not throwing away information. It makes huge curve adjustments to correct gamma, rasterizes the image, and however many other adjustments prior to remapping the values through LAB or whatever reference space into the destination space. This is not at all lossless. As soon as you hit process, you just lost a lot of information as the two are not an exact fit.

I have an Adobe RGB display here. Most real images don't look any different in terms of saturation when compared to the older sRGB display. That one is a little dull, but that is because it's old. It looked a lot better in 2006. The old one is an NEC 2190. If the OP has a number of highly saturated colors, he might notice a difference, but sRGB doesn't automatically equal washed out. Most of what we see on the web is saved as sRGB due to its ubiquity. It's really not a likely cause here, especially when the OP is viewing on a macbook air. The air cannot even cover sRGB. I've seen similar issues before. In my experiences the problems were due to inadequate display profiles, but I'm not sure here.
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