Help with RAW editing in Aperture

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by VirtualRain, Feb 7, 2010.

  1. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    Vancouver, BC
    #1
    Here's a photo from the rim of Mordor (actually Kilauea in Hawaii :)) as well as my initial attempts at trying to extract a more interesting image from the RAW file.

    I'm very impressed with how the highlights adjustments basically allows me to cut through the haze and reveal a lot of detail that wasn't even visible to the naked eye at the time. However, side effects such as a strange halo around the tree and the intense contrast on the foreground vegetation are undesirable (but perhaps unavoidable?). I suppose cropping the foreground out is one option.

    At any rate, a screen grab of the Aperture adjustments that got me to this point is included.

    Since I'm a complete noob with Aperture and I'm wondering if anyone has additional pointers on how to improve things further or even wants to take a crack at working with the RAW file themselves. (Link)

    Any advice or tips would be greatly appreciated. Is there anything that could have been done when taking the picture to improve my post production opportunities?
     

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  2. neutrino23 macrumors 68000

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    SF Bay area
    #2
    Definitely work with the RAW file. The halo effect is probably a jpeg artifact that was brought out by your enhancements.

    The whole issue of enhancing photos is based on the fact that displays (prints or computer monitors) only display on the order of 128 grey levels while measured images may have thousands of levels. The trick is to shoehorn all of the useful data into those few available grey levels.

    Therefore, yes, you should work with RAW files. Your jpeg file is 8 bits so it has 256 grey levels to work with. The raw file may have 12 bit or even 14 bit data depending on the camera. This means you have 4,096 or even 16,384 grey levels to work with. In other words, the RAW file has a lot more information that you can use to produce a useful photo.

    I took just a couple of minutes adjusting your RAW image to come up with this. I'll also attach a screen shot of the settings. This image is also a candidate for HDR processing which is whole other topic. Look it up on wiki.
     

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  3. VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #3
    I'm only working with RAW... not JPEG.

    Your approach is more subtle and causes less negative affects on the foreground vegitation... although there is still a lot of haze in the background... can you comment on the approach you used and why?

    Thanks!
     
  4. neutrino23 macrumors 68000

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    #4
    I'm curious why there is no histogram in your Aperture adjustments panel. I tried using the same settings as you showed but didn't get that halo effect.

    Much of this is a matter of taste. I tend to prefer slightly softer photos.

    In general, I start with the exposure adjustment to make things look more or less right. I may use the recovery to bring back highlights that get blown out. I tend to shoot my pictures a little dark knowing I'll increase the exposure later. This avoids blown out highlights.

    Next I use the brightness and contrast controls to taste.

    Next I may use the saturation and vibrancy settings to improve the color.

    Finally I sometimes use the color control. I sometimes find that one color is overly bright for some reason. I use the eyedropper to select it then the luminance slider to reduce its brightness a little.

    I probably should add some unsharp masking but haven't yet started working with that. I'm still working on lighting, focusing and exposure. :)

    I also ran this through Bracketeer. To do this I first created three jpg versions in Aperture. One had the exposure setting very low so that almost everything but the sky was dark. Then I tried to make the distant plains appear as clear as possible and exported that. Finally I optimized the near shrubbery and exported that. Bracketeer then processed those three photos into one image. It tries to find the best parts of each image and combine them into one image. There are other programs that do this including Photoshop. After Bracketeer I punched up the brightness and contrast a tad.

    When doing multiple images like this people often will take three images at three different exposures to capture very high ranges in brightness. A good example is photographing a room with a large window facing out into a sunny daylit scene. Even with RAW you can't capture that range of light to dark in one picture so you take multiple images at different exposures that span the dynamic range of the scene and combine them later in one image. It is very cool but it is another technique I'm just learning.
     

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  5. VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #5
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!! Good stuff!

    I'm not sure where the histogram went in my screen cap... It must have something to do with what had focus at the time I took the screen cap.

    Anyone else want to chime in on this?
     
  6. VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #6
    Hmmm... no one else has any advice on tweaking this?

    Perhaps I can ask a more specific question about editing this kind of image...

    Would you tackle it primarily with the levels brick, exposure and contrast, or with highlights and shadows (as I did) when working with a picture that has lots of haze in the air masking the details?
     
  7. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #7
    Here's my attempt.

    It struck me that the problem is the haze in your shot reducing contrast.

    HDR applications are very good at putting local contrast back into images - so I ran this into Photomatix Pro, which provided most of the extra 'pop' to the image.

    I then reopened in Photoshop, give it a bit more contrast, resized and used smart-sharpen before saving as jpg.
     

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  8. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #8
    And here's another attempt.

    This is ONLY using Lightroom.

    Use Lightroom's gradient feature to decrease exposure, increase sharpness and clarity (local contrast enhancement) in the top part of the image.

    I used 3 separate gradients, then rebalanced the colour to try and get rid of some green/purple shifts.

    Ended up adding more clarity and exporting with sharpening 'for screen'.
     

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  9. VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #9
    Nice! Your last attempt recovered a lot more detail in the sky and the plume coming out of the volcano and without compromising the look of the foreground vegetation. :)

    Perhaps Aperture by itself just isn't enough to get the optimal image here? I know Aperture users are in the minority, but I'd really like to see what some other Aperture guru's can do with it.
     
  10. VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #10
    I had some time to revisit this image tonight...

    Here's another attempt using the brushes feature in Aperture 3 to remove the highlights and shadows effect from the foreground grass. It basically preserves the original look of the grass while the highlights and shadows settings cut through the haze in the crater. The tree in the middle is still a nasty challenge... but it's pretty amazing what you can do, and I'm surely just scratching the surface! :D
     

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