Workflow/Plugins - Am I missing the point?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by HoldFastHope, Dec 20, 2011.

  1. HoldFastHope, Dec 20, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2011

    HoldFastHope macrumors 6502

    Jan 15, 2008
    Sydney, AU
    Strange question, I'll try to keep this succinct. I've been shooting for about a year now and am currently trying to learn post-processing techniques. I'm not really into over-stylized images, I like them realistic but "enhanced" :)

    It all started when I took a bunch of shots in low-light without a flash, 60D went up to ISO 6400 and everything seemed ok on the viewfinder but predictably they were grainy as all hell when viewed full size. So I started looking into NR within Aperture but that didn't make too much of a difference, so I trialled Lightroom. Had some good features and the RAW/NR processing seemed a bit better, but I went back to Aperture for ease of use.

    Then I started looking into DxO, then PTLens and Noise Ninja, which led to Nik Dfine and Viveza/Color Efex. As it stands now I'm re-processing all of my old photos, running through PTLens then Dfine then back to Aperture for further adjustments.

    The question I have is what plugins/steps would you consider absolutely essential in your workflow? Have I gone off on a tangent worrying about fixing noise/lens distortion in otherwise fine photos, or is this something every hobbyist/semi-pro deals with to make their shots look the best they can?
  2. TheDrift- macrumors 6502a


    Mar 8, 2010
    for me I suppose the answer is it depends....

    Normally I import into aperture...its just easier to use for storage than lightroom.

    I will then go through the pics and bin off the no hopers, out of focuses etc.

    The reamining photos I'll keep in the folder, i might have a quick crop, and sometimes run apertures auto enhance feature which is pretty good. (can be a bit much for some portraits so have to be careful here some times)

    Of the remaining photo's I'll go through and look for 'selects' typically the best of the best (can be 1 photo, sometimes I get lucky and maybe have 3/4)

    These I will export the RAWS, I think aperture is good and very easy to use but Camera Raw and Lightroom give better results.

    Try this take the same RAW photo and process it in Aperture and in LR or ACR (LR & ACR give the same least they do for me! and open both up side by side you will see the difference!...However I think Apertures autoenhance is excellent and gives back more than it looses in the raw conversion, and it only takes a couple of secs to select all and select auto-enhance)

    For the selects I take the re-exported Raws and I will then reprossess these few selects from scratch usually with ACR and then into photoshop...after I have finished I'll reimport back into aperture.
  3. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

    Mar 25, 2009
    Folding space
    There are only a few cameras that won't give you a lot of noise at ISO 6400. My guess is that the culprit is the ISO setting.

  4. Mr.Noisy macrumors 65816


    May 5, 2007
    I only go up to ISO 3200 using a Canon 5D2 if light allows, But noise is well managed, it will go higher with good results but I choose not too, but any noise and the image goes through the Nik Dfine plugin for aperture I have, but that's usually pretty good at ironing out the noise, if your using a Canon try not to use Auto ISO, it's horrible,also Designer Dale is right about only a few camera's wont give noise at 6400.
    I import all my images into Aperture and use Dfine to sort the noise (also keeps copies of original raw's on external raid01 systems)
    if Dfine can't do it all then I call upon an old favourite to do it = Photoshop

    just experiment in low light with different ISO settings and if your lens allows use IS or a tripod and go for a longer exposure :)
  5. MattSepeta macrumors 65816


    Jul 9, 2009
    375th St. Y

    I use managed libraries in A3. For every new client a make a new library, with projects inside that library (Engagement, wedding, family photos, etc)

    I then "rate" every photo (zeroing the non-keepers) and label any standouts I want to make note of. This process sounds tedious but I only spend about 20 minutes rating a 1000+ shot event.

    I then make my raw adjustments and apply presets to the keepers. After that, I go through all the 4 star and 5 star shots and apply either nik color efex or nik silver effex presets to them. This is by far the longest, most tedious and infuriating part. The UI in silver efex is ATROCIOUS, with color efex being only marginally better. However, the results are un-matched (IMO of course) so I stick it out.

    I am planning on getting a plugin to correct distortion in the future, but for now if it is particularly egregious UWA distortion I'll take it out to PS and fix it.

    I keep all my libraries sorted based on the year, with the current years kept on a 2TB FW800 external drive, the old ones being offloaded to a USB drive for storage.
  6. emorydunn macrumors 6502


    Jun 5, 2006
    Austin Texas
    My workflow is pretty simple:

    1) Shoot photos on a camera, not the most obvious step, but it works for me :D
    2) Import those photos into Aperture and make a selection of photos I think are any good based on composition, lighting, etc.
    3) Do very minimal post processing. Generally each of my images gets curves, white balance, etc. and that's usually it. Maybe some minor retouching to remove spots and very occasionally some very minor cloning.

    I don't bother with fixing every aberration or flaw my camera and lens may have introduced. I never do any lens distortion correction or noise reduction, I don't really see the point. Of course, I don't have a camera that can even go to ISO 6400, let alone produce good results at 1600 so I don't even go there unless I really need to. This works out well for me because it means I don't have to do any noise reduction.

    For me I do everything I can to make sure I don't have to worry about excessive post work. If you want your images to look realistic and not over-stylised the best thing to do is not to run them through every plugin on the planet. The fewer things you do to the image the better it's going to look. Unless you like "beginner HDR" in which case the sky's the limit with Photoshop filters.
  7. avro707, Dec 21, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2011

    avro707 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2010
    I can offer advice on this - I use high ISO sometimes, eg, ISO10,000, even ISO16,000 if needed.

    For those scenarios - if the image was well exposed to start with, I can usually use Camera Raw 6.6 with Photoshop CS5 to make a decent result of it. Lightroom 3 will do the same as it uses similar technology.

    I use 14bit RAW images of about 14-16mb each, and sometimes will go through about 200-300 of them. A recent event I shot some 500 images with two cameras, one of them doing portrait style shots of people speaking on a podium with a 300mm F/4 and Nikon D700 at ISO5000. It was quite dark and I needed that ISO to get acceptable shutter speeds. The result from that was very crisp, bright images at full-frame size, no cropping needed. It was also quite good because I was out of sight when taking them - not interrupting the proceedings - the benefit of the 300mm F/4.0 over the faster 70-200mm F/2.8.

    The photos with the D3S, 24-70 and SB-900 needed more time due to screening out people in the background with funny looking faces (eg, in the middle of eating something).

    Those images worked out well - great results that I was most pleased with and the stakeholder was extremely happy.

    1. I just open all the images in camera raw and do a quick pass of delete, delete delete on any images I don't want immediately. Then click done.

    2. The unwanted images go. Next step is open the remaining ones in Camera Raw and apply common adjustments to all of them (select all first). These adjustments might be white balance, sharpening, noise reduction, lens corrections.

    3. Now I go through and do any cropping I want to apply, along with selective adjustments.

    4. When done, I export them all as JPEG straight from Camera Raw and get them off to the stakeholders.

    This process typically doesn't take very long. I archive the RAW images and the XMP files with them.

    In my experience, Nik software DFine wasn't the best option. Topaz Denoise was a bit better, but the gold-standard of plugins is probably NoiseNinja - that one works well out of those plugins for difficult images. I've used all of those. usually, I'll avoid them if I can and use the Camera Raw noise-reduction in version 6.6 because for most circumstances, it works very well.
  8. HoldFastHope thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 15, 2008
    Sydney, AU
    Thanks for the replies all, to clarify I fully expect noise at ISO 6400, it's just that this experience taught me what excessive noise looked like and then I started actively looking for it in my other photos. The 60D's sensor isn't quite as good as the 5D or Nikon cameras so noise tends to be introduced at lower ISO's.

    Importing to Lightroom first and then exporting to Aperture is an interesting idea, I have noticed that their RAW processing seemed to give more pleasing results but I prefer Aperture for adjustments in most cases.

    Up until now I've just been copying from my camera into Aperture and then exporting to JPG after I was done but I might try going to Lightroom first and saving the master RAW files in a file system directory. Post-processing can be VERY overwhelming for a hobbyist and just wanted to make sure I wasn't over complicating things :)
  9. The Mad Kiwi macrumors 6502

    Mar 15, 2006
    In Hell
    Your workflow seems fine to me.

    I use Aperture to catalogue and Photoshop for editing. Colour correction first in Aperture, then to photoshop where I fix lens distortion (straight lines should be straight) using built in Photoshop feature, then noise reduction Nik Dfine, then selective sharpness, clone out any crap in the photo that makes it untidy, desaturate any overly bright distractions in the background, then brush in the feel I want.

    My attitude has always been, it the photo is worth keeping, it's worth spending a bit of time finishing it off.

    Here's a couple of pictures of my kids on their new bikes they got for Christmas.


  10. macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2011
    While there is some great advice in here on how to fix the issues with your photos in post production, it sounds like the main issue here (at least for future shoots) is you need to learn your way around your camera a bit more. By that I mean learning how ISO, exposure speeds, and aperture settings all work together. For me, upping the ISO is my very last resort since I know it will add noise (no matter how good the camera). I try to keep my ISO below 400 whenever possible, but only once I've tried adjusting my aperture and shutter speed. This always gives me the cleanest results. There's very few cameras that will give you anything clean and natural looking above 1600 ISO since their Noise Filters start kicking into high gear and the details start getting muddled.

    I'd purchase a nice fast lens before buying any new applications or camera bodies. Something with a 1.8F or better should help you out in those situations. Trust me when I say that once you learn to take photographs properly you'll have waaayyyyy more room in post and will probably barely touch it. If you need any advice don't hesitate to message me. Good luck!
  11. HoldFastHope thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 15, 2008
    Sydney, AU
    Great shots Kiwi!

    Without doubt, there's still LOTS more for me to learn :) I actually was using the 50mm 1.8, but this particular case was a low light environment without flash so ISO went through the roof. I also put in negative exposure compensation as a way of keeping a quick shutter speed since I didn't have a tripod, that probably didn't help either :)
  12. macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2011
    Ah ha! I see you're using Auto, and or, Priority modes. Might I suggest tickering around in Manual? Next time when in a low light shot, if time allows you, throw it into full manual and take the following steps once you've decided what to shoot.

    1) Set your ISO to 400, you're aperture to 2.8 and see how fast you can set that shutter speed. This is a good starting point. Don't worry if you're under by half a stop to get the shutter a little faster. There should be enough detail to pull out those shadows from the raw files.

    2) Adjust your aperture to the depth of field you want and adjust your exposure to compensate.

    3) Take your time and experiment. Just because that exposure needle is centered doesn't mean the you'll have a perfect shot every time.

    One thing to note is that those Canon 50mm 1.8's don't really sharpen up until around f2.8. If I remember correctly their sweet spot is around f5.6 for the best sharpness across the frame. Hopefully this helps for future shoots. Good luck!
  13. TheDrift- macrumors 6502a


    Mar 8, 2010
    That really is a receipe for noise, if you under expose then try to brighten you are going to add a lot of noise...if you over expose and darken you will get much 'expose to the right' you should get lots of info on it.

    Action shots in low light is very difficult to photograph even if you spend lots of money on glass you only likely to gain an extra stop or so ove the 1.8...

    If you can use some flash..check out 'dragging the shutter'

    My approach is to use what light you can & shoot in manual. If the light is really slow I will drop my shutter speed and shoot more.

    At 1/50 you will get lots of blurred shots..but if your burst fire and shoot loads you will usually get at least a few usable shots...

    Here is one of mine shot in very low light using that approach

    Singer by Shaun Wilkinson Photography, on Flickr
  14. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    I don't use plugins via LR; the absence of layers makes them almost useless for me, since I rarely want to apply a change globally.

    The only plugins I use frequently are Nik Silver Efex and Alien Skin Exposure. I also have Nik Sharpener that goes in and out of my workflow.
  15. MacProDude macrumors member

    Aug 16, 2006
    SF Bay Area, CA
    So we know it was the 50mm/1.8 lens at ISO 6400. What was the shutter speed and aperture? Kevin's suggestions were great, but knowing this would help understand whether what you were trying to achieve are even possible.

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