Tutorial - My E-5 workflow (sharpening, NR)

Started Nov 12, 2010 | Discussions
jl_smith
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Tutorial - My E-5 workflow (sharpening, NR)
Nov 12, 2010

I've had several inquiries of how I sharpen my images, etc and so I thought I would make this a thread and then reference it when they ask again

Disclaimer I'm by no means a post processing or photographic expert - Just a relative newbie not only to Olympus but photography in general (my first SLR was Pentax K200D waaay back in 2008 ) I'm not going to go over the nuances of every single technical caveat that I mention - I'm just using layman's terms because that's what I am.

Now, there are a few things I've learned in the few shorts years I've been shooting, when it comes to post work:

  • No amount of technical wizardry is going to rescue an artistically bad photo. A boring photo is a boring photo is a boring photo.

  • That said, if a photo makes you pause and think "this might be good", give it at least a small amout of post work and see how it turns out - sometimes a great photo is made from a "bad" one by a nice crop or B&W conversion. Don't spend too much time trying to make the photo work , though. If it's a good photo, you'll know rather quickly. I've made this mistake before - spent hours on a shot I thought I could "rescue" only to be just as bored at the results as the original!

  • Contrast can be a great way to "sharpen" your images.

  • Clipping blacks slightly can be a great way to add contrast and help with noise

  • Software can do amazing things.

  • You need to know how to control your software in order to make it do amazing things as well as have the artistic vision to know what you need to actually do (or not do).

  • Simple dodge / burn can be amazingly effective.

MY TOOLBOX

Right now I use several software packages because they all perform different functions. Since I've accumulated these over the years, the cost hasn't been too hurtful to me, but it's been worth it - there are literally images I have that I simply couldn't get without the following:

1) Lightroom 3.2 This is a great organizer software and pretty good editing tool. Many photographers do nearly all of their editing in Lightroom alone, and it's certainly possible. I've found, though, that more specialized tools can give amazing results.

2) Topaz Denoise - This software is simply awesome. It's a bit slower to work with than Lightroom's already-excellent Noise reduction, but I simply get better results with Topaz. I use this software as a plugin within Lightroom and it works wonders.

3) Capture NX2 (Yes, Nikon's software) - This program is surprisingly full-featured, which is why Nikon actually charges you for their bona-fide RAW editor. In many instances, I prefer this over using Photoshop because it keeps things easy. It works with my JPEGs and TIFFs from Olympus just dandy.

4) Nik Software's Color Efex Pro 3.0. IIRC, you can get this for Lightroom, Photoshop, NX2 and maybe Aperture(?). I use it within NX2 because it was cheaper for me to purchase it as an NX2 plugin instead of Lightroom. It's expensive, but worth it.

5) Olympus Viewer - I currently use this only to decode my RAWs into TIFFs. Once Lightroom reads E-5 RAWs without having to use EXIF-tool to trick the software, i"ll probably cut this out of the equation (UNLESS the color response from Adobe is very poor)

Coming Next Page - A sample runthrough with my software (pics included!).

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jl_smith
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Tutorial - Page 2
In reply to jl_smith, Nov 12, 2010

So now I will walk through my workflow. It typically goes pretty quickly.

  • Step 1 - Shoot good photos. I try my best at this one! I typically shoot RAW+JPEG and go through the JPEGs quickly at the PC looking for keepers. Once I know the keepers, I open Viewer 2 and find them as RAW.

Here we have a low quality screenshot of the RAW photo as I've opened it in Viewer. Noticed to the right the paramaters I've given the image (which are different than my JPEG).

This is how I export the image into EXIF-TIFF from Viewer.

Again, disclaimer - I'm not an expert So please, I know sRGB is a smaller gamut than AdobeRGB and I know "AutoGradiation" really just acts like Adobe's "Fill light" but maybe worse, but whatever

Notice the histogram - Olympus really dislikes clipping blacks. I could write 2 more pages on more of this but I'll skip it.

  • Step 2 - Import into Lightroom.

I've saved my Olympus Viewer TIFF in a location tracked by Lightroom. Afterwards, I enter Lightroom and right-click that Folder and "Syncronize Folder..." to add the new TIFFs to the catalog.

Now I've opened the image in Development tab and applied the following settings to the right.

Notice, I clip blacks slightly, I brought down the exposure a bit to get the highlights into human visible range (I didn't use Recovery, which sometimes fills with grey, plus I had the headroom here)

I will apply the crop, then "Edit In..." and choose Topaz Denoise.

See next Page!

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jl_smith
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Tutorial - Page 3
In reply to jl_smith, Nov 12, 2010

So now we are in Topaz Denoise:

Don't freak out. Topaz likes to open to 200% so your photo is going to look like crap. Notice the noise in the bird background.

I make these adjustments you see on the right and here is the "After" view:

(note: Heavy JPEG compression from Windows screen clipper tool used to get these screenshots will contribute to blockiness)

Note that with Topaz some experimentation is required. On this particular photo I had to pump " Adjust Shadow " slider way up to get the background noise out, and this introduced a small bit of posterization, but I could liive with that. Also notice I've got "Reduce Blur" up to around 0.35 or thereabouts - this is the sharpening routine and it's excellent .

  • I now save the image and I'm back into Lightroom. Give Lightroom a second and it will refresh its view of your "XXX-Edit" TIFF to show your changes.

Now somtimes I will stop here, but on this photo I knew I could make it a bit better.

  • Next step - I "Edit In..." NX2 (the "original" edited TIFF).

What I'm doing is applying Color Efex's " Tonal Contrast " - This is like Lightroom's "Clarity" slider on steroids, as you can control highlight, midtones, shadows, and saturation all in one control and the effects are great. It defaults to a rather heavy-handed "30" in all areas, but I adjust the sliders as showin in the shot above.

A midtone contrast of 17 brings out the feathers without affecting much else. If it did affect something I didn't want, I could apply a simple negative brush to the areas in NX2.

  • I save this file, back to Lightroom - watch it refresh the view again. Now I'm ready to export.

  • The only really important thing about Lightroom - If you're exporting a file and downsizing, think about Screen sharpening. Trust me, it makes a huge difference (unless your photo is already small dimensions before you export - Screen sharpening might oversharpen it!)

I typically go for 1280 pix on the long edge and screen sharpen as "normal".

I hope this helps - Remember, experiment what works for you! There are a million ways to post process your files, and what I've said may not work for you.

Thanks.

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Raist3d
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Very nice illustrated tutorial....
In reply to jl_smith, Nov 12, 2010

not the stuff I do but I am sure it's goof for those wondering on a raw/process workflow. I know it takes a lot of effort to write and put this together having done some myself. Thanks for sharing.

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so many — say, “Oh, if only I had a Nikon or a Leica, I could make great
photographs.” That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard in my life. It’s
nothing but a matter of seeing, and thinking, and interest. That’s what
makes a good photograph.'

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jkrumm
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Re: Tutorial - My E-5 workflow (sharpening, NR)
In reply to jl_smith, Nov 12, 2010

Thanks for that. I've been impressed with topaz denoise before and will have to try it as a plug-in.

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RoelHendrickx
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In reply to jl_smith, Nov 12, 2010

Always good to see what others are doing.

Personally, I am one of those who does 100% of the job in LR3.2 (without plugins but with a few presets, that are however never used without further tweaking).
I use the "copy/paste" feature of adjustments a lot on series of pictures.
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archeogeolab
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Re: Tutorial - My E-5 workflow (sharpening, NR)
In reply to jl_smith, Nov 12, 2010

Hi,
I also do all my editing in Lightroom 3.
For that I developed a lot of usefull presets.
But how do you arange "clipping blacks"?

I just augmenting blacks to add contrast in tele-work (you mean the same with clipping blacks??).
I am on my work,......so I can't verify if it's the same thing in Lightroom!
Regards, Erik

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dingenus
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Re: Tutorial - Page 2
In reply to jl_smith, Nov 12, 2010

Olympus really dislikes clipping blacks.

Yes but if you use autogradation it's more disliking. If you set it to off the blackpoint get lower.

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jl_smith
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Re: Tutorial - Page 2
In reply to dingenus, Nov 12, 2010

Very true

In this particular shot, though, not using auto gradiation left a really "wild" looking photo because it was too dark, many of the pixels were over to the black but not all of them.

Plus, I use Auto for my JPEG setting

But yes you are correct, auto will push blacks further to the right, but many times that's useful (which is why I use Auto with i-enhance - I like to lift up blacks somewhat, but still keep a "black point" at 0, and i-enhance tends to push some blacks back down)

dingenus wrote:

Olympus really dislikes clipping blacks.

Yes but if you use autogradation it's more disliking. If you set it to off the blackpoint get lower.

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jl_smith
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Re: Tutorial - My E-5 workflow (sharpening, NR)
In reply to archeogeolab, Nov 12, 2010

Yes basically "clipping blacks" is just moving the "Blacks" slider in Lightroom to where you "eat" (or clip) some of the blacks on the left side of the histogram.

Typically Adobe Lightroom defaults to a Blacks of 5 anyway, which usually tends to somewhat clip blacks on many RAW images (but just barely). This helps with the aforemention contrast and noise hiding.

The same effect is if you enter a Curves tool and slide your black point to the right a little.

archeogeolab wrote:

Hi,
I also do all my editing in Lightroom 3.
For that I developed a lot of usefull presets.
But how do you arange "clipping blacks"?

I just augmenting blacks to add contrast in tele-work (you mean the same with clipping blacks??).
I am on my work,......so I can't verify if it's the same thing in Lightroom!
Regards, Erik

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John Mason
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thanks - some tools for me to try out
In reply to jl_smith, Nov 12, 2010

great post - thanks
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jkrumm
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Re: Tutorial - My E-5 workflow (sharpening, NR)
In reply to jl_smith, Nov 12, 2010

I'll just add that I've found that while moving the black slider up can be good to hide shadow noise, I often have to decrease saturation a little because heavy blacks makes colors appears stronger (kind of an illusion).

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Maczero
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Re: Tutorial - Page 3
In reply to jl_smith, Nov 12, 2010

This is a really useful post. Thanks. I have started to do something similar, although I am using Dfine rather than Topaz Denoise. I have found the Tonal Contrast filter really useful in providing something of antidote to the strong AA Filter on the E-520.
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jl_smith
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Re: Tutorial - My E-5 workflow (sharpening, NR)
In reply to jkrumm, Nov 12, 2010

Yes this certainly happens, along with many other things

I've thought about making a web site or blog showing tips like these, but really it's too much work and I'm lazy

But mostly to experiment and read about techniques is the best way - I've certainly changed the way I process photos in the almost three years I've been doing it - I've tried very complex methods, very simple methods - finding your "groove" is half the fun

jkrumm wrote:

I'll just add that I've found that while moving the black slider up can be good to hide shadow noise, I often have to decrease saturation a little because heavy blacks makes colors appears stronger (kind of an illusion).

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John Krumm
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Rennie Petersen
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Thank you
In reply to jl_smith, Nov 12, 2010

Although this information is (unfortunately) of no use to me, at least not now, I think that it is great that you have done all the work and provided this information.

This is the kind of thing that significantly lifts the quality of this forum.

Thanks again.

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Paul Auclair
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Thnx JL ;) n/t
In reply to jl_smith, Nov 12, 2010
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Thanks,
Paul

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dedpixto
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Re: Tutorial - My E-5 workflow (sharpening, NR)
In reply to jl_smith, Nov 13, 2010

How were you able to get the TopazDeNoise to work in Lightroom?
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jl_smith
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Re: Tutorial - My E-5 workflow (sharpening, NR)
In reply to dedpixto, Nov 13, 2010

You have to download their free "helper" program for lightroom and register that program as an external editor from within lightroom. Afterward once you select " edit in..." in LR, their little window pops up and let's you select Denoise (or any other plugin you've installed).

dedpixto wrote:

How were you able to get the TopazDeNoise to work in Lightroom?
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dedpixto
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Re: Tutorial - My E-5 workflow (sharpening, NR)
In reply to jl_smith, Nov 13, 2010

thanks!
Vitali

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