Highlight Recovery Strategies in Olympus Viewer

Started May 26, 2012 | Discussions thread
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tinternaut Veteran Member • Posts: 7,586
Highlight Recovery Strategies in Olympus Viewer

Anyone want to see the same photo, over and over and over again? Well here goes. A photo I recently took and the subsequent mess I made of it in Aperture once again looking briefly at Olympus Viewer. Now, Aperture works fine for me 90% of the time with the odd occasion when it's raw processing (and especially its defaults) fail to make any sense to me and this was one such time.

There were blown highlights in the OOC JPEG that I foolishly chose not to ignore (really, they weren't that bad when I eventually provided a perspective filter to my thinking) so I had a play with Olympus Viewer. Now, the lack of a recovery slider seems to be the bane of users of Olympus software but there are a coupe of strategies you can employ to get around this (and neither seems to have been discussed). I'll start with the OOC JPEG:

Aperture actually provides two tools that can help here. There are:

The curves tool, allowing you to reduce the raw exposure a little and then lift the mid tones (often with a small S curve to also add some contrast to the image) and here is the image reduced by 0.3 and then a reasonable boost the mid tones (and a little contrast)

Another approach is to reduce the exposure and then switch gradiation to auto. This produces a fairly flat image and there's a risk you blow things when adding contrast back in. So, with this image, in addition to gradiation auto, I've also applied a tone curve but very, very slight on the mid tones this time and then applying the small s at the bottom of the curve:

Points to note about this image: If you compare it to the OOC image, you can see the shadows of the building to the left are actually brighter, even though exposure is lower than OOC. You can probably get away with reducing the exposure by 0.4 or 0.5 to get more or less an equivalent image (albeit with cleaner shadows than if you'd made that decision behind the camera).

Another approach I've sometimes played with is to use Olympus Viewer as a very basic raw processor and let Aperture do the rest (usually on a TIFF). If you're looking at the greens, I switched the picture mode from vivid to natural as part of the raw development in OV:

Of course, this is where Aperture has some real advantages. A touch of darken highlights has improved the sky (especially the blue in the sky) no end and where my Aperture preset has caused highlights to be blown again, the recovery slider can be used to get these back with minimal impact on the overall image.

Aperture is a very competent raw tool in itself, so after playing with OV (and OV+Aperture) I went in and had another play:

If you're new to aperture and are having trouble getting to grips with what it does to Olympus raw files:

  • By default, it badly pushes the exposure

  • Click the auto exposure button and it over exposes then even further (there's your proof that ISO 200 from the E-30 onwards is really ISO 100, under exposed by one stop and then pushed - Aperture proves it by screwing it up)

  • Reducing the exposure slider by 0.5 gets your histogram to a similar ball park to that of the OOC JPEG

  • Other than that, Aperture profiles Olympus cameras and Olympus colours very well, albeit with slighter OTT greens.

Also worth noting is that Aperture's edged sharpening defaults come pretty close to the USM settings I used in Olympus Viewer (based on Scott Kelby's moderate sharpening recommendation - see http://www.photographyjam.com/blog/40/unsharp-mask-suggested-starting-values ).

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