How Do You (or U) Do Raw?

Hey, dekeCommunity. Colleen here coming to you from the beautiful Sierras near Lake Tahoe, California. Beautiful, but limited connectivity (for which I am primarily grateful). But that means no uploading of pretty photographs either. You’ll just have to trust me on the beauty part. Speaking of which, I’ve been shooting away with this week, both with my DSLR and my compact camera, a Panasonic LX2, which happens to shoot in RAW format (for Panasonic, that’s actually the file extention—.RAW). I’m loaded up with the new Lightroom 2 and a copy of Apple’s photo processing and management tool, Aperture, and I’m wondering what the citizens of dekeWorld use to process raw files. Do you use Lightroom or Aperture? Or do you have a workflow that functions nicely with Bridge/ACR/Photoshop? When I get back, I’ll have some work to do on my vacation photos, so enquiring minds want to know, especially if there are reasons/scenarios that call for one tool or another.

BTW, one nice improvement I’ve seen in Lighroom 2 so far is that for my Panasonic shots, which automatically give me RAW+JPEG, Lightroom now only shows one thumbnail. In the previous version, there was a separate RAW and JPEG entry for every image. This little update is much tidier. Of course, my shots at the lake yesterday were all taken before I realized I had the ISO set to 1600, so you’ll never see those. But at least I didn’t have to see the dang things twice over.

Next entry:And the 5 (yes, 5) T2WUSB winners R

Previous entry:Don’t Fear the Lab Mode


  • Lightroom FTW

    Until fairly recently I only used Bridge/ACR/Photoshop, but decided to finally take the time to get to know my copy of Lightroom 1.3, which I love.

    I have a Windows PC, so don’t really use Apple products beyond iTunes for all those sexy Photoshop/Lightroom/Photography podcasts - DekePod, geekpods, freakpods, tweakpods, etc.

    And now I’m informed of how great the new Lightroom 2 is, I have to start saving up again! I know an upgrade is only $99US, but in our colourful Kiwi money that is like a brazillion dollars! I may have to sell my mother….

  • RAW workflow

    What a timely topic. For the last year I have been using lightroom which I love (have not upgraded to lightroom 2 yet). The one issue I have had with lightroom is a good workflow for problem images that need more work in Photoshop. That problem has increased for me since I have recently been using the LAB mode after going through Deke’s tutorials on It’s amazing how easy it is to find a stunning image where there was only a rough image now that I am correcting in LAB mode.

    For now my workflow is to rough out the basic color correction in Lightroom, open it in Photoshop and make it sparkle with LAB correction then save a flattened RGB version. Save the PSD file. Go back to Lightroom where I now have the original and PSD and import the flat corrected RGB and use Lightroom to make crops and export version for web, e-mail and printing.

    Suddenly I have a whole lot more files to deal with and a lot more process, but I also have images that are reaching for color depths and contrasts that I have not been able to achieve before.

    I’m hoping that when I’m able to upgrade to Lightroom 2, that I will be able to streamline my workflow a little.

  • Re: Lightroom WTF…pardon, FTW

    Call me a traditionalist and a conservative, but… well actually I am. But I just can’t wrap my mind around the need for yet another piece of software that does everything a combination of Bridge and Photoshop already does.

    File management - check!

    Image editing - check!

    When I first heard of Lightroom, my first question was “OK, why?”.

    Perhaps it’s the point of keeping my head in the sand with the current trends, and I’m the first one to admit that. But I am at a point of getting darn right curious as to what magical features would make it worth my pennies investing in yet another piece of software.

    Obviously you’re sold on it. Perhaps if you could share with me as to why, I’ll have a better idea. Hey, all these users can’t be wrong, right?

    Who is General Failure and why is he reading my hard drive?

  • I don’t know about anyone else,

    but I think Adobe may, sometime in the near or distant future, ditch Bridge/ACR and replace them with Lightroom. Lightroom looks great; is very user friendly; manages files better, edits files better, and views/stacks/rolls files over and tickles their tummies better, than Bridge/ACR. Sure, you can do all the editing (or at the very least, most of it) in Photoshop, with the Bridge as a browser/manager - but evolution has taken hold, bro. Thank goodies! And it has done since the camera obscura. :-D

    I’m pretty new to Lightroom, but I’m sold. A few podcasts as guides have helped me overcome my reluctance to embrace it, and I’m pleased. It’s a keeper.  And I’ll be keeping my eye on those extremely talented and clever programmers at Adobe for future developments, fo’sher.

    I will not rage against the light! grin

  • Lightroom vs Bridge/ACR/Photoshop

    I think many people ask the same question, Flyboy, especially with Lightroom’s $299 price tag. But there are differences of course. The Library module in Lightroom has some sophisticated abilities to virtually group images, rather than just view them your already existing file structure. The Develop module is has some targeted and localized adjustment features that you don’t have in Camera Raw. You don’t have to open all your images in Photoshop either (just the few that need or will benefit from it). And many people are intimidated by Photoshop’s complex and somewhat labrynthian set of menus and controls.

    Then there are the output modules, which actually allow for efficiently moving your images to the Web, to a Slideshow, or to Print. (I’m a little perplexed though by Adobe’s lack of read update to the Slideshow module, with PDF or export of individual slides still being the only options. Why can’t I make a SWF file?) Lightroom 2’s Print module has some terrific layout-like features that allow for the creation of Photo Packages that go well beyond your standard contact sheet features in Bridge/Photoshop.

    And of course, everything you do in Lightroom, up until output, is non-destructive saved-instruction-set editing, meaning you’re not creating duplicates of your images or making irrevocable changes to your originals.

    Mikkel Aaland, who wrote both O’Reilly’s Camera RAW book and our Lightroom Adventure book, calls Lightroom a sportscar (fast and beautiful) and Bridge/ACR/Photoshop an offroad vehicle (go anywhere and do anything, just a little less elegantly). I can see your point that for many, the sportscar feels like an extravagant splurge.

  • RAW workflow

    i shoot in large jpg mode with a canon xsi; my process is as follows:

    1) via bridge, open jpegs in ACR.

    2) from ACR, open in PS.

    3) convert to LAB

    4) de-noise as needed

    5) levels as needed

    6) any additional adjustments (hue/sat, cleanup, etc)

    7) sharpen as needed

    8) flatten to jpg

    9) move to Aperture for final image grouping, storage, etc

  • 1 step forward, 2 steps back

    Until recently, I was under the impression that RGB to LAB and back is a non a destructive method. It turns out that it not. According to people like Andrew Rodney, (Scott Kelby’s guest blogger Aug. 6th) it is a destructive way of the editing images, meaning that you loose information every time you go back and forth. Is that something you have noticed in your workflow?


  • Dan Margulis says…

    Myth: Converting to LAB hurts the image.

    The operative word is “Myth”.

    As he states, “you’ve just seen a move that achieved a dramatic improvement in quality in a way that they rest of this audience thinks is impossible using conventional methods. So, why do you care whether there was ‘damage’ or not? The issue isn’t whether converting to LAB is dangerous, it’s whether the final result is better than the original, and if so, whether you can think of another way to have done it without the use of LAB”.

    And in some visual examples he gives of images put through multiple conversions from RGB to LAB and back again, there was absolutely no discernible change to the image.

    His only caution, however, is that LAB can push colours into places that RGB can’t retain which means that colours may shift when converting back to RGB from LAB. But this is an issue that occurs between differing colour spaces, anyway - eg: RGB to CMYK.

    Dan’s book “The Canyon Conundrum” is a great book and although some of the concepts can be a bit hard to get your head around, he writes them in an easy style. Highly recommended. And I’m looking forward to getting Deke’s Lab training DVD to work with also. ‘Cos video tutorials rock my world, yo!

  • I’m on Dan’s side on this one

    Dan Margulis and the Pixel Genius guys (including Andrew and the late Bruce Fraser) have gone back and forth over the years about the degree to which mode conversions can alter the quality of an image. There’s some theoretical damage that *can* occur when switching back and forth (I mean, it’s there, you can do a Difference mode test and find the colors that switch), but the likelihood of it being significant enough to see with a powerful magnifying glass is virtually nil.

    If you’re starting off with an 8-bit JPEG (not the best starting point, but it helps to demonstrate my point), then the worst thing you can do is set right in editing the colors with Curves, even as an adjustment layer. The final flat file will suffer. It has to. Somewhere in the image, you are taking two pixels that used to be different colors and forcing them into one.

    I don’t want to overstate my case because, as we all know from experience, destructive modifications often produce better looking images. So edit in RGB if you like. BUT you’re far better off taking the image into Lab, modifying the colors with whatever command you’re comfortable with (Levels, Curves, even B/C), and then eventually bringing it back into the destination space, whether that’s RGB or CMYK. Don’t do it repeatedly, but one trip into and back out of Lab is going to do much less damage than a single application of Curves in RGB.

    Conclusion: The downsides of switching to Lab are theoretical and invisible. And as anyone who’s worked in Lab knows, the upsides are obvious to the most casual observer.

    My only disagreement with Lab where Dan is concerned is how you pronounce the word. He spells it out, I say it as “Lab” because it’s not a proper acronym—the a and b don’t stand for anything. Plus, “Lab” is less techy.

  • hehe

    I like calling it Lab, ‘cos it makes me feel like a mad scientist performing alchemy in some crazy laboratory somewhere. :-D

    One thing I’d like to get your DVD for, Deke, is that you state working non-destructively in Lab, which is something I haven’t yet mastered. When transitioning back into RGB, I am asked to flatten the file (which I usually don’t do), but after returning to RGB I’ve lost my layer masks and adjustment layers. Sometimes (always? - can’t remember) I will then have trouble changing an area of an image because the Lab layer mask that I’d lost had somehow fixed itself into the layer and I can no longer edit parts of that layer. (Did that make sense?) Anyway, how do I overcome this so that I can do anything I want in each colour space and transfer it as completely editable with layers and masks intact?

    Thanks. grin

  • I recommend keeping it in Lab

    For editing purposes. You’re definitely going to have problems with blend modes and other transitional elements if you try to preserve the layers going back to RGB. So I’ll make the edits, save all layers as a Lab PSD file, then if need be flatten to RGB and save that independently.

    If you stick with smart objects (which takes it’s mental toll but is a great idea if you can hack it) then you can work with embedded RGB images which gives you access to those few functions that Lab doesn’t permit.

    I actually discuss exactly that scenario with the backyard image in the series. You have to convert the embedded image to RGB to correct the chromatic aberrations, even tho the larger composition exists in Lab.

    Kinda breezed over that in the recent dekePod.  wink

  • Thanks!

    I already work with smart objects (how cool are they!) - but for some reason haven’t used them when I’m in Lab. Dunno why. hmmm

    Anyway, I shall follow your sage advice and change my editing habits.

    And the recent dekePod is definitely what sold me on covetting your Lab DVD - everything happens so quickly in those podcasts, but they’re fantastic teasers. Mission accomplished - you da man! :-D

  • By the way…

    How does one go about purchasing the DVDs if one has no credit card - which rules out and for us credit cardless overseaers :(

    Is there somewhere we can send a international money order thingy to? And who would the money order be made out to?


    Whoever answers that should be able to point you in the right direction.

    Tell them I sent you.

  • Thanks, deke

    When I tried it through their site via the shopping channels, it wouldn’t let me get very far because of the credit card issue and my location in the world - so if I can send a physical cheque to a physical place, then I might just win.

    Cheers! :-D

  • Edit - never mind

    I just saw a blindingly obvious solution. Sorry, sorry - I’ve been running on too much caffeine and too little sleep for too long, methinks. I need a holiday!

  • forward to destruction

    There may be some level of destruction in converting to LAB but I have not experienced it. And as far as going back to RGB from LAB there has to be a loss of color info since LAB is a larger color space. But my personal experience has been the images look much better with a lot less work. To be honest I think any color modification made to an image does some level of damage. My experience has been that editing in LAB does not generate the color artifacts that occur with color modification in RGB.

  • Been a while…

    ...since Col and Petra answered my question (thank you!), so I’m not sure if they’ll see this post or not. Too bad there isn’t a way to see the last (user specified number of) posts for those of us that check on weekly basis.



    Anyhoo, I’m inches away (times 2.6cm for those living abroad) from buying a copy of Lightroom. What I’m curious about is the following. Among other things, I also edit other photographer’s photos. I have one client in particular that really likes his native NEF files and asks for sidecar XMP’s back as a first-level edit. If I create XMP’s in Lightroom, he won’t be able to see the changes once he throws them in the same folder with his NEF’s, right?

    Just a logistics question, I’m merely curious if I have to make sure I use ACR when I do his shots.


  • ACR can read Lightroom’s XMP sidecar files

    As well as metadata instructions stored inside DNGs. Adobe is hinting there might be a split in feature sets in the future, but it hasn’t happened yet. So as long as your client has Photoshop CS4, he can read what you end up doing in Lightroom 2.

    We’re still hashing out comment solutions. Drupal seemed so powerful six months ago. Now we’re hitting some ceilings. But we’re working on it, however glacially.

  • U.S. Mint

    Very informative article, thanks for sharing it to the public. In addition to this, money is very valuable and has great benefits only if utilized properly. The U.S. Mint is the organization responsible for printing and coining money.  There are U.S. Mint production facilities in several locations across the country, and they have a new product to put out.  The new thing they are rolling out is a new penny series.  The new pennies, which will take more in installment loans to make than they are worth, feature several scenes of Abraham Lincoln (since we’re on a bit of a Lincoln kick these days) from childhood, his tenure in the Senate, and during the construction of the capitol building.  It’s a noble effort, but with the cost of the new equipment and design, one wonders if the U.S. Mint will need debt relief from coining pennies.

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