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Author Topic: Raw Processing - Highlight Recovery  (Read 11595 times)
speedskater
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« on: June 06, 2010, 09:07:36 AM »

I am very satisfied with Qimages Raw Processing capabilities. The results are quite good (better as some other raw editors I tried and IMHO close to Capture NX).

Highlight recovery could be better. Go to this site http://www.nikon-community.de/vbulletin/showpost.php?p=1248916&postcount=22 and download the nef-file. Process the nef in Qimage and compare the result with the pwp.jpg-file and you see what I mean.
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Terry-M
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« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2010, 02:19:08 PM »

Hi SpeedSkater,
Thanks for this post, interesting, now that I've done a few tests.
First some comments about the image - I can see why you wanted to capture the scene, lovely place and a nice composition  Smiley
The scene does have a wide dynamic range made more difficult by the foreground being in shadow, from clouds I assume.
Significant areas of the clouds are blown in the highlights and unrecoverable in any program.
The darker areas of cloud look unnaturally dark in the pwp file, does that represent the scene or not? The most noticeable difference with a Qimage conversion is the contrast in the sky & clouds, in fact the transition between light & darker area in some areas is very much a step transition win the pwp file.
The horizon at  the left side of the image has a halo and the colour blue sky looks like it has been affected. I've seen that halo effect before in ACR when a high level of recovery is used.

I processed the NEF in Qimage with a fill level of about 15 or 16. By using a curve filter with the raw image, I managed to get a little more contrast in the bright areas and kept the foreground contrast similar (maybe a little better) to the pwp file.
I also got a friend to use ACR with it, that too did a good job of the sky but did not make it quite so dark in places. The foreground was not good, it lacked contrast and looked a little washed out.

If I had been at the scene, I would have bracketed exposures and probably chosen a lower exposure to maintain more of the highlight detail and then used the Qimage's excellent raw Fill to bring up the dark areas.
I do agree that, with the image as it is, there are possibilities of improving the highlight recovery, I've suspected before that there is a little more scope with that aspect of Qimage conversion.
I know Mike has in the past used customers examples to make improvements so maybe he'll have a look too  Wink
Terry.
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speedskater
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« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2010, 03:54:12 PM »

Hi Terry,

thanks for your comments.

I am not the photographer of the image. I stumbled over it in my search for test images which are more or less difficult to process - simply to have exercise examples for my image editors.

So I just wanted to show that highlight restoration could be improved.

On the other hand Qimage with its "fill light"-tool gives fast and excellent results in most cases.
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Terry-M
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« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2010, 04:09:33 PM »

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On the other hand Qimage with its "fill light"-tool gives fast and excellent results in most cases.
I my view it's the best there is. A lower exposure on tha  image would have done the trick I think.
That PWP program seems very slow to process images and a little clumsy to use.  Roll Eyes
Terry
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Fred A
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« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2010, 10:38:54 PM »

Hi SpeedSkater,
Sorry, I have been away all day, but having looked closely at the image, I have to agree with Terry.
There's something unreal about the image itself like it has been doctored in some small way. The sky looks like a lot is blown out, and the dark parts just too dark.
I understand you are not the originator of the image, and really cant be sure how it was born.  Smiley

I tried to match that JPG, and even took the NEF to a friend who has CS5. (ACR)
  Couldn't come close.
I got the closest using Qimage SE.
See attached
But it was fun! 
Thanks,
Fred


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rayw
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« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2010, 02:51:33 AM »

I rarely use qimage for raw processing, but in scr it is easy enough to recover the detail in the clouds by reducing the exposure, and increase the fill light to compensate for the blacks. a short fiddle with the contrast and other settings will get it near enough. The pwp jpeg has been sharpened and some other messing about has taken place, imho, and it is easy to get far better results than that. In general raw converters handle files differently, most do a reasonable job with a good image, but sometimes it is necessary to push things around a bit more, where something like bibble or similar are more suited.

Best wishes,

Ray
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Terry-M
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« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2010, 07:17:26 AM »

Hi Ray,
I assume those attached images are downloaded from that link above. Have you tried the actual NEF file.? If you do you'll realize that something else has been done to the images shown because the sky area is unnaturally dark. Not only that, the overall balance does not look right, the foreground is too dark and lacks contrast. The initial impression of the results seems dramatic but look in more detail and you'll realise there are problems.
BTW, what is "scr", English is preferred  Wink
Terry
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Terry-M
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« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2010, 08:36:14 AM »

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you'll realize that something else has been done to the images shown
Well yes that is the case and I've proved it. I downloaded PWP Pro trial and tried all sorts of settings but cannot get the image looking anything like that shown on the link in the1st post. With the clouds dark as possible, lots of shadow fill etc., the foreground is dull and lacks contrast. I think the image shown was tone mapped after conversion, someone has been telling porky pies  Shocked
Terry
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Fred A
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« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2010, 09:07:57 AM »

Ray,
Where's the rest of the picture?
You have half missing?
It changes the entire look and feel.

Fred
« Last Edit: June 07, 2010, 09:21:37 AM by Fred A » Logged
rayw
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« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2010, 01:08:17 PM »

Hi Fred and Terry et al,

It was late last night - or rather early morning - scr was a typo - should be acr - adobe camera raw. The image is merely a screen capture of my acr processed nef file beside their pwp jpeg (both opened at same time in ps tiled view, then screen captured/cropped to remove the tool bars, etc. - not a quality processing work flow  Grin ). Using acr it was trivial to recover the highlight detail - the original raw file does not have blown highlights in the clouds, since they can be recovered quite easily. That is one of the advantages of raw files, of course. I've no idea of how they processed the pwp jpeg, however, I think my simple acr processing gives a better result for me - but this is purely a personal opinion. Now, whether I want the sky dark and ominous, or all bright and cheerful, that can be done too, in Qimage also, I'm certain, but there is little point in taking a perfectly usable raw image, and manipulating it to duplicate what I feel is the poor result they get in the pwp jpeg version. So, leaving aside the colours, sharpening, and other post processing, can you recover the cloud _detail_ in qimage? I do not use qimage for raw, so haven't a clue how to do that. When I tried, it stated something like the highlights were blown, adjust exposure, or whatever. However in acr, with warnings turned on, it does not indicate the highlights being blown, unless I adjust the exposure to make it so.

I merely put the two images side by side to show the cloud detail. It is not an excuse, but resizing and adjusting jpegs to get down to 128k does not give the same result as looking at the original. In my opinion, my acr effort was better than their pwp effort, but I'm quite happy for others to think differently. If you think about it, if you recover? blown highlights, the overall tone will tend to darken, unless you somehow lighten the other end, which then reduces contrast - (well, I almost understand what I'm saying here).

If it was worth the effort, then I would process the sky separately to the rest of the image, maybe even consider faking two exposure settings and doing an hdr. If you examine the exif info for the raw, then I think the auto exposure choice could be better for that image, but this has little to do with the op's original question, which was concerned with highlight recovery in Qimage. I merely posted originally because some had said it was not possible in acr, I'm no expert, but I found it easy enough - and acr is nowhere near as good as the more specialised raw processors.

Best wishes,

Ray
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Terry-M
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« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2010, 02:31:07 PM »

Hi Ray,
Quote
some had said it was not possible in acr, I'm no expert, but I found it easy enough
From what I can see, the highlights are recovered at the expense of the foreground area. No doubt a fair amount of fill was required and acr doe not do that particularly well. What actual settings did you have to use?
Quote
and acr is nowhere near as good as the more specialised raw processors.
I was under the impression that acr was some sort of benchmark.  Shocked
What do you consider as a better "specialised raw processor"?
Terry
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mburke
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« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2010, 02:59:50 PM »

Don't mean to butt in on this thread, but probably the best (from a quality standpoint) raw processor for NEF files is Capture NX2. It also has the ability to do local changes on the picture as well as global so in this case you could change the exposure or brightness, contrast, hue, saturation or anything else on the sky or the foreground seperately. they use control points and selection points to easily pick different areas of the pictures.

Mike
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rayw
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« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2010, 06:37:30 PM »

Hi Terry,

I think in general, initially you get the best results using the raw conversion software which the camera maker supplies. However, once the specialist raw conversion software program writers get going, then sometimes they can get more from the raw image. Some conversion tools are better for some types of images, or cameras. Mike has just mentioned one that he knows. I used to like Bibble, and I really liked 'Lightzone' for raw conversion and editing in particular, but that was written in Java and runs slower than a slow thing (and I think the lz basic raw conversion as Qimage and many others uses dcraw, so does not support all cameras). Often the camera manufacturer will co-operate with the third party software writers  (e.g. Sigma and Adobe -  http://www.sigma-photo.co.jp/english/news/info_100412.htm  - but that is referring to lens correction, but you get the idea), but often  'reverse engineering' is required.

Other factors normally come into play - workflow, speed of conversion, batch processing, cost, etc. and it becomes a trade off. I tend to use acr - it is good enough for me in most cases, but even though Sigma may have co-operated, the Sigma pp4 interface and results are better, imho, but the software itself is a bit flaky - i.e. it crashes sometimes, and never closes properly. However, by using something like acr, if you have a number of different cameras, at least you have a common interface, and that user interface is very good. However, it's all a bit like the old 'black and decker' electric drills. You know - about 50 years ago, you could get a circular saw attachment and a sander attachment and a jig saw attachment, etc. but whatever you did with the attachment, it never got as good as using a dedicated tool, but often it did a good enough job. ACR is a standard, because I guess it is what most folk use, but that does not mean it's the best in every case. I reckon the best one is generally the one that you get the best results with, and are most familiar with.

Wrt specific settings, I haven't got the file any more. If you look at the histogram, you can see that both ends are sort of out of range, so obviously to get it all in, something has got to give way  Embarrassed. Given time and effort, it could be shifted whichever way you want, but I was merely interested in seeing if the highlights were blown.

Can you get the cloud detail in Qimage? Maybe I could try harder, but for me I can get good enough with other methods.

Best wishes,

Ray
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Terry-M
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« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2010, 09:42:15 PM »

Mike,
Quote
Don't mean to butt in on this thread,
No problem at all  Wink
That Nikon program sounds very clever. Trouble is with all those possibilities it could be time consuming as I found with other raw programs with lots of controls. - expensive too!
The beauty of Qimage is it's low cost and simplicity with a limited fiddle factor, and certainly a program to encourage the use of shooting in raw.

Ray,
Quote
I think in general, initially you get the best results using the raw conversion software which the camera maker supplies.
I would not agree on that with Canon but it is some while since I used it and they may have improved by now.
Quote
Can you get the cloud detail in Qimage?
Not quite but with the use of a curve filter I got closer. I got my friend to have another go in acr and he reproduced your version, more-or-less. The problem was that seemed unatuarally dark overall and the foreground was dark too. Any more fill just washed it out. That's where Qimage wins, on Fill . http://www.ddisoftware.com/qimage/quality/raw.htm
When you know that you expose accordingly.
No doubt Qimage raw could be improved but I would hate the simplicity to be degraded too much.
Terry
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