Here is a summary of my RAW workflow. It is geared towards fast processing of many images, though I may spend considerable time on a few. It is applicable to RAW files of all cameras.
There’s quite a lot to say. Readers who are new to post-processing may need to come back a few times.
Two topics you may not be familiar with are using FastRawViewer to review images and using the Auto button in Lightroom. There is more than that as this article is quite wide-ranging and touches on alternative approaches. There is of course no ultimate workflow. Everyone will have a different approach. So I’m not offering a recipe. However, there may be some ideas or information that you can adapt to your own unique processing style.
I’m also not intending to go into detail on processing in Lightroom and Photoshop. That would take a book and there are plenty available.
The most important thing in Photography is to use your own vision to produce an image the way you visualise it, not what the camera or computer decides for you, or what fashions dictate. Post-processing is a very important part of that.
- Why RAW?
- Why Bracket?
- Why FastRawViewer?
- Why Lightroom?
- Why Auto Tone?
- Importing to Lightroom
- Creating an Import Preset
- Assessing Images in FastRawViewer
- Updating Images in Lightroom
- Auto Tone
- Further Processing in Lightroom
- Launching to Photoshop
- Processing in other applications
- Backing Up
- Final comments
(Sorry, WordPress won’t let me define links for these headings)
Otowa Bridge at dawn, Hokkaido. This is a stitched panorama with very little other processing. All images benefit from some processing, a few require very little.
Part 1: Why?
RAW files offer potentially greater quality for both tonality and colour than JPEGs though they do require processing. A JPEG file is a subset of a RAW file with limited capacity to make further changes. Some people choose to shoot JPEG so they don’t have to process the image but that only works well if your subject has a limited tonal range and you expose accurately.
For any exposure, it is better to “expose to the right”. This means that the histogram for an image in your camera should be as far as possible to the right side without there being a white line shooting up the border which indicates overexposure. There are partial exceptions to this where bright lights are part of your image such as concert lights, streetlights, the sun or specular highlights. Exposing to the right is important because there is much more information in highlight areas with detail than in shadow areas.
A histogram with a solid white line to the right, indicating overexposure
Your camera shows a histogram for a JPEG file, not a histogram for a RAW file. (Well, unless you have the rare and expensive Leica Monochrom). This makes exposing to the right straightforward if you are shooting JPEG but more mysterious if you are shooting RAW. Usually for RAW you will have about two-thirds of a stop extra highlight room from what the histogram shows (and shadow room) but that varies for different cameras, exposure situations and probably lenses. Your camera “blinkies” are also based on the JPEG histogram.
If parts of your image really are completely overexposed, those parts will have no detail and there is nothing to recover. Similarly with shadows that really are completely underexposed. But if your image is just generally underexposed (and not out the the left of the histogram), you may still be able to recover a viable image, perhaps with some increase in noise. Modern camera sensors have greater dynamic range (they can record a greater range of tones) so there’s more leeway than there used to be.
I shoot RAW because the dynamic range of a scene is often greater than a JPEG can capture. I often bracket when shooting landscape because the dynamic range is often greater than a RAW file can capture. I also shoot RAW because I am interested in the best image quality I can get. A JPEG is what the camera sees but I want more than that. For live music I want to express the music, for landscapes I want to create the feel of it or create something entirely new from it. Photography for me is about creating images, not capturing them, and the exposure is only part of that.
There’s usually no point in bracketing when the subjects are moving, such as live music, wildlife, street photography and most portraits. It becomes useful in landscape and architectural photography. Sometimes, even when parts of your image are moving, you may be able to deal with that later and may want to bracket for the parts that are still.
There are three reasons for bracketing:
- Focus bracketing (For a greater depth of field than a single exposure)
- To accurately expose to the right
- Exposure bracketing (For a larger tonal range than a single exposure)
Focus bracketing is relevant in specific circumstances and I will briefly touch on this later.
Bracketing for accurate exposure to the right is a logical way to find the optimal exposure for a single exposure, bracketing upwards by say third stop intervals. I must admit it’s not something I’ve ever bothered to do.
Exposure bracketing is the most common reason. You bracket because the range of tones in a scene may be greater than the dynamic range of a camera. It’s often a good idea to bracket all your shots and work out afterwards which exposure or exposures to use. You may then end up with a more accurate exposure or you combine the exposures later in an HDR application or manually in Photoshop.
If you’re using a mirrorless camera, it’s easy to determine how many exposures you need because you can look at histogram and blinkies and manually change exposure to see the effect before you take the photos.
Further reading: When in Doubt, Bracket by Iliah Borg. Also: QAD HDR: Expose to the Left and Right by Thom Hogan
In order to determine which images you want to process, it is obviously important to determine which ones are correctly exposed.
We have already seen that your camera shows you a JPEG histogram (in the sRGB colour space), which is much smaller than the tonal range that your sensor can capture in a RAW file. Similarly, your monitor is sRGB or aRGB and printer somewhere around there so neither your monitor nor your print can show you the full range of a RAW file. So even though Lightroom uses ProfotoRGB as its working space, which is probably similar to your camera’s sensor, it cannot use that to display the image and therefore does not use it for the histogram. This also applies to any other RAW processor except for FastRawViewer.
Many people are using Photo Mechanic or ACDSee for image review as they have both been around a long time (since 1994 for ACDSee and since 1998 for Photo Mechanic; FastRawViewer came out in 2014). However, they don’t show you a RAW histogram and they are also much more expensive. They do have additional functionality but Lightroom has that functionality as well. FastRawViewer is the only way you can see an accurate picture of the exposure of your RAW file. It is also cheap, at $A32.
So I use it to help determine which images I may wish to process and I will show you how in due course.
Lightroom is a RAW processor that mainly makes overall changes to your files and includes image management and bulk processing capabilities. Photoshop is a pixel-level image editor that allows complex regional changes and generally processes one image at a time. If you’re getting into image editing, it’s usually better to start in Lightroom, which is much more accessible.
I should add that when I say Lightroom I mean Lightroom Classic CC 2019. If you’re using Lightroom 6, use of FastRawViewer will still apply but I’d stay away from the [Auto] button, and most of the more advanced features of Lightroom I touch on will not be available.
If you’re using Lightroom CC, it’s currently a cut-down version of Lightroom Classic CC and I don’t know how much will apply. Perhaps in time, all functionality will be there.
If you’re using Bridge CC and Photoshop CC, most of this article will still apply but Camera Raw will not allow you to bulk process with the [Auto] button the way you can in Lightroom.
Lightroom and Photoshop are the industry standards and most people use one or the other or both. There are alternatives though. ON1 Photo Raw, Skylum Luminar and Capture One Pro are the main alternatives to Lightroom. Affinity Photo and Photoshop Elements are alternatives to Photoshop.
Capture One has been around longer than Lightroom (2002 vs 2007). Martin Evening does an interesting comparison of the two and finds that some people’s claims of better sharpness for Capture One are simply different initial settings that can be easily changed, they both have advantages over the other and they are more similar than most people think.
ON1 Photo Pro and Luminar are more recent competitors and many of their controls copy those of Lightroom. If you are using one of those then read on by all means though I suspect much of what I have to say on Lightroom for the [Auto] button and some recent changes may not apply.
I’ve been using Lightroom since Beta 1 and Photoshop since I think Version 5 and feel no need to switch. I think the Lightroom/ Photoshop subscription is good value and while I can understand that people with erratic incomes may prefer standalone applications, if you purchase all the upgrades, the cost may end up about the same. If you’re using one of the programs just mentioned, there’s probably no need to switch but if you’re using a free editor you will likely benefit from considering alternatives. This article refers to people processing RAW files on their computers and will probably not apply to most people using their phones (I don’t use a mobile phone myself).
Why Auto Tone?
The Auto Tone (or just Auto) button in Lightroom is on the Basic panel of Develop. It used to be a waste of time but a recent update has introduced artificial intelligence based on a database of photographers’ processing. So the effect is customised for each image.
There are two advantages of this. One is that it allows to compare images without having to manually adjust many of them. In particular, images can look quite different at different levels of exposure and if you compare differently exposed images, you may select the wrong one. So if you are not using the [Auto] button, in order to determine which you want to prioritise, you will likely need to adjust images for at least exposure using the Quick Develop controls in the Library module.
The other is that it speeds up your subsequent workflow. The closer you start to your final intention, the easier the processing task. So I find it useful but I stress, only as a better starting point.
Part 2 Process
Importing to Lightroom
Lightroom Import module
I import my files into Lightroom, assess them in RawFileViewer, then update the files in Lightroom. Others may prefer to copy the files to disk, assess them in FastRawViewer, then add them to Lightroom. Nothing wrong with that, but there are a couple of reasons I prefer to do it this way. First, I don’t delete any files that I identify using FastRawViewer, I mark them for deletion, so I’m still going to import them into Lightroom anyway. This is because that my “good” copy of an image may later prove to have something wrong with it and I may want to look at alternatives I earlier discarded. Also, I’m comfortable with the semi-automated interface of the Lightroom Import module and feel I’m less likely to make a mistake than doing it manually.
Top right of Import Dialogue
There are a few options I select when importing images.
I select Build Previews: 1:1. This creates a full-sized JPEG that Lightroom can use when you zoom into an image in the Library module, thus speeding up the process. There are a couple of other options. Standard previews are full-screen previews but not large enough to be used when you zoom in to 100%, for example to check sharpness. Embedded & Sidecar Previews are from your camera, so Lightroom doesn’t need to generate them. They are usually roughly equivalent to standard previews, except for Fuji and Olympus and maybe other mirrorless cameras, where they are smaller and not useful. They speed up import but Lightroom regenerates them to standard previews when it gets a chance, so they may slow down editing. None of these “normal” previews have any effect in Develop.
I also generate smart previews. They are very small RAW files that still retain detail and speed up operations in Develop, including zooming in to 100%. They have no effect in the Library Module. Both kinds of previews slow down the import process but speed up subsequent editing.
[Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates] is an obvious option to check. When I am travelling I will also check [Make a Second Copy To …] to create a backup to an external disk.
I have also selected a custom import preset that I previously created (The selection for Develop Settings). I have several of these, mainly depending on what camera I am using.
You may also choose to add keywords at this stage that are common to this batch of files.
Creating an import preset
Presets Pane and New Develop Preset dialogue box.
I use import presets to speed up my process, to make by default the changes I want to make to all images. Otherwise, I might end up making the changes image by image or forget to make them.
To create an import preset, you start with an unedited image in the Develop module, make the changes you want to be your default. Then you click the [+] in the left pane to the right of Presets. This produces the dialogue as shown, so you can specify what you want to save and click [Create].
One of the things I include is a default sharpening setting, such as the presets Adobe provides (shown above). They don’t work so well for Fuji files though, which require a different kind of sharpening, so in this context, different presets.
I used to have a set of default values for the sliders at the top right of Develop (Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks) but I don’t any more since I’m using the [Auto] button. These came from Michael Clark’s A Professional Photographer’s Workflow.
I also make some choices for Lens Correction. I check [Remove Chromatic Aberration] because why wouldn’t you?. Conversely, you should probably leave [Enable Profile Corrections] unchecked unless you know your camera does not write profile corrections to RAW files for any of your lenses. In the screen capture above, you can see the note at the bottom Built-in lens profile applied. In other words, the camera has already written a profile into the RAW file. In the case of fisheye lenses, where you might want the image uncorrected, corrected or to use a different method of correction, but you can always change the checkbox later.
Assessing Images in FastRawViewer
I now open FastRawViewer to assess images.
FastRawViewer screen, As with all images, you can click to see it larger, though for the screen fragments, there’s no point. They stay small.
Top right of FastRawViewer screen above, some of the key information.
FastRawViewer shows an actual RAW file histogram. The image above is a middle image in an exposure stack. The range of tones is too great for a single exposure so parts of the image are overexposed (with no highlight detail) and other parts underexposed (with no shadow detail). As well as the histogram, we can see as a percentage, how much of the red and blue channels are underexposed and how much of the green channel is overexposed.
Not all images should be discarded just because they have overexposed or underexposed regions. Live music, night shots and shots including the sun may have overexposed elements and some specular highlights may be fine as they are. Similarly, although it is usually desirable to have detail in the shadows, in some cases and in some places it may not matter. FastRawViewer gives you an accurate picture of highlights and shadows. Other applications could show an image as having both blown highlights and black shadows whereas neither may be true.
You will notice at the bottom of the above overall screen that I have assigned colour labels to images. Red ones are marked for deletion. By default, if you use the recommended FastRawViewer shortcut key for deletion, it moves the file to a subdirectory (and doesn’t assign a red flag). I don’t see the point of that because moving a file is slower than changing metadata so I use red as marked for deletion. I also use green as the first image in a stack (whether bracketed for exposure, focus, panorama or a combination), yellow as subsequent images in a stack and blue for information signs (in this kind of travelling anyway). I may also assign one star to an image identified for processing.
I mainly use FastRawViewer for assessing exposure and to a lesser extent for assessing sharpness. It can show edge highlights which I find of limited use although you can zoom in and out of 100% view very quickly. I generally prefer to assess sharpness on images with default sharpening in Lightroom. FastRawView also has other capabilities that I usually do not use.
FastRawViewer comes with a useful manual and pressing [F1] shows you a list of shortcut keys. Ones I use include [O] to show overexposed regions, [U] to show underexposed regions, [P] to show edge sharpness highlights, [Ctrl] to zoom to 100% on an image where you last clicked and [Ctrl] to zoom out.
You can also define your own keyboard shortcuts with File/ Customise/ Keyboard Shortcuts. Consistent with Lightroom, I have defined 1 for one star, 6 for red label, 7 for yellow label, 8 for green label and 9 for blue label.
Once again, there are two main advantages of FastRawViewer for pruning and selecting images: it gives you a uniquely accurate view of a RAW file and it is faster than Lightroom.
Updating Images in Lightroom
Lightroom stores the changes you make in the catalogue and it can also store them as sidecar files. Most people use only the catalogue because saving changes to sidecar files slows things down. FastRawViewer, though, stores changes in sidecar files and does not update the Lightroom Catalogue, which means you have to update Lightroom for those changes.
(This applies only if the files are already in Lightroom. If you copy them to your hard drive, assign flags in FastRawViewer and next add them to Lightroom, then Lightroom will pick up those metadata changes when you add the files).
Updating metadata in Lightroom
To update the files in Lightroom, I then select them all in grid mode in the Library module and right-click to Metadata/ Read Metadata from Files. (Alternatively, there is the menu command Metadata/ Read Metadata from Files.)
Next, I select all the images with a red flag and press “x” to mark them for deletion.
That works fine with Lightroom. It probably works with ON1 Photo RAW and Luminar, since they copy many of Lightroom’s features. They should either read directly from the sidecar file or if they use a catalogue, there should be a way to update the catalogue.
Some people use Photoshop and Bridge. By default, star ratings came through alright from FastRawViewer to Bridge but the colour flags all came through as white. This is because FastRawViewer is using Lightroom’s labels for colour flags.
Dialogue box defining labels for colour flags in Bridge.
If you want colour labels to come through from FastRawViewer to Bridge, you can select Edit/ Preferences/ Labels and change Bridge’s default colour labels from Select/ Second/ Approved/ Review/ To Do to Red/ Yellow/ Green/ Blue/ Purple. (If you don’t want to do that, Bridge shows the Red/ Yellow/ Green/ Blue/ Purple text values in the Labels panel at the left. You can select images with text values and use Bridge shortcut keys to assign the correct colour flags).
Marking files for deletion in Bridge is called rejecting them. You can select files with red flags and reject them by pressing [Alt][Del]. Then you hide them by unchecking View/ Show Reject Files.
I would think everything I refer to below for Lightroom will also apply to Camera Raw except that you can only process one image at a time.
In our Lightroom workflow we now apply Auto Tone. With all images still selected in Grid Mode of the Library Module, I select the Attributes Unflagged Photos Only and at the far right click the “Unlabelled” colour. This hides images marked for deletion and also the images with colour labels. I do not need to apply Auto Tone to bracketed images and I only need to be able to read the images of signs.
Next I go to the Develop tab. At the bottom of the right pane you will see buttons [Sync…] and [Reset]. To the left of [Sync] is the Autosync switch.
Click it up and the [Sync…] button changes to [AutoSync].
Now click the [Auto] or Autotone button in the basic panel. Each selected image is individually adjusted.
After Auto Tone
To be specific, AutoTone adjusts most of the sliders in the basic panel including Tone sliders of Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows & Whites, and Presence sliders of Vibrance and Saturation. It does not adjust the White Balance sliders of Temp and Tint and it does not adjust the sliders of Clarity and Dehaze.
Important! Immediately reset the Autosync switch back to show [Synch..] rather than [AutoSync]. If you do not do this, each time you edit an image in Develop when you have multiple images selected in Grid, you will be changing them as well. By the time you discover this, there might be quite a problem to untangle.
I stress again, this is not the end to editing. It just gets you to a better starting point. It does speed up your task but the most important advantage is that it gives you a much better basis for comparing images to assess which to proceed further with.
If you have a Bridge/ Photoshop workflow, you can also apply Auto Tone in Camera Raw, but only to one image at a time.
Further Processing in Lightroom
As I said earlier, I’m not intending to get into detail about how to process in Lightroom and Photoshop because that would require a book or video series and there are lots of excellent ones around, for example: Julianne Kost on Lightroom and on Photoshop. However, I will make a few brief comments and also refer to a few capabilities some may not be aware of.
- After AutoTone, I will usually make some adjustments to the Tone Curve and Basic Sliders.
- I may increase clarity a little,
- I may increase Dehaze a little if required and I may adjust Colour Balance.
- I will straighten the image if it needs it.
- I will crop as required.
- I tend to use standard aspect ratios plus a few I’ve defined rather than a custom crop because I feel it helps you see alternatives, I can use standard mattes for prints, and I feel images often look better in precisely a standard aspect ratio (especially square).
I usually leave sharpening at standard and seldom feel the need for noise reduction, even live music shots at high ISOs. (Excessive noise is usually due to underexposure.) I prepare my images with printing to A3+ in mind, for printing a lot larger I might need to be more rigorous in sharpening and noise reduction.
The graduated filter, radial filter and adjustment brush at the top of the Basic panel are all useful for regional modifications. The screen capture shows the radial filter selected (the white circle at the top) with both the brush and the range mask enabled (controls at the bottom, below the main box of sliders).
In the image display, you can use the [O] key to show or hide what is selected. You can decrease or add to that by painting with the brush, and you can restrict the changes to specific colours or tones with the Range Mask. Also, that little down arrow at top right under the word Brush brings up a slider where you can increase or decrease the whole effect.
Those four little squares at top right of the basic panel bring up the Profile Browser. I don’t tend to use Presets (on the left hand side of the Develop Tab), except for specific purposes such as sharpening, because they are saved settings that will overwrite other changes you have made and because I prefer to decide for myself how I want an image to appear. However, I do use profiles for some images. They make an underlying change that doesn’t change any sliders you have already specified. Camera profiles, such as you have in your camera, can be useful, especially perhaps in the case of Fuji cameras. There are also artistic profiles, either as supplied by Adobe or purchased from third parties that I sometimes find useful. They have an aggregate slider so you can calibrate the effect. For me it’s not a case of going for the whole thing and getting a cliché, it’s identifying where an image may be a little deficient and using one to subtly adjust the image. I use camera profiles moderately often and artistic profiles occasionally.
There’s an issue that’s specific to Fuji cameras with an X-Trans sensor. I’ve already mentioned that artifacts (“worms”) are likely caused by inappropriate sharpening. Some people also claim the Lightroom does not demosaic these files well, particularly for landscape files, so they are lacking in fine detail and foliage can be smeared. Some people claim that Iridient Developer (Mac only) or Iridient X-Transformer or Capture One can give better results and some claim they see no practical difference. I was in the latter camp. I had tried an early version of Iridient X-Transformer and could see no difference. I just tried again and now I can find a difference. If you’re going this way, the advantage is you don’t have to convert all your files and then process them. X-Transformer comes with a Lightroom plug-in so you can select a select a finalised RAF (Fuji RAW file) and process it with minimal settings just for the demosaicing. This gives you a DNG file beside the NEF file in Lightroom. You select both and [Sync Settings…] from the NEF to the DNG so all your processing changes apply to both files, then you need to apply different sharpening. This video shows the process and Thomas Fitzgerald has a small e-book that shows you how to set minimal processing in X-Transformer and comes with some relevant sharpening presets. You can get X-Transformer as an indefinite trial that leaves watermarks. I then wondered whether I could get the same effect inside Lightroom using a landscape image. After some tests on parts of the image, I drew a gradient outside the image (so that it selects the whole image) and made small changes (+10) to clarity and sharpness. This gave a similar effect to X-Transformer for the image I was testing. For me the jury is still out on this one and my Fuji workflow may (or perhaps may not) be evolving in this respect.
I also print from Lightroom. Printing for me is the purpose of photography and a print has a quality and permanence that a digital image cannot attain. You can get better quality if you do it yourself and in any case, if you get someone else to do your printing it isn’t entirely your own work. Lightroom offers a powerful interface that allows you to save much of the complexity of the printing task in presets. Here are some articles on printing from this Blog:
Launching to Photoshop
For many people, Lightroom may be all they need but Photoshop offers a depth of possibility for regional and pixel-level processing that Lightroom cannot. For some people, Lightroom offers quick processing while others may even spend days on a single image in Photoshop, finessing detail in processing with multiple layers.
Apart from when I use Photoshop for HDR, focus stacking or panoramas, one of my main uses of Photoshop is removing or modifying elements of a photograph in ways that are not available in Lightroom. One of these is content-aware fill and a more powerful new version of this has just been released. With a few images I may get into complex processing with layers and perhaps luminosity masks.
Many profound regional changes are possible are possible through layers in Photoshop. However, it is also a good thing to understand Lightroom or Camera Raw well enough to understand whether they may offer a quick and simpler alternative that may work as well for a specific task and image.
As an illustration of an approach focusing on Photoshop, here is an article from this Blog showing a Photoshop Workflow by Helen McFadden.
As an aside, for people using Photoshop: Have you ever been working with the brush tool and suddenly it turns to a cursor and you can’t use it? I’ve had that happen to me quite a few times over the years and I’ve only just discovered what causes it. It’s accidentally hitting the [Caps Lock] key. That’s some ancient shortcut for an obscure design process. So it just takes hitting the [Caps Lock] again to get the cursor back.
Processing in other applications
Monochrome conversion in easy in Lightroom and Photoshop, and there are many obscure and complex ways to do it in Photoshop, but I use Nik Silver Efex Pro, both easy to use and versatile. I usually create virtual copies of a set of images in Lightroom, do a quick b&w conversion, and decide from them which to process in Silver Efex Pro. (DxO Labs, which owns the Nik Collection, has declared bankruptcy but continues to trade and a new version of the Collection is due next year).
You can process for HDR (exposure stacking) and panoramas in Lightroom and Photoshop. You can also process for focus stacking in Photoshop. It’s a good idea to explore these if you subscribe before investigating third party alternatives. I also use an obscure Polish program called SNS-HDR and may do manual blending in Photoshop or luminosity masking in Photoshop. I also have Photomatix but I haven’t used it for some years because it used to favour a grungy look I had little sympathy for. The new version looks better so I may reassess that. The other alternative is Aurora. I downloaded a trial to check it out but couldn’t get it to work. Too many options. You don’t need them all.
Apart from using Photoshop to process focus stacking, the main options are Zerene Stacker and Helicon Focus. I tend to favour Zerene Stacker because it has better correcting options. However, sometimes extensive manual adjustment in Photoshop is required and sometimes focus stacking just doesn’t work. Consider a flower in front of a mountain. You can have an image with the flower in focus and an image with the mountain in focus but in the image with mountain in focus, the out-of-focus flower will be larger than the in-focus flower in the other image. Consequently, you’ll get an out-of-focus area around the flower in the combined image that is not easy to correct.
There are many panorama software options apart from Lightroom and Photoshop including some free ones. I use Kolor Autopano Giga which is more powerful than Lightroom and Photoshop but has recently gone bankrupt, is no longer available for purchase and will no longer be updated.
Aperture used to be the main alternative to Lightroom, but Apple abandoned it. The camera market is declining due to smart phones and the same pressures will apply to photographic software. As with Nik and Autopano, some of the smaller players are likely to fall by the wayside.
Backing up is an essential part of every photographer’s workflow.
My data drive is a RAID 10 array which provides extra security but not backup because the whole RAID array can fail. I use Acronis to backup to a Drobo and also have a set of backups on disconnected disks. I use CrashPlan for Small Business for my third level of backup, to the cloud (BackBlaze or IDrive is probably more suitable for most).
More on backing up for photographers in an article in this blog here.
There’s also an article in this Blog on Computers for Photography.
The wake of a ketch. Some images require subtle processing.
We’ve looked in this article at a workflow for processing RAW files primarily with FastRawViewer and Lightroom: FastRawViewer is the only program that offers an accurate view of a RAW file; Lightroom is powerful and enables bulk processing.
If you’re starting off I recommend the Lightroom/ Photoshop subscription combo. It is likely to be more comprehensive than the alternatives and more training materials are readily available. I can’t say there’s anything wrong with the other choices I’ve mentioned above though.
I suggest starting with Lightroom and only feeling your way into Photoshop when you find a need for its features. You can quickly come to a basic understanding of Lightroom and do a lot with that. Gradually you may come to understand much of what Lightroom can do. Hardly anyone fully understands Photoshop though many people have sophisticated individual approaches.
Effectively processing a single image is most desirable and it’s also important to have an efficient workflow. Digital photography often involves taking lots of image so it is most useful to have an efficient method or assessing and processing those images en masse. That is the main subject of this article.
Just as buying lots of cameras and lenses is not a substitute for developing your individual vision and getting out there and taking photographs, so buying lots of processing applications is not really a substitute for understanding the ones you have.
I’ll repeat what I said in the beginning: The most important thing in Photography is to use your own vision to produce an image the way you visualise it, not what the camera or computer decides for you, or what fashions dictate. Post-processing is a very important part of that.
I’ve tried to write this concisely for everyone at all experience levels.
- Did you learn anything?
- Do you have better alternatives and if so, why are they better?
- Did I get anything wrong?
- Can I learn anything from you?