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11-28-2011, 12:21 PM   #1
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Beginner question re: digital processing

Hi there. I'm new to DSLR photography and I am looking for a bit of a sanity check on the post processing side of things. I have a K-5 and am shooting in RAW/DNG format, and then using Photoshop Elements 9. I can't decide if I am surprised at how much post processing is required, or if I am pleased with how much control we have of the image after it is out of the camera.

I guess my questions is: Is a fair amount of post processing normal?

For instance, here is a shot I took yesterday, overcast grey day, flat light.
- The first image has just had the default processing/sharpening done and been resized for the forum.
- For the second image I set the white balance to 'cloudy' and bumped up the brightness in the elements RAW editor, then resized for the forum.
- The third image is the same processing as the second, and then some additional post processing in Photoshop (auto enhance), and then resized for the forum.

So is this the 'normal' amount/type of processing required when shooting RAW files with a DSLR?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts... john a

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11-28-2011, 12:45 PM   #2
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If you had spot metered on the subject(s) and set wb to cloudy ahead of time you likely would have got buy with no post aside from a resize would be my guess. the matrix metering was taking into account the large area around your subject and setting that as the 18% grey. You could also have metered off a grey card then shot it would have been much more accurate. Snow and dull grey overcast with bare trees in the background is tricky for a meter. Picking a mode like Bright or vivid will punch things up as well. in general Pentax exposes for pretty neutral colour and is not as punchy as say a canon. I prefer that myself as it looks more natural. (the underexpose here though would have been fixed through different metering technique - the grey card could be used for correct WB as well using the custom WB mode - or conversely point the camera at the ground (snow) and set a custom WB
11-28-2011, 01:04 PM   #3
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Thanks Eddie. After posting my question I have been doing more reading on the forum and getting reinforcement of some of your points. It seems that this is a 'normal' amount of post processing for RAW shots. This is all good and I'm happy with the end result. I think I prefer having the control and doing myself versus shooting JPEG and setting the camera to bright or vivid. Understanding the 'why' of things really helps though.

john a

ps: love the clown college quote!
11-28-2011, 01:12 PM   #4
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BTW if you set to vivid or bright even in raw the settings are there if you import it without lightroom applying it's standard setting it should be the same (I shoor ir b/w frequently in raw =. but use the raw so i can add a little post (like grain)
mostly it's a straight conversion resize if i don't want the grain

as an example shot in b/w ir no PP except resize for web from the raw (imported into lightroom settings left alone. resize and copyright is a saved export action for flickr)




11-28-2011, 02:01 PM   #5
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Try converting your RAW files with CPU4 that came with your K5.
11-29-2011, 03:27 AM   #6
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Photography is all about light, so taking pictures in poor light won't in my view really give you a feel for what needs doing. I have a K7, photos I take in decent light need very little post-processing from a RAW. Ones taken in poor light never look right however hard I try.

For snow shots you need to tell the camera to overexpose as the average brightness of the scene is more than the 18% the camera tries to make it. How much depends on the light (again!) and personally I find using the histogram on the back of the camera useful - with snow we know the histogram should go all the way to the right, though without clipping.
11-29-2011, 12:03 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ron Kruger Quote
Try converting your RAW files with CPU4 that came with your K5.
Thanks Ron, I think that's my homework assignement (or one of them). I did read the book that came with the camera, but I never cracked the software ... just went straight to Photoshop Elements since I already had it.

QuoteOriginally posted by cats_five Quote
For snow shots you need to tell the camera to overexpose as the average brightness of the scene is more than the 18% the camera tries to make it. How much depends on the light (again!) and personally I find using the histogram on the back of the camera useful - with snow we know the histogram should go all the way to the right, though without clipping.
Homework assignment number 2. I keep hearing about the histogram. Gotta find it and figure out how to use it.

Thanks to both of you. The assistance from the community here and the body of knowledge in the forums is really helping!

john a
11-29-2011, 12:58 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by cats_five Quote
Photography is all about light, so taking pictures in poor light won't in my view really give you a feel for what needs doing.
Dead on! When we photograph, we are capturing light, not subjects. A day without light is like night. A photo without light is like nothing. And nothing is hard to work with.

QuoteQuote:
I have a K7, photos I take in decent light need very little post-processing from a RAW. Ones taken in poor light never look right however hard I try.
Well-exposed shots need little PP, except maybe to tweak WB -- none of my digicams has ever done AWB fight. Badly-exposed shots can sometimes be 'saved' and may even look somewhat photographic, although most of my 'saves' are strikingly poster-like, ie non-photographic.

Still, I have a basic rule: Nail the focus. Almost everything else can be fixed in PP.

11-30-2011, 06:12 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
Still, I have a basic rule: Nail the focus. Almost everything else can be fixed in PP.
Gospel. This is exactly what I'm finding out, as a relative newcomer to digital photography. I picked up a copy of Lightroom not long after I bought my first DSLR about a year ago, and I was amazed and delighted by how many crappy low-light shots I was able to salvage with it. But it's hugely frustrating when I'm reviewing pics after a day out and find one that's perfectly composed, but slightly out of whack focus-wise, and you know not even Lightroom can save it. It tends to happen the most when I'm out shooting random people at an event or something. I think I'm so eager to capture those fleeting moments that I'm jumping the gun before I'm sure of the shot. The pain of looking at those pics later has taught me to slow down a little and double-check my focus before I pull the trigger.

But as you say, almost every other exposure issue can be corrected, or at least greatly improved, with PP. I get the impression that some old-schoolers are grumpy over the fact that some newer photographers use PP as a "crutch" to cover poor exposure techniques. But my attitude is - who cares how you arrived at the final image? If you did it all in camera, good for you! If you fixed an under-exposure after the fact, who's gonna know unless you tell them? The image is gonna look the same to most viewers. And besides, composition is what really separates the men from the boys in this game, and that's not something you can fix in post (well, besides cropping).
11-30-2011, 06:32 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by BrianS Quote
Gospel. This is exactly what I'm finding out, as a relative newcomer to digital photography. I picked up a copy of Lightroom not long after I bought my first DSLR about a year ago, and I was amazed and delighted by how many crappy low-light shots I was able to salvage with it. But it's hugely frustrating when I'm reviewing pics after a day out and find one that's perfectly composed, but slightly out of whack focus-wise, and you know not even Lightroom can save it. It tends to happen the most when I'm out shooting random people at an event or something. I think I'm so eager to capture those fleeting moments that I'm jumping the gun before I'm sure of the shot. The pain of looking at those pics later has taught me to slow down a little and double-check my focus before I pull the trigger.

But as you say, almost every other exposure issue can be corrected, or at least greatly improved, with PP. I get the impression that some old-schoolers are grumpy over the fact that some newer photographers use PP as a "crutch" to cover poor exposure techniques. But my attitude is - who cares how you arrived at the final image? If you did it all in camera, good for you! If you fixed an under-exposure after the fact, who's gonna know unless you tell them? The image is gonna look the same to most viewers. And besides, composition is what really separates the men from the boys in this game, and that's not something you can fix in post (well, besides cropping).
I haven't used it myself but i've seen some damn impressive stuff done with Topaz In Focus which is available as a lightroom plugin
Composition may be fixable in post through cropping but in general it's the one thing that even with all the digital trickery in the world you can't fix (well ok maybe you could clone out the sign stinking out of aunt betties head )
11-30-2011, 06:41 AM   #11
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Lots of good comments about post processing, but next time you see that guy, tell him to lose the retractable leash.
11-30-2011, 06:48 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
Lots of good comments about post processing, but next time you see that guy, tell him to lose the retractable leash.
Plus one to that I hate those damn things
11-30-2011, 07:14 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by BrianS Quote
But it's hugely frustrating when I'm reviewing pics after a day out and find one that's perfectly composed, but slightly out of whack focus-wise, and you know not even Lightroom can save it.
So I'll throw in some wisdom: F/8 AND BE THERE. That's the old PJ's rule. We can interpret that as: Set enough DOF for sharpness, a fast-enough shutter to stop motion, and pay attention. This is especially important in less-than-great light. So I love my Kiron 24/2 and Komine 28/2 CF, and I use them wide-open indoors when light is good and I can see to focus well (aided by a split-screen, focus confirmation, and CIF). But in dimmer light with moving people (like grandkids) I'll go to f/4, 1/100 second, and let the ISO float. High-ISO noise can be finessed; blurs can't.
11-30-2011, 07:29 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
<snip>
Still, I have a basic rule: Nail the focus. Almost everything else can be fixed in PP.
Well - you can't magic good light out of bad, but agree, you can't magic good focus out of bad and unless cropping and maybe cloning will fix it, bad composition remains bad composition.

So what I'm saying, I guess, for your attempts at something beyond a record shot (I was there, they were there, this is what happened) you need to be thinking about the light, where you should be focused, and what is in - and isn't in - the frame. Personally most of my attempts at something beyond snapshots involved a tripod and my subject is something that's not going to run away, but the light, focus and composition are more than enough to occupy my mind.

BTW I'm another believer in f8. It's also around there where most lenses perform best.
11-30-2011, 07:31 AM   #15
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f8 and be there is a good maxim for any street shooter. on film 400 speed f8 and 125-250 shutter depending on light
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