Nov 2015 - Digital Group - Profiles & Photoshop Features

Meeting Notes March 2009 to 2018.
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Nov 2015 - Digital Group - Profiles & Photoshop Features

Post by spb » Sat Nov 07, 2015 4:56 pm

I have been increasingly frustrated by my fussy Epson R3000 printer despite it producing stunning prints (when it’s feeling like it). Several members use Canon printers and Nigel Cox has just had a Canon Pixma Pro 1 printer craned onto his property (shipping weight 31Kg). So I thought it would be interesting to collect printer experiences from the membership for sharing in the near future.

Lightroom 6.2 brought a simplified new Import dialogue and a major bug. The outcry from the power-users has been so intense that Adobe have apologised and promised to re-introduce the original interface and “earn back the trust” of their users!

Corel’s Aftershot Pro (currently on offer for £52) is a direct competitor to Adobe’s Lightroom and might offer an alternative to users of older Adobe software who merely want to open newer Raw Files. It runs on Windows and Mac and is apparently faster than LR. It also offers the option to open individual images without the importing and cataloguing overhead of LR. The interface is a single screen unlike LR’s modules but one thing I could not determine was the ongoing cost of keeping the Raw file profiles up to date.

dpReview have a useful group test of Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras under $500.

For those giving presentations and slideshows, I have been trying the Presenter View in Powerpoint 2013 (Windows and Mac) which, upon detecting a dual video output, will split the projector and laptop screen, adding notes and a preview of the next slide on the laptop. Although there is a slight image scaling quirk, this has proved invaluable recently and looks like becoming my software of choice in future.

We have upgraded the club software from Elements 10 to 14, so I thought it would be useful to review what has been added over this period. New releases often include additions to the Quick and Guided Edits features and tweaks to the user interface, but in addition to those;

Elements 11 – Very little added apart from Lens Blur, Comic, Graphic Novel and Pen & Ink filters.
Elements 12 – Content Aware Move tool and Auto-fill is added to the Straighten tool (like all automated gizmos these can sometimes work well, but only on a suitable image).
Elements 13 – The Refine Edge brush is added to the selection tools which is a genuinely useful feature to refine difficult selection edges such as feathers or hair. Also Edit>Fill gains a Content Aware option. Both have been useful to me in CS6 although I prefer Topaz ReMask for difficult selections. Elements 13 also includes 64 bit support for Windows 7 on (which speeds things up), adds support for high resolution screens, but ceases to support Windows XP.
Elements 14 – Rather bizarrely a new Refine Selection Brush tool entirely duplicates the functionality of the Refine Edge Brush but in a different way. Did two teams set out to solve the same problem? The Refine Edge team wins it for me. In the Enhance menu there are new Shake Reduction and Haze Removal tools. The former seems to duplicate the existing Adjust Sharpness feature but the latter seems genuinely useful.

So – clearly, it’s not worth buying every Photoshop Elements upgrade for the new features, but the support for your new camera in Adobe Camera Raw might be the periodic Gotcha. I do fully accept that the Elements’ Quick and Guided Edits are a great way to flatten the steep learning curve and I particularly like the way that steps used to create a Guided Edit are visible as layers in the Expert Mode afterwards. You can then learn how it was done and adjust as required.

Incidentally, the price of Photoshop Elements on Amazon has jumped wildly between £66 and £40 (£34 for Prime members briefly) and if you are not in a hurry to buy something from Amazon you can track the price and set an alert at camelcamelcamel

I would never recommend that a beginner jumps into full-fat Photoshop CC because it doesn’t offer the helping hand that Elements provides. However professionals and long-standing Photoshop users (like me) may prefer the traditional interface of Photoshop and some may be willing to pay the £8pm subscription for Photoshop Creative Cloud and Lightroom (not like me – yet).

So, what has changed in Photoshop CC for photographers since it launched in 2013?
- Grain can be restored to blurred areas
- The Healing Brush renders in real-time
- A selection can be made of in-focus picture areas
- Content-Aware includes colour blending
- The Oil Paint filter has been discontinued
- Camera Raw can be re-introduced as a filter during processing of any type of image file (intriguing).
- Some additional tools in Camera Raw such as Radial Mask.

Our cameras produce two types of output;

- .jpg image files; fully processed in the camera to reflect the camera’s characteristics and user’s settings. These files are compressed for convenience and can be read by every type of image-handling software on the planet. They should require very little further adjustment.

- Raw files; unprocessed output from sensor, usually uncompressed. Capable of being processed only by specialist software these files are capable of improving over the equivalent .jpg but require time and skill to do so. Also packaged inside the raw file are the camera settings and a small processed .jpg (for convenience and reference).

When we preview a raw file in a simple image viewer such as Faststone, we are actually viewing the small encapsulated .jpg because the software is not sophisticated enough to decode the raw file itself. So in this scenario, the raw file appears virtually identical to a processed .jpg.

However, if we open the raw file in a sophisticated raw converter such as Adobe Camera Raw (ACR - as in Photoshop / Elements / Lightroom) it is slightly underwhelming because it has not yet been optimised. That’s where the skill comes in.

To my surprise, when I opened the same raw image from my Sony RX100 III in another Raw Converter Raw Therapee (£0 open source) it looked seriously underwhelming and seriously barrel-distorted. I understood the difference between the look of the .jpg and the unprocessed raw, but why did the same unprocessed raw look so different between ACR and Raw Therapee?

The answer lies with Camera and Lens Profiles. When a new camera or lens is developed, the manufacturer knows it’s characteristics and failings and corrects these in camera and lens profiles that are built-into the camera (for the .jpgs) and into their own software (for the raws). They do not share these with other parties and so Adobe and others have to test the equipment and reverse-engineer the profiles for themselves. When a raw image from that equipment is opened – assuming that the software can identify it from the information encoded within it – the camera and lens profiles are applied and everything looks rosy. However Raw Therapee does not apply profiles by default hence the radically different appearance. It's what the camera actually took!

When I looked at the appropriate folders in my computer there were 3,000 camera profiles and 2,000 lens profiles stored for ACR. These profiles correct or record settings for; colour, tone, sensor design, sharpening, brightness, contrast, lens distortions, lens colour shifts, vignetting, chromatic aberrations etc.

What surprised me was that the profile for my Sony was applied automatically in ACR and could not be removed. In fact, depending upon your Adobe program it might not even tell you that it has been applied. And yet the difference it creates can be dramatic;
Camera JPG.jpg
Camera JPG.jpg (53.03 KiB) Viewed 2900 times
Adobe Camera Raw Unadjusted.jpg
Adobe Camera Raw Unadjusted.jpg (55.14 KiB) Viewed 2900 times
RawTherapee Unadjusted.jpg
RawTherapee Unadjusted.jpg (70.8 KiB) Viewed 2900 times
When using a camera with interchangeable lenses, tabs in ACR for Photoshop and LR (but not Elements) allow you to choose alternative lens profiles and tweak the settings. All Adobe programs allow you to choose the Camera Profile. This defaults to ‘Adobe Standard’ which attempts a fixed Adobe ‘look’ across all cameras. The other Camera Profile settings equate to the ‘creative style’ that can be set in the camera for .jpgs such as Vivid or Neutral. They too, have been reverse-engineered from sample camera images. If you find that your raw images always looks, for example, too desaturated, you might consider re-setting the default Camera Profile from Adobe Standard to one of the other settings in this list.

For most of us, the default profiles and settings for raw images are adequate and it’s only of academic interest that cameras, lenses and profiles work together to produce images of stunning quality that the hardware alone could never achieve.

Fortuitously, the dimensions and optical characteristics of modern digital mirrorless camera bodies are particularly suited to mounting legacy or vintage lenses. To achieve this, a whole industry has grown up to manufacture mount adapters. If you have a favourite old lens from the film era (even an enlarger or cine lens), this may be of interest to you.

The camera and lens profiles discussed above can be utilised to ‘fix’ the resulting images. If a profile is not available for an obscure lens, software tools are available to generate one.

Before you start rummaging in the back of the cupboard for those old lenses, be aware of some limitations;
- Depending upon the sophistication of the lens & adapter, the lens may require manual focussing and exposure setting
- Depending upon the size of the camera sensor, there may be a crop factor and an increase in focal length
- Wide angle lenses are not generally suitable
- The ergonomics of a light body and a heavy lens may be an issue.

Nevertheless it could be fun to once again take pictures with a favourite old lens. This movement has acquired cult status and there are many enthusiasts on the web.

Cheers, Steve

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