View Full Version : Processing raw images exercise for January 2012

Roger Clark
01-13-2012, 12:50 AM
We have had an impressive array of raw files submitted, each with interesting issues and worthy of the exercise. I like most of them and would like to see each one in the raw exercise. But we will start with one and if people do not get tired, we may do a couple a month.

Our first in the monthly series comes from P-A. Fortin, and the image was posted in Eager To Learn:
http://www.birdphotographers.net/for...903#post728903 (http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php/90330-Little-Egret?p=728903#post728903)
A straight conversion of the raw file is in post #3 in that thread.

It is a little egret and the challenge as I see it is to bring the darker portions of the bird up in brightness, what to do with the background, and what to do with noise, but you are free to process it in any way you wish, including crops.

So show us your best on what you can do with this image. As with all images, BPN guidelines apply, so you will need to process the image and create a jpeg not more than 1024 pixel wide to show your work. The photographer retains all rights, so this exercise is only for posting on BPN unless you get written permission from the photographer for other uses. All posted examples need an explanation of what you did. The more detail you can give, the better, as it can help others understand better the processing steps. Examples are in the first raw processing thread:
http://www.birdphotographers.net/for...ing-RAW-images (http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php/92460-Processing-RAW-images)

Now this is our first effort at uploading a raw file and we had one bump in the road: the BPN server had software that blocked the size of the file (and we set up a special size for raw files). So the BPN server will need some reconfiguration. Until then I'll host raw files from my server, Hopefully this will be the only bump in the road (so please be patient if there are more bumps while we get things worked out).

The raw file is available here: http://www.clarkvision.com/bpnraw/p....n._MG_3845.CR2 (http://www.clarkvision.com/bpnraw/p.a.fortin._MG_3845.CR2)

Have fun!


Roger Clark
01-13-2012, 10:35 PM
Note, the image in this exercise was taken with a 60D, a relatively modern camera. Older versions of photoshop may not be able to read it, e.g. ACR in CS3 will probably not read it (I just received one PM to that effect).

So I converted to dng. Try downloading this if you can't process the CR2:

The dng is only 17 megabytes versus 21 MBytes for the CR2. The data look the same. I am not sure though if anything was lost. Or maybe dng has a better compression algorithm. I've not done this before (convert to dng and use the file, so someone with experience please check my work).


Dennis Bishop
01-13-2012, 11:11 PM
Roger, I save RAW files as dngs, occasionally, and have never noticed a problem resulting from it, but I haven't really looked for one. So, I loaded both the CR2 and dng files into Photoshop CS5. There's no visually apparent difference when I switch from one window to the other. The histograms don't change, either, in any way I can see. To test further, I applied a levels adjustment layer to both with the black point at 2 and white at 91. That shows the background noise clearly. When I switch from one to the other, there's still no change I can see in the images or histograms.

Looks like both files should work the same.

Dennis Bishop
01-14-2012, 12:19 AM
I decided the best way to approach the tonal range was with an HDR approach. Here are the steps and the settings that seem most important. (I used the CR2 file.)

Change the exposure in Adobe Camera RAW to produce dng files at -1, +1, +2, and +3 EV relative to the file supplied. I also converted the original file to dng.

Photomatix tone detailing with the boxes for both chromatic aberration and noise reduction checked. It's probably worth noting that the settings I normally used for tone detailing on my own HDR images (sometimes produced with exposures changed in ACR) just didn't work for this one. I even started over with the addition of a -2 and -3, but saw no improvement.
Strength 50 (normally 70 to 100)
Lighting Adjustment 10
White Point 0 (normally 0.075)
Micro Smoothing cranked as high as possible (normally 0)

Adobe Camera RAW (I normally use neither recovery nor noise reduction)
Recovery 41
blue saturation -44, blue luminance +38
Detail>Noise Reduction luminance 37, luminance detail 76

Photoshop CS5
dealt with clipped white on head and shoulder by masking to reveal a layer from the dng file at -3 EV
Viveza to reduce the warm coloring on the breast and legs (a little seemed okay, and I decided to keep the blue tones, which had been reduced in ACR)
For composition, used the crop tool to crop from the right, add canvas to the bottom, and add a fair amount of canvas to the left, giving a golden rectangle with the eyes of the egret on a vertical divine proportion line and the shoulder tangent to a horizontal one
Topaz ReMask to mask off the egret to a new layer
Content Aware fill to remove the egret and the white at the top center of the background, then selected the background and transformed it to fill the extended canvas
Nik Color Efex -- Tonal Contrast to enhance the background
Merged the egret and background
Nik Color Efex -- Darken/Lighten Center to highlight egret somewhat and darken the background a bit
Nik Define to reduce background noise
Levels and Curves to egret, only

Dennis Bishop
01-14-2012, 12:31 AM
I pretty much live in the OOTB forum, so I couldn't resist applying some effects to what I'd already done.

Topaz Simplify -- preset based on BuzSim with lower saturation and less simplification (used on background, only)
Alien Skin Snap Art -- watercolor portrait layered in the plugin to give a more nearly realistic effect to the egret than the background
CS5 -- masked back the eye and partially masked back the bill and part of the head
Added a uniform gradient vignette to all edges

Don Railton
01-17-2012, 11:16 PM
Hi Guys

Has something happened in this thread...? There were 3 other posted examples of processing other than Roger and Dennis that seem to have disappeared... Problems I presume..?


Roger Clark
01-18-2012, 12:14 AM
Yes, BPN is having some problems. I hope things aren't lost!
Actually I don't see any of the posted images. Mine is gone from my view too. Don, are you seeing anyone's posted images?

Don Railton
01-18-2012, 01:35 AM
Hi Roger

I can see Dennis's two images but not your or anyone else... Maybe I have found the problem..!:S3:


P-A. Fortin
01-18-2012, 07:38 AM
I also had another thread in "Digital Workflow" that disappeared. However I have not noticed any lost posts/threads in other sections yet.

Roger Clark
01-18-2012, 08:51 AM
BPN started having problems a couple of days ago. People couldn't log in at one point. I don't think it is known exactly what happened yet. Things are being restored from backup.

A little more information at:

Roger Clark
01-20-2012, 10:39 AM
Well, it looks like some of the images and replies in this thread were lost in the crash, so if those who posted have a copy and can repost, please do so. If later we find the original post gets restored, we can always delete duplicates.


Roger Clark
01-20-2012, 10:43 AM
Here is my try:


exposure: +1.15
recovery 97
blacks 0
brightness +50
contrast +25
white balance as shot

In CS5:

I decided to try with minimal tools. Six tools used:
lasso and magic wand tools for selection,
refine edge
USM for final presentation.

select bright areas with magic wand
refine edge: smooth: 12, feather 53.3, contrast 8, shift edge -1

select wing on image left that is in shadow
refine edge: smooth: 12, feather 25, contrast 8, shift edge -1

curves tool to fix color of the wing in shadow (image left):
blue channel: bring upper tie point from 255 to 240
green channel: bring upper tie point from 255 to 250

lasso tool: select inside the image left wing in shadow
refine edge: smooth: 12, feather 54, contrast 8, shift edge -1
curves tool:
brighten RGB: input 124 out=135
green: in=164, out=163
blue: in=161, out=158

lasso tool: select bright parts og head and body.
refine edge: smooth: 12, feather 25, contrast 8, shift edge -1
curves tool, RGB:
in= 255 out= 255
in= 234 out= 217
in= 197 out= 190
in= 163 out= 162
in= 113 out= 113
in= 0 out= o
The above reduces brightness of the bright portions only, and is nicer
transition than shadow/highlight tool.

The top of the head was a little bright and lacked detail.
Select with magic want tool.
refine edge: smooth: 12, feather 126, contrast 8, shift edge -1
Shadow/highlight tool was awful, so use curves:
in= 255 out= 255
in= 230 out= 236
in= 214 out= 217
in= 195 out= 177
in= 166 out= 152
in= 88 out= 88
in= 0 out= o
The curve has maximum slope where the histogram on the curves tool (the selection)

Next get better separation of feet and background:
select large area around the feet.
refine edge: smooth: 12, feather 126, contrast 8, shift edge -1
curves tool to boos brightness of levels around feet:
in= 255 out= 255
in= 191 out= 191
in= 128 out= 139
in= 79 out= 100
in= 50 out= 60
in= 25 out= 26
in= 0 out= 0

Next get better separation of beak and background:
select large area around the head over the wing on right and to the
top of the image with lasso tool.
refine edge: smooth: 12, feather 126, contrast 8, shift edge -1
curves tool:
in= 255 out= 255
in= 191 out= 191
in= 128 out= 131
in= 72 out= 93
in= 44 out= 61
in= 29 out= 38
in= 14 out= 13
in= 0 out= o

Contrast boos with curves:
in= 255 out= 255
ib= 169 out= 172
ib= 93 out= 92
ib= 38 out= 33
in= 0 out= o

Select image left wing to brighten and fix color cast
refine edge: smooth: 12, feather 126, contrast 8, shift edge -1
curves tool
RGB: in=134 out =150
blue: in=156, out=151
green: in=140 out=137

Whole image: brighten mid-tones
curves tool
in= 255 out= 255
in= 190 out= 190
in= 113 out= 125
in= 64 out= 70
in= 26 out = 23
in= 0 out= o

Whole image: brighten upper mid-tones
curves tool
in= 255 out= 255
in= 219 out= 222
in= 171 out= 186
in= 99 out= 104
in= 58 out= 59
in= 0 out= o

There was still some blue cast, so select the entire bird with magic wand tool
refine edge: smooth: 12, feather 13, contrast 8, shift edge -21
saturation -46

Some remaining hot areas on bird. Select those with lasso tool
refine edge: smooth: 12, feather 71, contrast 8, shift edge -1
curves tool:
in= 255 out= 255
in= 168 out= 144
in= 65 out= 65
in= 0 out= o

convert to sRGB, 8-bit
size for BPN
USM: amount= 143, radius= 0.4, threshold= 6
save for web.

The challenges faced: blue cast of wing in shadow, separating the feet and beak from the background. Overall brightness range was an easy fix. The time to document was much longer than time to execute.


Don Railton
01-23-2012, 09:32 AM
Hi Roger

This is a repost to replace what was lost in the problem hours mentioned above. I did not keep records of what I did exactly but luckily I did not do to much so that makes it a bit easier...

So; I opened the file with ACR using the recovery and black sliders & holding down the alt key to set the levels. brightness at 50, contrast at 25. I then duplicated that layer and in this new layer I masked the bird which was the most time consuming of the whole excersise, so I saved this mask. With the bird only selected, I pushed the levels up so that the dark area under the wing got as close as possible to the levels in the base layer. This still left a blueish shadow, so, using selective colour and with 'white' selected I reduced the black in this level all the way and then with 'blue' selected I reduced that also. I still had some blue left but this disappeared completely when I discovered the 'desaturate' tool, which worked a treat. So at this point I had the Untouched base layer and a second layer that was burnt out in a lot of places but had the darker under wing section about right. I then selected 'overlay' for the second image (I think...) and then carefully erased back the second layer at the burnt points to let the underlying base layer detail through. I did this with a very soft brush and about 3% flow... Lots of care needed here not to overdo it...

I was quite happy with the result and did not bother too much with the background as the wing was the thing for me...Bit of NR I think and resize for posting. I do remember i forgot to sharpen after resizing...oops..


01-24-2012, 08:37 PM
Here is my try. I'll edit the post later to put what I did.

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7019/6705467081_bdfbcf479d_o.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/fabiobernardino/6705467081/)
Processing raw images exercise (http://www.flickr.com/photos/fabiobernardino/6705467081/) por Fábio Bernardino (http://www.flickr.com/people/fabiobernardino/), no Flickr

Bill Jobes
01-25-2012, 12:20 AM
This is a fabulously instructive exercise, from both technical skill and artistic perspectives.

I'll reserve naming a 'favorite' thus far, as each presents a valid interpretation of the original raw file.

Since the original capture was under-exposed, I do find myself wondering what the bird 'actually' looked like to a human observer at that moment, in that light, in that place.

How white were the feathers ? What was the actual color of the water ? How pronounced were the shadows across the wings.

I guess it's safe to say I lean toward favoring what my mind's eye would see as a natural rendition of the scene.

Tom Graham
01-25-2012, 03:54 PM
I have no confidence in my color -memory-. Color -matching-, like everyone, I'm much better at. Have you ever gone to a paint store and tried to pick a custom matched color from memory, having no sample with you? Here is fun test for your color memory - http://www.colourlovers.com/blog/2007/11/29/does-your-brain-have-accurate-color-memory/
And agree, very instructive post, thanks everyone.

Elliotte Rusty Harold
01-27-2012, 07:18 AM
Wow. This is one of the most eye-opening things I've read in a long time. IMHO Roger's image is leaps and bounds beyond the other versions I've seen posted in this thread (though a few seem to have been lost so I probably didn't see them all, but still...

Fact is, I fairly routinely produce images I'd rate with the others in this thread, but I rarely come close to producing one like this. Apparently I've been worrying too much about my equipment and shooting technique and too little about my post processing skills. I need to figure out how I can learn to do this. There's really no point to me spending more money on cameras, lenses, or IPTs until I get this down.

P-A. Fortin
01-27-2012, 08:04 AM
How white were the feathers ? What was the actual color of the water ? How pronounced were the shadows across the wings.

My memory is not that reliable, but I would say that the bird was closer to what Roger produced, maybe just a little bit "whiter". The water, from what I recall, was closer to something more neutral, such as the water in Fabio's output.

Of course, there was no blue cast in the wing. The shadow across the wing though, I can't say anything. It all happened so fast that I think I am just lucky to have been able to get "something" out of the camera. The bird came in from nowhere, while I was trying to shoot another bird in strong daylight.

Tom Graham
01-27-2012, 12:43 PM
Very well said Elliotte.
"worrying too much about my equipment"
There should be a law that requires a warning sticker on every new DSLR camera box and lens. Reading something like this - "Warning: a new body or lens will not make your photos better. Only you can do that".

The camera kit are only tools for making photographs. Like water colors is a tool for a painting, like a trombone is a tool for making music. My brother took trombone lessons and practiced for around 5 years before he could make listenable sounds, music. Am I, you/we, willing to study and learn the craft and art of photography for years? Not me, I'm waiting for the new Nikon DSLRs :S3:

Steve Kaluski
01-28-2012, 05:12 AM
convert to sRGB, 8-bit
size for BPN
USM: amount= 143, radius= 0.4, threshold= 6
save for web.

Hi Roger, interesting set of figures, as my Amount is anywhere between 55-85, radius is almost the same, but never apply Threshold. Will be interested to see what happens if I apply the USM figures to any of my images. A good & concise breakdown of what you did, very interesting, thanks.


Michael Gerald-Yamasaki
01-28-2012, 08:49 PM
Greetings. I try to do as much work in the raw conversion as possible (on the assumption that the conversion is a high quality tonal adjustment). I usually use CaptureNX2 for my Nikon files. Here I used Adobe Camera Raw so am unfamiliar with the base settings, but Clarity (at +10) and Vibrance (at -15) seemed to help with the blue as did some adjustment with the temp, exp, recovery, fill, blacks adjustments (essentially parts of a curve applied in the conversion). Unfamiliar use led to 8-bit tiff rather than usual 16-bif for processing.


ACR settings
WB Temp 8000 tint +10
Exposure +1.0
Recovery 20
Fill 65
Blacks 5
Brightness +40
Contrast +38
Clarity +10
Vibrance -15

After conversion I removed the shadow & went for a warm "golden hour" tone...

4 selective Lab mode curves, mask painting (white, black & 2 levels of gray) to more or less remove the shadow on the left wing. Overall warm tone. Noticed the 8-bit somewhere in here and bumped to 16-bit

Noise was fairly pronounced (owing to the exposure +1 in conversion), NR with Topaz Denoise (Medium Raw setting)

Quick cloning of trash in water.

Back to Lab curves for overall tone/contrast fine tuning. One more selective curve for the feet

Sharpened with High Pass at .8 and hard light blend. (looking at it now... could use a tad more sharpening).

Fairly happy with result...

Thanks for looking.



Fernando Diez
02-07-2012, 03:47 PM
I do not usually participate in the forum too by language problems .. If I am an avid reader in general. This section seems very educational, and well here is my contribution.


I reduce noise in general, and second pass only in water. I use topaz denoise
After with curves apply more light on the shadowy wing
Desaturate blues and cyans from bird,
also desaturate the yellow breast of the bird
I saturate yellows in eye.
Contrast smoothly the whole picture with a curve.
I use Nik Color Efex tonal contrast.
Resize and sharpen.
Sorry for my poor english.