Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Well they don't edit themselves!

Press the shutter button and hear that electronic shutter respond to whatever speed you dialed in for it. Maybe switch to continuous mode so that you don't miss that all important moment. How about some bracketed exposures to cut down on your post production time. Or as it's also known - editing. And if you've been partaking in any of the practices above, you'll know how quickly the number of exposures demanding your attention soon build up. Especially so with digital.

And there, I've said the "E" word. Of course there are some people who will insist that you're not a proper photographer if you have to do any editing apart from choosing which shots to keep and which to discard. Me? Well I mostly shoot RAW so my computer is also my darkroom. And while I'm "processing" my images, I'm not adverse to making adjustments to them if I think it will enhance the final result. Those of you who practice this dark art will know that 1 hour of editing often becomes 2, 2 becomes 4, 4 becomes 8, and so on! And if you've spent all day shooting a wedding - well let's not go there right now.

As I talk about editing here, I'm not including retouching or image manipulation which to me are a separate stage.  For me editing is primarily colour adjustments, levels adjustments, colour conversions, and sharpening. I also include keywording at this stage in my workflow.

There's a plethora of software out there that you can edit with. Some solutions are quite expensive but a few are completely free! (Have a look at GIMP). I use 3 main solutions and the choice of which one to use depends on what type of shoot I'm editing, camera and lens, quantity of frames, and the designated end uses for the images. The three solutions I've chosen are;

Any one of these packages is fine as your only package but bear in mind that Capture NX2 only supports Nikon RAW file formats (NEF). A very large body of photographers also favour Lightroom. I'm not going to recommend any software over the other. If you find something that you like and it works for you, then that's probably the solution you should choose. I try not to follow trends just for the sake of it but rather to find solutions that have the tools that I need and suit the way I work. I'm an "end result" type of person when it comes top photography. I much prefer the image to speak to me than have someone explaining how many layers they had to create etc., etc., to get the end result.

Adobe Camera Raw works seamlessly with Adobe Photoshop and I use it mostly when I've decided I'm only going to edit a small shoot or a few individual images. It's also my tool of choice for mono conversions.

If I've been using a Nikon and working in really tricky situations, I choose Capture NX2. When you open a RAW.nef file in NX2, you are presented with a set of the exposure and adjustment functions of your Nikon camera. So you can continue to tweak the file using camera settings as if you still hadn't pressed the shutter yet. But here you can see the end result in real time based on the file you are working on. Just as with any processing software, bear in mind that if you have completely over or under exposed the shot, dump that frame and move on! Although they can get you out of some tight situations, none of these solutions have a magic ingredient so you do need to be trying to get your shot properly captured in camera. Capture NX2 also lets you work on an image, copy the adjustments you made with one click, and then apply them to another image with one click.

By the way Capture NX2 has a very cool and powerful set of tools for handling colour adjustments. Even if you're not a Nikon user you should follow the link and watch the demo video. It turns operations like adjusting the colour of the sky behind trees, hair, or other complex shapes into something that just takes seconds!

Capture One Pro is sold by Phase One and is my workhorse for large shoots and anything that requires lots of technical control. It's a very powerful tool who's algorithms allow the output of beautifully rendered files with excellent noise control and colour management. It too has the facility to copy and paste adjustments. It goes even further and lets you copy and paste adjustments to thumbnails in the programs own browser windows. You can also rotate images at thumbnail level. It also has a very powerful background engine for outputting processed files, so you never have to wait to move on the the next image if you are not batch processing.

So that's where I've been. Getting up to date with my editing.