Lightroom

Fuji RAW File Processing Improvements

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Waterfall near Thirlmere i the Lake District. Fuji XT2.
Waterfall near Thirlmere i the Lake District. Fuji XT2.

Many of you will be aware of my frustration over the poor results when processing Fuji RAW files with Lightroom. This apparently is a well-known problem amongst Fuji users who want to shoot RAW (although it wasn’t well known to me when I purchased my XT1). The problem seems to have spawned many different solutions among users, from trying to work with Lightroom using “quite extreme” settings to adopting other RAW converters. I personally have pursued and experimented with this last option myself, but it’s not ideal. Lightroom is a great tool and provides an excellent workflow.

Then, a few weeks back I reported here that following experimentation, I was now able to achieve improved sharpening results when using Lightroom. This involved minimising the use of the Detail and Threshold slider, then applying a subsequent Structure adjustment in Viveza. What I couldn’t rationalise though is why I was now experiencing such an improvement by holding back on the Detail slider when previously it had often been necessary to push this to 100%.

Then the penny has dropped.

I had been contacted by a couple of Fuji users who asked if I was aware of any improvements to Fuji sharpening in the latest release of Lightroom and Photoshop. Whilst I hadn’t seen anything, it made me realise that I had upgraded to the latest Adobe CC release, just before experiencing the improvement.

I have since processed a lot of XT2 RAW files and all are responding very well to a traditional sharpening and processing approach in Lightroom. In a recent comparison with my Sony A7r (with which I use with Canon L Series lenses), the resulting images are similar except the Sony has slightly larger dimensions and is slightly sharper at full magnification. Both images produce an excellent print where you can’t see any difference.

Here is an example comparison at 100% magnification. The image on the left was captured using the Sony A7r whilst the image on the right is the Fuji XT2.

Sony A7r compared to Fuji XT2
Sony A7r compared to Fuji XT2

I wondered if this was just an effect when sharpening the XT2 RAW files, so I returned to my XT1 files and tested some of these. The results are also much improved. Comparing the results from Lightroom to the same file processed using the Iridient RAW converter, the gap has narrowed. The Lightroom results now appear much closer to those from Iridient when applying just Capture Sharpening. The Lightroom results can then be improved by applying Selective Sharpening in Lightroom as well as Structure adjustment with the Nik Tools.

Due to the workflow in Lightroom and my use of other cameras (Olympus EM5 and Sony RX10 & A7r) I suspect I will be using Lightroom for most of my Fuji RAW conversion. I may have occasion to venture into Iridient or RAW Therapee but where I need to work fast I think Lightroom is now up to the task.

I’m interested to hear if others have any similar experiences to share.

New Book & Course Launch

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The Photographers Guide to Image Sharpening in Lightroom

It’s been a very busy weekend with the launch of my latest book “The Photographers Guide to Image Sharpening in Lightroom”. Although this is now my seventeenth book, each one brings a new set of challenges.

With this book, I wanted to include free access to a companion Video course I developed. I love books but I see video fast becoming an essential element of the learning process; this is why I recently established Lenscraft Training.

At present, there are only two courses available (but many more planned):

  • “Secrets of the Darkroom Masters” available free to anyone who registers.
  • “Sharpening Photos with Adobe Lightroom” available for US $20, but Lenscraft Members can currently use a 75% discount code.

You can find the book on Amazon for US $5.99/£4.99 or similar in other countries (allowing for variations in tax and exchange rates). I will continue to operate my Magazine Pricing Policy where I price my books on a par with popular photography magazines.

The books aimed at people who already know how to use the basics of the Lightroom Develop module but who want to achieve the highest quality results when Sharpening and applying Noise Reduction. It presents the three-stage sharpening methodology on which Lightroom is based, as well explaining how to use the various tools. There is plenty of advice on how to achieve the best results, together with full length worked examples you can follow. Supporting RAW files and sharpened example images are provided on my Lenscraft site. Inside the book, you will find a 100% discount code for the sharpening video course mentioned above.

If you’re interested in the book, here are the links to the UK and US amazon stores. For other Amazon sites, please search for “The Photographers Guide to Image Sharpening in Lightroom”.

View on UK Amazon

View on US Amazon

If you would like to visit the new training site here is the link

http://training.lenscraft.co.uk/

If you don’t have a Kindle device, you can download a free Kindle Reader from Amazon using the link below. The reader is available for different popular platforms including Mac, Windows and Android computers, tablets and phones.

Link to Kindle Reader

Note on Sharpening XTrans RAW Files

I have been asked if the new book examines the “special” treatment needed when sharpening Fuji XTrans RAW files. The short answer is no. My intention is to share some of my recent findings and recommendations via my You Tube Channel. I just need to clarify some points before publishing these.

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Why I use Nik from Photoshop

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Views at Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA
Views at Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA. Four images shot with a Canon 400D, merged in Lightroom and edited in Photoshop using Nik Viveza and Color Efex.

Recently I posted a video on You Tube explaining why I like to use the Nik Plugin’s from Photoshop rather than Lightroom. This came about because in all my Nik videos I start with a RAW file in Lightroom This is then converted to an image that I edit in Photoshop. A couple of people asked why and so I recorded the video for You Tube.

The video has been very well received but given it’s only had a few hundred views. To ensure everyone has access to the information I decided to also post this blog. Whilst I am referring to the Nik Collection in the video, the same argument applies to most filters.

The problem I have when using a plug-in for Lightroom is that you can end up creating lots of new files. This can be hard to manage and quickly becomes messy. If you are working on a RAW file you have no option but to convert the RAW file to an image before editing it with (what Lightroom calls) an external editor. This creates a new file, duplicating the original RAW file with adjustments.

After you have edited your image, you may need to apply a second filter to the image. When this happens, you have the option to work on either another copy of the image file or apply the adjustments to the image you created previously. The first option creates yet more image files. The second provides no “back-out” in case you make a mistake; you would need to start again from the RAW file.

Photoshop is better option as each adjustment filter can be applied as a new layer. The Nik Collection even has a setting you can use to automatically.

Once you are working with layers in Photoshop, other options are available to you:

  1. You can reduce the opacity of the layer if you find the effect you applied is too strong.
  2. You can use layer masks to hide or reveal areas of adjustment in the image. For example, you might like the sky in the adjusted image but not the rest. You could use a layer mask to hide the adjustment but then paint back the adjusted sky. You can even create quite complex masks using luminosity and channel mask techniques.
  3. Perhaps the biggest advantage is that you can convert layers in Photoshop to Smart Objects. When you apply a Nik filter to a Smart Object, all the settings you apply in Nik are saved, including control points. This means when you save your finished image as a PSD file, you can open and adjust the settings in your Nik filter, even moving control points.

If some of this doesn’t make sense, watch the video below. If you want to know more about the Nik workflow, look at my book “Nik Efex from Start to Finish”.

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Roll Your Own Camera Profiles

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Have you ever wanted to tweak the camera profiles in Lightroom? Or perhaps you have wondered how Camera Profiles are created? Perhaps you don’t like the profiles that ship with your camera and want to create something better.

This short video introduces you to a great free tool from Adobe that allows you to generate new, bespoke camera profiles and install these to Lightroom. I demonstrate the process using RAW files from a Fuji X-T2 but you can apply this to any camera which shoots RAW. Just watch the video, download the software and in 5 minutes you will have created your own profile.

If I had to take a guess, I suspect 98% of you reading this will never have seen this technique before. Don’t miss out.

[This post includes an embedded video. If you are reading this as an email you will need to visit my blog]

If you have a You Tube account and want to subscribe to my channel you can access it with the link below. Just click on the subscribe button in the upper right of the screen.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYMWL3WXU9QMeOUhD3lOpEw

Installing Camera Profiles in Lightroom

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Clappersgate Bridge, The Lake District. Olympus EM5 with Infrared Conversion.
Clappersgate Bridge, The Lake District. Olympus EM5 with Infrared Conversion.

My latest video is now live on You Tube. You can subscribe to my channel using the link below

https://www.youtube.com/user/rnwhalley/featured

or watch the video here (please note the video doesn’t show up in email, only on the blog).

If you’re a Lightroom user and aren’t familiar with changing your Camera Profile, be sure to watch this. There is a second part to this video which is coming soon and I doubt many people will have seen anything like it before.

The image you see above is the RAW file used in the video once it’s been fully processed.

B&W Conversion Video

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You asked to see how it was done. Here is the video to explain. This shows how you can achieve quite dramatic black and white conversions using only Lightroom. You don’t need any other software or filters. What limits you is your imagination.

I hope you find this video useful and don’t forget to subscribe to my You Tube channel if you haven’t already.

Friday Image No. 112

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Rock and heather in the Peak District. Fuji XT1. Conversion in Lightroom.
Rock and heather in the Peak District. Fuji XT1. Conversion in Lightroom.

For this week’s Friday image, I thought I would show another shot that’s more heavily processed than my usual style. I shot this a couple of months back when the heather was in flower. The light was quite poor being high in the sky and blue from the presence of all the cloud. Here is the before and after comparison in case you’re wondering what it looked like.

Before and after comparison
Before and after comparison

The conversion was performed totally in Lightroom. I’m sure this image won’t appeal to a large audience but if anyone would like to know more about the conversion, let me know and I will record and share a video.

Have a great weekend.