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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Coin Photography, Conservation and Storage (Moderator: bruce61813)  |  Topic: Raw or cooked? 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Raw or cooked?  (Read 3653 times)
moonmoth
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« on: March 05, 2010, 12:17:18 pm »

Here are two photos of the same coin.  This is the obverse of a shiny, but not overcleaned, denarius of Geta.

I used my EOS 450D to take a photo which was saved both as a raw image and a large JPEG. So these are essentially the same photograph. Lighting, exposure and so on are identical.

Both have been processed in photoshop.  The JPEG was darkened a little with the levels slider.  The raw image was processed in Camera Raw to eliminate any blowouts and completely black areas. The resulting image was quite dark, so it has been lightened with the curves tool; and I masked out the lightest areas before doing that.

The result is that the image from the JPEG has some blowouts. They are small, but they exist. The image from the raw file has no blowouts. It took longer to process, but has given a technically better result.

So much for the technical aspect.  But what about eye appeal?  Which looks better, the image on the right, or the one on the left?  This image has been reduced to 1200 by 600 pixels, so click to see it at that size.

Bill
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maridvnvm
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« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2010, 12:33:26 pm »

I prefer the one on the left.
Martin
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romeo
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« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2010, 12:48:40 pm »

i prefer the one on the right.  Undecided
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slokind
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« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2010, 01:22:25 pm »

Either one is just fine, though the one on the left shows fine nuances of modeling slightly better.  Pat L.
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moonmoth
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« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2010, 02:18:52 pm »

That's quite an even-handed result ... The left-hand image was from the JPEG, and has some small blow-outs.  But it also, inevitably, has more contrast, and that makes it look more attractive to my eye and gives the better modelling that Pat points out, while at the same time I like the other one intellectually because no information is lost, so I am torn between the two.

But I think looks will win out.  I can process the raw image to give the same result as the JPEG, which makes it more versatile and a better choice for archiving.

(I have Photoshop CS4, just bought as an upgrade. My older version could not handle this camera's raw files, which is why I have not tried this comparison sooner.)

Bill

p.s. "modelling" in the UK, "modeling" in the USA; both are correct.
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James A2
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« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2010, 07:39:50 pm »

I prefer to leave small blowouts in raw images, provided they don't cause loss of detail. This avoids the problem of excessive darkening, and having to lighten the image. Jim  A
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dougsmit
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« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2010, 08:05:09 pm »

I can process the raw image to give the same result as the JPEG, which makes it more versatile and a better choice for archiving.


Versatility and options are the big reasons for shooting RAW.  The idea is to preserve options.  The problem is you have the power to do things to the image that really shouldn't be done if the image is to look natural.  The main reason for shooting RAW is that you work with more information during the processing phase and throw out the surplus at the last possible moment.  To do this you need to set the converter to transmit 16 bit files.  RAW files can not be viewed or printed.  All we do is see the effect of our settings on the RAW data.  I find myself tending toward settings that produce unnatural looking conversions out of a desire to avoid all specular highlights (level 256/256 after converting to 8 bit) and absolute blacks (0/256).  I have to force myself to remember that an image needs some of each extreme but they must be carefully placed and controlled.  Amateur RAW workers like me tend to produce slightly muddy results until they learn to look at the image instead of the histogram.  I'm still struggling with the times it is better to work with exposure or brightness and vibrance or saturation.  If I had a proper handle on these and a handful of other sliders I might not feel the need to continue processing the file after it leaves the converter and enters the regular editor.  

My processing technique usually involves producing a RAW conversion that is slightly too flat which is transferred to the 'polishing' step where I apply controls like the shadow/highlight tool that are not available or as easy to handle in the RAW converter stage.  I'm particularly fond of the slider in the shadow/highlight tool that allows increasing midtone contrast without pushing either of the ends off their 0 and 256 settings.  This is easy to overdo an make look fake and I find myself using too much contrast more often than the opposite.  That is OK since the RAW data is never changed so you can go back and reprocess when you decide you were not doing it as well as possible the first time.  Of course you usually reshoot the coin a dozen times rather than reprocessing old shots.  I find RAW enjoyable but certainly would never suggest that carefully produced in camera JPGS made from carefully lighted shots could not be just as good.  Unless and until the processor feels comfortable with all the controls available, it is quite likely the in camera JPG could be better.  Since I am in the phase of collecting that sees fewer new coins, I have plenty of time to rework the old ones.

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goldenancients
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« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2010, 10:59:25 pm »

The main advantage of using RAW files as opposed to camera-produced JPEGs is that you can correct and compensate for exposure and white balance after the fact. Blown highlights and shadows can be restored with RAW. If ideal lighting can be achieved, a JPEG file might be preferred over a RAW file for the ease of use without extensive manual editing. On the other hand, ideal lighting is a very difficult thing to achieve. RAW gives you the most versatility to adjust your photograph to look its best. My camera has the option of recording a RAW and JPEG file simultaneously for each shot, which I use in my more recent coin photos.

 I also use CS4. One tool that I love is the "Smart sharpen" tool, which if used correctly can adjust the contrast, depth, and sharpness of the photo to its optimal quality. Overuse of the tool and you make your coin look unnatural (or sometimes better than reality - which is cheating).

I like the contrast of the photo on the left. I'm sure you could easily adjust the RAW file to produce the same results, possibly with more detail. Yet, your lighting is as closr to ideal as one could get, so the JPEG file is more than acceptable.

Danny
 
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slokind
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« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2010, 12:19:10 am »

Well, I am in perfect accord with Danny, though I also understand and appreciate as usual what Doug and Bill W. think and say.  Philosophically (the old manuals for f.64 California photography tend to surface) I think I ought to strive for the best lighting and exposure from the get-go.  Photoshop is better than almost any darkroom work, but it is analogous.  The best post-processing in either case is done on the best original (philosophically necessary even if there seem to be exceptions in practice).
What interests me in the foregoing is that Bill and Doug and I have our favorites from among the Photoshop tools.  I am devoted to Levels for most things and ordinarily use it exclusively.  Curves drives me nuts, because I just don't grasp it, except mentally.  The 'slides' tools tend to frustrate me.
The great thing, IMO, about Adobe is that it permits working however best suits each artist personally.  It gives you many procedures and possibilities for combining them.  Same is true with Dreamweaver (though its having been through three companies complicates it, though the more it becomes Adobe in character the better it gets—yet I still have trouble mastering it).  Mastering an Adobe product is really a matter of making it one's own.  People who need to be told what to do with paint brushes and so watch those How to Paint a Landscape programs on TV are temperamentally unsuited also to Adobe software.  They call it confusing!
The artist's approach (though I cannot claim to BE an artist) is best for me: know what you want as a finished product and then figure out how to make the software do it.  No Adobe Manual will tell you how to photograph old coins!
After two years, I am still struggling with my DSLR.  But I've had Photoshop since 2.0.
After the IRS this year I am about to spend a parcel to bring everything up to date together.
Pat L.
P.S. The lefthand (.jpg) image above shows the character of the surface of the silver in the field better.  I didn't want to go on and on about nuances, but it is not only the aesthetic ones that may be important.
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moonmoth
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« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2010, 02:11:58 am »

This one was taken from the same raw image.  In Camera Raw, I adjusted the exposure and blacks sliders to allow a little blowout and a little complete blackness. (*) I also reduced the vibrance. 

This gave an image that was still too dark in Photoshop.  So, here are the adjustments I made.  I know I lose data by moving the right levels slider so far in, but it just looked washed-out without that movement.  The levels adjustment was made first, and the result looked good but still dark.

The curves adjustments brought light into the shadows and also lightened the mid-tones, while leaving the brightest areas untouched.

I haven't rotated this one, or removed the background.

I think this combines the best of both the images above.

Bill

(*)There is a nice feature in Camera Raw where if the exposure slider is in use, and you hold down the Alt key, you see a display of all the blown-out areas.  You get a similar display of the blacked-out areas with the blacks slider.
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moonmoth
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« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2010, 02:38:36 am »

I was planning that last post before I saw the previous two replies. 

Pat is quite right that you work at the tools until they do what you want. I think they are confusing to start with, because they are certainly not intuitive to a beginner, but you need to keep going until they aren't.  (And that's why I showed my adjustments in the last post.)  Here, the internet is your friend.  There are many tutorials and references out there. I find the various Photoshop video tutorials on the web and on the DVD that comes with the software to be very helpful, especially when there are new features to try out. (*) I worked through a book on Photoshop a few versions ago, but an update is always useful. 

And Photoshop is getting easeir to use.  For example, if you look at that curves tool, there is a hand icon at top left.  If you select this and go to your image, you can select a tone and drag the tool up or down to lighten or darken it, a much more easy and accurate method than working with the curves graph.  Vibrance is also a nice new tool, more subtle than saturation.

Ideally, I want the best result with the minimum of processing, both to save time and to reduce the chances of making the coins look unreal.

Bill

(*)The Adobe people I have been watching recently always "go ahead and" do things, they never just do them.  If you took out the "go ahead"s the videos would be 10% shorter.
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wandigeaux (1940 - 2010)
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« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2010, 11:50:22 am »

I guess this thread is never going to get around to Levy-Strauss (Le Cru et le cuit)?  I keep waiting.  George S.
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« Reply #12 on: March 16, 2010, 04:53:39 pm »

Have any of you tried the 'Clarity' adjustment? I've found it useful sometimes.
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