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Photography post-processing: right or wrong?

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    I was a bit unsure if I would continue this thread or create a new one, but here we go.

    I was curious about the performance of my new 7DmkII, and the impact of shooting raw versus jpg in combination with editing. During my Stockholm excursion I set the camera to both store a RAW picture and a normal in camera processed JPG from the same shot. After returning home I processed the RAW-file in Lightroom exactly the way I normally would do and then compared the results to the totally unedited jpg-file.

    Here I have combined the two pictures in "slices":

    The "lighter" areas/stripes are originating from the unedited jpg and the darker, more contrasty ones from the raw-file. It's actually not fair to compare a unedited jpg, because there is are no big problems to enhance/edit jpg's, my purpose was kind of get a feeling how the best and worst case looks like.

    Before I continue to the actual analysis, I would like to point out some facts:
    This image was taken without a tripod, using ISO 3200, at a shutter speed of 1/40 at f/4.
    The 7DmkII is considered to be one of the better Canon cameras for the moment regarding "good looking pictures", the high ISO noise is not nasty and quite nice looking.
    The lens, 10-22 mm wide angle, is not image stabilized, and not too good looking in the corners, but it's fine for me.
    The original picture was pretty well exposed and technically "correct", being one of the last of a series of about 10 with different settings.

    Even if the original picture looks nice, it's pretty obvious that the editing has made the picture look prettier and more full blooded. There seems to be more contrast and details available.

    Now were about to do one of the sins of digital photography, pixel-peeping! This means that you zoom your picture to 100% magnification and try to analyze if what you see is good or not. This is normally quite irrelevant since nobody uses pictures that way.

    The upper half is the unedited jpg, the lower the edited raw. The obvious observation is that the noise in the sky is improved. Big grains have shifted to small grains.

    Looking at the other tower, you can observe more details in the edited file - but also some more noise. The jpg seems to be more blurred or washed out in it's apperance.

    Compare the two leftmost windows. The upper one is sharper, and the light seems to look more natural than on the lower one. You can also observe more details in the stone-decorations on the wall.

    Compare the detailing of the row of windows in the mid/left, such more details. Here you also can see one of the drawback, the flag and the neon sign above is not so good looking due to some over sharpening.

    Perhaps the best example of them all: observe the lower part of the window panes. You can also see some more details in the pavement.

    Here we can find something else, I think that most of the fuzziness (Kilkenny sign of the pub) in this outtake is caused by the lens. You can also see some improved clarity in one the posters outside the cinema. There is also some over sharpening around the left girl, you kind of can see a small "glow" around her.


      So is this small improvement worth 5 minutes of editing? In this case the photo was pretty good from the beginning, so the differences were very small. I would still say yes. Did we need a raw file to do this? Probably not in this case, but in the case of a less successful exposure it probably would have helped out.

      Here you can find the picture in original size:

      The unprocessed jpg:

      103A3043 by trotonen, on Flickr

      The edited one:

      crop_full_raw_export by trotonen, on Flickr

      Please feel free to download them in full resolution and make a A-B comparision.


        Excellent stuff Tommi. That's the most graphic demonstration I've seen, and certainly helps me to justify the money I've spent on storage over the years!

        Thanks for sharing with us.



          Thank you for your excellent demonstration between raw and jpg, Tommi. I really did like your pictures.

          There is no principal difference between editing pictures in photoshop, raw or jpg, and working in the old darkroom. In the darkroom days, you had to do a lot of choices before you could transform a negative into a print. You had to choose the right developer, the right kind of paper (Kodak, Ilford and Agfa behaved differently), the right tone and graduation of paper, the right exposure, you had to dodge and burn in the picture, you had to expose parts of the picture more, or less, than the rest. Great skill was often needed to turn a lousy negative into a good print. We talked about the "wizards of the darkroom" like we today are talking of the "wizards of photoshop". Principally we are doing the same in photoshop, but with other means, and with a long range of new possibilities. In my opinion, nearly all pictures that comes from the camera are raw material which have to be edited/post processed more or less. And I do. Five minutes editing of a picture can be a good investment.

          But if you use these possibilities to change the content of the picture, we are getting into dangerous grounds, in my eyes.

          Todays moderne cameras, however, like the EOS 7DII used by Tommi and the cameras I use myself, do a much better in-camera-processing than previous models, and reduces the need for editing/post processing.
          Regards; Sigve.


            One thing that I've seen with the new camera is that it seems to meter light in a better way, and by that reason expose the pictures more correctly. Better exposures gives less need for editing, which means better quality. This time I made almost a random selection of the example picture, the only criteria was that it didn't need cropping and that the focus was ok. If I had chosen a picture with more problems - like incorrect/uneven exposure, blur, bad focus, even higher ISO - then the difference would been much greater between the two examples.
            If there's some interest I could do such a comparison too.

            I shoot about 1/3 of my pictures in RAW, it's not always needed and JPG has some advantages too. There are however some interesting possibilities with RAW. The developing software (in my case Lightroom) is constantly evolving. That means that I can today get better quality from my 2-4 year old pictures. The JPG-engine in the camera is seldom updated.

            Regardless shooting in JPG or RAW, I quite often see that the camera hasn't captured the scene as I remember it. There could be some fluorescent lights with wrong color, or the picture is too dark/light. So to get a honest reproduction of the scenery, there's probably need to do some tweaking. You also have to remember that the camera/lens also always adds it's "own" touch to the picture, twisting the reality slightly.

            It's also quite much about what you want to show with your photography. As Sigve says, to change the contents of picture is something completely different than editing. That could be fun and inspiring - as it can be dangerous, but it has a completely different purpose.
            I want to show the world with a documentary touch as it is, that's why I spend some time editing my work, to get that honest reproduction of a scene.


              Now, that was truly interesting - I have bookmarked this thread to come back to it as soon as I come home from my "mission at sea" (aka fjord).
              With best regards from Jan-Olav Storli

              Administrator and Owner of CaptainsVoyage.
              Main page:

              Surround yourself with positive, ethical people who are committed to excellence.


                Tommi, my camera is not even a DSLR and the only tweaking I do is straightening and the very occasional one click sharpening (in Irfanview), adjusting the mid-tone, highlight and shadow using old MS Picture Manager which came ready installed, and adjusting the colour bias using Tintii particularly to take the green out of the cyan sky. In other words, using your own definition. "to get that honest reproduction of a scene." I have on old Photoshop Elements which I originally bought as a toy to play with, but apart from experimenting with Out of Bounds and doing a couple of panoramas I have never used it. It promptly freezes everything up each time I open it anyway, which to my impatient mind puts me off trying it out!
                However, I would be very interested if you would demonstrate your way of transforming a problematic photo into something you feel is more representative of the scene you saw. Although I would not spend time on any of my photos as they are for my consumption only - and posting on CVF - I like to see what can be done by others who are interested in the documentary aspect of what they do.

                "To thine own self be true.......
                Thou canst not then be false to any man."


                  February 1, 2015:

                  The modern digital camera doesn't always behave as you would like it to do. If there are no clearly defined light sources in the motive, or shining over you, the camera will record the motive as if everything was 18% of gray. If you photograph in demanding light conditions, like the dusk of a january afternoon, the result will not be good. My Canon EOS 6D recorded the passing train like this:

                  But this was not how I remembered the situation. And a picture looking like this would be of no use to me. So I postprocessed/edited the picture and ended up with this result:

                  And this is how I remembered it, and this is how I wanted the picture to be.
                  Regards; Sigve.


                    The distinctive styles that some photographers have the skill and creativity to produce by post-processing is something I always find interesting to see and think about. I was particularly fascinated by Jan-Olav's images of the Adriatic towns he visited on the maiden voyage of Serenissima. It would not be an exaggeration to say that those images became a deciding factor in my choosing to take another cruise on that ship (the other attraction of the itinerary was a transit of the Corinth canal!)

                    I've only just got around to posting any of my own photos of that September 2015 voyage, and so far just those of the ship herself, in her own thread. So as not to get too off-topic there (where I’ve still got TWO more subsequent cruises on the dear ship to document!), I've moved here to follow up some photography comments.
                    The results of extreme post-processing are never going to be to everyone's taste but will certainly be appreciated by others. So, dear Jan-Olav, it made me sad to see you apologising about your editing of your photos in those comments and in a post. What am I to do with you? (sighs)

                    Anyway, I was fascinated to see prints and paintings for sale in Dubrovnik that reminded me of your photographs. It seems to me less to do with colour or contrast and a lot to do with texture and delineation - especially of the building stones. Clearly the local artists see and interpret their surroundings in a similar way.
                    I imagined your photographs on a street-stall or in a little gallery there, and sales doing really well!

                    Here's a little story that is not just about photography, but also about observing, remembering, and coincidence. While looking through my own photos of my one and only visit to Dubrovnik on Serenissima, I stopped in my tracks at a photo of an alleyway that seemed somehow familiar. It wasn't because I had been especially attracted to that alley and spent time there choosing my viewpoint for I was on the morning tour, taking in the history from the guide and simply snapping photos in uncomposed fashion from across the main street between crowds of tourists.

                    So as I had been thinking so much of Jan-Olav's images, my first thought was that I was remembering something of his, and I searched the various threads before realising where I had seen that particular alley before.
                    D had visited Dubrovnik (not with me) many years ago, and had bought an artist's print as a souvenir. Here it is:-

                    ...and here is the photo of the alley I took completely by chance.It is clearly recognisable despite shell damage in that area of the city during the seige of 1991, a couple of years after D's visit.

                    However Jan-Olav hasn’t a photo of this same alley to complete the story, but you can see an example of his style here, and many other charming examples among his images of Dubrovnic, Kotor and other delights of the Adriatic.
                    Last edited by Seagull; April 3rd, 2017, 12:34.


                    • Sigve
                      Sigve commented
                      Editing a comment
                      The "artist impression" could very well be obtained by selecting the "Paint Mode" from your Picture Modes on your compact camera.
                      Speaking of the Captains post processing, I think he is a bit heavyhanded in his use of curves and levels, prefering strong contrast instead of natural contrasts. I therefore often find his pictures unnatural. But, having said that, I also must say this: He's got The Eye!

                    My view on the subject is very simple: I want to, or at least I want to try to be a photographer.
                    What I mean by that is that I love making/taking/shooting a picture using the "five F's", like in a photographers "life boat drill".

                    Those five F's are: 1) Find 2) Figure 3) Frame 4) Focus 5) Fire.
                    Find: Use my senses/eyes to find the motif
                    Figure: How will the motif fit in a picture, from what angle would it be best, what are the light conditions, how can the picture be taken in the best possible way?
                    Frame: Put the motif within the picture frame in the best possible way. Think about where to draw the viewers attention, negative space and all that
                    Focus: Be sure to focus my motif, make it as sharp as possible (which has to do with knowing my camera and its settings
                    Fire: When all above are in place, click on the release button and take the picture

                    I'm a photographer, not a picture editor. (The words of photographer Elliot Erwitt: Photo editing, kills photography. I belive he has a point)

                    I'm not a fan of extensive effects in a picture, except when taking pictures with my iPhone 6. Then I often use a touch of HDR and I can put my picture in a frame.
                    Last edited by Sterkoder; April 19th, 2017, 08:35.
                    "IF GOD COULD MAKE ANGELS...., WHY IN HELL MAKE MAN?"