A Bit About Work Flow

Oops. I meant to talk a bit about image-processing work flow in my last post, but forgot. I must've been too preoccupied constructing my sophisticated photo-shoot schematic.

Anyway, I hit a bit of an obstacle after getting back from my first day with the Canon 5D Mark II. After downloading my files and making two complete copies, I dragged a random RAW file over to my desktop, with the objective of opening it in Photoshop to see how I did.

Fail. Big time.

You see, every time Adobe releases a major upgrade of Photoshop and related software, the company has the charming habit of ensuring that the previously perfectly good version of their software doesn't get updated to work with RAW formats from new cameras as they're released.

Being armed only with Photoshop CS3, I couldn't open the 5D Mark II RAW file...at least not with Adobe software.

There is a workaround. You can convert RAW format to Adobe's DNG format, and then open with previous versions of Photoshop, but who the &*#$(@ wants to do that?

Otherwise, you need to invest in new software, which of course makes sense from Adobe's point of view, but doesn't really from mine, since I only use a handful of really basic functions in Photoshop, none of which have changed substantially in any iteration of the software I've had.

To solve the problem, I brought everything into Aperture (which I normally do anyway, but I was just in a hurry in this case to see how my first photos turned out). I sorted, tagged and picked a few favourites out of the day's shots. Perfect.

Then, I experienced my next obstacle with Aperture's RAW conversion. The RAW converter does an OK job, but the results from Aperture's conversion process for underwater images, especially those involving lots of blue, aren't as good as they could be. For topside photos and macro stuff, Aperture does just fine, but with blue water in the background...not so much to my liking.

Anyway, the work-around was to use Canon's proprietary RAW conversion engine, built into its Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software, which comes packaged with Canon DSLRs.

The software is slow and clunky, but the RAW converter is by far the best for Canon files...which makes sense if you stop to think about it.

DPP gives you control over quite a few things, the most useful of which I've found to be Picture Style (Canon's proprietary colour-management profiles), exposure and light temperature. There's also a chromatic aberration correction function, which can help quite a bit if you've got a file with noticeable colour shift. I pretty much don't touch all the other controls.

And of course, transferring from DPP to Photoshop CS3 was no problem, producing beautiful files and obviating my inability to convert 5D Mark II RAW files with CS3.

Yes, this process takes longer and is more cumbersome that a straight Aperture-based conversion, or opening with CS4 RAW Converter, but I believe it results in the highest-quality files, and the fact that I don't need to buy CS4 is a big bonus too. I only converted the files I really liked, and left all the others alone (i.e., this more troublesome process makes me edit more harshly, which is a good thing).

Finally, I had my first real-life chance to make use of the MarineLife Keywords List I wrote about a while ago.

All I had to do to label my squid shots was look-up "bigfin reef squid" in the MarineLife Keywords index that I had already imported into Aperture, and, like magic, I had everything I needed in order to tag the squid images:

bigfin reef squid: Sepioteuthis lessoniana; bigfin squid: Sepioteuthis lessoniana; Cephalopods: Cephalopoda; Invertebrates; Loliginidae; Mollusks: Mollusca; Squid: Teuthida; Teuthoidea

...in practical terms, meaning I didn't have to (mis)type all those long multi-syllabic tongue-twisters into each photo's metadata. All I had to do was drag-and-drop the list onto all my squid files and I was done!

So to summarise, my work flow for the 5D Mark II:

- Import into Aperture; delete junk so no one else sees cruddy images;
- Tag with MarineLife Keywords; add location tags (Note: Save $5 off MarineLife Keywords with discount code I692W094 at checkout);
- Use Aperture's Smart Albums to pick out favourite images;
- Open selected file with Canon DPP; adjust; send to Photoshop CS3;
- Make final minor adjustments; save as required format.