Wednesday, August 6, 2014

RAW Editors: Workflow

How a person handles the editing process can make an impact on end results. Today the focus will be on the actual editing aspect of using different RAW editors. Over the past few weeks I have shown RAW edits that I have made to a number of images in five different RAW editors. In that time since that last post, Capture NX-D and RawTherapee were cut from testing, as they seem to be inadequate, or lagging behind the others. That brings the list editors in testing down to two, Lightroom 5 and darktable 1.4.2. Aperture 3, which is currently the primary editor in use, is also included.

Here is a short video showing my workflow in Aperture 3, Lightroom 5 and darktable 1.4.2. The video has been sped up, otherwise it would be about 30 minutes long, but the primary steps that I take get translated none the less. 

Below are my thoughts on using Lightroom and darktable over the past four weeks.

Lightroom 5:

I do not think that there is much that can be mentioned about Lightroom (LR) that has not been said by hundreds of other users, it is a powerful RAW editor that takes advantage of Adobe Camera RAW. Overall LR has been the primary contender on my list to replace Aperture 3 for a few weeks now. That is despite my hesitation to use Adobe products, because LR simply stands out as one of the best options available. LR has enabled me to complete edits that required work to be done in Aperture 3 and the Google Nik collection before. While I still like the tools in the Nik collection, I find that some of them are not needed as often, since those abilities are duplicated in LR. 

Strengths? A large number of powerful tools, that are mostly easy to learn about and use.
Weakness? The only real downside to Lightroom? File management. Collections work, but it is  nowhere near as easy to quickly navigate through images as the file structure in Aperture. 

darktable 1.4.2:

darktable (dt) is an interesting RAW editor, which as I mentioned in earlier posts, requires a lot of time reading the manual. I find some of the tools available more powerful than Lightroom and Aperture, but they are often more complicated to use than needed. For example, the spot removal tool in dt seems to take more work to get the same results as LR and Aperture. If you watched the video, you might have noticed I spent a lot of time working with that tool as a result. 

I've also found that there is a great deal of overlap in the different editing tabs. Why the same editing modules are in two or three tabs is beyond me. There are not even additional tools, any input entered into the modules in the previous tab is shown in the duplicate. It seems as if new tabs were added over time, and modules that were added to those new ones were not removed from the older ones. This is somewhat understandable, since dt is open source software that has been slowly developing for many years. Whatever the case, this practice seems to waste space in the interface.

Strengths? Extreme fine tuning. If you want to tweak some aspect of the RAW development, there is a tool to do it. 
Weaknesses? The strength of darktable is also a weakness in some respects. DT can be overly complicated at times, meaning that tasks that require one or two clicks to accomplish in Lightroom or Aperture, need far more user input. 

Aperture 3:

It was not until I started using other RAW editors seriously that I started to see how far behind Aperture has really become in the last few years. While I still prefer some of the tools, and abilities, of Aperture I can see why so many others have abandon the platform in recently. Aperture is clearly not able to render colour and contrast as well as competing programs. Whether this is a lack of functionality in Aperture itself, or Apple's Camera RAW I'm not sure. 

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