Malia Campbell Photography

Seattle Real Estate Photography by Malia Campbell

Speaking of workflow

Workflow is something I’ve put a lot of thought into. I’ve created, tweaked, re-evaluated, retweaked and so on and so on. I have a system now that works pretty well for me but every now and then someone says something (or blogs something) that makes me rethink my current process.

Recently someone told me that they run everything through ACR before Photomatix citing the GIGO theory. This morning I read an article suggesting that TIFs are better to feed through Photomatix than RAW files. I’ve always called BS on these methods theorizing Photomatix compresses and mixes and mashes everything to such an extent that pre-work doesn’t really matter. It’s all conjecture, though, as I’d never taken the time to actually test it out.

I started with three exposures (-2, 0, +2) and ran them through my normal Photomatix settings (these were RAW files, by the way). Then, I took those same three exposures (same images, really) and ran them through ACR, adjusting the white balance, noise reduction and sharpening and then ran those through the same Photomatix settings.

Run through ACR before Photomatix

RAW files fed directly to Photomatix

The difference between the two is negligible. Version 1 has slightly more contrast and vibrance but not by much. Nothing I can’t fix in under 2 seconds in Photoshop. Bottom line, ROTI doesn’t justify the the amount of extra time it would take me to run all the images through ACR before Photomatix.

Update:  Well, this seems relevant… From the FAQ section of the Photomatix User Guide:

When generating an HDR image, having Photomatix directly process the RAW files is theoretically better for the accuracy of the 32-bit HDR image produced — the data in RAW files represent the linear luminance values captured by the camera sensors, which is exactly what is needed for an HDR image. Also, the calculation of HDR values can rely on the exposure information retrieved from EXIF data when RAW files are used.
However, the RAW conversion of Photomatix Pro and Photomatix Light is not as good as the RAW conversion done in Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, DxO or other applications specialized in RAW conversion.

Written by Malia Campbell Photography

April 28, 2010 at 10:32 am

Posted in Words

4 Responses

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  1. Now try putting your 40D in the shoot RAW and Large JPEG mode and compare the RAW to the Large JPEG.


    April 29, 2010 at 9:36 am

    • I’m cracking up because I never thought of that. I was going to shoot one job in RAW and another job in jpg and try and compare the two… Why do I never think of the obvious solutions?

      TulipChain Photography

      April 29, 2010 at 9:38 am

  2. I don’t think the difference is that negligible — the ACR-first image is brighter and has better color. Ceiling is better, and there’s more detail on the tabletop knickknacks.

    Also, RAW adjustments are an art form in themselves, could be that on your second try (and third, and tenth, and fiftieth) that you’d get better and better at prepping your files for Photomatix.


    April 29, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    • It’s negligible if you consider how much time and effort that step would add to my workflow. Plus those things are easy (and quick!) to do in Photoshop. When I’m leaving a shoot with a card at 300+ images it’s just not feasible to sort and adjust before PM. When I write my post about my workflow it will make more sense.

      TulipChain Photography

      April 29, 2010 at 6:17 pm

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