Edit Raw Files with Affin­ity Photo

YOU’LL NEED THIS AFFIN­ITY PHOTO PUB­LIC BETA Down­load the soft­ware from http://affin­ity.serif.com.

Maximum PC - - R&D - –IAN EVENDEN

A RAW IM­AGE FILE Your smart­phone might oblige.

IF YOU HAVE A DIG­I­TAL SLR CAM­ERA or ad­vanced com­pact, you might have won­dered what the “raw” im­age qual­ity set­ting is about. Or you may know all about it, and are squint­ing your eyes at this pa­tron­iz­ing open­ing para­graph. A raw cap­ture is a sim­ple dump of the in­for­ma­tion gath­ered by your cam­era sen­sor, with no pro­cess­ing ap­plied, other than that needed to turn it into a PC-read­able file. No noise re­duc­tion, no ad­di­tional sharp­en­ing, and no com­pres­sion. This can be a big ad­van­tage.

Shoot­ing in raw shifts the bur­den of pro­cess­ing your images from your cam­era to your PC, where you can man­u­ally af­fect the process with soft­ware such as Adobe Light­room. For this tu­to­rial, how­ever, we’re go­ing to use the free beta ver­sion of Serif’s Affin­ity Photo, which is cur­rently avail­able as the soft­ware pre­pares for a Win­dows re­lease. It’s been avail­able in the land of Ap­ple for a while, so should be rel­a­tively bug-free as it trans­fers across. Fa­mous last words. 1 GRAB THE SOFT­WARE AND AN IM­AGE The Affin­ity Photo Win­dows beta can be down­loaded from http://affin­ity. serif.com— the test­ing ver­sion is free at the mo­ment, but you have to sup­ply an email ad­dress to get it. Once you’ve got the ap­pli­ca­tion in­stalled on your com­puter, you need to find a raw im­age file that you want to process. Th­ese have file ex­ten­sions such as .CR2, .NEF, and .DNG, and if you’ve got one of the bet­ter smart­phones, you may even be able to coax one out of the on­board cam­era. A list of sup­ported cam­eras can be found at http://bit.ly/Affin­ity-raw, and in­cludes ev­ery­thing from 4K Black Magic Pro­duc­tion cam­eras to Canon DSLRs and LG An­droid smart­phones. 2 OPEN THE IM­AGE If you were to open your raw file in an Adobe ap­pli­ca­tion, such as Pho­to­shop, you would be taken to Adobe Cap­ture Raw. Nat­u­rally, Affin­ity Photo doesn’t use this, but has its own raw pro­cess­ing sys­tem, which opens as a full-screen app, rather than the small win­dow Adobe prefers. 3 THE DE­VELOP PER­SONA Once you’ve got your file open, the in­ter­face looks a lit­tle dif­fer­ent from the usual Affin­ity Photo one [ Im­age A]. This is De­velop, one of Affin­ity Photo’s “per­sonas”—the term Serif uses to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween the ap­pli­ca­tion’s var­i­ous mod­ules. To the left, you’ll find a se­lec­tion of tools for ma­nip­u­lat­ing the view of your photo, re­mov­ing red-eye and blem­ishes, and crop­ping the im­age; and to the right are the tools and slid­ers you use to al­ter your photo be­fore open­ing it in Affin­ity proper. A raw file is never di­rectly edited—in­stead, you build up a list of ed­its that are only ap­plied once you click the blue “De­velop” but­ton at the topleft, and en­ter the Photo per­sona [ Im­age B]. Affin­ity then gen­er­ates a new file, which you save as a JPEG or TIFF, leav­ing your orig­i­nal raw file wher­ever you saved it, rather like a dig­i­tal neg­a­tive. 4 EX­PO­SURE The most com­monly ap­plied ad­just­ments are grouped in the “Ba­sic” tab. Th­ese are things such as ex­po­sure, which you can push up or down to brighten or darken the over­all pic­ture. A raw file cap­tures the full bit-depth of the sen­sor, which is of­ten 14-bit, rather than dis­card­ing in­for­ma­tion the way an 8-bit JPEG would. This means there is more po­ten­tial de­tail to be re­cov­ered from the high­lights and shad­ows of an im­age, so you can push the ex­po­sure the way film was once pushed in a dark­room, as though it were a higher sen­si­tiv­ity than marked. Be aware, though, that the more you in­crease ex­po­sure, the more noise you’re likely to re­veal, par­tic­u­larly in shad­ows, thanks to the way cam­era sen­sors record less in­for­ma­tion in darker ar­eas. 5 NOISE RE­DUC­TION If you just want to brighten the dark ar­eas of your im­age (or darken the high­lights), look fur­ther down on the right, and you’ll find “Shad­ows and High­lights.” Check this box, and two slid­ers ap­pear that al­low you to make finer ad­just­ments to the bright­ness of your im­age. If the noise lev­els—ei­ther pix­els that are the wrong color for their area of the im­age, or a grain-like pat­tern where

they’re the wrong bright­ness—get out of hand, you can move over to the “De­tails” tab, where you’ll find “Noise Re­duc­tion” [ Im­age C]. This is split into two parts—for color noise and lu­mi­nance noise—and comes with a rather awe­some but­ton marked “Ex­treme,” for those times when you re­ally want to go to town. It’s worth not­ing, though, that noise re­duc­tion isn’t per­fect, and can re­move de­tail from your im­age. 6 SHARPEN YOUR IM­AGE The “De­tail Re­fine­ment” sec­tion above “Noise Re­duc­tion” is Affin­ity’s term for sharp­en­ing. All JPEG images shot on a dig­i­tal cam­era are sharp­ened as part of the pro­cess­ing ap­plied by de­fault, so you may find your raw files a lit­tle soft by com­par­i­son. Bring­ing out the ex­tra de­tail hid­den in the feath­ers of our crane is a mat­ter of bring­ing up the “Amount” slider to around half­way, then grad­u­ally up­ping the “Ra­dius” slider un­til we’re happy with the re­sult. If your im­age is noisy, sharp­en­ing can en­hance this in­stead of the un­der­ly­ing de­tail, so it pays to keep an eye on what’s hap­pen­ing across your im­age. 7 RE­MOVE DIS­TOR­TION The “Lens” tab is home to tools that can re­move dis­tor­tion, es­pe­cially use­ful if you’ve been tilt­ing your cam­era up at a tall build­ing, or had a wide-an­gle lens too close to the face of some­one with a prom­i­nent nose. More handy, and able to be ap­plied with a sin­gle click, is the “Chro­matic Aber­ra­tion Re­duc­tion” box be­neath—this re­moves the fring­ing you some­times get in high-con­trast images, which comes from a lens fo­cus­ing dif­fer­ent wave­lengths of light on to dif­fer­ent parts of the sen­sor. 8 KEEP EX­PER­I­MENT­ING Be­cause none of th­ese ad­just­ments are per­ma­nent un­til you hit the “De­velop” but­ton, you can toy with the slid­ers to your heart’s con­tent. Any change you make can be un­done by push­ing the slider in the op­po­site di­rec­tion, and Affin­ity makes it easy to see what you’re do­ing with its Mir­ror view [ Im­age D], which puts al­tered and un­al­tered ver­sions of your im­age side by side.

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