Op­ti­mise first

There are best prac­tices in pro­cess­ing, and op­ti­mi­sa­tion is the best way to start

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Op­ti­mi­sa­tion means preparing a TIFF from a RAW file to ex­pected in­dus­try stan­dards, with a just-full dy­namic range and qual­i­ties that a typ­i­cal viewer would ex­pect, and which ap­pear nor­mal. The qual­i­ties in­clude over­all bright­ness, con­trast, colour sat­u­ra­tion and sharp­ness. This is what, for ex­am­ple, a pro­fes­sional dig­i­tal pre-press com­pany would do to tweak im­ages if nec­es­sary.

Over-pro­cess­ing and fail­ure to process ad­e­quately are the two wide­spread ills of im­age edit­ing, and op­ti­mi­sa­tion in­volves a lot of avoid­ance – that is, not us­ing ad­just­ment slid­ers that su­per­fi­cially of­fer in­ter­est­ing ef­fects. Op­ti­mi­sa­tion ig­nores cre­ative choices, and so is not nec­es­sar­ily a guar­an­teed way of pro­cess­ing. Rather, it’s a start­ing point. It means the over­all colour bal­ance is free of an ob­vi­ous cast, with any­thing ex­pected to be neu­tral (con­crete, for ex­am­ple) look­ing ex­actly neu­tral. It also means hav­ing the ex­po­sure of the sub­ject ap­prox­i­mately mid-tone (if it is a mid-tone), and the dy­namic range fill­ing up the width of the scale – just (by set­ting the black and white points).

An ex­am­ple of when this last ad­just­ment might not be ap­pro­pri­ate is if you had shot, say, a misty scene. In this case, set­ting the black point would cer­tainly in­crease the tonal range, but it would also elim­i­nate the del­i­cate misty feel­ing by in­tro­duc­ing blacks into an im­age that shouldn’t have any blacks.

1. Sam­ple hel­met shad­ows for neu­tral 2. Set neu­tral to change colour tem­per­a­ture and tint 3. Slightly raise Ex­po­sure 4. Slightly ad­just High­lights and Shad­ows and com­pen­sate for slight flat­ness by rais­ing the Con­trast 5. Set black and white points

un­pro­cessed pro­cessed A straight­for­ward shot in no need of lo­cal ad­just­ment, just given the ba­sic pro­ce­dure of set­ting the neu­trals, tweak­ing ex­po­sure, a slight re­cov­ery in high­lights and shadow ar­eas, and set­ting the black and white points

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