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Compositing: RAW or processed?

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Old 10-25-2012, 08:23 PM
mcdronkz mcdronkz is offline
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Location: The Netherlands
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Compositing: RAW or processed?

I know that RAW files, essentially digital negatives, provide far greater flexibility in terms of editing than already processed files. It is widely recommended to do as much as possible in the RAW converter before starting with pixel editing.

While doing compositing, I sometimes struggle with this. When I'm trying to match differences in colors and exposure, I find this to be much easier to do when I can see the images together on the canvas, instead of having to work with them seperately in the RAW processor.

What kind strategies are the professional creative retouchers using? Are you guys even processing the RAW files or do you just load them up directly as raster files into Photoshop? Is this kind of quality preservation actually important in real-world commercial print retouching?

Also, what are some good resources on commercial grade RAW processing?

Last edited by mcdronkz; 10-25-2012 at 08:35 PM.
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Old 11-05-2012, 07:33 AM
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DJSoulglo DJSoulglo is offline
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Location: Amsterdam
Posts: 475
Re: Compositing: RAW or processed?

If you can get the RAW files, it's always best to get those.

Every comp usually has one image that is the base for the rest. Make your RAW conversion roughly look like the base image and then take it into PS. The only RAW converters I use are the PS Raw converter (which I love), Captureone (which is a buggy piece of S#*&). Very rarely do I use Phocus, but then only to get the Hasselblad files to DNG's.

The reason to use RAW, as opposed to the processed files is that you can adjust certain things (blacks/whites/colorcasts) a little quicker and in batches. Also you're always sure that you're getting the max res possible, not just some crappy jpg, with blown out blacks.

Good luck.
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Old 11-05-2012, 07:40 AM
mcdronkz mcdronkz is offline
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: The Netherlands
Posts: 37
Re: Compositing: RAW or processed?

Thanks a bunch, fellow Dutchman! Makes a lot of sense.

Do you load the RAW file as a Smart Object so you can adjust it later, or do you just load the pixel data (the conversion) into Photoshop?
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Old 11-05-2012, 09:09 AM
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andrewrodney andrewrodney is offline
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Join Date: May 2010
Location: Santa Fe
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Re: Compositing: RAW or processed?

Here's one reason why you want to always start with raw (long but worth the read):
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Old 11-11-2012, 06:22 AM
js55 js55 is offline
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Re: Compositing: RAW or processed?

I would always use RAW files simply because they hold more pixel data, normally 14 bit depth. Higher bit depth means you get more tonal values, somewhere around 4000+ tonal values per channel compared to 8 bit which has 256 per channel. This simply means that you have more data to work with and allows for more flex when editing, especially when trying to color match and blend when working with composites.

I use ACR 7 to do my white balancing and basic edits before bringing the RAW files into CS6. You dont have to open them as smart objects as long as you working at 16 bit depth in photoshop. you will still have the same pixel data as the original files and will be able to make non destructive changes using adjusment layers. I find this easier than having to make changes to smart layers simply because they open in a new window and you cant see the changes on the canvas with the rest of the composite. Hope this info was helpful.


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