My New Approach To RAW Processing
3 months ago

Raw processing is an ever evolving cycle of changes.
We have a multitude of new raw developing software being launched and new Ai technologies introduced to better handle noise reduction and sharpening.

I have tried most of them at some point, but always end up back where I started - with LR and PS.
The Adobe offerings are solid and well developed and I personally prefer the output I get with this software.
Others may have other preferences.

This thread will show how I approach my developing at the moment.
Perhaps there will be something useful in here that others may want to try for themselves.

Today I use LR for the main editing, but round-trip the raw file to DxO Photolab 5 for its raw developing capabilities.
There is something DxO has figured out with regards to the de-mosaicing of the raw file that results in a sharper file with better colour and less artefacts.
As far as I understand, DxO uses lens profiles in combination with the de-mosaicing to calculate the pixel data.
The software downloads and applies these profiles when you open a raw file in the software.
Others may chime in with a better explaination.

Whatever the tech, I like the outcome.

DxO offers two types of software that offers this process - DxO PureRaw 2 and Photolab 5.

DxO PureRaw 2 is a barebones demosaicing software with no user adjustable input.
You load the raw file and it saves out a DNG file with its magic applied.

Photolab 5 offer the same tools that PureRaw 2 uses (and much more), but give the user some control of how they should be applied.
You can adjust the amount of global lens sharpening and choose what noise reduction algorithm to apply etc.

I have created a preset in Photolab 5 with my chosen settings.

In adition to the DxO processing I also apply a linear camera profile as I feel I get a nicer end result with this.
Many users will have their own preferences for camera profiles - especially Fujifilm users as there are many creative profiles on offer.

These days I shoot with the Canon R5 and I find the camera profiles for the Canon pretty awful to be honest.
Very contrasty and some strange colour casts to my eyes.
This will be very personal and what I like may not be what others are looking for.
I come from medium format (Fujifilm GFX100) and have been used to the characteristics of the wider dynamic range and 16bit files and the Fujifilm profiles.
The process I have outlined below will apply equally well to other raw files from other brands.

Changing cameras can be a headache if you have a certain look you have come to like.
New sensor designs often change the colour science and ‘look’ and it can be hard to tweek a new camera to fit your old preferences.
I am very much going through this process with the Canon R5 at the moment.

So for now I have settled on the following process.

1. I will load all the raw files into LR and cull the shoot.
2. The selected images will then be sent to DxO Photolab 5 where I apply my preset.
3. The raw files are then converted to DNG with the Photolab adjustments applied and returned to LR

The round trip takes around 30 seconds per image.

To round trip the raw file from LR to PL and back - do the following:

Select the raw file in LR - the adjustments you may have made in LR are ignored.
Goto File - Plug-in Extras - Transfer to Photolab 5 (same process for DxO PureRAW)

In Photolab 5 I use the following settings (I have saved a preset with the settings):

Vignetting set to 100 - removes the darkened corners, if present.

- DeepPRIME noise reduction ON
- Lens Sharpnes is ON and set to +0.69 (this can be adjusted to taste)
- Chromatic Aberration ON
- Unsharp Mask OFF
No other adjustments are applied.

I have saved this as a preset named DxO PureRAW

Then export the file back to LR with the LR Export button.

It will prompt you to choose a setting - I use this:
Click Export

Once the file is back in LR - switch OFF sharpening and Noise Reduction.
Also dissable Profile Corrections as that has already been applied by DxO
Again, I have a preset saved in LR with my preferred settings.

From here you simply edit the raw file as normal.
Choose a camera profile.
Adjust to taste.

- Important -
You must make sure that the DxO DNG isnt’t overexposed.
LR will not be able to recover as effectively as it normally does.
If the raw file is too ‘hot’, bring the ‘Exposure Compensation’ down in Photolab before exporting to LR.
Then simply add the lost exposure back in LR.

Let’s look at what is achieved by this process.
In the following examples the normal LR file is on the left and the DxO processed file on the right.

Remember that NO sharpening and NR is applied to the DxO files in LR.
The LR de-mosaiced file has normal Unsharp Mask and Color NR applied.

I will use some simple holiday images in these examples.

Example 1:

100% crops
Notice the finer detail in the rocks and plants - almost as if an anti-aliasing filter has been removed.

Example 2:

DxO also does a good job of removing aliasing artefacts and bring out the finer details in fabric.
The DxO processed files are more colour accurate and neutral to my eyes.
Notice the magenta/purple cast in the regular file on the left (Canon Neutral profile):
200% crop:

Another example where DxO has removed artefacts and brought out finer detail.
200% crop

Finer detail in foliage

Now let’s look at the noise reduction from DxO.
The DeepPRIME algorithm is very good and combined with the DxO lens sharpening it does a great job of reducing noise whilst retaining fine details.

ISO 1600 example

Notice how well DxO has managed to retain detail in the hair and fabric whilst reducing the noise.

Another example at ISO 1600 (I haven’t shot any higher yet).

Now, there is one downside to this process.
The DNG files that are created by DxO are really big.

A standard Canon R5 CR3 file is around 45-60mb.
The DxO DNG files vary between 130mb and 180mb.

That is a big increase in storage requirements.
Whether that matters is down to induvidual circumstances.
Personally I want the best files I can get so I will accept the memory hit.

In summary I find the DxO proccessed files to have better colour, more detail and lower noise.
Combined with the linear camera profile I feel I get a better result than with LR alone.

I am interested to hear what others do.
Please feel free to discuss here.

Mads Bjerke