JAMES CRAIG PHOTOGRAPHY

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FOLIO RESETS and Double RAW work-flow on extreme iso for b&w

Jan 30, 2022

My web-site creating software underwent a major update – pretty much breaking the third-party “widget” that I use to make my folio pages, eliminating borders and jamming thumbnails together, and more. I’m having to recreate folios using the Image Gallery widget built into the program. That wouldn’t be so bad, but the update also created a (I assume) temporary issue where in the large image view the arrows, download symbol, close symbol, etc. are replaced by the generic little square that indicates that the font used doesn’t have them. I am going ahead anyway, swearing off third party widgets so that this doesn’t happen again. I just keep telling myself that this is for the better. And they will have to shortly fix the arrows, etc. in what is a built-in widget.

All that’s left to convert are the four earlier Rogue Swan folios – I’ve just finished updating and expanding the Wind-Up-Toy folio. Very happy with that. As progress slows down, unavoidable, I’ve begun work on the Vaudeville Cabaret folio – with a couple of updates and new additions. All using my newly worked out double-raw work-flow, explanation below… 

DOUBLE-RAW Work-Flow for extreme iso in b&w

Not sure what else to call it. Here I’m going to outline a work-flow that I have evolved for working up my b&w image from exposures at iso 3200, 6400, 12800 and above. Doing work with a local vaudeville troop, I found myself standardizing on iso 6400. I didn’t appreciate the noise much, simply accepting the results, expressing it as grain. The noise also limited any minor sharpening, tone fixes, etc. Recently Rogue did a series of performances where I was forced to move to iso 12,800 and above. So I bit the bullet and began running some experiments. The results surprised me – this work-flow helps some 3200, noticeably improves iso 6400, completely salvages 12,800, making even 25,600 usable.

Exposure – forced to use shutter speeds of 1/200 to 1/250 in low light, I’m forced to work with iso set to auto, otherwise setting aperture wide open. Results usually range from 3200 to 6400. But the last set of performances everything was consistently 12,800 and above. 

RAW 1 – I open the RAW file in DxO Photolab 5. I’ve tried Iridient Transformer (grainy), the much heralded Capture One (only fair), and a half dozen other apps for this, to no avail. And of cvourse Photoshop raw conversion of Fuji files really sucks. Within DxO I apply what they call Extreme Prime noise reduction – nothing else other than a tad of exposure correction if needed. One can continue work on the file there, with some improvements but the results are, for some reason, not quite what they are if I export the file to.dng raw format before making any real progress on the file.

RAW 2 – Opening this in Photoshop RAW, I find it best to simply hit the auto color button, then the b&w, and then make as many of the adjustments as I can right there. These are low-light, uneven exposures, with all the negative effects that come with that. The big surprise here was that there seems to be a noticable further improvement in noise, without any further noise control effort.

Photoshop – Next I generally convert to RGB and proceed as if it were a normal range iso exposure.

Above image, the double-raw work-flow version of the first image now in the Rogue Swan Vaudeville Cabaret folio. Check it out, I will be periodically expanding the folio for a while.

Below, the same exposure without using that process. Note the noise/grain – what I thought until now was not so bad for b&w from an iso 6400 exposure. Hardly close to the new process however. Any further improvements in tone/contrast simply aggrivated the noise issue – this being pretty much the best compromise at the time. In fact, it couldn’t be sharpend at all before because the effect was horrendous. Note, usually with this type of comparisons one posts close-ups to really show the difference – but if it is obvious at rgular viewing proportions, I figure it’s more than enough.

I am saving the work-flow part of this posting to my Pushin’ the Rock section as a How-to. HERE… Try it for yourself.