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1.3 Why Use RAW, DxO OpticsPro, and Pixelmator Together?

In this lesson you will learn the advantages of working in RAW, and how to do that using DxO OpticsPro and Pixelmator. Then we will open our first file in DxO OpticsPro and briefly get familiar with the interface.

1.3 Why Use RAW, DxO OpticsPro, and Pixelmator Together?

In this lesson we'll discuss the advantages of working in RAW, and how to do that using DxO Optics Pro and Pixelmator. Then we'll open our first file in DxO Optics Pro, and briefly get familiar with the interface. Let's talk about what RAW capture is, and why it's valuable to you as a photographer. Here's how RAW capture works. When you take a photo with your camera, the image is created on your camera sensor. The information is recorded as RAW data, and later on you have the option of fine-tuning settings like the white balance, exposure, and contrast, instead of relying on your camera to set them for you. Because your computer can't display a RAW photo correctly, it has to be converted into an image that you can work with. And you do this using RAW processing software, like DxO Optics Pro, and Lightroom, just to name a couple. At this stage, you will more accurately be able to correct mistakes and recover detail in your photos when processing your images later. You control the processing, and no detail is lost from the image because you're working with an uncompressed file. In a nutshell, with RAW photo capture, you're getting the uncompressed RAW data directly from your camera sensor that you can adjust later. In comparison, when you shoot JPGs, your camera handles much of the processing itself and also compresses the image, which causes you to lose some vital information. The camera's processor will adjust settings, like the white balance, brightness, contrast, sharpening, and saturation for you, which limits of what you can do with the image later. As a photographer, this is important because you're trying to get the highest quality image possible, and shooting in RAW is an important component of that process. With RAW you get greater control of your processing, you're able to fix a wider range of problems with your images. And therefore, produce higher quality photos. And when you make corrective adjustments to a RAW file, those edits are non-destructive because you're not actually changing the original image data. You're only saving a set of instructions for how it should be saved upon conversion to another file format. However, there are a couple of important details you'll need to keep in mind. RAW files can be more than twice the size of the typical JPEG, so you won't be able to fit as many on your memory card while out in the field shooting. They can also slow your camera down. Needless to say, you'll have to buy additional storage space for your files. Next, let's talk about why we're using DxO Optics Pro and Pixelmator together for our RAW workflow. DxO was a powerful RAW processor and a viable alternative to Lightroom, so it's certainly worth exploring. Additionally, at this time, Pixelmator does not have a dedicated RAW processing module, so any RAW files that you open in Pixelmator are automatically converted into a Pixelmator raster file. This can be a limiting factor in your workflow. That's why we're using the powerful RAW decoder DxO Optics Pro to handle the processing of our raw image before exporting it and finishing the photo in Pixelmator. Keep in mind that the RAW image processing capabilities of DxO Optics Pro can be paired up with any raster editing software of your choice for a cost-effective alternative to Lightroom. Now, let's make sure we understand some important concepts about RAW processing and raster editing. Conceptually speaking, a RAW photo file is not actually an image. Rather, it's a mathematical set of instructions about how to interpret your camera's RAW sensor data, in order to create a raster image. Therefore, when you're working in RAW processing programs, like DxO Optics Pro, Lightroom, or Adobe Camera RAW, for example. You aren't actually editing the image itself, because you're not changing the image's actual pixels. With these programs, side car files are created that hold the information about the changes you want to apply upon export of your RAW image. That's why the changes you make in RAW processing software are non-destructive. DxO operates similarly to other programs, like Adobe Camera RAW and Lightroom, in that it creates side car files that holds the information about the changes you want to apply upon export of the RAW image. It's not until you've exported your file as a raster image to raster imaging editors, like Pixelmator that you're in the actual editing stage. A raster image is made up of individual pixels of numerous colors, and include common formats, like JPEG, TIFF, PNG's and GIF's. Even with Photoshop, the concept is the same when editing RAW images. The RAW processor Adobe Camera RAW is integrated with Photoshop, so that when you first open a RAW file in Photoshop, Adobe Camera RAW is automatically open for you first. Once you process your image, you exported as a raster image, and then begin the actual editing phase in Photoshop. That's why after we finish processing our RAW image, we will be exporting our photo out of DxO as a raster image before we move to the raster editing stage in Pixelmator. Let's open DxO Optics Pro, and take a look around. You can go ahead, and open the program now. The first thing you'll probably notice is that they provide a folder of sample images for you, and it automatically opens for you. Within DxO, there are two primary sections. The Organize tab found in the upper left-hand corner, and the Customize tab. Within the Organize tab, you have your source browser on your left, where you're able to navigate to your folder of choice in order to work with your images. In the main center area, we have the current image that's selected, and along the bottom is the file browser for viewing the contents of your selected folder. Let's use the navigation area of the source browser to locate our class image on our hard drive. As soon as you selected your folder in the file browser, DxO automatically detects the camera and lens combination that you used. And opens a dialogue box, giving you the option to download the corresponding DxO Optics Module. An Optics Module is a feature that allows the program to automatically make intelligent adjustments, tailored to your equipment. The adjustments are based on calibration settings that DxO created in their own laboratories with a wide range of equipment combinations, so that it can match what you're using. You can go ahead and select Download, and it will install the module. After that, you can select Close. As you can see, no import is necessary with this program. At this point, it will give you a correction preview dialogue, to allow you to see the various automatic corrections that have been made to your image. It supplied a series of lens and perspective corrections, which we'll go over in an up coming lesson. The image also automatically has adapted the DxO Standard preset, this preset applies smart lighting settings, saturated color protection, and noise reduction. By default, it leave the white balance set to of your camera. It applies your camera's original color rendering settings. These settings are intelligent, based upon the individual needs of your image. Above your image, you can use the Compare button to look at the original photo, as well as how DxO adjusted it. So, if you hold down the Compare button, it shows you what your image looked like originally, and when you release it, it'll give you the correction preview. And so you can compare those two to see the subtle adjustments that have been made. There are a wide number of immediately available presets as well, located in the upper right-hand corner. When you select Apply preset, it gives you a range of options. And as you can see, we're currently using the DxO Standard preset. We'll go ahead, and close that down. And so here we have the image that we'll be working with. You also have a selection of other tools above your image. You're able to compare your images side by side as you make changes. You can also use the Zoom to fit button with the four arrows to adjust your image to automatically fit in the window, and you can select other percentages of zooming as well. You have your 1 to 1, which allows you to zoom to 100% into your image, and then with the drop-down next to it, you can select other percentages as well. We'll deactivate the dual image mode by selecting the Single image mode button. And we'll also select the Zoom to Fit button. If you hover over any of these buttons, it will give you a tool tip telling you what it does, which is very helpful. We'll begin to explore the specific automatic adjustments made to our photo in the next lesson. For now, it's enough to know that one of the strengths of DxO Optics Pro is that it makes automatic adjustments to your photo, that could allow you to end your RAW processing here and now if you wanted to. And if you head up to DxO Modules on the top menu, and then head down to Manage DxO Optics Modules, you're able to download new modules for you to use, as well as update and remove the ones that you've already installed. We'll go ahead and select Close. Next, let's look at the Customize tab. Up in the upper left-hand corner, you can click Customize. This shows us more information about our selected image, and offers a host of powerful processing tools. In the center we have our photo, and on the left and right we have a series of palettes that control various aspects of processing. As you can see on the left we have the EXIF palette, we have the PRESET EDITOR as well. And on the right, we have our HISTOGRAM, and beneath that a number of other palettes that are expandable when you click on them. And to collapse them, you can click on them again. These palettes are completely customizable. You can change the name of the palette, its location, and the tools that it displays by selecting the small list icon and arrow in the upper right-hand corner of each palette. And so within the ESSENTIAL TOOLS palette, we'll go ahead and select that menu. And here you see your list of options. You can change the location of your palette with these top options, you can rename your palette, and you can also delete it. And beneath that, you have a list of processing tools that you can add to each palette. And as you can see, the tools that are already included in this current palette have check marks next to their names. If you wanted to remove a tool from your palette, you would simply select it, and remove the check mark. That brings us to the end of this lesson. In this lesson, we discussed the advantages of working RAW, and how to do that using DxO Optics Pro and Pixelmator. Then, we opened our first file in DxO Optics Pro, and briefly became familiar with the interface. That also brings us to the end of this chapter. In this chapter, we discussed what we'll be covering in this course, and also acquired what we'll need for this course. In the next chapter, we'll neutralize and make corrective adjustments to our image.

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