Getting started with image processing

retiredfromlife

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I would try the free Olympus software first up, bit slow but a good place to start.
If you have a tablet "snapseed" is free, add free and works well for jpeg or DNG. In fact this would be my first choice for a free program as you will be able to learn quickly then move on to another program.
 

Darmok N Jalad

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I have not done anything much with raw other than to poke around in darktable and mostly be confused. So far I didn't find it intuitive at all, but I really haven't given it a chance. I'd like to ultimately be able to explore what raw has to offer, but I expect that I will be using jpeg as my primary format after saving both.

In my recent efforts I have mostly just cropped, fixed exposure, maybe added some vignetting, and warmed or cooled color balance. Most of what I have done lately could be done in many viewers or even google photo and in fact I often do a quick tweak or two in google photo before sharing. Some time in the distant past I briefly did a little more advanced editing where did a little bit of stuff like removing utility wires or masking areas and fixing exposure or color in specific areas, but I don't really remember much of that after the years that have passed since then. Some of that I guess would come back more quickly since I have done it before, but I definitely don't remember how at this point. I am not even sure what tool I used for that at the time (Paint Shop Pro maybe?).

I was inclined toward open source stuff on Ubuntu for years, but I find myself running Windows 10 now (along with a Chromebook). So while I have a weak preference for something that is open source and multi platform, I would be willing to go with a for pay windows based product if there is a good reason to do so. A strong user base, good learning tools, ease of use, or other factors may well be enough to sway my choice of products, so capability of the tool while important isn't the final factor in my mind.
Darktable is a very powerful program, but the learning curve can be a bit steep since it has so many options. What I have done is make a custom sidebar of my frequently used applets, and only do a search for the applets that I just use on occasion. With Darktable, you can set a custom basecurve for your camera to apply to photos upon import (good for RAW work), and you can do all the keyboard shortcuts you'd like. I have 3 export settings ready and waiting with shortcuts (2 for forum shares, one for my library). Really, once you get your workflow established in Darktable, you will become pretty fast at adjusting images since the tweaks can often be defaulted and turned on in one click. You can even copy and paste your batch of image adjustments to other images to make quick work of tweaking a series of shots with minimal effort. There's a lot to work with in Darktable, but it's kinda like MS Excel--you don't need to know how to use every feature to make a good spreadsheet.

As far as the base/favorite applets I use: Vignette, sharpen, local contrast, contrast/brightness/saturation, rgb curve, exposure, white balance, noise reduction, highlights/shadows, haze removal, and crop/rotate. Maybe throw in perspective correction, depending on what you're shooting. IMO, working with those applets is a good place to start. I've rarely needed to go beyond those to get the results I'm looking for.

Last bit with Darktable is that it creates sidecar files, which means it's non-destructive edits. That's why you'll want to export images when complete. The bonus with sidecars is that you don't have to fuss with file locations and databases as much. I can sync entire folders on my cloud storage and 2 PCs running Darktable will sync the adjustments.

And to throw a wrench in things, I'm also messing with DxO PureRaw right now. Trying to decide if it's really worth the GPU cycles with the AI and the like. It does good work, but it's not a one-stop editor.
 
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Part of the issue with DarkTable is that there are a lot of modules, many with overlapping purposes, some intended for different workflows, many very old. You know, to maintain compatibility over time for some edit you might have done years ago. It's not obvious what you should be using and why.

Here's an overview of which modules to actually use (especially go to "a minimal workflow for beginners"):
https://pixls.us/articles/darktable-3-rgb-or-lab-which-modules-help/

Some not mentioned but useful:
  • lens correction (you know, to fix vignetting, distortion, CA)
  • retouch (if you want to remove something from an image)
  • crop and rotate (of course)
First steps for any image you open:
  • click on exposure module and set the exposure slider up or down
  • click on filmic exposure and change sliders for white relative exposure and black relative exposure as needed for compressing or expanding the dynamic range (and maybe some things in other tabs later)
Should be easy to see the effects of those three sliders, which are for overall brightness and how bright the bright parts are relative to the not-as-bright and the dimmer parts of the scene. Then go on from there.
 

Brownie

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Darktable is a very powerful program, but the learning curve can be a bit steep since it has so many options. What I have done is make a custom sidebar of my frequently used applets, and only do a search for the applets that I just use on occasion. With Darktable, you can set a custom basecurve for your camera to apply to photos upon import (good for RAW work), and you can do all the keyboard shortcuts you'd like. I have 3 export settings ready and waiting with shortcuts (2 for forum shares, one for my library). Really, once you get your workflow established in Darktable, you will become pretty fast at adjusting images since the tweaks can often be defaulted and turned on in one click. You can even copy and paste your batch of image adjustments to other images to make quick work of tweaking a series of shots with minimal effort. There's a lot to work with in Darktable, but it's kinda like MS Excel--you don't need to know how to use every feature to make a good spreadsheet.

As far as the base/favorite applets I use: Vignette, sharpen, local contrast, contrast/brightness/saturation, rgb curve, exposure, white balance, noise reduction, highlights/shadows, haze removal, and crop/rotate. Maybe throw in perspective correction, depending on what you're shooting. IMO, working with those applets is a good place to start. I've rarely needed to go beyond those to get the results I'm looking for.

Last bit with Darktable is that it creates sidecar files, which means it's non-destructive edits. That's why you'll want to export images when complete. The bonus with sidecars is that you don't have to fuss with file locations and databases as much. I can sync entire folders on my cloud storage and 2 PCs running Darktable will sync the adjustments.

And to throw a wrench in things, I'm also messing with DxO PureRaw right now. Trying to decide if it's really worth the GPU cycles with the AI and the like. It does good work, but it's not a one-stop editor.
If you're not using the new Filmic RGB and the almost new Tone Equalizer, you're missing out. Sometime I use one, or the other, or both.

The tutorial series from Bruce Williams as suggest by @NACEOD is excellent and runs the gamut from beginner to expert, just make sure you aren't looking at a tutorial from a previous version. I watched a lot of those when COVID lockdown first started. I wish he'd clean up his you tube site and categorize the old ones. Stay away from tutorials by the developer, Aurelian Pierre. He is as smart as a whip but tends to get over technical, at least for me.

Darktable usually has one upgrade per year, last year they did two.
 

Brownie

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First steps for any image you open:
  • click on exposure module and set the exposure slider up or down
  • click on filmic exposure and change sliders for white relative exposure and black relative exposure as needed for compressing or expanding the dynamic range (and maybe some things in other tabs later)
And this is a prime example of Darktable's many different ways to accomplish something. If the image needs exposure adjustment, I do so in the tone equalizer as long as it doesn't need too much. It's an extremely powerful module that can make the adjustments in the area needed. For instance, if I overexposed in order to see something in a shadow, I can pull back the exposure in those specific areas and leave the properly exposed areas alone.

Also, instead of opening the exposure module for exposure, you can simply put the cursor over the histogram and scroll the wheel. It's separated into two sections, mid/upper, and black. This makes more coarse corrections so if you want minor adjustments it is best to open the program and use the drop down graphic.

Have you guys tried the profiled NR? It's kind of amazing. It knows the camera and sensor and makes an adjustment based on that and the photo's ISO. Try zooming in to a dark area and hit the module. Don't even both opening it, just turn it on. This is the very first module in my workflow.
 
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Darmok N Jalad

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Have you guys tried the profiled NR? It's kind of amazing. It knows the camera and sensor and makes an adjustment based on that and the photo's ISO. Try zooming in to a dark area and hit the module. Don't even both opening it, just turn it on. This is the very first module in my workflow.
Yes, and it does work rather well. It's an impressive free program.
 
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I second the option for DXO Photolab 4. A few years ago I was also looking to get into RAW processing, instead of always relying on the camera's JPG files. I tried a couple of software options (pretty much everyone offers free, fully featured trial versions) but liked DXO the most:

It was easy to use, I don't have to manage any catalogues or libraries, just browse to a folder, open the image and go. The interface is clean and customizable, there is a "Smart Lighting" slider for starters, which tries to improve the lighting of the image without fiddling around with any other sliders, it works pretty decent most of the time. Of course you can still adjust highlights/shadows/contrast etc.
Besides DXO Photolab 4 pretty much offers the best noise reduction options on the market, it really works wonders for Micro Four Thirds cameras, even at base ISO it provides a subtle cleaning of the whole image.
 

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After a quick perusal of some tutorials to see which ones I might want to start with, I have an impression of where I want to start. I initially narrowed it down to Darktable and DXO Photolab and was pretty much set on Darktable as an initial starting point mostly because I already had it installed and like the opensource concept. Then I watched a few videos and DXO Photolab just looked like the interface made perfect sense to me in a way none of the others I have looked at did. Everything I see in the interface looks kind of familiar and just seems to make sense. So far looking at it it just looks like it will click with me if that makes sense.

This comfort with the interface is important to me because I have found that a lot of the supposedly easier to use newer software just confounds me. I come from a tech background and ant one point worked in and programmed professionally for AutoCAD users way back in the day and hate the interfaces in the most of newer more "user friendly" cad programs, so maybe it is something like that.

I am almost tempted to just buy DXO Photolab right off if there is any limitation or hassle with the 30 day trial. Does anyone have final caveats or comments before I take the plunge and start learning DXO Photolab.
 

Brownie

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I am almost tempted to just buy DXO Photolab right off if there is any limitation or hassle with the 30 day trial. Does anyone have final caveats or comments before I take the plunge and start learning DXO Photolab.
You want the short answer?

You will become proficient with whatever program you decide on.

If these programs sucked, you wouldn't be getting recommendations for them. Ask 20 people, get 20 different responses. If you think DXO is the one, go for it.
 

Dinobe

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Here is another vote for Darktable. I've been using it for about 3 years now. It's very very powerful and has very unique features like the possibility to combine drawn and parametric masks.
Darktable has some downsides, but once you find your way you can find a certain flow or rhythm to make processing enjoyable.

Some of the downsides:
- a rather steep learning curve
- the sheer amount of modules
- there are multiple ways of achieving the same thing.
- the "interface is not the workflow" unlike Lightroom.
- Darktable has undergone lots of changes from version 2.2 to 3.4 so some info on the internet can be outdated or no longer applicable which can lead to some confusion.

Luckily 80-85% of the images can be processed with just a handful of modules.
I mostly only need to tinker with following modules:
- exposure
- lens correction
- color correction
- color balance (does 75% of the work)
- local contrast
- filmic (I mostly leave this in it's default state)

optional
- denoise
- perspective correction
- color zones
- retouch module

I would highly recommend videos on YT by Bruce Williams, Boris Hajdukovic, Aurelien Pierre and the pixls.us forum for more info
 
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SyZyGy

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I am trying to get started with more serious digital imaging processing ...considering concentrating on Gimp and Darktable, ...

For basic editing of JPGs, continue using google or SnapSeed app. That's probably all you need.

GIMP, though good, is more like Photoshop. darktable is more like lightroom, and has enough in regards to frequency separation and raster maskign etc, should you eventually need it.

Check out the pixl.us dt forum: https://discuss.pixls.us/c/software/darktable/19
Check out the reddit sub: https://www.reddit.com/r/darktable

The collected resources: https://www.reddit.com/r/DarkTable/comments/cyn5h1
And there is a pretty comprehensive list of dt videos by Bruce Williams: https://www.youtube.com/user/audio2u/playlists

The NEW USERS list should be here:
for complete beginners
 

BosseBe

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I am almost tempted to just buy DXO Photolab right off if there is any limitation or hassle with the 30 day trial. Does anyone have final caveats or comments before I take the plunge and start learning DXO Photolab.
I have not experienced or heard of any hassle with the trial from DxO, just be sure to trial the Elite version that has all features.
(I did a quick check on the DxO free trial page and the trial has all functions unlocked, so it is the Elite version.)
There are actually a few controls in the Elite version that only appears if you have the DxO FilmPack and/or DxO ViewPoint installed. (Both integrate into PhotoLab.)

I saw that DxO offers 30% off right now on all DxO SW (not NIK collection). The Prime Bundle goes for €269.99 right now (PL4, FP5, VP3.)
 

PakkyT

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Not sure how it works on Windows, but on Mac since GIMP can not open RAW files directly and needs a front end to process them and pass the results on to GIMP, mine is set up to first open Darktable then when with DT there closing DT automatically passes the DT processed RAW to GIMP, so sort of the best of both worlds. If I can do what I wanted all in DT, I can simply save the JPG version when I get to GIMP or while still in DT. And if I still think the image needs something I can try with GIMP next.

But I am also not a big editing guys and don't really know most of the tools in either application so mostly only use these two when working with my infrared images. Normally Apple's Photos application can handle most of my common edit needs (straightening, cropping, white balance correction, etc.).
 

BosseBe

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If you want to try out DxO PL4 and think that you might want to buy it, there is a way to take advantage of the current low price and still try it out before committing.
(There is no mention that I have found for how long the low prices are valid.)
If you buy the SW you actually just buy an activation code, if you don't use the code you have 14 days to get your money back, so if you try and dislike you can still get your money back inside 14 days.
 

Brownie

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Not sure how it works on Windows, but on Mac since GIMP can not open RAW files directly and needs a front end to process them and pass the results on to GIMP, mine is set up to first open Darktable then when with DT there closing DT automatically passes the DT processed RAW to GIMP, so sort of the best of both worlds. If I can do what I wanted all in DT, I can simply save the JPG version when I get to GIMP or while still in DT. And if I still think the image needs something I can try with GIMP next.
I had forgotten about that. I've done it a few times and it was easy, I guess I just dislike GIMP and all of the Print Shop-ish features so much I avoid it. But GIMP does have more editing power than Darktable, which is more focused on processing.
 

PeteS

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If you want to try out DxO PL4 and think that you might want to buy it, there is a way to take advantage of the current low price and still try it out before committing.
(There is no mention that I have found for how long the low prices are valid.)
If you buy the SW you actually just buy an activation code, if you don't use the code you have 14 days to get your money back, so if you try and dislike you can still get your money back inside 14 days.
Ah, good to know I will do that assuming that $149 is a good price for DxO PhotoLab 4 Elite. I am pretty sure I want it and that way I can lock in the price and don't have to commit for 14 days. When someone mentioned it going on sale every so often I assume that this current pricing is what was referred to. Correct?
 

BosseBe

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Ah, good to know I will do that assuming that $149 is a good price for DxO PhotoLab 4 Elite. I am pretty sure I want it and that way I can lock in the price and don't have to commit for 14 days. When someone mentioned it going on sale every so often I assume that this current pricing is what was referred to. Correct?
Since I already have the full DxO package (PL4 Elite, FP5 and VP3) I don't follow the prices, but I think 30% off is as good as it gets.
 

twigboy

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I was inclined toward open source stuff on Ubuntu for years, but I find myself running Windows 10 now (along with a Chromebook).
I recently realized that Olympus Image Share (OI.Share) runs on ChromeOS (Chromebook). Just connect the Chromebook to the camera wifi. HTH.
 
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