Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Choices! Why doesn't My Raw Image look like the Thumbnail?

We've all experienced this, we take a photo using raw, we load it into our favorite raw development software and view the thumbnail in the viewer.  The photo is perfect as is! SWEET!

So we select the raw image and send it to the 'develop' function in our software, and the image looks NOTHING like the thumbnail!  The color is off, it isn't very sharp! Basically it looks . . . well, RAW!

Don't blame your software.

What is happening is that with most software, and with ACDSee Pro and Ultimate, at least, is that you have it set up to view the embedded jpg as your thumbnail. With most cameras, that embedded jpg is a fully developed jpg image and does NOT reflect how that raw image (i.e. undeveloped image) looks. The software is doing what you have told it to do.  Using the embedded thumbnail is the default option in most software, and can be changed in the better software on the market today.

The ideal solution would be for the camera to embed a jpg thumbnail image that reflects how the raw image actually looks; but sadly, every camera that I know of uses the same finished jpg as a thumbnail that it would use if you set the camera up to produce only jpg images.

You have a few choices:

  • When you import, tell your software to create a new embedded jpg that looks like the raw image. (in ACDSee, for documentation, look up "Viewing Raw images" in the help file. Then change the "Raw Display" options under the "Options|General" menu selection. Change the selection to "Quality". This will force ACDSee to not use the embedded jpg and create a new one from the raw image.)
EDIT:  On the ACDSee 9 Pro and Ultimate series of software, the heading "Quality" has been changed to "Raw Decode".  I think this makes much more sense to users.

End Edit

If you want the option of using either raw or a finished jpg:
  • Shoot Raw + jpg if your camera allows it. This option increases the amount of space that each photo will use both in the camera media card and on your computer hard drive, BUT, you will have both a full sized raw image and a full sized, fully developed jpg image with which to work.
  • Use the software that came with your camera. In most cases this is the only software that knows how your camera creates the finished jpg and is able to duplicate that process exactly. Also, in most cases, this software simply isn't as good as ACDSee or Lightroom for general purpose raw development, but that is the compromise you will have to live with to get a raw file to look like an out of camera jpg with absolutely no work. (see my comparison of Olympus Viewer 3 and ACDSee Ultimate 8 HERE )
  • Once you have manually developed a raw image to look like an out of camera jpg in ACDSee, Lightroom, or other advanced software, save the settings as a preset and apply that preset at import time or when you are ready to do your post processing.
Sorry, but that is how the software and camera manufacturing industry has chosen to allow you to deal with this issue. Actually, I think the options are pretty extensive.  You have quite a few ways to deal with this issue if you choose to use them!

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