Wednesday, July 02, 2014

A Sting in the Tail

The separation of the post processing from the original photo files (be it jpeg or Raw) in the so called “non destructive” editors (like lightroom, aperture, aftershot pro and picasa) brings with it a lot of power because you can then go back and undo and change the post processing steps later. However there is a sting in this approach’s tail and many aperture users are probably going to realised very soon. Most of the “non destructive” work is carried out by proprietary software and stored as procedures in either databases or specific files. Whilst the photos themselves may be moved around the broader internet, cloud services and computers, even smartphones and tablets, moving this post processing along with the originals is generally not possible. There are a myriad of reason for this incompatibility of proprietary approaches, some social services even stripping metadata, bandwidth and file size limitations.. Further the trend within the big software developers is definitely towards serving the smartphone and tablet market and storing photos in the cloud, but this gets you into an even deeper propriety mess, cloud services are very definitely little closed silos, and sharing between of across them a challenge. The situation is a hodge podge and crying out for some standards to be developed for exchanging at least the most basic processing options, such as colour and tonal adjustments, cropping and straightening.

I’m not sure there is a clear solution yet, although at the moment you can save your ”cooked” images as either jpeg or dng (but dng is actually a propriety format). The big disadvantage with jpeg is that its precision is size related (a file that displays well on a smartphone screen may not be adequate to print, and a lot of information can be lost compared with the original file). Dng is being promoted heavily as a great standard by adobe but really its acceptance is at best lukewarm.. The other good practise at the moment is to write the small side car files (.xmp format, again another adobe proprietary format) which can be exchanged between several programs, at least for the metadata and often the rating of photos. The highly prompted Ipad app version of lightroom, can render the images according to the post processing on the computer but can not undertake most of this post processing a fresh, but it will allow you to rate the photos and update some of the metadata. Lets hope the aperture demise and user dissatisfaction does drive the move to more standards to exchange metadata, rating and at least basic post processing option.

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