Before the rush

Before the rush
by evan-pak

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Canon PowerShot SX210 IS doesn't support RAW format, so I don't have a choice w.r.t shooting in Jpeg format.

Do we have some special camera settings that we shouldn't touch or should set in some other way for JPEG photographs to be edited "properly" later on?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

When shooting JPEG, its best to understand the limitations on editing that you can perform. Just because you shoot JPEG does not mean the images are not editable, however the degree of edits you make may be limited. In general, I would shoot at the highest quality JPEG setting your camera offers, to minimize the amount of compression artifacts and preserve as much detail and color accuracy as you can. This should help extend the abilities you have while performing post processing.

Assuming you are saving your JPEG photos with the highest quality setting possible, you may want to consider which settings to configure in-camera. When making minor edits in post processing, such as slight contrast adjustments, you usually will not have to worry. Significant adjustments, such as a very broad shift in white balance, will often result in undesirable or unnatural color divergence (i.e. landscape may look fine, but clouds may end up too blue or yellow.) You might want to choose the best white balance setting in your camera, and get as close to correct as you can, to minimize the amount of white balance correction necessary during post processing. On a similar note, more significant shifts in saturation can often enhance compression artifacts. It may be best to choose a picture mode that produces the amount of saturation you prefer in your photos, which should also help minimize the degree of post-processing edits that must be done.

It should be noted that as long as you don't have to make significant edits in post processing, you should be able to perform almost any kind of post processing on a JPEG without worry. If you use the highest quality JPEG setting, you should have a fair amount of leeway for edits as well, and while you will never be able to make the kinds of radical post-process adjustments and corrections you can with RAW, you might be surprised how much flexibility you still have with a high quality JPEG image.

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Thanks Jrista and apologies for the delayed response. Was too busy. I have found that compression can be set to either Fine or Normal. I ve set it to fine. You said "preserve as much detail and color accuracy as you can". What kind of setting is responsible for that? – TheIndependentAquarius Jun 14 '11 at 4:44
You said "You might want to choose the best white balance setting in your camera," Do you mean to say that white balance should be selected based on the scene or should I keep it a constant default? – TheIndependentAquarius Jun 14 '11 at 4:47
You also said "more significant shifts in saturation can often enhance compression artifacts" For "saturation", I have 5 levels, also I have 5 levels for "contrast", "red/blue/green", "skin tone", "sharpness". So, what level should I keep a default or you meant something else? – TheIndependentAquarius Jun 14 '11 at 4:51
I don't know what is a "picture mode". Sorry for sounding dumb, but I am a newbie w.r.t cameras. – TheIndependentAquarius Jun 14 '11 at 4:53
And w.r.t the "white balance", I remembered just now that the white balance when kept to default, produces a blue tinge on the photographs. – TheIndependentAquarius Jun 14 '11 at 4:54

To maximse editing potential of JPEG files, aim to do the following:

  • Set the colour space to AdobeRGB
  • Size maxmimum, quality maximum (fine)
  • Linear tonecurve (medium contrast)
  • Neutral/faithful colour saturation
  • Minimal sharpening
  • Shoot a custom white balance image to set white balance if possible
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Why set the colour space to Adobe RGB? – JamWheel Jun 10 '11 at 11:39
AdobeRGB has a wider gamut (range of colours) than sRGB, so you're less likely to clip the colours you're recording if they go out of gamut. Basically it will give you more latitude to manipulate colours in post. – Matt Grum Jun 10 '11 at 12:57
On the other hand, you're more likely to get posterization and other artifacts in color transitions in the range that sRGB covers. I'd say this advice is only the case if you're going to keep the photo in Adobe RGB all the way through printing. If the end result will be in sRGB (many printing services, general web use), I think it's better to stay in that space all along to minimize changes to the file. (And if your monitor can't display the gamut of Adobe RGB, it's hard to work with!) – mattdm Jun 10 '11 at 13:27
Posterization can be removed (by diffusion, blurring) once you've transferred to a higher depth space (when editing you should increase to a 16 bit (or more) format straight away anyway, which renders colour space transforms moot). If you clip the source data there's no going back. – Matt Grum Jun 10 '11 at 14:14
Thanks Matt, by "Neutral/faithful colour saturation" you mean medium colour saturation? And since I never knew what the hell "sharpning" was used for, I kept it to the highest :rolleyes:. I haven't yet figured out how to set the "custom white balance", but I will, soon. – TheIndependentAquarius Jun 14 '11 at 5:02

In addition to the excellent answers here already, be sure to save the original file exactly as it came out of the camera before you do any editing. In the event that you later decide to re-process the photo with slightly different settings, you'll be better off starting from that original image, vs. picking up a photo that you've already manipulated.

Edit: to be clear, I'm suggesting a back up of the original file, saved somewhere that you can revert back to for future use.

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I'd say to save the jpg as a TIFF or similar as a starting point, jpg uses a lossy compression technique so every time you save it, the file will degrade in quality – JamWheel Jun 10 '11 at 11:40
If the image comes off the camera as a TIFF, then yes - that's a better option. My assumption was that the files were saved as JPG by the camera, thus, they're never going to get any more "native" than that original file. – D. Lambert Jun 10 '11 at 12:23
If they come off the camera as jpg, saving them to TIFF at least preserves them 'as is' and gives you a 'negative' from which to work without degrading its quality – JamWheel Jun 10 '11 at 13:40
Thanks Lambert, that is a good reminder. The files are saved by default as Jpg by the camera. I'll look up what is "TIFF" :) Thanks to @JamWheel too. – TheIndependentAquarius Jun 14 '11 at 4:56

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