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are there any good products on the market that could automate processing of raw files?

some intelligence would be required (akin to photoshops auto color), to adjust exposure, color balance, and render to a nice jpeg (hopefully better than the camera would)

currently my process is painful, as i have to manually edit each image to make it look good.. the camera i am using is nikon d7000 (shooting in manual mode 100% of time) and i don't like almost any photos the way they come out by default in raw.

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What are you using right now that is painful and slow as part of your process? Have you tried Adobe Lightroom to process RAW files? It isn't automatic(because automatic would be akin to in camera JPEG) but it can be setup to apply presets at import and also can very easily batch process files to your desire. Have you tried shooting RAW + JPEG in the camera and using the JPEGs created by the camera for the majority of your images but use the RAW when deemed necessary? –  dpollitt Dec 5 '13 at 4:15
    
right now i use the photoshop raw importer first (adjust basic stuff like brightness, blacks, contrast clarity, followed by photoshop to maybe add a new layer and use some overlays.. (actually that last step could be handled by the initial importer because a lot of the similar feel can be achieved by those sliders). i have used lightroom for a few hours, and i thought the layout was a bit easier.. but it would still be painful to process a few hundred photos.. –  Sonic Soul Dec 5 '13 at 4:22
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Lightroom's batch process can be basically automatic. Think of it as RAW+JPEG except with the JPEGs generated as a second step. I think most RAW software can, in fact. This previous question lists a number of ways. –  mattdm Dec 5 '13 at 5:02

4 Answers 4

Building atop of laurencemadill's answer, if you do not want to invest the money for Lightroom at the moment, RawTherapee is a similar raw development tool that is open source and serves my basic editing needs well. It supports profiles as well and you can batch convert images at your convenience. (For example, Ctrl+A to select all, assign profile, send them off to development; similar to lightroom's process.)

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I'd sell Photoshop to buy Lightroom, but I like to have photoshop still because I can use it for graphic design work where obviously Lightroom can't do that –  laurencemadill Dec 5 '13 at 20:40

Lightroom can apply the same settings to multiple images.

You can edit one image, make it look good, and then apply the same settings to the other pictures taken at the same time. It works best for things like white balance that are likely to need the same adjustments for all the images taken at the same time/location, but all of the other settings can be used, too.

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In Lightroom I apply some settings to images on import, but only fairly generic settings: all images I import from my camera get a slight contrast boost, 'clarity' and 'vibrance' boosts, but not by too much.

Although there is an 'auto tone' button in Lightroom which I expect you can apply automatically on import, nothing can really replace visually analysing each image. If I used autotone on even 10% of my images they would be no good. Obviously if you're processing raw files every edit is completely reversible.

Lightroom is well worth the investment and since I started using it to manage my photos 3yrs ago I think I've used photoshop twice.

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For whatever reason, Lightroom's "auto" seems to be very aggressive. As you note, it works some of the time, but in my (somewhat limited, as I am not actually a Lightroom user but I've helped my father with his) experience it tends to push the sliders way further than looks reasonable to my eye. –  mattdm Dec 5 '13 at 19:10
    
@mattdm I've found much the same, also quite a few of my recent shots have a deliberately dark background, of course Lightroom tries to find an overall balanced image and will always try and recover the dark greys and blacks. I'd say that with every single image it's trial and error. I'm sure plenty of people here know how laborious that is when you've just downloaded 700 photos from a single day's shoot :-) –  laurencemadill Dec 5 '13 at 20:43

What do you mean with "automatically process RAW photographs"? Software cannot "automatically edit" photos easily because it does not know what you wan to see and show.

Software can only "auto-optimize" photos based on certain preset parameters which what I suspect you are after. However the results are very varied and not something that can really be considered reliable "automatic editing" of photographs.

Now there is another aspect - camera profiles: If you use a product such as Lightroom or the manufacturer's own product (Digital Photo Professional for Canon, no idea about Nikon) it will apply a camera profile to interpret the RAW data to produce an image that will look similar to the preview in the camera.

A last option that is impractical outside of a clearly defined environment is to always include a known parameter (e.g. a grey card) in the same spot of a photo. You should then be able to use something like a Photoshop action (or maybe you need to write your own plugin) to "edit" or "optimize" the photo relative to that known parameter. However unless you are a studio photographer or monitor some experimental setup this is unlikely to be a practical approach.

I hope I haven't misunderstood your question.

Edit: Just a little pointer - if you are shooting in manual mode and don't like the results, maybe you should try a semi-automatic mode? Maybe even post some examples so we clearly understand what your problem is.

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