16 Replies Latest reply on Jun 12, 2008 12:12 PM by Ramón G Castañeda

    A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration

    antlion Level 1
      If you're a new user trying to figure out why ACR doesn't accurately render your raw file's colors, and you have read through these forums, you've probably noticed an unusually hostile tone to the threads. Frequently a frustrated new user bumps heads with an exasperated expert who has answered the same question hundreds of times, and the conversation degenerates into insults. More experts chime in and disagree with each other, and the original question never really gets solved.

      The typical conversation goes something like this:

      -----------

      New user: Adobe Camera Raw isn't rendering my raw file's colors accurately in my photos. The colors are desaturated overall. For example, a bird's vivid red eyes are turned into a dull magenta-brown. No matter how hard I try, I can't rescue the original red color in ACR.

      Expert: Colors are subjective. What you are seeing is your camera's JPEG preview, not the actual Raw image, which doesn't contain color information itself. All raw converters use different algorithms to render color. Your camera's algorithm over-saturates the colors to appeal to amateurs. ACR creates a neutral rendering. Have you calibrated your camera and monitor? Have you read the white paper on RAW?

      New user: But those eyes are red in real life, not just in my camera! And yes, I have calibrated my camera and monitor, and I have read the white paper. This shouldn't be so difficult! Why doesn't Adobe make a better profile for my camera?

      Expert: You haven't done your research. You're either an idiot or unwilling to learn. I don't have time for you.

      Expert 2: If ACR didn't ignore the camera profile's proprietary information, we wouldn't have this problem.

      Expert 3: The information is available, but even if ACR ignores it, it is right to do so, to give users the most neutral starting point.

      [the new user has long since abandoned the conversation, in many cases to purchase their camera manufacturer's own software program, which invariably renders the image's color more accurately]

      ------------

      For an expert to fall back on the mantra "colors are subjective" is an insult to the intelligence of users and invariably turns the conversation into a hostile rather than helpful interchange. Unfortunately, the more friendly experts in the community compound the user's frustration by underplaying the amount of effort required to rescue some colors.

      In short, while Photoshop and ACR are incredibly sophisticated tools, to not acknowledge the limitations of ACR is disingenuous.

      An honest answer would include the following:

      1. An acknowledgment that ACR's initial rendering of some colors might not look accurate (e.g., not "true to life"). Brown is not red. Why is it so hard for ACR experts to simply admit this, rather than insulting the new user by insinuating the he/she is an idiot, unwilling to learn, "just an amateur," or part of the unwashed masses who are suckers for over-saturated images? I'm an amateur who doesn't like over-saturation, whether it's in my images or music (I prefer "neutral" British Hi-Fi components).

      An expert should be able to say, "I understand your frustration. Yes, I believe that your red [bird/car/leaf] is probably not rendered accurately by ACR. But here is what you can do to begin to recover that color..."

      2. An acknowledgment that, while in most cases colors can be adjusted in ACR to match the desired color, in some cases the adjustment process might be too cumbersome or time-consuming for many users.

      3. For those willing to spend more time.... A quick list of any required pre-work steps (camera calibration w/ color checker, key adjustments in ACR, etc) and links to more resources for deeper exploration.

      Given the frequency of this question, and the frustrations that are compounded by a few hostile experts on this forum, I am completely baffled as to why Adobe hasn't created a FAQ for this issue.
        • 1. Re: A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration
          antlion Level 1
          Continuation of original post (too long for one message)...

          Such a FAQ would fit nicely right below the FAQ that points to the Raw white paper. Does Adobe really want to cultivate hostility, frustration, and in the end, lost sales to other software programs? For the benefit of all of us, please post a FAQ on ACR color rendering and calibration. Most amateurs are willing to learn, but we need a better road map--one provided by Adobe.

          Thanks.
          • 2. Re: A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration
            Level 1
            >For an expert to fall back on the mantra "colors are subjective" is an insult to the intelligence of users and invariably turns the conversation into a hostile rather than helpful interchange

            Well, I'm thinking you are bringing a whole lot of baggage to the discussion here and reading things in what may be written that are neither intended nor accurate. The simple fact is (whether you like it or not) that camera rendering of colors is subjective and that no two raw processing engines can ever match color and tone EXACTLY (except for Camera Raw and Lightroom which can and does because they use the same pipeline).

            The tenor and nature of these forums is generally reflective of the nature and the attitude of the questions asked. If one comes in and in a civil manner asks useful questions to difficult problems I would expect the answers to reflect that. But if somebody comes in looking for a fight, they usually get one.

            The whole camera color issue will soon become moot for reasons that can't really be discussed yet but considering the timing of this new change, I rather doubt that there is any use or need for an FAQ in the near future. Come back in a couple of months and see what the landscape looks like then...
            • 3. Re: A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration
              Ramón G Castañeda Level 4
              Ooooh! That sounds highly interesting. Jeff never gives tantalizing hints in vain. :)
              • 4. Re: A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration
                Tim Lookingbill Level 1
                In other words what Jeff is probably saying is...Adobe's working on it.

                I just started trying out ACR after finally finding an upgrade copy of CS2 and I can only guess from what I've seen comparing ACR's appearance of color temp balance adjust= (saturated orangish yellow appearance adjusting to the right of 5000K) combined with its color slider's affect on the image's color table is quite different to other Raw converters. Each's own color temp adjusts are less saturated than others. Raw Developer's isn't orangish but more maroonish yellow. Still butt ugly. I would say Adobe's color is the most pleasing but it's still not accurate.

                I've never seen so many different image editors render an image so differently. Bibble, Raw Developer, my own Pentax Photo Lab and now ACR, it's like all of them had to reinvent their own color wheel-(no pun intended). Even the appearance of red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, yellow used when adjusting their color editing tools seem different from each other. It's weird.

                None are all that bad, just a bit off. I want what I saw through the camera's viewfinder and neither of them accomplish that without having to apply some type of apposing hue correction up the entire tonal scale because of the global affect color temp correction has on the perception of the rest of the colors. You want neutrals to look neutral but skintones turn reddish accomplishing this.

                But then you go back to the original scene to find the neutrals weren't that neutral to begin with and what's happening now is the bluishness of the overall neutralized scene is playing tricks on your eyes on the amount of yellow perceived in the skintone.
                • 5. Re: A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration
                  Ramón G Castañeda Level 4
                  Tim,

                  ACR 4.4.1 is light years ahead of the last version you can run in CS2.

                  Check out this article on ACR 4.1 by Jeff Schewe
                  • 6. Re: A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration
                    Tim Lookingbill Level 1
                    Don't you have to upgrade to CS3 to get 4.1?

                    From what I understand CS2 was my last allowed upgrade starting from PS 4 which I paid full retail when it was bundled with a scanner I purchased. For me to get CS3 I have to pay the full retail which is beyond my means.

                    I sure wish I'm wrong. But if I can get just ACR 4.1 to drop into CS2 plugin folder I'll gladly try it out. Adobe apps are the only ones that don't crash after long edit sessions on my G5 Imac under Panther. I've got Tiger on order hoping it'll solve the crashing on the other three converters.

                    And BTW I read somewhere ACR 4 improved sharpening and backed off or improved on the noise smoothing. Is this true? With ACR 3.7 at 200% view textures are quite soft looking and sharpening them creates harsh black edge halos. I know I'm pixel peeping but I'm wanting to uprez for 20x30 and I'ld like a more prestine appearance at pixel level.

                    Raw Developer is the best at this over any converter I've tried so far but it crashes as well. I'm crossing my fingers Tiger will solve this, but I doubt it.
                    • 7. Re: A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration
                      Ramón G Castañeda Level 4
                      > Don't you have to upgrade to CS3 to get 4.1?

                      Of course you do. That's why I wrote "ACR 4.4.1 is light years ahead of the last version you can run in CS2." In other words, the upgrade to CS3 is very much worth it.

                      If you have CS2, you can upgrade to CS3 for $190. Check amazon. There's no reason for you to pay full price. It doesn't matter how many times you have upgraded to a higher version. CS3 does require at least Tiger 10.4.8. It will not run in Panther.

                      Remember that all Adobe Photoshop upgrades are full installers.

                      Sharpening is much improved in ACR 4.4.1, and so is noise reduction. There were huge leaps from ACR 4 to 4.1, and substantial improvements in each subsequent version, including 4.4.1.

                      I prefer to do my sharpening after the correction, with PhotoKit Sharpener.
                      • 8. Re: A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration
                        Tim Lookingbill Level 1
                        Thanks for the info, Ramon.

                        I could've swore I read a while back in the PS Mac forums someone saying the upgrade path had ended for those whose prior full retail purchase was PS 4 and under. You had to have bought a full retail price license at PS 5 and up or something to that effect. I know the upgrades are full installs just as if you paid for the full price version.

                        I just remember thinking to myself that pretty much ends it for me with Photoshop upgrades. I just read Adobes Store website CS3 requires PS 7 and up but it doesn't indicate whether that means full retail price version or upgrades. I'm going to call up Adobe sales and get a definate answer.

                        I'm already into this upgrade venture $250 just to try out RAW converters. 3 crash and one, ACR, needs some improvement.

                        Yeah, I know, welcome to the club.
                        • 9. Re: A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration
                          Ramón G Castañeda Level 4
                          >someone saying the upgrade path had ended for those whose prior full retail purchase was PS 4 and under.

                          At the time I upgraded from Photoshop 5 to Photoshop 7, I was told by Adobe that ANY version of Photoshop qualified for the upgrade, even Photoshop 1.

                          What has changed now is that only the three last versions qualify, meaning you can upgrade fro 7, CS or CS2 to CS3. Once CS4 is officially announced, only CS, CS2 and CS3 will qualify.

                          CS4 may be closer than we think.
                          • 10. Re: A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration
                            Tim Lookingbill Level 1
                            Thanks, Ramon.

                            Adobe's got the try out download for CS3 and most other apps disabled until July 1st. I can wait. Tiger just arrived today and I'll be busy sorting out any compatibilty issues you all in the past documented so well in the PS Mac forums.

                            BTW does Lightroom have the same improvements in sharpening and detail rendering as ACR 4.1? I might give that a try as well.

                            Tinkering today with ACR 3.7 is kicking up some weird texture artifacts in my K100D PEFs I find objectionable. I've seen tiffs from scans of 35mm negs look better than this. It almost looks like blocky jpeg compression artifacts and I'm saving to tiff.

                            Love the color controls.

                            Thanks for the feedback.
                            • 11. Re: A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration
                              Ramón G Castañeda Level 4
                              Tim,
                              >Adobe's got the try out download for CS3 and most other apps disabled until July 1st.

                              It's actually a coding error in a single line of code that makes the trial versions inoperable in June, and they didn't catch it until June 1st arrived. :D Most embarrassing for Adobe.

                              I can't comment on Lightroom. I hated that sucker when I tried it and never used it again.
                              • 12. Re: A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration
                                John Kjellberg Level 1
                                Lightroom and ACR are the same. The only difference is that Lightroom does not have the point curve, only the parametric curve.

                                So LR is a cheaper way of buying ACR. ;-)

                                John
                                • 13. Re: A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration
                                  Yammer Level 4
                                  I tried out Lightroom and found it slower and harder to use than Bridge/ACR.
                                  • 14. Re: A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration
                                    John Kjellberg Level 1
                                    Just for the sake of balance:
                                    I use Lightroom and find it faster and easier to use than Bridge/ACR.

                                    Varying mileage.
                                    • 15. Re: A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration
                                      Tim Lookingbill Level 1
                                      Just found an old ACR 4.1 and 4.2 vs Raw Developer comparison test by Eugene Scherba on a Canon D5 100% crop of landscape detail and it seems textures were improved but replaced with a somewhat clay like appearance as if heavy Noise Ninja was applied.

                                      Not sure if this going to be a real issue when uprez interpolating to 20x30 inch. I'm wanting to improve upon DSLR capture of fine art paintings as apposed to pulling the canvas off the frame and running it through a very expensive wide format linear array scanner which can harm certain types of paintings due to the tight fit between the scanner head and rollers.

                                      I just tried out Shadow and Highlite and I'm just blown away. Those who posted on this were right. It is worth the price of the upgrade. Definition in shadow and highlite detail without the painstaking tweaking of points in curves. We don't need no stinkin' HDR stack blending of multiexposures with this. This is great for landscapes.
                                      • 16. Re: A plea for FAQ on ACR's color rendering and calibration
                                        Ramón G Castañeda Level 4
                                        > Just found an old ACR 4.1 and 4.2 vs Raw Developer comparison test

                                        ACR 4.4.1 is a substantial improvement over 4.2.