I was having a chat with Mark, a mate of mine who has recently got into bird photography, about post processing and about RAW conversion in particular.
I suggested to him that – despite the de facto market supremacy of Adobe products like Photoshop – there were some very good alternatives out there, especially Raw Therapee (RT).
He told me that not only had he tried RT, but that he’d even downloaded my custom “PP profile” – but didn’t know what to do with it, or how to get the best out of RT.
He makes a good point. It’s all well and good for me to say “use my PP profile”, but it’s no help if you don’t know why you need it or where it goes!
Let’s do something about that, then…
RT is, and I make no bones about this opinion, a better RAW converter than pretty much any other out there in terms of ease of use and the quality of the end result: I’ve seen several reviews that concur with my experience that it produces more fine detail from files and with less noise, than Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or Lightroom (which uses the ACR conversion engine).
But to get the best out of it, you do need to tinker under the bonnet a bit.
That’s where my custom profile comes in…
An RT profile is simply a text file which contains the starting positions for the various adjustment parameters within RT.
It is a topic of much debate on the RT forums whether by default (using the “Neutral” profile), RT “under exposes” images.
This is simply not the case, in my experience.
Yes, the Neutral profile is certainly too dark as a default (recent suggestions are that this is down to whether the image that comes off the camera is “Gamma equalised”, which makes sense to me), but the beauty of RT’s profiling system is that you can create your own profile to suit your RAW files, preferences and intentions which you can then select as the new default.
Simple and clever.
My custom profile can be downloaded here and I invite you to do so.
Once you’ve got it (it’s only a 2kb download) You need to know how to use it.
Well, User-created RT profiles are stored in:
Documents and Settings/[user]/Application Data/.RawTherapee/profiles
which is where you should save this file, with the suffix “pp2”.
Remember that PP files are just text files, so you can create a file in any text editor, populate it with your preferred settings and save it in the relevant folder as newdefault.pp2 (or whatever).
Next time you open RT, it will be available from the drop-down at the top left of the RT window.
It can also be made the permanent default simply by opening the RT “Preferences” dialog.
This screenshot shows you what to look for.
So you’ve downloaded and installed my PP file. What does that get you?
Well as I suggest above, the Neutral profile is far too subdued, so my profile adjusts for it without any noise penalty.
I can’t emphasise this point enough. Use this profile and you will get images that are very close to perfectly exposed in noise terms. Note that I do not use RT’s noise reduction at all.
You will also get what I have found to be the ideal “capture sharpening” setting for my files.
There’s not much else to it, really: it simply provides a very usable starting point for further adjustment of your RAW files which will – if you give RT a fair chance – impress you as a matter of routine as long as you’ve done your bit with the camera in the first place!
Then, if you’ve found some PP settings of your own that you prefer to the ones I use, it is simplicity itself to save them from within RT – either as a new PP file, or by writing them to the existing profile.
Told you it was simple!