Photo Peas Classroom - SOOC: What does "correct" really mean?

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Posted 1/19/2010 by paintedmoon in General Photography
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Ancient Ancestor of Pea

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Posted: 1/19/2010 8:41:22 AM
Welcome to one of the first lessons in the 2 Peas Classroom series. Big, big thanks go to Jami for organizing what has turned in to a massive commitment for her. Yay, Jami!

I have had the idea for this thread in my head for a while now, especially after some posts in recent months in which people were agonizing over their SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) images. On the Before/After threads so many people always say they are reassured or surprised at what other people's SOOC's look like, which tells me that SOOC's are like some big secret that everyone is afraid to show anyone. And with so many people getting new cameras at this time of year and others resolving to learn manual or how to PP their photos, I thought this might be a good topic for discussion. And it is an excellent place to start out the Photo Peas Classroom series, because if you do not start with a solid SOOC, you will just be fighting it every step of the way, and that is frustrating. Trust me, BTDT!

Side note: I use a lot of acronyms when I type (trying to save my hands!) and several of you asked what they meant. So here is a list of most of the ones I use:

SOOC - straight out of camera
ACR - Adobe Camera RAW
PS - Photoshop
LR - Lightroom
DOF - Depth of Field
SS - shutter speed
Ap - aperture
OOF - out of focus
PP'ing - post processing
WB - white balance
ETTR - expose to the right

If you spend any time on a photography message board, you will hear over and over about "getting it correct SOOC." It is drilled in to us. But an explanation of what "correct" really means rarely takes place. If you do not know what a correct SOOC looks like, how can you produce one? The hesitancy to show unedited work doesn't help - yes, it does feel a bit like walking in to a room full of people in just your underwear, LOL, but I think a dialogue about what constitutes a good foundation for further editing is really critical. And you cannot do that unless you are willing to show them.

But, this is not a lesson that is going to show you exactly what your SOOC must look like. Because what is right for one person may not be right for another person. I know what I need in a SOOC for the way I shoot and process (and that's what I will to show you here), but it might not be what is correct for someone else's process. So I would welcome (I am begging!) for others to please show their SOOC's and tell us what THEY require (and why) as a good foundation upon which to start their processing.

Anyway, for me, three key things play in to it:

-Whether you shoot RAW or jpeg
-What kind of lighting you are shooting in and the requirements for different situations
-How you process your images

**Note: Let me say here that my overall method is to take my SOOC in to ACR, do a few minor tweaks to get a good base image - so the brights are not too bright, the darks are not too dark, not much contrast, etc - and then open it in CS4 and do all my processing there. This is different from someone whose workflow includes doing the major edits in ACR or LR and only minor edits in PS. But regardless of how you continue on, everyone needs a good foundation upon which to build, whether it's mostly done in ACR/LR or mostly in PS.

I shoot RAW, so I do not expect my SOOC's to come out looking fabulous. They look, in fact, a bit drab and dull, and I want them that way! If I shot jpeg, my SOOC's would look totally different. In fact, they would initially look more correct than my SOOC RAW images do, because they have already been processed in the camera.

**Inserting my humble, personal opinion here on RAW vs. Jpeg - you are welcome to skip this part!

I personally think that shooting jpeg is more challenging if you are a beginner or semi-beginner, because there is more pressure on you to absolutely NAIL every single aspect of the photograph when you are shooting - the exposure has to be darn-near perfect, the WB needs to be really accurate, there cannot be any significant color casts, the dynamic range cannot be too huge, etc, etc, etc, because your ability to manipulate these things in post processing is more limited with a jpeg image than a RAW image. And being a beginner means that you just are not going to nail all those things right from the start, and thus editing to correct those issues in PP'ing becomes frustrating. But let me emphasize...I ALWAYS, DEFINITELY, WILL FOREVER agree that you should continually learn and STRIVE to get ALL of those things correct when you are shooting, regardless of whether you shoot RAW or jpeg - either way your job will be much easier if you do get them all correct. But I think we all know that getting ALL of that correct ALL THE TIME when you are learning is challenging. And, more importantly, working with a RAW image forces you to really, really learn how your metering affects your exposure, how your WB choices affect the color, how objects create color casts....on and on and on...because you are able to see EXACTLY what you shot when you look at your RAW image (IOW, how the choices YOU made resulted in your image) as opposed to seeing what the image looks like after the camera added a bunch of what is, essentially, "editing", which does not give you a realistic view of your decisions when you were shooting. Does that make sense? OK, end of rampantly personal opinion......

So anyway, because I know that as much as I like to eventually push color, contrast and the depth of my colors/lights/darks later, I absolutely CANNOT start out with a bright photo. If I do, I will end up with a hot mess (both literally and figuratively, LOL) and it will not end up as a well-processed photo. Underexposure is bad, but overexposure is a KILLER. With my previous camera (Nikon D200) I really had to ETTR (Expose To The Right) to capture as much dynamic range as possible (working to get my histogram very close to but not touching the right side...unless there were acceptable blown areas, like sky peaking through leaves, etc.) But my camera now (Nikon D700) has an in-camera meter that is a bit more sensitive. It has been over a year, and I am STILL refining how I expose SOOC. Yes, I still ETTR, but since I am not afraid to crank up the ISO, I sometimes find that I shoot brighter than I need to. So, it is imperative to know your camera, and continually work to perfect your metering/exposure.

Now, having said that, I have to tell you that working on this lesson has actually been a huge eye-opener for me, and I have learned a lot by being forced to really analyze my own SOOC shots. Why? Well, as I said above, I bring my RAW images in to ACR - I always have. For the most part, I have had ACR set to put most of the sliders at -0- when I start. However, I left the brightness and contrast sliders at their default settings (+50 and +25, respectively). This was left over from my days as a newbie, when I did not really have a plan for anything and did not really know what I was doing. So, for this lesson, I totally zeroed out every slider, and I was SHOCKED at what my SOOC's actually looked like! What I have been thinking all along was a SOOC was actually an image that had some brightness/contrast added to it. So, when I first viewed an image with all the ACR sliders at -0-, it looked wrong (underexposed) to me. But the more I analyzed the information in the histogram, I saw that it actually was a correctly exposed image. I'll show you below what I am talking about. Realizing this has actually changed (just in the last few days) the way I get an image ready to process, and will solve some issues I have been having during post-processing. Once again, it was proven to me that you always keep learning, no matter where you are on the journey. And it is a lesson for those who do not feel comfortable teaching LEARN so much by TEACHING! OK, enough random babbling.....

First, I want to show you the fully-edited image, because you are going to be surprised (I think) about where it started vs. where it ended up. This is really just a snapshot over the Christmas vacation, and my DD was being a total goof (she thought it was hilarious to squish herself in a bag and be a "present." She fell back on to the floor and laughed and laughed. I have to was pretty funny, LOL). But the light was great at my brother's house, which is such a pleasure for me, because I live in a cave.

Final image (Dratted 2P's - you'll have to use the scroll bar at the bottom of this post to see the whole thing, although I think you can see most of the important parts without doing that): is where it gets interesting, LOL. Here is the RAW image, straight out of ACR with all sliders zeroed out and the WB left as shot:

Yikes, right? It looks underexposed, doesn't it? Part of that is because the AWB was not quite correct (it is too blue, but obviously I was not going to take the time to do a CWB during gift-opening on Christmas day). But here is the same image zoomed in with the ACR histogram and sliders showing:

So, if I were to look at just the image itself, I would think I had seriously messed up when I metered, because we are all so accustomed to looking at bright images. But, if you look at the histogram (pink arrow) you can see that it does indeed get very close to the right side, but does not climb up it. There are no blown highlights on this image, and there should not be. However, if I had metered this to look any brighter, it would, in fact, be incorrect (i.e. overexposed). In addition, there is also no significant space between where the histogram ends and the right side. If there was a gap, then I would have still had some wiggle room to capture more information in the highlights, and the image would truly be what we call underexposed.

So, now I make a few small (but meaningful) adjustments in ACR, and this is what it looks like:

You can see that I warmed it up a little and changed a few other things, but the histogram is still good - close to the right side, but not clipping any highlights (green arrow). Warming up the WB made a huge difference in how it looked, and although it is brighter, it is not too bright to continue on with my normal editing. As I edit, I will continually make sure I do not blow highlights (especially on her nose) or clip blacks (in the shadowed areas of her hair - even though it looks here like those areas are completely black, there is detail in all of the shadows).

So, again, here is the before and after:

Here is another indoor image. To be honest, this one is underexposed (although not intentionally - she was moving around a lot and I just did not meter perfectly for this one). Here is the RAW image with all sliders zeroed out and no adjustments to WB:

Here is the histogram that corresponds to the above image - note the purple arrow, which shows the slight gap between the end of the histogram and the right edge, which tells me for sure it is underexposed:

Here is the image with some slight ACR adjustments:

And here are the histogram/ACR adjustments I made to it. Just like the first photograph I showed above, there should not be anything in this one that is blown, so I watch my histogram for that. Now, it goes further to the right but again, does not climb up the side (orange arrow):

And here is the final image:

Next up is an outdoor image. For this one I was able to use a reflector, as my DH was home, and he reluctantly, er, cheerfully helped out.

The RAW image, zeroed out in ACR (I promise the circles under her eyes aren't this noticeable in real life - she had two sleepovers this weekend and I don't think a decent bedtime was a really enforced, LOL):

The ACR information on the zeroed-out image. Same situation here - although it looks dull and underexposed, I could not have raised the exposure any more when I shot it because then parts of her face and fingers would have been blown (ETA: Oops, I just realized that the exposure accidentally got bumped +5 on this one - it was supposed to be at -0-):

Here is the image out of ACR with some minor adjustments:

And here is the ACR info for that one:

And here is the final image, fully processed:

A fun side-by-side comparison:

Lastly, I want to show you an outdoor image with backlighting. This is not really the place to delve in to a lengthy discussion of how to shoot backlighting, but remember above when I said you needed to know what kind of lighting you are using and what you will require when you process the image? Backlighting is the perfect example of this. Two things happen when I shoot backlighting - I disregard some small blown areas (the rim or halo around the subject, especially in some of the hair) which are naturally going to be overexposed, and I intentionally underexpose the face a bit so I can preserve more of the highlights elsewhere in the photo. If I exposed only for the face with backlighting, so much else in the photo would be completely blown that I would have problems. In particular here, the grass would have gone nuclear, so I was especially trying to preserve detail there. (Note: this would have been a much better SOOC photo if I had been able to use a reflector. But I do not have an assistant and the mom had her hands full keeping the little sister occupied on this hot, humid, sticky day. So, this was how I chose to shoot it).

Here is the final image after post processing:

Here is the RAW image (no adjustments):

Here is the ACR info and histogram for the zeroed-out image - you can see that now there IS some information climbing up the right side. But I am aware of what/where those areas are. When I shot this I looked to see how much was blowing out and found that amount and their placement to be acceptable.

I used more of the sliders now in ACR to adjust this so I have a good place to start my processing. The recovery slider was particularly helpful in keeping the grass from blowing as I made these adjustments (grass goes nuclear FAST):

Here is that information:

And again, the final image:

So, here are my thoughts summed up:

-Analyze how you shoot (jpeg or RAW), the setting/lighting in which you are shooting and how you process your images (just a few adjustments? Lots of changes to the original?) to become familiar with what YOUR SOOC images should look like.

-Histograms are important! Sometimes it is hard to tell just by looking at a SOOC if it is correct, so you will need to be able to look at a histogram and know what it is telling you about your image.

-WB has a huge impact on where your image starts out. Just like exposure, get it correct before you start editing (either by doing a CWB if possible or adjusting in ACR/LR...or both) and you will save yourself a ton of headaches.

-Most importantly - do not skip over the SOOC because you are eager to get to the fun stuff like curves or saturation because you want your photo to "pop." If you'll pay attention to what you START with, you will be happier with what you END UP with.

And thanks again, to Jami!


I'm adding some new info or answering some of the questions that were asked in later posts here so that all the information is not so spread out.

Can you process RAW images in PSE?: I will quote Jami's excellent answer to that:

And ACR is a free download from the Adobe website. Just do a Google search for Adobe Camera Raw for PSE and then whatever version you have, and you should be able to find the download.

Then after you have downloaded that, when you go into PSE and you open a RAW picture, it will first open up in ACR where you can do the tweaking and then you will click "Open Image" and it will bring it into PSE for the rest of your editing.

Some of you mentioned that you were moving too many sliders in ACR - I want to reiterate that my method for what I do in ACR is to get an image that is "neutral" - bland, actually, because I want to do all the other stuff in PS. But many people use all (or many) of the sliders in ACR (or LR) to do a good bit of their editing at this early stage. It all just depends on how you've chosen to edit. Just always keep an eye on the histogram and watch out for clipping/blowouts.

Are RAW files noisier? This is a common "complaint" when people start shooting RAW. The answer is that no, they're not any noisier than a jpeg... before the jpeg has had the in-camera noise reduction applied to it. But you never see the jpeg that hasn't already had noise reduction applied to it. So yes, RAW images LOOK noisier than jpegs. Some brands/models of cameras handle noise very well (D700 for instance), so the noise is less noticeable. But I do use Noiseware to deal with the noise that does show up.

Chell mentioned focus, which I totally neglected to discuss (although there's going to a later class that is all about focus exclusively). Your image needs to be in focus SOOC, regardless of whether you shoot RAW or jpeg. But the same thing applies - jpegs will have some sharpening applied to them in-camera, so they will initially "look" sharper." Sharpening techniques are really great and, if well-applied, really can be helpful. And I don't get so twisted up about focus now as I used to (meaning that I don't trash an image SIMPLY because Every. Single. Eyelash. isn't blade-sharp). But the reality exists - if you just plain missed focus in your SOOC by a wide margin, you can't get it back when you edit. Again, that's one of those things that you should really try to NAIL on a consistent basis when you're shooting, so your job is easier when you are editing, and your images are the best they can be.

And I want to reiterate that you should ask yourself how you want to go about this whole process - what "correct" means for you. For me, a "correct" SOOC image does not mean "ready to show my friends and family." It means "a solid, clean foundation upon which to do my major edits."

HERE is a tutorial that Molly (go Molly!) previously posted that goes in to some depth about histograms/LR and the red channel.


I use a lot of acronyms when I type (trying to save my hand!) So here is a list of most of the ones I use:

SOOC - straight out of camera
ACR - Adobe Camera RAW
PS - Photoshop
LR - Lightroom
DOF - Depth of Field
SS - shutter speed
Ap - aperture
OOF - out of focus
PP'ing - post processing
WB - white balance
ETTR - expose to the right


PeaNut 301,875
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Posted: 1/19/2010 8:57:10 AM
Umm Anne, I am just speechless.

Seriously, could anyone be more helpful then you? That was amazing. I'm going to pick my jaw up and go straight to my camera and realize all the steps I have been missing. Thank you for finally drilling in my head why I need to shoot Raw and how even though I get a pretty decent SOOC jpg, it's not the best I can do.

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Posted: 1/19/2010 8:59:01 AM
Yay, thanks so much, Anne! What a great lesson. It is a real eye-opener when you are a beginner to see what really great shots look like SOOC. it also really shows how much of a photographer's style is made just from the PP workflow. Even I was wowed by your third shot of G on the chair, and I PP somewhat similarly to you as far as workflow goes, even though our images don't really look alike.

I will be back later to post some SOOCs/edits to help out.


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Posted: 1/19/2010 9:01:28 AM
Wow absolutely awesome!!! Thank you!

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Posted: 1/19/2010 9:08:31 AM
I'm so grateful for the screen-shots and the examples as I'm such a visual learner. I can't wait to print this out and put it in my folder of all the lessons. It's so great to get such chalked-full info from someone I totally respect and admire.

I know when I have a tough image SOOC, it's MUCH harder to edit and so, I appreciate the importance of trying to get it right at the start. It makes the entire process more peaceful

I too will be back with some examples for the fun of it. Again, thank you a million times!

On these first two examples, the SOOC shots were not that bad and I could have printed them as is. I didn't spend but 10 seconds on each shot-saving me tons of time in the long run.

Not sure why it looks pixelated, but you get the gist.

In this one, as you can tell... I was way off. Now, thankfully I chimped before trying to continue, but for the sake of this thread... I attempted to "save" it. It took way too much time and honestly, I could not get it where I wanted because I didn't start off with a good canvas to begin with. I knew I wanted this hazy look, but even my edit isn't what I wanted and I won't be able to get it exact because I just didn't have a great image to work with from the start.


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Posted: 1/19/2010 9:08:42 AM
What an awesome lesson! Thank you so much, Anne

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Posted: 1/19/2010 9:22:15 AM
thanks so much, i am going to print this out and read throuh it properly

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Posted: 1/19/2010 9:23:25 AM
Anne, thanks so much for taking the time to put together this lesson. It's so helpful to see what a SOOC photo looks like compared to an edited photo and to see what minor adjustments in ACR can do. I edit much like you, minor tweaks in ACR then all of the rest in this was very helpful for me to read through and see. Thank you!


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Posted: 1/19/2010 9:25:04 AM
Wow, great information, it's going to take me a while to absorb it! I guess the first thing I realize as a total novice is I don't know how to read the histogram! Can you go into a little more detail about what the histogram is telling us, what it's supposed to look like, what the different colors mean?

I also don't know how to tell if something is "blown" and what that looks like on the histogram.

Thanks so much for this detailed and informative lesson. I love all the before and after photos. They are amazing!

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

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Posted: 1/19/2010 9:25:11 AM
This is awesome! Thank you so much!!!

Can you maybe give us an overview of what to look for in the histogram? What the different things mean, how the one in ACR is different than the one we see in camera, etc...

I would love to see more about your overall processing. Especailly your third example in the chair. that is just beautiful!

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Posted: 1/19/2010 9:27:42 AM
Thank you for this lesson. Be sure that I will be re-reading it multiple times to try and embed the info in my brain. I have vasilated between jpeg and raw and became frustrated with raw because I just couldn't see the point in shooting raw with the extra steps to get to the point of being able to print a photo (maybe I don't really understand what I should be doing there). Anyway, I will be giving it another try as I so want to get good SOOC. That is my big goal. I don't want to try and repair a bad image if I could improve a good one. Thank you again for your time and willingness to share.

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

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Posted: 1/19/2010 9:29:26 AM
Anne, this is wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge with us. You are such an amazing photographer, and your willingness to share all that you know is just so remarkable not to mention sooo appreciated! Thank you!

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Posted: 1/19/2010 9:36:48 AM
Thank you thank you thank you! I wish I could tell you how many things just clicked in my head as I was reading this! I have struggled and struggled with getting my SOOC right, but struggling even more with how to look at a shot in ACR and get it where I want it to be. Your method totally makes send and I am dying to get home and work with.

Thank you again!

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Posted: 1/19/2010 9:40:11 AM
Thank you so much, I'm going to print this out right now so it can be read and reread. Thanks Anne!!!!

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Posted: 1/19/2010 9:52:45 AM
Is it possible to work on RAW photos if you only have PSE? From what I can tell, ACR is only available for CS4.

ETA: Nevermind--I changed my search criteria and it looks like it is.


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Posted: 1/19/2010 10:00:37 AM
You are all so very welcome!

Nicole - I realized as I was writing all this up even MORE reasons why I like RAW. Yes, you have to deal with the realization that your SOOC's don't look portrait-worthy immediately, but it's just a better way to really understand what you're photo really is. Now, I don't want to give the impression that I think shooting jpeg is bad - there are many pros who shoot jpeg, but they already know everything there is to know about their own photos, and in some ways, it is a better decision from a time-saving/workflow standpoint, but for those of us who are still learning and striving to master this craft, RAW is really helpful in so many ways.

Molly - I am ecstatic that you are going to post some SOOC's. I know our styles are somewhat similar, and it helps me to compare my work to others, too. I have to admit, just before I pushed the "submit" button I had an attack of nerves. I thought, "But these SOOC's look so bad!" And that third photo - you know I've been really trying to make myself go even further with color and intensity. These photos (just took them two days ago for G's valentine cards) were the perfect opportunity.

Heather - Yippee! I'm excited to see your SOOC's, too. The more variety we have of styles/examples, the better it is for everyone. And I ADORE that last shot...the one you "saved." I think you were completely successful!

katiescarlett and Lori - it occurred to me as I typed this up how important and inextricably linked histograms were to understanding SOOC's. I'll put something together on histograms.

I wish I could tell you how many things just clicked in my head as I was reading this!

Alison - I can't tell you how great it is to hear that. Aren't those moments when stuff "clicks" great?

Thanks again, all!


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Posted: 1/19/2010 10:05:19 AM
Wow Tons of great info here. I am going to have to read over it again when I have more time. Thanks so much!!

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Posted: 1/19/2010 10:05:53 AM
Printing as I write - thank you!!


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Posted: 1/19/2010 10:10:06 AM
Wow...this is amazing!! I can't believe with just ACR that you are seeing such changes. I'm thinking now that I'm playing too much with the sliders and definitely I have more climbing on the left and right of my histogram when I start out than you that's a real wake up. I would love to have seen what you did after the ACR changes to get the really rich colors in your final edits!! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and thanks to Jami for putting all this together!!

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Posted: 1/19/2010 10:10:32 AM
Anne, thank you so very much for taking the time to do this. What an amazing lesson to get us started!

Now I just need to stop working on the master schedule long enough to dive in an go through the lessons myself!!

Thanks again!!


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Posted: 1/19/2010 10:12:11 AM
WOW!!! Speechless!

This is so encouraging for so many reasons! I am a beginner and decided to learn by shooting in RAW...I started to wonder if I was doing the right thing by shooting in RAW, and your lesson validated that I am making the right choice!

Your visuals are so great, because like some of the other Peas stated, I too am a visual learner...Plus, in PHotography, you sorta have to be, right??? lol

These are great! I'm inspired to learn and hopeful that one day my PP images will be just as fabulous!


Kim M.
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PeaNut 73,616
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Posted: 1/19/2010 10:14:35 AM
Fantastic information (as always) Anne! Thank you for taking the time to write this up!



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Posted: 1/19/2010 10:18:47 AM
Anne!! Thanks a million times over for sharing your knowledge with us! You have a gift for teaching



PeaNut 345,414
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Posted: 1/19/2010 10:20:48 AM
Thnak you, Anne, for all the time and effort that you put into this posting. As a total newbie, I am still confused about what a good SOOC image should look like and how I can tell if I have one or not. So, I was really looking forward to this lesson to help me to learn.

But, I still don't know what to look for. I shoot in jpeg because the thought of shooting RAW scares the heck out of me. It is just one more step that I don't know what to do with. I only have PSE because that is what I can afford right now. I don't have ACR. Is there anyway that I can use any of this information in PSE? Can anyone tell me more information about viewing a histogram that I can use to evaluate my images in PSE? I want to learn. Can anyone help?

I truly don't mean to be a downer. My appologies if this comes out that way. I am just feeling frustrated this morning.



PeaNut 39,805
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Posted: 1/19/2010 10:27:45 AM

I edit with PSE as well, and shooting RAW is the best thing I've ever done! You really should try. And ACR is a free download from the Adobe website. Just do a Google search for Adobe Camera Raw for PSE and then whatever version you have, and you should be able to find the download.

Then after you have downloaded that, when you go into PSE and you open a RAW picture, it will first open up in ACR where you can do the tweaking and then you will click "Open Image" and it will bring it into PSE for the rest of your editing.

I hope that helps!


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PeaNut 398,361
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Posted: 1/19/2010 10:29:28 AM
Thank for this fantastic tutorial! I have been trying to shoot in RAW for a few months now but feel like I am fairly lost when it comes to making the image look right in ACR. You have provided a great place for me to go from here in taking my pictures to the next level! Hopefully, I will get something up for CC later in the week.
Thanks again!


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PeaNut 385,152
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Posted: 1/19/2010 10:36:34 AM
Thanks so much for this! I definitely had a few a-ha moments while reading this. I need to learn a bit more about histograms, I guess. I'm off to play now...


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Molly C
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PeaNut 49,752
September 2002
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Posted: 1/19/2010 10:41:57 AM
Here are some before/afters from me. I chose three that had a wide variability as to the quality of SOOCs. I am a little different than Anne in that I do not shoot for hire, nor are many of my shots actually staged. Because I am only an MWAC at this point, 95% of my shots are snapshots to some extent, and though I do try to get a good exposure in camera, I end up chimping quite a bit and invariably my "favorite" shot is one where I'm chimping and not one where I managed to get the settings right. By that time, my kids are on to something else, and I think perhaps a lot of the newbies can identify with that better. I do think if I were shooting for hire and had relatively cooperative subjects that my SOOCs would at least be consistent, if not correct.

I will also say that all of my SOOCs have the default LR/ACR processing applied to them, and not zeroed out like Anne's are. The latitude for processing a full stop difference in exposure will largely depend upon your camera model. Because I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II, I can up the exposure quite a bit and still get a lovely shot. My old 30D did not give me as much latitude.

1. This shot I actually took straight from LR as is right into PS, exposure-wise, although I did tweak the WB in LR.

2. This shot I upped the exposure by a full stop in LR before taking to PS.

3. This shot is the opposite of the previous in that I decreased the exposure by just over half a stop before taking to PS.


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PeaNut 26,273
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Posted: 1/19/2010 10:46:55 AM
Thanks Anne for such wonderful lesson! It has really opened my eyes and has me, now that i have a newer computer, ready to try RAW. My old computer was soooo slow that opening raw in ACR was a killer. Time to give it another try!

And time for more histogram work.

Now, I do have a question, but perhaps off topic (I know, bad pea!) Can you share the steps in your final edit - just a rough overview - on the 2nd to last image. Thanks!


PeaNut 338,687
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Posted: 1/19/2010 10:59:32 AM
Anne, thank you so much for all the work that you put into this lesson! I, too, shoot in RAW and now see that my SOOC images aren't bad ... but I have a ton of stuff to learn in PSE6! Looking forward to seeing other SOOC and PP'd images/styles.


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PeaNut 409,602
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Posted: 1/19/2010 11:04:40 AM
Thanks so much for this great lesson! I read through it quickly while my little guy was pulling at my pant leg , but I'll be back during nap time to really dig in. I so appreciate that all the coaches lined up are willing to take the time to put these lessons together!


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PeaNut 89,918
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Posted: 1/19/2010 11:05:01 AM
Great lesson. I have not tried to shoot in raw at all yet, but I really want to give it a go. Is it true raw files are more noisy? Do you have to run them through a noiseware program? Crystal

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PeaNut 262,177
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Posted: 1/19/2010 11:06:15 AM
Thank you sooo much Anne!

This is such a great lesson for everyone! I didn't fully understand how much of a difference it made to get a well exposed image SOOC until I got my D700. The metering is soooo much better and I don't struggle nearly as much with pping. The histogram is such a vital tool that everyone should be looking at, realizing that was one of the biggest aha moments for me when I was just starting out.

This lesson is not only great at stressing the importance of getting a "correct" SOOC image, but also the importance of PS in polishing an image and making it complete, and anyone trying to get the polished final product without using PS is going to be banging their head against a wall in the process.

Thanks so much for all the time and expertese you share so graciously around here


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Posted: 1/19/2010 11:07:01 AM
You are an AMAZING teacher! Finally I'm starting to get it a little. I've been shooting RAW since day one but definitely fiddling too much in ACR. Question: do you do any other adjustments in ACR i.e. clarity, sharpening, noise reduction...or do you go straight to PS. If so can I get good results in PSE with similar workflow?

Thanks Again!



PeaNut 379,389
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Posted: 1/19/2010 11:08:29 AM
What a great lesson that was, Anne. Love your teaching style and agree with others that it instantly all made better sense. I'm so thankful that you showed those SOOC shots because it helps tremendously to see the start to finish product.

I can't wait till you update us on the histograms, cause I'm not real sure what all that terminology means.

Thanks again, Anne and Jami

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Posted: 1/19/2010 11:11:12 AM
I really had to ETTR (Expose To The Right)

Im sorry I dont understand this part I have the Nikon D5000 and I cant find this in my manual


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Posted: 1/19/2010 11:18:17 AM
Wow what a great lesson - thanks so much for sharing all that info Anne. I am such a newbie still with so much to learn and every bit helps out - off to print out and put in my folder

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Posted: 1/19/2010 11:22:55 AM
Anne one thing you really didn't touch on but all your examples clearly show it is focus...

I realize that getting good focus is a whole different class but wanted to mention it because you will often see the comment of getting it right SOOC in regards to focus when people ask if a soft image can be saved. All of your examples are also in focus SOOC and you might sharpen them through your processing but you already have a great base to work from. I just thought it was worth mentioning since it is a key ingredient in addition to exposure when getting good SOOC images..

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Posted: 1/19/2010 11:25:33 AM
Anne, thank you so much!


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Posted: 1/19/2010 11:38:39 AM
Thank, ladies!

I'm going to go add some of my answers and further information in to my original post, so it will be easier for people to find it later, rather than scrolling through many, many posts to find it. I'll clearly mark what is "new" info.

Molly - those are great examples. Did you take a look at your shots with the LR default settings zeroed out? Like I said, I was so surprised when I did that with mine!

Michelle/mom2jnk - you're not a downer at all. Trust me, I remember when all this information was so overwhelming, and I didn't even know what to start on. Jami answered the question about ACR in PSE (THANK YOU Jami!! I'm going to copy/paste her answer in my original post, too). Just take it a step at a time and it will eventually all make sense. I'm hoping someone who shoots jpeg will show their SOOC's for comparison to a RAW image. If I'd thought about it I would have shot RAW/Jpeg the other day when I was doing the shoot for my DD's Valentine cards (the next to last image above).

Kristy - no, at this point I don't ever use the bottom three adjustments (clarity/vibrance/saturation) in ACR b/c I do all that in PS. Some people do use those sliders though - those that do the bulk (or more) of their initial edits in PS, for instance. I know Barbie uses them.

pearllypu - exposing to the right means exposing so that your histogram goes UP TO but not touching the right side of the box. That information is not going to be in your manual, but if you google it you'll find a ton of tutorials and discussions about it. It doesn't matter what kind of camera you have - all DSLR's will show you a histogram.

Chell - you're exactly right...focus is important. And even though my examples look softer than the finished products, they are essentially in focus. But obviously, correct sharpening during processing and sharpening for web make a visible difference.



PeaNut 405,752
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Posted: 1/19/2010 11:40:17 AM
Great lesson. One of my main goals this year is to get better SOOC shots (so I spend less time pping, and more time scrapping the photos).
I am just a MWAC, and I shoot in jpeg, so I know my sooc shots will be different than a RAW shot. Here is a sooc shot I took last week. I would love some feedback and HHCC.

Taken with a canon xsi, kit lens, f/4.5, 1/100, iso400.

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PeaNut 345,414
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Posted: 1/19/2010 11:44:17 AM
Jami, thanks for giving me the 411 on ACR. I thought that it was ANOTHER $$$ software program that I needed to purchase! I hope to be able to update my aging computer soon, so I will try to remember to add that to my latest version of PSE then. Are there any good resources (aside from very patient Peas) to help guide me through learning to use ACR?


Molly C
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PeaNut 49,752
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Posted: 1/19/2010 11:48:11 AM
Anne, I have played with zeroing everything out but found that with my workflow (maybe just my camera, who knows) that it is faster for me to tweak from LR's defaults rather than starting from 0. By and large I think that LR's defaults are a good base and I figure Adobe did tons of research with photographers to determine what a good "Average" base is. I don't hesitate to move the brightness and contrast values if needed, though.

For some of you who are newer, I did a tutorial last fall that touches a bit more in-depth on histograms and some of the default settings that LR/ACR does (LR and ACR make the same default adjustments, so when I reference LR, it's because that is what I use in my workflow, but the same will still stand in ACR). It's pretty involved, but if you are new or moderately new this might also be a good correspondent tutorial to Anne's here.


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PeaNut 89,428
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Posted: 1/19/2010 11:52:53 AM

What a FANTASTIC lesson! Thanks a million for the tremendous amount of time and effort that went into it. You have such a wonderful "voice" in your writing. I feel like I could listen to you for hours. In fact, I know I could! And of course, I am a huge fan of your work.

Thank you for explaining why RAW is so important. I also shoot in RAW 100% of the time and I edit the same way you do (ACR and CS4).

Since you "begged", here are a couple of before and after shots -- although it always makes me feel weird to post SOOCs, not sure why!

SOOC -- my dd as a flower girl at her uncle's wedding:

Edited flower girl:

And here is one taken a couple of weeks ago during a trip to the snow -- SOOC:



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PeaNut 39,805
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Posted: 1/19/2010 11:55:09 AM
Michelle, one book that I found very helpful when I was learning PSE was Scott Kelby's PSE book. I *think* he has a separate one for different versions of PSE, so if you look for Scott Kelby PSE(and then your version) you should be able to find something. He writes in a way that is very easy to understand and fun to read.


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PeaNut 36,135
April 2002
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Posted: 1/19/2010 12:15:26 PM
Anne, as usual you have given us a great lesson! i learn so much from you and really appreciate you taking the time to share all of this with us!

I have gotten much better over the last few months at reading my histogram and this post really nailed it for me on the whole blown, vs being close, vs underexposure.

it also really shows how much of a photographer's style is made just from the PP workflow.

If you get a chance or maybe later in the upcoming months as part of this course, i'd love to see your processing process. how you get from the ACR adjustment to the wonderful final image (or have you done that before here and i missed it?).

thanks again anne!!

CC and plays always welcome!

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PeaNut 144,741
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Posted: 1/19/2010 12:28:01 PM
Thank you so much for this lesson! I am a visual learner as well and all of the photos and diagrams helped a lot. I tried RAW once a year or so ago but after reading this would really love to try again. I also will be anxiously waiting for more info on how to read the histogram. Not something I have much experience with but am now seeing what an important tool it is to getting those great shots.

Kris Ann
Wife to my High School Sweetheart, Brian. Mommy to Grace (Jan 29,02), Evan (Jan28,06), and Quinn (August 29/08).


PeaNut 151,070
June 2004
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Loc: Colorado

Posted: 1/19/2010 12:40:42 PM
Great lesson Anne! Thanks so much for this. The photos help a lot! Now, will you be doing one for your processing? I love how you processed your daughter on the chair!



PeaNut 270,372
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Posted: 1/19/2010 12:47:26 PM
Wow, this lesson is amazing! Thank you SO much for taking the time to put this together. I love seeing your before and after pics, and seeing your histograms and reading your explanations is so helpful. I will definitely print this one out and reread it several times. Thank you!

~Lenasmommy (Tammie)


PeaNut 35,811
April 2002
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Loc: Michigan

Posted: 1/19/2010 12:55:21 PM
Thank you so much Anne! What wonderful material to study and absorb!

For pse users, one thing that I picked up somewhere, is that I can open my jpeg pictures in ACR. When I'm in Editor, I click "open as" and at the bottom of the pop-up where it says open as, I choose Camera Raw from the pull down options. I'd actually forgotten about it until I was reading the lesson and thinking "oh, that's how that would be helpful!"

Here's a couple of my sooc jpeg shots. I guess I'm a little scared to shoot in raw, just because of the space I'd know I'd need on my computer. I'm afraid I'd be buying multiple hard drives soon. I should try it though. I'd love any cc on these!

iso 200, 1/200, f/2.2

iso 200, 1/80, f/1.8
both shot with my xsi, 50mm lens


Canon 50d!/tamron 28-75/55-200/50mm 1.8
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