While doing some post-processing on a shoot that I did recently, I noticed something interesting that I thought I should share. Depending on the program of choice for post-processing, the images changed in their quality, some quite significantly.
I had to do a doubletake since I didn’t believe the difference can be so dramatic, but even after doing it twice over, the results were still the same. I’m wondering if it had to do with certain settings in the program that I was not aware of.
I decided to see how the following programs differed in their ability to edit a RAW file coming from a Nikon D3: Adobe Photoshop CS4, Adobe Lightroom 2, Apple Aperture 2, Phase One Capture One.
- I took one NEF (Nikon’s RAW format) file, imported it into each program, and simply exported the resulting file as a 16-bit uncompressed TIF. No other editing was done to the image.
- I then took this TIF and imported it into Photoshop CS4, and made the collage as seen on the left.
- The resulting collage was exported as a PNG.
By looking at the two examples shown here, you can see the difference from one program to the next.
Adobe Photoshop CS4 and Adobe Lightroom 2
These two programs yielded identical results. Examining the photos in CS4 side by side and layered over each other, there was no telling which image came from which program. The treatment in color, detail, saturation, and sharpness were all very similar – if not identical – to each other. Perhaps this is the result from the programs coming from the same manufacturer: they may more than likely use the same processing engine.
Apple Aperture 2
This image was the least impressive with its flat look (little depth), and noticeable lack of detail and sharpness. I actually wondered if I was doing something wrong with Aperture since the results were so different with this program. While the color treatment was similar to that of CS4 and Lightroom, it was still overall a little more neutral yielding in a flatter look.
Phase One Capture One
Capture One’s image was by far the most satisfying of the bunch. The color treatment was drastically different in that it resulted in a much more saturated and contrasty look to the image without even altering any settings, which in turn gave the image much more depth. Edges were much sharper, crisper, and the level of detail seen in the photo was astronomically different than what was seen with Aperture 2. Perhaps my only complaint with this image was the sharpness and/or saturation of the image. I felt it was a little too strong off the bat. But no worries here as these settings can be changed to your liking manually.
Overall, I would put CS4 and Lightroom 2 right in between Capture One and Aperture. The Adobe products yield an image with lower contrast and detail than Capture One, but more than Aperture 2. Up until now, I have always been a prominent user of Apple’s Aperture 2 because I was so comfortable with its ease of use, its smooth integration in my workflow, and its simple user interface. However, I’ll have to double check from now on to see exactly how it affects my other images.
While this testing is by no means concrete evidence of how any of these programs operate, it has opened my eyes in seeing how each program treats the same image differently. Perhaps if you can, you should test out one of your images to see if it changes as well.
For now, I will see if Aperture handles other images in similar ways and assess each case on a picture-by-picture basis.