This is another one that I started at my Mom/s last week. I an still sitting next to denise at 35,000 feet. We have one hour, 12 minutes till Salt Lake City. And then only another ten hours till we get to Juneau.
This blog post should be published automatically at 6:00am on Thursday, August 27, 2015.
If you missed the info on this great trip, please click here. So far we have assembled a cast of international participants: one from the US, two from South Africa, one from Hong Kong, and one from Australia. More than a few are world class photographic talent….
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The August 10, 2015 Issue of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter
Arthur Morris asked a question in his blog post here about checking the RGB values in Lightroom. When I use the eyedropper tool it shows a value in percentage. Is there a way to show the actual RGB values?
Tim’s Quick Answer
It is possible to view RGB values in Lightroom as 8-bit per channel values (0 to 255) rather than as a percentage (0-100), but only by enabling the Soft Proofing display in the Develop module. It is critical to keep in mind that the Soft Proofing preview (and therefore the RGB value presented) are based on the specific profile and settings you establish for the soft proofing display, and thus don’t necessarily represent the actual final RGB values for the image.
When you move your mouse over the image in Lightroom’s Develop module, the RGB values for the pixel under the current mouse position will be displayed below the histogram at the top of the right panel. Those values are displayed as a percentage rather than the range from zero to 255 that are commonly used to describe RGB data.
You can turn on the Soft Proofing checkbox on the toolbar below the image preview area to have the RGB values shown as 8-bit per channel RGB values (0-255) rather than as percentages. However, those values will be based on the settings established for soft proofing, meaning the values are only meaningful in the context of a specific printer, ink, and paper combination.
What that translates to is that I recommend only using the Soft Proofing option if you are indeed preparing a photo to be printed, and you need to evaluate the output you can expect based on a specific printer, ink, and paper combination.
For more general purposes, I recommend leaving the Soft Proofing checkbox turned off while applying adjustments to your images and evaluating the overall photo. That means you’ll see RGB values as percentages rather than as the 8-bit values you might be accustomed to. But a little bit of math can provide a translation, and with a little bit of experience you’ll gain an understanding of how the values relate to each other.
It is worth noting that the 8-bit values themselves aren’t a full representation of the information in your images, assuming we’re talking about RAW captures, for example. Lightroom actually processes your photos (in the Develop module) with a 16-bit per channel workflow. In other words, the actual underlying values for a photo could range from zero to 65,536, not just zero to 255.
I should also hasten to add that I don’t agree with Arthur Morris’ suggestion that the brightest value for an image should have RGB values of around 240 or so. As far as I’m concerned there is no reason to restrict your processing of a RAW capture to avoid white values that are brighter than a specific value. With some print workflows there used to be (and in some cases still is) a reason to keep the whites from getting too bright. That isn’t the case today for most workflows. Restricting your bright values arbitrarily is only limiting the dynamic range of your final image, without providing a true benefit.
Tim and I have been friends for many years. He has been a guest co-leader on three (I think) BIRDS AS ART IPTs over the years. He is knowledgeable and has a dry wit that leaves many folks in stitches. Early on I turned to Tim for digital help. Now my first choice is always Denise Ippolito who almost always knows the answer. I do have one new question on an totally unrelated subject that has baffled both denise and me. I will run it as a blog post and see if Tim or anyone else can help.
My Comments on Tim’s Comment
First off I have made a personal and career choice to keep things simple. I have been told many times that there are serious errors in my workflow. John Shaw nearly fell of his chair while guest co-leading a Fort DeSoto IPT when he saw me flatten an optimized image and convert it to 8-bit. Let me repeat, my choice is to keep things as simple as possible. I have no clue at all about several topics that Tim writes about above. Despite my image processing short-comings and short-cuts, my optimized TIFFs look good when viewed full size and even my 1200 wide (<395kb) JPEGs have been drawing rave reviews for many years as far as color, image quality, and sharpness. Simply put, they look great. Not bad for someone who according to many experts is doing so many things wrong....
Secondly, we rarely do any printing at BIRDS AS ART. What little printing we do is done by my righthand man, Jim Litzenberg. The prints all look great to me and we have never had one returned.
I should hasten to add that I do not agree at all with Tim Grey's suggestions above. I love my WHITEs right around 235 or so (not 240--that is denise's preference). As I said in the original post, I find it difficult and time consuming to tease detail out of WHITEs in the mid-240s and the low 250s. To my eye, the WHITEs in my optimized images look bright and reveal lots of fine feather detail (except in fog or snow when creating images that have good detail in the WHITEs is simply not possible).
I have noted often that though WHITEs that come in at 254, 254, 254 may in fact be theoretically perfect, I want no part of them. I prefer practically perfect WHITEs to theoretically perfect WHITEs. Going back to the simpler approach, if you place your WHITEs at 254, 254, 254 as it seems that Tim is recommending, then you are maximizing contrast at the highlight end of the equation. When working in full sun, the last thing that I want to do is increase contrast.
So how has my “keep it simple not so perfect approach” fared? Most importantly, I love the look of my images on my Macbook Pro. And more than a few of my digital images, including many with large areas of white feathers, have been honored in the most prestigious international contests including the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition and the Windland Smith Rice Nature’s Best competition. All have been optimized with the goal of bringing the WHITEs into Photoshop with the RGB values no greater than the mid-230s.
So who is right? It does not matter. You and your photos are what matters. Learn to control your WHITEs during the RAW conversion wherever you do them. Experiment with various RGB values be they numeric or percentages. Determine where you want your WHITEs to be by trial and error. Settle on what looks best to you in various settings (electronic or print) and stick to your guns until you see a need for change.
Two highly honored images of mine come to mind quickly: King Penguin breast abstract and Gannets in Love. Each feature lots of WHITEs all brought in to Photoshop in the mid-230s.
Lastly, I am proud to say that as far as viewing the RGB values in Lightroom in the “Bashing Lightroom?” post here, the conclusions matched most of what Tim Grey wrote above. So thanks again to Alan Lillich for contributing that excellent summary and thanks of course to Tim Grey for allowing me to republish his newsletter content here.
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