Dynamic Range Recovery

The dynamic range of modern sensors can record a vast dynamic range. In this example, I am using a RAW file produced by a GFX 100s.

I was photographing a weather system collision and trying to expose for the highlights, perhaps not altogether successfully, the resulting photograph looked impossible to correct. Instead of deleting the image, I decided to see what I could recover. The RAW image you see immediately below is the untouched photograph.

In Lightroom, I made some basic adjustments with the “Tone” sliders, and not being satisfied with the results, made a more concerted effort using two mask adjustments. I was not happy with the masks in Lightroom, you can see the result of this process below.

I decided to move to Capture One and start fresh with the RAW file to see if I might get a better result. After making a few global adjustments in Capture one, I decided to break the photograph down into the two masks I had attempted in Lightroom. The results from the first two masks were much better than I expected, so I decided to keep going. I the end I was surprised to find I had created 14 masks. Perhaps a little overkill, but I was pretty excited by the results I was getting. The image below is the result of the work in Capture One.

I was happy with this result and felt I could make a good print. I then moved the image into Nik’s Colour Effects Pro 4. Something I do to prepare an image for social media posting. The image below is the result of this processing.

As you can see, I was able to draw a surprising about of information out of the shadows and highlights. Looking at it now, I can see some further tweaking might further improve the appearance. However, it serves as an excellent example of the type of dynamic range that is hidden in RAW files.

What Might Have Happened with a JPG

I was curious to see what would have happened if I had not used a RAW file but rather a JPG so I converted the RAW file to a JPG, copied the exact changes, and applied them to the JPG file. The image below is the JPG processed in Lightroom using the same process that was applied to the RAW file.

The image below is the same JPG file processed in Capture One, using the same processing and layers as those used on the original RAW file.

There is quite a difference between the way Lightroom and Capture One processes JPG files but neither processing program can recover much from the shadows of a JPG file compared to the RAW file.