Six years ago I stumbled on this camera setup technique on the Moose Peterson website. He discovered that by changing the sharpness, saturation, and tone (contrast), to the lowest values, the camera histogram displayed additional room at the shadow and highlight values.
Later I learned that this happens because our camera histogram isn’t based on the linear RAW data. The preview/histogram is based on the rendered gamma-corrected JPEG produced by the camera…of the image we just shot. By changing the 3 settings mentioned above, I “trick the internal camera processor”, resulting in a much lower contrast image, with additional detail in the shadow and highlight areas. I may even expose differently given that the camera histogram looks different as well.
When we edit the RAW file in a converter, the software is now operating on this linear-encoded data, yet we still have to configure the RAW processing software to use proper default settings.
Adobe Camera RAW has a default setting that may not have the best values for every camera. I call the default setting the “tourist” mode, a s-curve is applied and makes the images pop for everyone….whoopie!
Want really great RAW software, I recommend CaptureOne Pro 5. They have created specific camera model profiles that are pretty slick. Try out the free 30 Day trial on your next shoot. I think you will like it.
I am going to keep this explanation low tech, but will give you a link to the tech weenie version if you wish to read 6 pages that discuss this problem in much greater detail, by Andrew Rodney. Those of you who know of him, he needs no introduction, and is highly regarded in our industry.
Try this technique on your camera. It only takes a few minutes and you can always change it back. We did this for our Nikon D2x and for the Canon 5D MK2. Our RAW files look dramatically better.
This post is a simplified version of my earlier article found here.
Go to Part 3- Basic Retouching & Skin Softening