Urban Nymph Photo

Digital heart, analog soul

My Oly Workflow

OV3
I have recently added about 20% more time to my RAW editing workflow. GASP!

The additional time is not due to extra post processing I'm doing — in fact I would actually be saving time except for one thing — I've started using Olympus Viewer 3 (OV3) for the initial RAW processing. The problem is that OV3 is so slow and this is what's increasing my workflow. It has, however, been totally worth it.

I've struggled (and settled) for years in Lightroom, trying to achieve the Olympus color I love so, while trying to negate the use of high ISO (when needed) with software that can effectively reduce noise. I've tried OV3, only to get frustrated with its clunky interface and 1997 internet speed when processing. In the past I just didn't have the patience.

But some of my favorite Oly shooters swear by OV3 for processing RAW Olympus files. So I fired it up (again) and have not turned back.

I was recently asked about my workflow, which I'm happy to share. It's not a fast process and I do touch every photo I keep. But it's a workflow that, for me, has helped me achieve the most out of my RAW Olympus files.

Step 1: Import into Lightroom and delete, delete, delete!
I'm pretty anal organized about my file organization, and there's no software out there that can compete with Lightroom. So my first step is to import my RAW files directly into Lightroom.

Then I review every photo, flagging the files I don't want to keep. My keeper rate has increased while the number of images I shoot has decreased. There's something to be said for learning and growing, and I've become more intentional in my shooting, and more savage in my selection process. When I'm done, I use control + delete to remove all of the unwanted images from my hard drive. (I'm on a Mac. Google the process is you're on a PC.)

I also keyword images and use color coding as my method for determining upload status (color coding is great and I encourage everyone to make use of it in a way that helps their own workflow).

Step 2: RAW editing in OV3
Once I have my keepers (for the most part — I usually delete more images as I go), I fire up OV3 for RAW processing. Then I go get a cup of coffee (or glass of wine, depending on what time of day it is). OV3 is slow in every aspect, including opening and loading images.

Once opened, I get started. I open the first image and determine what, if any, edits I need to make. In general I make any Oly-specific tweaks that are needed. Such as:

  • Adjusting white balance
  • Checking different Picture Modes
  • Adjusting sharpness
  • Using the noise filter if I've really gone crazy with ISO

These "Oly-specific" edits are things that LR can't fake. Not only do they mirror the options you have in Oly cameras, but I've found that Olympus handles color, WB and noise of their RAW files much better than LR (go figure). The more you play around in OV3, the more you can pull out the colors, contrast, and that 'je ne sais quoi' that makes Oly images Oly.

Now for the BIGGEST drawback using OV3: Your rendered image is still going to look awful. That's right, I don't know why, but when you've made all your edits, and especially if you've used the noise filter, you're going to look at your picture in OV3 and think to yourself, WTF? I promise, however, that once you export, you won't be sorry. After you've used OV3 for a bit you come to trust your edits (after all, you got most of it correct in camera, right?) and you know that the export will be great.

OV3-01 copy

OV3 image with edits — it will look better once exported, I promise

Step 2b: Batch editing
Once I have my edits done for the first image, I create a batch processing file, so I can quickly apply the same edits to all of the images from the session. (Hit me up via email if you would like to learn how to create and use a batch processing file.) Even with the batch processing, I still eyeball each image once the edits are applied so I can make any additional edits.

Step 3: Export OV3, re-Import into LR
Yep, you read that right. Now I export my edited RAW files as TIFF files, and I import the TIFF files back into LR (making sure the "Move" feature is selected). This is when I grab another glass of wine, go fold some laundry, or read another chapter of "Dragonfly in Amber." Exporting TIFF files from OV3 takes forever.

Yep, I now have a RAW file and a TIFF file of the same image. That's how I roll. I don't ever delete my RAW files in case I decide I want to come back to them someday. (It could happen.) But you do what works for you. These days storage is cheap and I'm all for keeping my RAW files as well as my edited files. After all, if I wanted quick and easy, I'd shoot JPEG and be done with it.

Step 4: Final LR edits
Now I can make any final tweaks in LR. I <3 LR and it's awesome editing power. And presets. I <3 presets. Once back in LR I adjust (as needed):

  • Crop and rotation adjustments (OV3 is just too wonky here)
  • Highlights and shadows
  • Whites and blacks
  • Clarity and saturation (depending on skin and skin tones)
  • Effects (vignetting and dehaze mostly)
  • Presets (if I'm going to use any)

OV3-02

The before image is the imported TIFF with LR adjustments. It's not bad but it's not what I was going for. So I used a preset for that fun and airy feeling I wanted.

Step 5: Upload to Flickr
I upload every photo that's important to me to Flickr. Yes, I also have a hard drive backup of all RAW and TIFF files, as well as cloud backup of my entire system. (You will too, when, not if, your hard drive fails.)

But back to Flickr. I love the community and it's my last ditch offline storage solution. I use an awesome plugin, Jf Flickr, to upload directly from LR. It's a powerful plugin and I highly recommend it if you are a Flickr user. I have a system for uploading both images I want to showcase (they appear front and center in my stream) and the images that I want to bury a bit because they're the selfie of me and my boys in the restaurant making funny faces.

Step 6: Have a glass of celebratory wine
And that's my workflow. I used to just use LR, and I did get great images. But I didn't get the Olympus color which was one of the reasons I chose the system. I didn't get the awesome noise reduction that comes from a software that understands the Olympus RAW file. I didn't get the most out of my Olympus RAW images. That's why I chose to add OV3 to my workflow, even if it meant increasing my post processing time. I think the results are well worth it.

Just in case you're still here and still reading, here's the comparison of the OV3 edited file (on the left), and the LR-only edited file (on the right). The LR (right) file is what I would have been happy with just a few months ago. But I've seen the light (and the color, and the noise reduction) that comes with using OV3 first. Notice how the whites are whiter, the skin tone is even, and there's more detail in the orange skirt.

OV3-03

I'm happy to answer any questions regarding my use of OV3 (though I'm still struggling with parts of if). Hit me up!