ColorPerfect Photoshop Plug-in: ColorNeg & PerfectRAW feature overview & introduction

ColorPerfect processes scans with color integrity and gives unprecedented flexibility in creative image editing. It even offers a new and superior approach to digital photography. To harness the full potential of our Photoshop Plug-in you will want to read much of what he have on our web pages but most importantly you'll want to get started using it. To help you with that we have recorded this feature overview video for you.

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If you like you can download the RAW photo we used in this video.


ColorNeg & PerfectRAW: Feature overview & introduction

Hello and thank you for downloading ColorPerfect. With this screen cast I'd like to help you to get started with our plug-in. I will begin by illustrating how to convert a digital camera RAW image with ColorPerfect's new feature PerfectRAW because all essential image editing steps used in that also apply to working with color negative film. The advantage of starting with a digital image is that I can first show many things that are essential for all ColorPerfect users and address the matter of characterizing color negative film at the end of this video when you're already more familiar with ColorPerfect.

How to use MakeTiff to create linear Tiff files from camera RAW data

I have just started our auxiliary program MakeTiff which you can also download from our webpage at MakeTiff is used to convert digital camera RAW images into a linear Tiff file. Photoshop can then open these without the forced processing by Adobe Camera RAW. The RAW image files or folders containing such files are simply dragged onto MakeTiff's interface and an according Tiff file gets created. The only setting to point out at this point is that you can specify which RGB color space you'd like MakeTiff to assign to your Tiff files. Once we have created the Tiff file we can exit MakeTiff and open the image in Photoshop. ColorPerfect is found in the Filter menu's CFSystems category.

Initial settings on ColorPerfect’s Start panel e. g. ColorNeg / ColorPos - PerfectRAW, registration

In the following we will be using ColorPos mode and not one of the other two modes ColorNeg or TouchUp. On the Start panel that is only accessible now we must make sure that the same RGB color space we chose in MakeTiff is selected. To use PerfectRAW we need to tick the according checkbox on the Start panel in ColorPos mode. The final element on the Start panel is the Register button via which you can later enter your license key. Then leave this dialog by pressing OK and exit ColorPerfect once more by pressing either OK or Cancel. The next time you start the plug-in the grid in the preview and final image is gone and ColorPerfect is registered to your name. So let's again activate PerfectRAW. First we should select the digital camera used from the lists of makers and cameras. The image at hand was shot using a Nikon D200.

Using ColorPerfect's built-in Help system

Next we will get acquainted with many of ColorPerfect's user interface elements in a sensible order but before we start with that let me point out ColorPerfect's Help system which can always be invoked by pressing the Help button and is used actuating any of ColorPerfect's interface elements. Once we have read enough the Help system can be closed using the according button. ColorPerfect provides the means to store intermediate states in your image editing. For that we have the Save List feature at the upper edge of the plug-in. When we press the corresponding button the current state of our image editing is saved in the list and the list automatically advances to a new entry which can be used later to store another editing state. We can now always return to the state labeled A.

Zooming into and panning over the preview image

First I'd like to show you how to pan over the preview image. For that we can perform a right click on any position in the preview and zoom in to this point by selecting a higher magnification. In doing that the position chosen by right click becomes the preview's new center. Using subsequent right clicks we can then pan over the image until we arrive at an edge. Each right click in this corresponds to the behavior in Photoshop when grabbing the image at the according position and dragging it to the view port's center.

Introduction to color correction with CC filters and the Ring CC feature

But let's return to the spire I selected before. With its aid I'd like to give you a short introduction to color correction using CC filters in ColorPerfect. A regular click into the preview can always be used to define a surface in the image that should be rendered as a gray. When we perform such a click on the top of the spire it becomes gray and all other colors in the image follow this adjustment. The scene shown has been captured in the final light of a summer day and there is a considerable difference between the color balance in the late sunlight and that in the shady parts facing the sky. After having chosen a color balance by click the values in effect are displayed in the CC filter area as a so-called CC filter pack. CC filters in ColorPerfect are essentially equivalent to those known from analog photography. Using the CC Ref button we can define any state of color correction as a reference. By pressing the button now we let the complete correction of the grays in the shades become our reference. If we next click on what should be a neutral surface in late sunlight we will get a CC filter pack that is relative to the illumination of the shady parts of the image. If we like we can then alter the CC filter pack numerically so that we get to a state of correction between the extremes. Furthermore one can always enter relative CC filter values. For example we can enter +10R, which will alter the image's color balance by a value of 10 in direction of red, or accordingly we can enter -10R, which will restore our original color balance. In addition to working with CC filter values directly ColorPerfect provides the Ring CC feature. It can be used in combination with the Zoom settings to adjust an image based on eight altered versions. The general proceeding in that is as follows: If we felt that our image should be more blue we would click on the bluish preview and the image in the center would then converge halfway towards the bluish version with each click. We could do the same with the other primary or secondary primary colors or we could adjust the step size of the ring around which would allow us to fine tune the image's color using small CC changes. We exit the ring around by activating any of the other features.

Using ColorPerfect's history to Undo, Redo or Revert

Since I already liked the color balance prior to introducing the CC Ring feature I will now show you how ColorPerfect's history works. Using the undo button we can step back to the state of image adjustment prior to using the ring around. The redo button in the same area works accordingly and the reset button restarts the plug-in, which I will not show right now.

Storing intermediate states of your image editing with the Save List feature

We have now seen the basics of using CC filters in ColorPerfect and can employ the Save List feature again to store a version B of our adjustment. We will now always be able to return to version A – our initial editing state – and version B – our established color balance. The list entry C is the name for the state to be stored by the next click of Save List's plus button. Next let me introduce the basic image editing controls in ColorPerfect.

ColorPerfect's basic image editing controls: Black (exposure) and Highlight compression

The most basic control is adding and removing Black which equals changing the exposure in other systems. Why we use the name Black for this will become clearer when we visit the next control, which is White. Removing Black brightens the image while adding Black darkens the image. For this function we have reversed the scroll bar‘s response because most users intuitively expect scrolling up to brighten the image and scrolling down to darken it. This behavior can be customized in ColorPerfect's options. While changing the exposure by adding or removing Black we can observe the Clip readout up here. It shows how many pixels in percent take on the maximum value in one ore multiple color channels. On an imagined 8 bit scale that would be a value of 255. We don't need to worry about this clipping too much at this point because these values can usually be brought back into the valid tonal range by use of ColorPerfect's Highlight compression system. To use it we first choose a number of f-stops to be compressed. For example we can select one exposure value beyond what would normally be the maximum brightness and a range – again in 8 bit logic – into which we'd like to compress these tonal values - for example the range down to the conceived 8 bit tonal value of 240. Note that the actual clipping is now zero. If we were to choose fewer exposure values to compress a little clipping would remain in specular highlights, which is often even beneficial to an image. Of course we can still add or remove Black even if we have already set up the Highlights compression. It might be interesting to note that a function exists that allows us to toggle the Highlight compression system on and off in general so that we can assess its effect. This can be useful when one would like to further adjust the exposure and would like to see what effect the altered values for Black have on the brightest portions of an image.

ColorPerfect's basic image editing controls: White (fog, haze) and Shadow compression

The sibling function of adding and removing Black is the adding and removing of White. Let's first look at adding White. This can also be thought of as the physically correct adding of fog or haze to a scene which by no means equals the effect of the shadow slider in Photoshop's Levels or Curves. Contrary to adding White the removing of White lessens haze, fog or similar effects in a scene, which is a vital means to control an image's contrast. Again the clipping in the depths can be observed in a readout up here and again we don't need to overly worry about it because there is a compression system for the shadows, too. To be able to better judge the effect let's perform a right click on a dark portion of the image to look at removing White in detail. Essentially we are trying to find a suitable value to experiment with the Shadow compression system afterwards. What the entire system of White and Shadow compression does to our image we can easily visualize by toggling the White control off and back on. The fact that a clipping output remains even though the Shadow compression is in effect is due to the Black Point adjustment.

ColorPerfect's basic image editing controls: Black Point and BP Tails

The Black Point control that can be accessed via the button to toggle between BP Tails and B Point is not well suited for user adjustments. Because of that we have implemented the BP Tails control which scrolls significantly better and controls both the Black Point and the associated BP Color. Defining Black Point via BP Tails means choosing the point from which on pixels become pure black. This actually is important for photos because it would be fallacious to assume that every deeply dark part of an image would be able to convey texture and detail. If I use this control extremely we see that it also influences the image's contrast but stays unaffected by the compression of the Shadows. What we should aim to do here is establishing a setting at which some of the darkest parts of the image stay pure black in a plausible and pleasant way.

ColorPerfect's basic image editing controls: Saturation

The next control on our list of image adjustments in ColorPerfect is Saturation. This is nearly as basic as Black and White. Saturation can be used to let an image appear a little more colorful or accordingly less colorful. Personally I often prefer a slightly increased Saturation. It's worth noting that ColorPerfect's Saturation feature is unique and does not equal controls with the same name that are part of other systems but rather has an actually solid physical basis. You will quickly notice the difference as our adjustments usually seem much more natural.

ColorPerfect's basic image editing controls: (artistic) Gamma

Below Saturation you will find the Gamma control for artistic purposes. Why it does not resemble the middle gray slider in Photoshop's Levels or its simple Curves could fill its own video. At this point I'd like to limit the topic by saying that ColorPerfect can treat color and brightness detached from one another in a unique way so that even using Gamma will preserve the correct colors in an image. We can thus use Gamma to alter an image's underlying gray scale or brightness values in one direction or the other.

Curves to visualize both Gamma and ColorPerfect's Zones

This can be visualized by a curve overlay on the preview image. This plot is read from left to right as from dark to bright. Upward changes indicate that a tonal value was brightened and downward changes accordingly indicate that a tonal value was darkened.

Using the Zone control panel and its unique Moderate feature

If we now toggle the Gamma control off we can continue by taking a quick look at ColorPerfect's Zonal panel, which allows even more elaborate adjustments to an image's underlying brightness values. With Zones it is possible to alter individually chosen brightness values independent from one another. For example we could let a middle gray stay unchanged while we make a darker gray darker still and brighten a light gray. In total this adjustment again influences an images perceived contrast. Another unique feature in ColorPerfect is Moderate, which is used to lessen or intensify an entire Zone adjustment. With adjustments that influence contrast one usually tends to overdo it and it is most often a good idea to reassess the chosen values via Moderate and to settle on somewhat lessened values if such prove equally useful. Of course Moderate can also be used after zooming in on the image and without the curve overlay in order to better judge what's happening.

Tonal, a fascinating equivalent to using color filters in B&W photography

A somewhat hidden adjustment that we didn't look at yet is the Tonal control, which is another means to alter an image's underlying gray scale. With this it is possible to change the amount of influence the three color components red, green and blue have on an image's brightness. Tonal really acts like using colored filters in analog black and white photography only that it works on color images. We could adjust the image at hand so that red has a stronger influence on the image's brightness or a smaller one. For some images the Tonal control will really achieve spectacular effects while for others it makes less of a difference like for the current image. While Tonal is active the Clear CC button can be used to reset the feature's values. In the normal mode of operations of the CC Filter area Clear CC leads back to the initial CC Reference point. In this case we didn't intend to return there and so we quickly undo this step using ColorPerfect's history.

The color balance source area and using the camera's white balance in PerfectRAW

When using MakeTiff and PerfectRAW the color balance recorded by the digital camera gets transferred to ColorPerfect and stays accessible via the buttons of the Color Balance Source area. The button Save As Best allows us to store a CC filter pack we find useful in an additional state. If we now toggle through the different states by actuating the other button several times in a row we notice that our previously chosen color balance appears both under Best and Working. Working always refers to the CC filter pack we chose last for example by clicking into the preview while Best is preserved until we overwrite it by pressing the according button again. We can always return to the color balance recorded by the camera or to what would have been ColorPerfect's initial automatic estimate or to any saved Best filter pack. The sample image used is available for download below this video when it's viewed on our web page and you can download it to experiment with it yourself. If you do so you should really compare your result to those you get from conventional RAW processing systems as I am certain you'll be surprised by the difference. As soon as we are happy with the state of our editing we can leave ColorPerfect via the OK button.

Using ColorPerfect with selections set up Photoshop, e. g. a luminance mask

Another detail I'd like to mention at this point is the fact that ColorPerfect allows you to use selections. If I set up a luminance mask in Photoshop and then call ColorPerfect again, switch to TouchUp mode and tick the checkbox Use Selection I can adjust brighter and darker portions of the image in a gradual flow by adjusting the inner part of the selection – the brighter tones – or the outer part of the selection – the darker tones – individually. When doing this we can for example select the brighter tones of the image and remove some more White from them and leave the plug-in by pressing OK again. For comparisons to other RAW converters it should be noted that the workflow with MakeTiff and ColorPerfect we used does not include any sharpening or noise reduction. The latter usually also impairs detail and sometimes the color of small objects so that it is often doubtful if its rather useful or harmful to an image. The sharpening can easily be accomplished in Photoshop by using the Unsharp Mask command for example with values of 120, a radius of 0. 8 pixels and a threshold of 2.

Converting negatives into astonishing positive images using ColorNeg mode

To conclude let's take a look at processing a color negative after all. The most important part when working with negatives in general is creating suitable scans. This gets detailed in various tutorials for different scanner software on our web page. After we have created a suitable scan we should make sure that there no longer are parts of the film's unexposed mask or the scanner's film holder in the image before we invoke ColorPerfect and choose ColorNeg mode. The negative at hand is a historic travel photo. I do not know the exact date of the trip but my estimate would be the1970s. Because of an additional soot coating of its lower side such material could not even be processed in regular labs. The first thing to point out after having chosen ColorNeg mode and having set up that this is a linear scan to which an sRGB profile was assigned is that once the film has been characterized as we will address next all the tools I introduced using PerfectRAW will also be available for our negative.

Characterizing color negatives with the FilmType / SubType / FilmGamma calibration system

We can first try to find a suitable characterization among the large number of built-in color negative film types. In case of our old movie stock it is likely that none of these will yield a perfect result which of course is why I chose this image in the first place as that allows me to show you a feature that is exclusively available in the two modes dealing with film. That feature is the FilmType, SubType, FilmGamma calibration system. To use it one generally needs to click onto a surface in the scene that represents some medium gray. It can also be useful to crank up Saturation to an unnaturally high level as that will allow us to notice even subtle color shifts. The further proceeding is as follows: Using the FilmType control we slowly scroll across the entire range of values once and observe the changes to our image. Afterwards we return to the region that seemed most natural to us. Now we can toggle to SubType mode using the button currently labeled FilmType and can repeat the process. The third control of the calibration system is FilmGamma, which should not be confused with the Gamma for artistic purposes we looked at earlier but only is used when characterizing film. While using the calibration system the three established film gammas are put out in the read out down here. We will often require quite a bit of back and forth in search of the ideal settings. After having characterized a film like this we can enter a new name into the list of film types. By pressing the Add/Change button this entry is temporarily added to the User list but it is required to save this list to a file for the value to stay available for future ColorPerfect sessions. We can now also reset Saturation to a normal level.

After their characterization the same features as shown for PerfectRAW can be used on negatives

Independent of whether you found a suitable characterization among the built-in ones or characterized your film with the method shown it will be relatively easy afterwards to further adjust your photos using the various controls in ColorPerfect so that they suit your wishes. In case of the historic travel photo a significant increase in Saturation seems beneficial. We can also observe that Black Point often behaves significantly different from the way it would for digital photos when working with film. In general it is best to adjust BP Tails directly after having chosen the film type if such an adjustment is needed. I hope that this broad introduction video was useful to you and now whish you to have fun discovering what ColorPerfect can do for both your digital and digitized analog photography.