Lightroom/Camera Raw: Highlight *Detail* Recovery

  • 8
  • Idea
  • Updated 7 years ago
  • Implemented
First I'd like to say how totally stoked I am that Highlight Recovery is working so much better than it used to - thank you, thank you, thank you...

Second, the recovered highlights still lack detail and are flat - the recovered highlight tones tend to be compressed. If I have the time, I often use local adjustment to lower exposure a smidge and contrast a lot to bring out more detail in the highlights, instead of recovery. (Note: clarity only works in the mid-tones).

Fill Light is magical - brings out detail in shadows in a very natural and beautiful way. Highlight recovery however - not so much.

So, this FR/Idea is to bring out more intra-highlight detail when doing recovery.

It is my understanding that Fill & Recovery both use masking to keep from compressing midtones while expanding darks & lights respectively. As of Lr3, this works *very* well. I'd just like to see some contrast reduction applied in the masked highlights to bring out tonal detail in the highlights. This is essentially what I do now manually using locals, but its painstaking. As long as the mask is already active to isolate the highlights, why not use it to spread out those highlight tones?

Bonus Idea: Allow additional adjustments to be applied by user to both shadow masked and highlight masked regions, so user could manually control not only contrast, but hue and such stuff...

PS - If you like this idea, don't forget to click the '+1' button below.
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Rob Cole

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  • unable to express my emotions with a single word.

Posted 8 years ago

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Butch_M

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I've always worked under the impression, the best method for rendering highlight detail is to not over expose the highlights to the point the sensor cannot record the highlight properly in the first place ... rather than request that my RAW converter software create something from nothing to render the detail that was my responsibility to protect during the capture phase ...
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Rob Cole

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When you got a 15 stop scene and a 12 stop camera - you have two choices:
1. Compromise.
2. HDR
(and of course sometimes there is photographer error)

But we digress - this idea is about bringing out *existing* detail - that which you *can* bring out using the local brush, if you know what settings to use and have the time...

PS - One of the most common disappointments people have when coming from NX2 to Lightroom is less highlight detail. This happens for two reasons:

1. NX2 uses profiles more like sizzling-badger's (and Adobe's camera emulation profiles) and less like Adobe Standard, which I love in many respects but part of its personality is to sometimes overbrighten upper midtones and lose highlight detail.

2. Nikon relies on Active D-Lighting to maintain highlight detail.

It is my hardly humble opinion that Adobe could stand to do some things to enhance highlight detail - this is just one idea...
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Butch_M

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Perplexing for sure ... first you compliment Adobe on a wonderful job for properly handling detail using the fill light adjustment ... then lament the need to add detail in blown highlights ... to me the solution is simple ... expose for the highlights, extend the dynamic range using the fill slider ... that way you aren't using an algorithm as a crutch, forcing the software to create an unknown from clipped channels , but enhancing actual recorded image detail ... simple really ... and it could quite possibly be available as such by design ...
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Rob Cole

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Butch, sometimes its enough to shoot for the highlights and bring up the fill, but sometimes that's not enough. TK made some important distinctions (below) about the two functions of highlight recovery: bringing them in from the great beyond (clipped), vs. pushing in-bound highlights leftward. Both functions are important, but I've been talking mostly about how to enhance detail of highlights that are already in bounds (de-compressing/separating highlight tones). Its often tied in with recovering blown highlights, but not necessarily.

PS - Fill works great up to say 30 or 40, but at 50 or more the results can get pretty unnatural... and of course if you push too far with underexposure in the camera you end up with overly clipped shadows. So, its very advantageous to be able to push from *both* ends: fill *and* highlight recovery. Unfortunately right now highlight recovery isn't holding up its end of the deal as well as it could, in my opinion.
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Jinn Leong

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Fill light should have negative. I would like to keep the current highlight recovery.
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Mark Sirota

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TK

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I very rarely use highlight recovery because it typically produces flat, grayish areas that stand out almost as much as overly bright areas. Often, it is not even possible to use split toning to get some colour back into the areas flattened out by highlight recovery.

I usually bring the exposure down and then tweak the tone curve.

I feel highlight recovery should have a "healing brush" aspect to it. It should try to use information from the context to replace blown areas with ones that blend in nicely.

I think higlight recovery has two functions:
1. A convenient way of tweaking the top end of the tone curve (for highlights that are bright but not blown out).
2. A repair function for blown highlights that have one or more colour channels clipped.

Currently I don't find it convincing in either of the two functions.
It doesn't attempt colour recovery and if there is masking at all it seems too weak as sufficient amounts of higlight recovery often also have an adverse effect on less than bright tones. The image then looks flat.
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Rob Cole

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Ever since I discovered the hue twists, I used decreased exposure too, to recover highlights (or switched to linear profile). - literally converted almost my entire collection to be highlight-recovery free. The hue twist problem has since been solved but as you've so eloquently stated, that's only part of the problem.
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Rob Cole

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TK said: "I feel highlight recovery should have a "healing brush" aspect to it. It should try to use information from the context to replace blown areas with ones that blend in nicely."

In this FR/Idea I was mostly just thinking about enhancing highlight detail when all 3 channels are not clipped (your function #1 above). I probably should not have even tied it to recovery proper, although they are highly related.

Your idea above is so good that it is crying out for an entirely new FR/Idea - why don't you do that so I don't have to ;-}

Honestly, I was just thinking about this recently and was gonna make the FR/Idea but forgot.

How about for a title: "Recovery of Blown Out Highlights: Why not Improvise?...", or maybe:
"Highlights Blown Out? - How to create something out of nothing..."...
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TK

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Hi Rob,

thanks for the inspiration.

I just posted a "Heal Mode for Highlight Recovery" feature request.
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Andrew Rodney

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IF you actually blow out all the highlights, there’s nothing to gain back, no magic algorithm will do this. So yes ETTR correctly (expose for highlights you wish to retain).

That said, ACR and LR have used a technique whereby if one of the three channels is fully blown out, some recovery can be produced from the other two channels. It may even be possible if two channels are gone, not sure. In the past, the recovery produced some very ugly results when pushed too hard. An example can be seen here, the differences are recovery in LR versus Raw Developer:

http://digitaldog.net/files/RD.jpg

I do believe much of this has been fixed (and the guy at Adobe who did it knows who he is, deserves a big pat on the back and our thanks). I do believe, after revisiting the image shown above from LR, that indeed, as Rob pointed out, there are improvements. But nothing is going to rebuild data that doesn’t exist because all channels are blown out. Having recovery behave better (more like Raw Developer) is welcome, it shows that some recovery is possible.
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TK

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Andrew, it is true that nothing can reliably bring back the information the camera would have recorded with proper exposure settings.

But it is possible to replace blown highlights with something that blends in with the context. For example, deleting the blown areas with content-aware fill, would be one option. My proposed "Heal Mode for Highlight Recovery" is supposed to do something "magic" along this lines.
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Rob Cole

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"proper" exposure settings are not a panacea. Sometimes the shadows are important too, so the issue remains even if the photo is "perfectly" exposed (meaning a perfect balance has been struck when its impossible to cover the entire dynamic range). One can sometimes resort to HDR techniques in this case, but that only works well if there is no subject movement between successive shots.
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Dorin Nicolaescu-Musteață, Champion

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I guess this can be considered solved now with PV 2012...?
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Rob Cole

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Yep - nicely solved - big thanks to Adobe!...
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Eric Chan, Camera Raw Engineer

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Yes, this was implemented with many of the comments in this thread in mind.
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Rob Cole

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As far as I'm concerned, this can be marked "Implemented".