This is closely linked with my previous post, but I thought it might keep things clearer not to compound the two issues. My first post was about workflow as such. This post is about what parameters to use (or not to use) in ACR when developing the RAW files.
If you've read my previous post, you'll be gaining the impression that I tend to be a creature of habit. True to a point, but I'm also curious and very open to persuasion that there is a different and/or better way to go about things. Also, I'll freely admit that I'm on a steep learning curve that has started to acclerate recently since I retired from the 'day job' and have more time to devote to photography
I'm aware that I've probably developed (excuse the pun) a lot of bad habits over the years when it comes to workflow and post processing of images. Due to my increasing work rate recently, I've also become painfully aware that I need to develop more efficient methods of working if I'm to have any remote chance of keeping up with client demands for finished work within tight deadlines.
OK, so I shoot mainly people using a 1DMkII and then use ACR via Photoshop CS5.5 to develop the RAW files. Custom white balance set in camera. Colour rendition chart used to create custom camera profile. Apply camera profile to RAW files, double check white balance, synchronise all files for camera profile and white balance and then adjust individual files further as follows:
1) I note that by default the files are sharpened - I tend to turn this off and sharpen later in CS5.5
2) I note that by default medium contrast is applied - I tend to leave this on and even apply further 'linear contrast' at around 66% opacity in an adjustment layer in CS5.5 to most files; I guess this is just personal taste for contrasty files but I sometimes wonder whether I overdo the contrast as a matter of habit?
3) I tend to set the blacks to zero to maintain shadow detail but use the recovery slider to recover blown highlights (although these are mostly in the red channel only and I sometimes wonder whether I overdo the recovery - how important really is it to ensure that the red channel highlights are reading less than 255?)
4) I tend to leave brightness and contrast sliders on their default 50 and 25 respectively, leave clarity alone for portrait shots or even reduce it slightly and increase vibrance until colour saturation e.g. of clothing is pleasing to my eye without affecting skin tones too much.
I could go on, but I think these are the main adjustments I'm looking for opinions on. The main questions in my mind are:
Are there any advantages to sharpening in ACR or am I right to turn sharpening off at this stage?
Am I applying too much contrast routinely (medium contrast curve and default 25 setting in ACR, with further linear contrast added in CS5.5)?
Is there any advantage to adjusting blacks in ACR or am I right always to set this to zero?
Am I overdoing the recovery of blown highlights, which are almost always exclusively in the red channel?
I'll be really interested to hear other people's take on all this (if you've had the patience to read this far!)