I shoot with 7d and 60d generally always in RAW.
My process generally follows:
Load RAWs into lightroom
Process with standard exposure/colour adjustments
save in lightroom and export as JPEG for web publish.
Sometimes when I need to edit further I:
Open into PS for any masking/layering.
Save as TIFF to preserve the layers.
reimport backinto lightroom and export as JPEG.
I've seen people converting to DNG rather than process the raw files but I don't know why?
also when I import RAWs into lightroom, the pictures start off punchy and vibrant (like the JPEG preview on camera), and then when it renders they go all soft, mushy, lack contrast and the colours (particularly reds) become quite weak. Am I doing something wrong? I've never really touched "camera calibration" in lightroom, should I be exploting some features in there?
Thanks for your time
1. I like DNGs a bit more because I would lose all my sidecars because the files are being moved and backed up all the time. DNG's are a really convenient package and allow me to reverse any changes easily and although I doubt the .CR2 files will ever become obsolete and impossible to find a converter, I never have to bother with a converter if I need to look at old pics 15 years from now... simple.
2. If you are processing the pics as they are coming into lightroom that can drop contrast and vibrance if auto-tone is selected for example. I think this is what is happening to you because canon naturally oversaturates reds because it yields nicer fleshtones although it sucks because I've blown the red channels on a bunch of red flower pics in direct sunlight (Nikon seems to oversaturate greens). The lightroom conversion will naturally correct the canon image because although it may be prettier with overdone reds its not really accurate.
3. Although your camera is taking pure sensor data to make your RAW file your camera is most likely set with a certain picture style that will affect the display on the back of the camera. Hence I always set my picture style to neutral so I know right then if one of my high ISO pics is not looking the way I want it to. If you like what you see on the camera, you can process with DPP and it will use the jpg processing settings from the camera to render your images and it should look identical to what you see on the back of your camera unless you:
4. Have an uncalibrated monitor that does not display colors properly. Most monitors are pretty crappy at accurately portraying colors and yours may not display red, contrast, gamma or any number of other image characteristics properly. In this case you can try color correcting with websites which will get you maybe a bit better or suck it up and buy a colormunki.
5. You may have incompatible color spaces on the camera, LR settings and/or the monitor. I'd check all three and make sure its consistent. Given your workflow I'd probably just shoot in sRGB, have lightroom display in sRGB because its really not going to make a difference most of the time. Using AdobeRGB gives you a tiny bit better color accuracy but a huge headache if you are not 100% confident at what you are doing. Color space issues usually show up in the jpeg export process and yield mushy pics when posted on the web but I have no idea what buttons you may or may not have pressed on the back of your camera, in lightroom and what type of monitor you have (although 99% of monitors display in the sRGB color space).
My guess you have problems 3+4 and possibly 2 and its combining to create mush images. Who knows what the people on the web are seeing though because their monitors will most likely be equally out of whack.