TIFF files and image editors (Silver Efex, Topaz, etc.)

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by Ray Sachs, Oct 26, 2010.

  1. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I've been trying out a couple of image editing programs. I bought Topaz Adjust ($40, what the hell!) and am in the trial period for Silver Efex Pro. While I like what these programs can do, the workflow and storage requirements have been bugging me.

    My basic software is Aperture. In Aperture, you import the RAW file into the program and it takes up about 10-12 megabytes. You can create as many "versions" of photo as you want and all it does is save the settings you've changed - it doesn't write a whole new file for each version. So, you can have 5 versions of a given photo with 5 different treatments, and you're still only using that original 10-12 megabytes of storage space. Obviously much less if you start with a jpeg. And you can go back in and tweak your settings at any time - they're always active - you don't "save" the image and lock it in, your settings are always available to do what you want with. On every version! My understanding is Lightroom operates in much the same way in terms of file management, but I don't know this for certain.

    When i decide to edit an image with Silver Efex (or Topaz), the first thing that happens is the programs creates a TIFF file from whatever 'version' of the image I want to work on. This TIFF file is HUGE, around 50-70 megabytes, depending on what it contains, whether its been cropped, etc. I then edit it in Silver Efex. As long as Silver Efex is open and I'm working on a photo (or a few photos), I can go back in and make changes to them and edit the new settings I've been using - those settings are still 'live'. But once I hit the SAVE button in Efex (or Topaz), it overwrites the existing TIFF file with a new one containing the changes I've just made. And leaves it in Aperture as a 'version'. But unlike the 'versions' I've created and edited in Aperture, this TIFF version takes up 60ish megabytes on my hard drive.

    And these edited TIFF files are sort of fully cooked at that point. You can still use Aperture to crop it or add vignetting or things like that. But in terms of changing shadows or highlights or colors or whatever, there's a limited amount Aperture can still do. And if I reopen one of them in Silver Efex, I can't edit the settings I previously used to edit the image. I can use this as a new starting point and change some things, but a lot of stuff seems pretty locked in after you've already edited with Silver Efex and saved it once. For example, you may still be able to tweak highlights and shadows a little bit, you may be able to establish new 'control points' and tweak teh exposure within those, but you're editing over your previous edits - you're not changing them. And you can't really do anything with the color sliders because there's no color information in this file anymore - its all B&W data I believe. I suppose you might be able to increase the grain level, but you can't reduce it. So, the bottom line is this 'version' you've created with Efex is sort of a finished product that's taking up vast amounts of hard disk real estate. If you decide you don't like it and would like it to look different, you can't do much to further edit it. You can obviously start over and create a whole new TIFF file off of the original RAW 'version' you started the first edited TIFF from, but you'd have to remember all of the settings you used the first time in Efex if you want to mostly recreate what you did the first time but with a few different tweaks. That information isn't still available anywhere.

    So these are workflow issues that I don't particularly like with these editing programs AND these edited 'versions' take up all of that room. Since these TIFF files, once edited, are taking up an awful lot of room without serving any editable purpose other than as a finished product you may want to use, I've taken to dragging them from Aperture to my Mac desktop, which automatically exports the file to a full size jpeg. Then I drag the jpeg back into Aperture which creates a new 'version' visually identical to the TIFF version, but instead of taking up about 60 megabytes, it takes up about half a megabyte! A rather significant difference if you ask me! And then I just delete the TIFF version and free up that 60 megabytes.

    So how do other like and deal with these editing programs and their workflow implications? At first I was hugely bummed about the size of the TIFF files until I realized they really didn't serve much purpose once you'd made all of your changes to them and started converting them to jpegs and getting rid of the huge TIFF files. I personally like what Silver Efex does quite a bit (and Topaz a little bit). I don't like that once you make a set of edits and save them, you can't go back and adjust them. I guess I got used to the Aperture way of doing things and figured everything would be that elegant, but the external editors do NOT work that way. Once you save it, you can't change the settings that got you there - you can only make changes over the top of those, which doesn't seem like the best idea to me.

    Anyone else have any other solutions to these problems. Or does anyone else even see these things as problems. Do the huge TIFF files serve any purpose once you've made the edits? Is there any reason I should be keeping them rather than converting them to jpegs to save (massive amounts of) disk space?

    I'd be interested in other's experiences as I decide whether to pony up for Silver Efex once my trial ends in another 7-8 days.

  2. BillN

    BillN Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    Hi Ray

    agree with you re TIFF and Nik software

    (One) of the great things with LR is non destructive editing and the creation of a history

    Maybe a possibility is to work out (the style) of what Silver Effex does and try to recreate it in LR although the zone adjustment thing in effex beats the brush thing in LR

    I've gone (am going) through the same process

    still not convinced

  3. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I don't think there's any ONE style of Silver Efex to emulate in Aperture or Lightroom - there are a world of possibilities in both. I'm finding I can more often get to a version I like more easily with Efex than with Aperture. But there are exceptions! I have some Aperture B&W versions that I can't touch in Efex. And I have some Efex workups that I can't seem to equal in Aperture. And there are a lot of Efex workups that, with a LOT of effort, I can duplicate in Aperture, but I don't know if I'd ever get there with Aperture as the original tool. So, I like Efex, but I'm just wrestling with the downsides at the moment. And I fear that if I buy Efex, I'm gonna use it for all of my B&W and I'll probably never see some of those cool Aperture versions I've come up with in the past on future shots. Obviously if I owned both I could try both for some shots, but I know myself and I don't think that's what would happen.

    As for the control points versus brushes, I think its a tradeoff. I love that with the control points in Efex, you have three separate sliders to adjust the look of what's going on in that circle. BUT, the circle is such a crude shape! The brush allows you to be so much more specific in terms of which area you want to adjust. But there's only one adjustment possible for each brushed area. The best of both worlds would be to have a brush tool with a bunch of adjustment sliders workable in each. But for now, we have to choose...

    Isn't life just a bunch of tradeoffs? Its great to have choices but damned if they don't tax the brain!

  4. tybeck

    tybeck New Member

    Oct 26, 2010
    San Francisco
    The only way I know of use use a plugin like Adjust or the Nik suite and be able to change the settings later is to use them in Photoshop as smart objects. That way if you save the picture as a Photoshop file with layers you can go back and make changes. You can also but the plugin smart object into a Photoshop action which is handy for batch work. Not all plugins support smart objects though. I use Lightroom (LR) and in my hands you can't save the Photoshop files with the layers back into LR. The layers are flattened on transfer. This surprised me given that LR is supposed to play well with Photoshop. Maybe I'm missing something. I don't think there is an equivalent of smart objects for plugins in Aperture or LR. That would be a killer feature though (hint Apple and Adobe).

    As for your TIFF storage space issue, most people use 16-bit TIFF as their working format, convert to a high quality JPEG when they are happy with the image, and then trash the TIFFs or put them in deep storage (i.e. not in their DAM program). You can use compression in the TIFF format which helps and StuffIT advertises that they can give better compression on TIFF files. No personal experience there though.

    On another point, I think you can use Photoshop brushes with the Nik plugins. You could also do something similar with a layer mask. I remember reading this on Nik's feature lists, but they specified Photoshop, not Lightroom or Aperture. Looks like we found another potential feature to enable plugins even more.
  5. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Interesting about Photoshop. That's a step I'm not anywhere close to taking, but good to know, and maybe LR and Aperture and/or the plug-in versions will get there eventually. Meantime, the converting TIFF to hi-quality jpegs is what I finally figured out to do once I realized there was no real value in maintaining the TIFFs (unless someone knows something that hasn't been raised here?).

  6. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    I'm bringing this one back up for some fresh air because of Alf's recent thread discussing his iPad workflow possibilities in which Wally wrote:

    I am hoping that I can get a little more explanation about how TIFF files work. I use Nik software quite a bit and often go back and forth between Color Efex and Silver Efex to achieve my desired results. Eventually I narrow things down to the version I prefer...and then I will delete the extra TIFF files, keep my original DNG file of the image (I convert from RAW to DNG in Lightroom right after import) and the TIFF file.

    I do find that the Nik software can be extremely helpful and sometimes it's just a quick touch of Pro Contrast and that's it...other times I may spend a long time trying out different effects... So, my question is - is it the ability of the TIFF file's size and "depth" of details, for want of better terms, that give the NIK software the ability to do what it does?

    I don't know if I'm being as clear as I could be here. I'm trying to understand better how all these different forms of files work. I'll be interested to read what you all have to say.
  7. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I'm not sure how or if TIFF files "work", but they seem to hold a LOT of data in a format that a lot of image editors seem best able to work with - maybe because its the most common of the formats that hold all or almost all of the data? I don't know. I know that Efex and Topaz and I think any other image editor I've ever tried has converted my files to TIFF to work on. That's whether the original was a RAW or jpeg. And it doesn't seem to matter how small the original file was - the TIFF file is going to be HUGE. My RAW files tend to be in the 12-15 megabyte range. My high quality jpegs tend to be in the 4-5 megabyte range. ANY of these converted to TIFF create a file in the 60-70 megabyte range!

    My guess is that TIFF will maintain as much data as you give it from the original file, whether RAW or JPEG. When you convert a RAW file to TIFF, I think the editor should still have pretty much all of the data in that RAW file to work with. What Wally seems to indicate above, and which I don't get and have a hard time believing, is that if you convert a JPEG to TIFF, it somehow will contain MORE data than the jpeg???? This just doesn't seem possible to me. I know jpegs compress to fit a lot into a smaller file. But I can't imagine how you can magically get all of that data back when you convert to TIFF??? If you can, that's a cool trick and perhaps one less reason to shoot in RAW????

    In terms of my own workflow, I basically always shoot in RAW (the exception was the first few weeks I had the LX5 when Apple didn't support the RAW files yet and those jpegs are inexplicably some of my favorite stuff! - I think it was the new camera smell?). When I convert to TIFF to edit a file, usually in Silver Efex but occasionally in Topaz Adjust or Denoise, I get an enormous TIFF file. Then I do my edits. Once I hit 'save' in the editing program, the image is basically cooked - you can still make some changes to it, but you can't go back and UNdo the changes you've already made. So once I hit 'save', I figure I'm basically happy with the edits, and its gonna be the finished product OR I'm just gonna start all over again if I want to do something different with it. So, once I've hit the save button and concluded the image is in its finished form, I always save the edited TIFF file to a full size jpeg of the highest quality I can convert to. Then I trash the TIFF file. Because its enormous and there's not that much I can do with it once I've saved the edits anyway. So I've converted a 60-70 megabyte TIFF back to a 4-6 megabyte jpeg because in its finished state, I can't see a difference and I save a lot of disk space. And again, I can always go back to the RAW file, create a new TIFF, and start the editing process again from scratch if I want something different from the image. Which I don't do often, but I have done. Particularly with some images I processed when I first had Silver Efex and, frankly, didn't do a very good job with. I can generally get a better version now that the software is better incorporated into my DNA...

    BB, I'm not sure if this answers any of your questions or clears anything up for you, or if I'm even right about much of it. But its what seems to work for me...

    • Like Like x 1
  8. You're right, once the data is lost you ain't gettin it back pal! You can convert Jpg to Tiff but the amount of info in that file will be the same as the Jpg before the conversion.
  9. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I'm highly dubious, but not ready to completely write it off. For instance, I know you can compress a lot of information into a ZIP file that you can't access directly in the ZIP, but once you 'unpack' the zip file, its still there. I was never under the impression that jpegs worked that way, but if they do, I'd love to hear more and understand it better...

    This all reminds me of some of the heated arguments that used to break out in the live music "taping" community during the transitional phase between analog and digital recording technologies. In the analog days, the gold standard for taping were Nakamichi tape decks. When digital recording started in earnest (in the days of digital audio tape - DAT), the analog purists decried the lack of "warmth" in the digital recordings. Whether this was real or imagined is a topic for another day, but the thing that never failed to crack me up were the guys who had Nakamici decks at home who would take a digital source file and dub it onto analog cassettes and claim that their results were better than someone with a digital machine at home because the analog machine was "warmer" than the digital machine. Which, even if you assume this is 100% true, is absolutely irrelevant if the source was recorded digitally. You were just trying to make an analog copy of the "cold cold cold" digital recording and that copying process was not going to somehow reintroduce some analog "warmth" into the digital recording. It was just gonna introduce another generation of less signal and more noise, which is not the same as "grain" in a nice older photograph! Hilarious stuff. Once someone tried to make that argument to me, I declined to trade tapes with them ever again because I was pretty sure that if they didn't understand THAT basic fact, they weren't gonna get many other parts of the process right either!

    Not that I'm saying this question is necessarily the same - if there's some compression/decompression at work that I don't understand, I'd love to know more. But it certainly brought it to mind... :wink:

  10. Wally Billingham

    Wally Billingham Regular

    Nov 27, 2010
    Laurel, MD
    TIFF files were one of the original image formats. I used to use them on Macs and Amigas way back in the day 20 years ago. The word TIFF is an acronym for "Tagged Image File Format" and in theory they can be in any bit depth but there is no practicle advantage to being more than 16 bits as 16 bit depth contains more colors than the human eye can see or printers can print.

    The advantage to tiffs is that the data in them is not compressed and that the files can have tags. The tags are instructions as to how to render the data contained in the image file. Most RAW files and DNG files are really TIFF files with an extra set of tags as to how to process the data. You can think of a TIFF file as a cup that holds image data and the tags are recipe on how to render what is in the cup

    The disadvantage to TIFF files is that they can be quite large. I have TIFF files from scanned Large Format film that are over 1GB in size. That is why the ISO created a group to create a smaller format which was named JPEG after the group. (Joint Photographic Expert Group)

    JPEG files are much smaller because JPEGs compress and toss out data. Once lost you can never get it back. Most of this data is not needed as long as you do not do heavy edits or multiple edits and file saves on the same image. Every time you open, edit, and save a JPEG file it recompresses the image and tosses out more data. This is the advantage of converting JPEGs to TIFF files as you can edit and save the file unlimited times, and since there is no compression there is no loss of data.

    Also FWIW the compression used in JPEGs is different than other forms of compression such as zip files. Zip files compress data in a much more efficient way and do not toss out any data.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. Grant

    Grant Veteran

    Nov 12, 2010
    Lunenburg Nova Scotia
    In Aperture, in your preferences, you can specify four settings for files to go to external editors.

    TIFF (8-Bit)
    TIFF (16-Bit)
    PSD (8-Bit)
    PSD (16-Bit)

    If you choose TIFF (8-Bit) or PSD (8-Bit) your files should shrink in half.

    Aperture uses either TIFF or PSD because they are non distractive and if you want to reedit them in an external browser you maintain the integrity of the files. The idea reediting a TIFF or PDS inside of Aperture is a bit counter productive.
  12. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Thanks Wally - that makes sense. Its not that you'll ever get more data out of the jpeg than was there when you first opened/converted it, but it will stand up to repeated editing better if you convert it to a TIFF first and leave it as a TIFF. That clears up your earlier statement very well...