Author Topic: Can Photo Mechanic metadata sides be read/updated by Adobe Camera RAW (ACR)?  (Read 10446 times)

Offline Gary_G

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I REALLY like Photo Mechanic better than Bridge and ACR does a spectacular job for me as a RAW processor.
Can Photo Mechanic be used as a "front-end" ingestion tool that is metadata sidecar-file compatible with Adobe Camera RAW (ACR)?
Haven't seen this documented anywhere, so I thought I'd ask.

Offline Kirk Baker

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Gary,

I REALLY like Photo Mechanic better than Bridge and ACR does a spectacular job for me as a RAW processor.
Can Photo Mechanic be used as a "front-end" ingestion tool that is metadata sidecar-file compatible with Adobe Camera RAW (ACR)?
Haven't seen this documented anywhere, so I thought I'd ask.

Yes, absolutely.  It is a very common workflow.  You can even crop from within PM and have the crop appear in ACR.

-Kirk

Offline Gary_G

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Thanks, Kirk.
Is there any "special" setup I need to do to make the workflow as seamless as possible.
I know Adobe is finicky about sharing details of their RAW processor, so I thought I should ask before diving in.

I should clarify that I am trying to keep my RAW files as untouched as possible and pass additional data such as cropping and such via the sidecar file. If I'm not being clear, please let me know and I'll explain further.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2015, 06:37:34 PM by Gary_G »

Offline Kirk Baker

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Gary,

Thanks, Kirk.
Is there any "special" setup I need to do to make the workflow as seamless as possible.
I know Adobe is finicky about sharing details of their RAW processor, so I thought I should ask before diving in.

In the IPTC/XMP Preferences, click on the 'lightning bolt' icon and choose the '[Adobe products]' item.  It will have you set for working with ACR, Bridge, and Lr.

-Kirk

Offline Gary_G

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Thanks. I'll do that and give it a shot.

Offline Gary_G

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Seems that ACR v9.3 sees changes that Photo Mechanic Makes, but Photo Mechanic does not see the changes that ACR v9.3 makes. I can see the ACR v9.3 changes in a dump of the XMP sidecar within the XMP segment. It would appear that the info exchange is only one way (PM ---> ACR). Is this a case that Photo Mechanic see the changes, but can't render them???

Offline Hayo Baan

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PM is not able to perform the raw rendering as performed by ACR (it isn't ACR aft all). As ACR does not update the embedded preview in the raw file ( which is used by PM), you can not see your edits in PM.

There is a solution though: switch to DNG. For DNG, ACR does update the preview (and embeds the metadata as well, so no need for XMP sidecar files any longer).
Hayo Baan - Photography
Web: www.hayobaan.nl

Offline Gary_G

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Hayo;

Thanks for the reply. I haven't used DNG before, but I'm interested in knowing more.

Here is a bit of background. I'm considering a workflow that is from Canon RAW .CR2 files and the odd .JPG through Photo Mechanic, into ACR , then possibly on to Photoshop. Implicit in the question in my original post is that I may need to go back and forth between the various workflow elements. I would prefer to keep only one "master" copy of an image and any auxiliary files during the processing phase (that is, after initial ingestion from RAW and/or JPG) and to avoid a dependence on a particular software package.

I had been thinking of using sidecars and not touching the "master" image file, to enable me to quickly revert to the original. However; many programs seem to require that they add info to the "master" image file, not just the sidecar. Since I often don't have a choice in where they store their data and I need to use products from different manufacturers in my workflow, I'm starting to doubt that this goal is possible. I think the best I'm going to be able to do is make sure I have a backup of the original file and of the current "master" file and auxiliaries used for processing.

I have a few questions for you, because changing to DNG-based processing would definitely affect my plan and could have associated risks.
  • I am assuming that the RAW/JPG transition is a one-way process. At what point in the workflow does one do this?
  • I'm hesitant to try something new until I know it's reasonably well accepted. Is converting to DNG a common practice?
  • I can't afford to compromise my embedded image and metadata. Is the quality and content of a DNG fully equivalent to the originals?
  • Is DNG widely enough supported by other software packages to allow me to migrate to another set of products if needed?

Offline Hayo Baan

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Hi Garry,

You're welcome :)

I understand you want to stay as flexible and open as possible to what software you use for editing your images (I do too). However, the problem here is that none of the raw converters are compatible so once you choose a raw converter, you can not really switch unless you redo all your work in the new program. This actually sounds worse than it probably is as you likely do not need to revisit all your files regularly. And I know how this works; I used to do all my editing with Capture NX2, Nikon's own editor, but since they basically ditched it for something really mediocre, I had to switch away from that.

After some research I ended up going with ACR. As my complete workflow was based on PM, I really needed my edits to be visible to me. That's how I ended up with converting my raws to DNG. As with that, the embedded preview gets updated with ACR (and Lightroom, but there it's a manual task). A while ago I wrote a blog on this with some more info.

Note: As DNG is an open file format, I am not too fussed about lock in with Adobe; if necessary I could always switch.

Now to answer your questions,
  • Conversion to JPG is indeed very much a one way process. You would typically only do that at the very end of your process e.g. if you need to hand over your work to someone else or publish it to the Internet.
  • I too was very reluctant to migrate to DNG, but as it is quite a well developed format now (which is even used by some cameras as their raw format!), I found that making the switch was a pretty safe bet. Besides, for me the alternatives were not really an option anyway.
  • Though DNG files in general are smaller than the original raw file, I have not seen any difference in quality, none at all.
  • There are other raw converters that do support DNG and my thinking is that this number will only grow.

My workflow is now purely based on DNG and I am very, very happy about that.

Note: as part of my backup strategy, next to backing up all my work images, I also maintain a set of “pure” original raws (files basically only touched by PM's ingest). While I have needed these to recover from corruption issues, this was not due to DNG or ACR, but due to bugs in Nikon's own editing software... So basically you would not need them at all, but if like me you like some extra extra guarantee, you might want to invest in an extra disk for this purpose too. But this actually hasn't got much to do with you switching your workflow ;)

Hopefully this answers your questions, but if not, feel free to ask for more info!
Hayo Baan - Photography
Web: www.hayobaan.nl

Offline Gary_G

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Hayo;

Thanks for your reply. I think that my thoughts were paralleling yours, without my realizing it.

I think I finally found a good compromise between cost and functionality of set of tools and have tested some ideas on a decent workflow.

I have a tentative DNG-based workflow that looks like just might work. I tried it with a set of files and was really happy with how well it worked. I had no issues with metadata synchronization or tool interaction, the quality was excellent and I really am starting to like the combination of Photo Mechanic and ACR. (I'm really not too fond of the GUI of LightRoom, nor it's database concept for adjustments. Got badly bitten when Apple dropped Aperture and I had to extract things.)

Here it is:
    - Use Photo Mechanic to ingest from the camera card, rename and send one copy of the card to my local 4TB MyBook backup drive and one to my computers work directory.
    - Use the Adobe RAW to DNG converter to replace all ingested RAW files in the work directory with standard DNG.
    - Use GeoSetter to geo-code and inject the location coordinates and reverse geo-location data into both DNG and JPG files in my work directory.
    - Use Photo Mechanic to rank and cull both DNG and JPG files in the work directory, and complete the rest of the metadata entry.
    - Use Adobe Camera Raw to adjust the ranked and culled images.
    - Use RawTherapee and/or Photoshop to do any really detailed adjustments and masking.
    - Use Photoshop and/or Photo Mechanic to prepare shots for release. (each seem to have just a bit different capabilities, so I'm not yet sure which will work best).
    - Back up my computers work directory and my local 4TB MyBook backup drive to my 4TB MyCloud drive.

Photomechanic, GeoSetter, ACR, RawTherapee and PhotoShop all exchange DNG images containing metadata back-and-forth. Note that Photo Mechanic cannot actually re-render the edits made by an an external editor. (I think that re-embedding the edited preview might just do the trick). I settled on DNG for a common RAW interchange format for a few reasons, not the least of which are: They are an industry standard, all the required data is in one file, they are somewhat smaller than the original RAWs, and I can go back and forth between apps in my workflow any time I need to do so. Also; my cameras are getting older and can't tell how long the software will support their native RAW format. Already had issues with Canons' DPP 4 on this point.

In short; I really appreciate you speaking up about your positive experiences with DNG. I was starting to wonder if I would ever find someone who had been through the same issues as myself and who had found a solution that actually worked.

Regards;
Gary

Offline Hayo Baan

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Hi Gary,

Excellent, glad to be of help! Looks like our workflows are now pretty similar :)
(And I too like ACR much much more than Lightroom...)

Two additional notes:
  • To have ACR update the embedded previews (automatically!) all you need to do is set the preference to do so. You can even choose between full size previews (very much recommend, especially in combination with PM) and a smaller version.
  • All my jpg generation work is done from PM, the embedded preview is definitely good enough for all those purposes. Only when I want to create a big art print do I go to Photoshop to print directly or to create an AdobeRGB jpg (the embedded preview is sRGB).

Cheers,
Hayo
Hayo Baan - Photography
Web: www.hayobaan.nl

Offline Gary_G

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Perfect!!!

Let me set the software to do as you suggest.
Please post again, if you have any further suggestions.

Thank you again, Hayo.

Offline Gary_G

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Hayo;

Just need to ask something quick to finish off this topic. (It's not really directly related to the PM workflow issue, so I'll be brief)

I generated DNGs with the full original embedded and had it generate large previews using Adobe DNG Converter 9.3 (Windows). Being diligent, I went over the DNG Image Info to see if it had been faithfully transferred. I found something rather odd.

The previews now look different than the ones in the original. That's OK, because I guess they're generated from the RAW and would look a bit different than what the JPG the camera embeds.

However; I quickly noticed that the converter shows the original "File Number" in the Maker Notes segment, but adds an "Image Number" with a totally different value in the EXIF and XMP segments eg. "File Number" 1550536 vs. "Image Number" 144

Any idea what it's for and what it means?

Regards;
Gary

Offline Hayo Baan

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From my experience, mostly with Nikon and some Canon cameras, I determined that number to be the shuttercount. But as yours is 1.5 million, this doesn't seem to be the case for you/your cameras.

That the preview looks different is indeed to be expected; the default adobe rendering is very much different from what your camera gives you. You can tweak the default to your liking (on a per camera and even e.g., ISO base) so you could try to get closer to the in-camera version if you like.

Does this answer your questions?
Hayo Baan - Photography
Web: www.hayobaan.nl

Offline Gary_G

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Yes. Thanks, Hayo.

The preview I see in Photo Mechanic is just fine as is. It's just different and that's OK.

I read over the DNG std on the DNG site and found that the various parameters are often optional or open to interpretation by the manufacturer.
Sure wish I knew what some of them meant, though. Oh well, I'll figure it out.