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Lightroom Enhance Details and Fuji – a winner!

Note: this was written late 2019.  Fast-forward to mid-March 2021, Adobe launches “super resolution” – currently only in Adobe RAW and Photoshop. I will review it when it comes to Lightroom.

Introduction

Almost all my Fuji image-gurus believe the images produced using Lightroom’s new Enhance Details feature are as good, if not better than any other solution, and I’ve come to the same conclusion myself.

But this doesn’t mean it should be used on every image for a few reasons: disk space, processing time, and workflow. 

Disk space 

My normal XE-2 RAW filesize is 25mb. Enhance Details creates a DNG file of 70-90mb.  Let’s call it 75mb to make the math easy. Basically, each enhanced image will take up 3x additional disk space (you will be keeping your original raw).

Now, for reasons I’ll explain, it is extremely unlikely that you’ll want to enhance more than 5% of your images. In this scenario, you’d require 15% more disk space for your images.

Based on the current cost of hard drives, the added cost of an enhanced image is negligible.

Processing Time

On my older computer it takes a minute or two to create an enhanced image. That sounds terrible, but wait. Newer computers with dedicated graphic cards are taking under ten seconds per image, sometimes under five seconds!

If you’re not using one of these cards now, there is probably one in your future; Adobe is now solidly leveraging their capabilities in the development module.

But even with a slow dinosaur computer, a few key points are in order:

Enhance Details can wait until after you cull and do post processing. But most importantly, it’s not for all, or even most images, but only a small minority of them.

This is an important point – as real as the improvement can be, it will matter little on images that aren’t blown-up large for printing, and even then improvement will be marginal.

And bear in mind that as image size increases, our viewing distance increases somewhat proportionately; we usually view large pictures at a distance of several feet.

Pixel-peeping mamas

All this is to address the OCD malady called pixel-peeping. It has been discussed enough that I needn’t add more than this perhaps disheartening point: only a small percentage of your images are likely to deserve and benefit from this enhancement.

For social media use? Don’t even bother, it’s just not worth it at that size.

There is one special area where Enhance Details can become important; for those shots – we all have them – where the discovered “real” picture is a substantially reduced crop of the original image.

Imagine that your discovered picture occupies only a quarter of your frame. This is where the boost from an enhanced image could give you the improvement that turns “didn’t quite make it” into a win.

Conclusion

Once I started working with Enhance Details and figuring out the actual costs in both time and money things became startingly clear to me.

Yes it’s a pain to have larger files, and to have to wait for Adobe’s AI to do its magic, But it’s on a tiny fraction of images, and you make it all back on workflow.

You don’t need to go outside of Lightroom, you don’t need to be thinking about two systems. That’s worth a lot. 

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