I’ve never professed to be the greatest photographer in the world. But, I don’t think I stink, either.
A lot of what I do is self-taught. It’s a trial and error sort of thing. I’ve asked other photographers things. Read a few books. Experimented. Whatever I had to do to get by. Several years ago, while still at the paper, one photographer left. After submitting a portfolio and chatting with the boss, I was actually offered the position. I turned it down, because at that point in my life, it wasn’t the right move.
Photography, for me, has always been about fun. If it’s not fun to do, I don’t want to do it. When you are getting paid more often than not, it becomes a job. So, I only shoot weddings for people I know and don’t go out of my way to attempt to sell images. I shoot for things I like and such.
But, that doesn’t mean I don’t strive for good images.
That’s why I shoot RAW.
For those of you who aren’t too into digital photography, RAW is basically a digital negative. As explained on Wikipedia, it’s a raw image file and it’s named that way because the images are not yet processed and are not ready to be printed or edited. These images need to be converted via a convertor.
Another part of this from Wikipedia:
Like a photographic negative, a raw digital image may have a wider dynamic range or color gamut than the eventual final image format, and it preserves most of the information of the captured image. The purpose of raw image formats is to save, with minimum loss of information, data obtained from the sensor, and the conditions surrounding the capturing of the image (the metadata).
With that convertor, you can adjust many settings to help bring the photo back to the original colors and allow things to “pop,” per say.
I use the convertor in Adobe Photoshop CS5. Here’s what happens when I open a RAW image:
As you can see, there are several options on the right side. You get to adjust settings to your liking to spruce up the photo. Some of the big things include being able to adjust the exposure, the light, the brightness, contrast and white balance. It’s nice because if you are shooting quickly, you can fix the settings you might have missed while doing the photo. There are some more “artsy” things, too — such as messing with the saturation and such, so you can make the colors really crazy or make the image basically black and white.
Now, I haven’t fully shot RAW for a while. With the camera I got last March (Canon 7D), I felt quite confident in my ability to capture the image and post-processing to be able to pull it off. But I still shot RAW with big events. The reason, too, is that the RAW file is a very large file.
Lately, I’ve decided to go back to shooting it all the time. It’s easier and it gives a little room for error.
So, let’s go over everything.
If I shoot only JPEG, I get one image on the memory card. It is basically processed by the camera based on the settings I gave it. So some things might be off. There’s the ability, at that point, to play with it in PhotoShop (or whatever program you use) and try and bring it back to the colors and such that you saw. But sometimes, that’s not so easy.
Take a shot I got at Anthony and Alicia’s wedding a few weeks ago. Here’s a JPEG file coming out of the camera. It was a cloudy day and I was moving quickly.
Note that the colors are dull. Everything is there. It’s captured as I wanted, but things don’t pop. Now, there’s not many digital photographers who will shoot a major event and not do any work on things. I’ve seen some top-notch photographers who can take any photo and make them look magical. From a JPEG file, I can do some things, but I’m not a magician.
Still, photos can becomes pretty solid, I think. This is the processed JPEG file:
The colors are now more vibrant. This image, however, to me looks like an older image. It has a fade look to it. Nothing I’d be ashamed to give anyone, by any chance. But when it comes to weddings, I like to do the best possible, obviously.
Enter the RAW file.
To me, the JPEG file is a backup in case something goes wonky. The RAW file has everything I need. And it doesn’t take too long for me to get the image back to what I saw when I took the photo. I’m not doctoring it in any way. I’m just bringing everything out the way it looked when I took the photo.
And how did it look?
The colors are there. Everything seems balanced. I like the look and feel of the image. I’m extremely happy with this photo. And, to me, this is what I saw and is what I visioned when I took the photo. (Note that the images in this post may lack a little something than they were when I processed because of putting it on the web etc.)
RAW isn’t easy. When I first started shooting it back when I originally got into digital photography, I had to learn a lot. It’s worth learning though as it’s something that can really take your photography to the next level.
Looking back, I really wish I had been shooting RAW this whole past year — not just in certain times. A lot of times it was to save space on memory cards (such as when I was in Ireland last year, but I have no issues with my JPEG shots from there). But RAW is where it’s at and I’m going to make sure I stick with using it pretty much all the time now.
I’ve also seen that a lot of point-and-shoot cameras give you that option now, too. It would be interesting to test one of those and see how it works. Too, you need a RAW convertor and, truthfully, a lot of people don’t like to do any processing on images. I can’t blame some people. It’s easy just to take the photos, post them somewhere and move along. And for a lot of people — and things — that’s fine. But to take your photography to another level, processing is a must and RAW is a very strong way to go.
For those of you out there who take photos — how do you do it? Do you shoot RAW? Do you process anything? Do you just post ’em as they are? And, if you process, what’s your favorite technique?
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