Shooting RAW | Photography Basics

The problem with photographers (mostly us boys anyway) is that we can be a big bunch of geeks. We obsess of tiny details in our images and our process. To be honest that should come as a relief to many of you if you’re hiring a professional photographer but what about when you are creating your own images?

 

I don’t really want to get into a debate about whether you should photograph in RAW or not. I’m a professional, I should If you’re taking happy snaps for Facebook then it’s not important.

 
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What is a RAW file?

People often refer to RAW files as the digital negatives which is in someway true but to be honest lacks a little imagination as an analogy.

Who remembers film anyway?

I do. I spent the best part of six years in darkrooms learning my craft only for it to be completely replaced as an industry standard almost as instantly as I graduated from my photography degree. I do mean instantly. My first real full time photography job was on a ship which moved to fully digital about a month before I joined. When I was at university the only digital camera I used was a tiny compact 1 megapixel thingy.

The point is I know negatives, and RAW files ain’t negatives, they are much more than that so the comparison isn’t really fair.

The information in a RAW file allows us a tremendous amount of leeway and scope for creatively and fixing failure. Really it’s the amateurs that should be using RAW more than the seasoned professionals because it makes it easier to fix mistakes like over or under exposure.

Really a RAW file is just a whole bunch of information that needs to be told what to do to create a photo. Too much information if we’re being honest and if you are beginning to learn the basic elements of good photography I would first concentrate on creating a goof JPG in camera first.

 

But what do we do with RAW files?

In simple terms, we open them in expensive software fix the adjustments and then turn them into JPGs.

It is a science but not one as complicated as science that is involved in the manufacturing of rockets (is that what rocket science is? I’m not sure).

To illustrate what we do have a look at these two images. The first is an RAW file with no adjustments (actually I’ve made a couple to make my point but hopefully you’ll get the idea). The second is the same image still in RAW format with a few changes to exposure and white balance.

 

RAW digital file unprocessed

RAW digital file unprocessed


 
RAW file adjusted

RAW file adjusted


 

This is only the beginning in terms of what we do with our photos as once we open then in Photoshop we put them through our very secret and awesome editing process (not Lightroom that’s for a amateurs I don’t care what anyone says).

 

Guess what? Your camera does exactly the same thing for you and just cuts out the middle man (the expensive software).

The problem is that my camera, as expensive as it is, doesn’t do the best job of creating a JPG. How can it? It’s a machine and last time I checked Skynet weren’t building cameras. (Pleas excuse the Terminator reference but I was trying to make the point that a camera doesn’t have AI).

 

Your camera might do a pretty good job of creating a good useable image but that can only happen if you take a good image to begin with.

 

So for now don’t worry about RAW files because you’re going to take perfect photos anyway (if you keep following this course).

 


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