Saturday, July 17, 2010

Back to RAW

A recent comment by Kayla Lamoureaux got me thinking about the file format of my digital images. She shoots in RAW because she wants to be able to make up for the fact that she isn't a fabulous photographer and RAW gives her more flexibility with her final product. She has just started using LightRoom to organize her files, which I am not ready to do ($200 for the software) so I started looking for ways to put RAW back into my workflow.

When I started getting into digital scrapping more and more I made the decision to shoot in JPEG only. I was finding my workflow to be interrupted by having to convert to JPEG from RAW. It was also slower to shoot in RAW as the camera had to write the larger file to the memory card. JPEGs are universal, but they are lossy. This means that the files are compressed with every save and data is lost  from the file. This bothers me. Having read about the minimal effect of this compression on the quality of photos as viewed by the average person, I decided I didn't want the take the time to convert to JPEG before I scrapped my photos. I also learned that you could edit JPEGs from inside Camera Raw, Adobe's Raw file processor that comes with Photoshop Elements. This made the decision to stay with JPEG easier as I like the flexibility that application offers.

The RAW files are huge. They slow down the camera. They take up storage space on my memory card and on my computer and external hard drive. Not all browsers read them, including VISTA, and Facebook only reads jpeg.

As I have been getting my digital Library of Memories up and running and defining my workflow, I have found that I am rethinking and understanding why RAW might be the better choice. Both my Panasonic Lumix FZ-18 and my Nikon D60 shoot in RAW, so going back is not that hard in terms of taking the pictures. My perception is that the RAW files are giving me more opportunity to improve the quality of my photos. That is also what I hear the experts say about it. I need to find out for myself because the RAW files do require an additional step in my workflow, and one that is potentially quite time consuming.

Here's my assignment:
I recently shot pictures at Weirs Beach in RAW. I discovered that in the RAW format the blown out areas are highlighted within Camera Raw allowing me to make sure I correct that to recover details lost. I am going to take the same picture and convert it to JPEG and edit the RAW file and the JPEG file to see if I can see any big difference. I do need to consider what might be coming in the future. Perhaps there will be software to preserve the JPEGs or to fix the artifacts (what's left behind when pixels are lost), but I don't know about that now. I will post the results of my little experiment right here. Meanwhile go to this video by Scott Kelby and see if you think shooting in RAW is the better choice.

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