Saturday, September 7, 2013

Several Reasons Why I Prefer Shooting RAW

The geniuses at Photofocus, an online blog you all should follow, posted an article about shooting Raw + JPEG and related it to hamburgers.  It's a strange correlation, but makes sense if you really break it down.  When given an option to order takeout or grill your own burger, most people usually commit to either getting a Double Double from In N' Out (one of my favorite burger joints) or firing up the grill making it yourself.  In most occasions you don't do both, as it would leave you uncomfortably full or in photography speak, eat up unnecessary space on your drives.  

I understand that most love the JPEG format because it does a lot of the heavy lifting for you.  Most cameras these days have the ability to preset the cameras for specific shooting conditions like harsh sunny days or even low-light situations.  Additionally, most of the cool in-camera-artistic filters like B&W or color isolation effects are only capable in this format.  When you only have a finite amount of time to process files or have to juggle multiple jobs, I can definitely see the benefit.  However, as a student of photography, I would prefer to let my brain edit the files and not an internal processor in a camera.   Sometimes the best lessons I've learned are from my biggest mistakes like why is my sky blown out white when my eyes see it as a vibrant blue. 

Capoeira -  Getting this look was not possible in camera and getting this style from JPEG would have been difficult


Probably main reason why I shoot this way is to help me recover details from shadows and highlights.  I've found myself in several situations where lighting just isn't my friend.  Because RAW files are uncompressed, they retain far more information and are therefore more forgiving.  Highly editing a JPEG file might produce unwanted artifacts, halos and/or the infamous digital noise. In the image below, I metered for the sky because I wanted to capture the details in the clouds (really sexy clouds) and the blues in the sky - this was taken during the Disneyland 10k.  Although I prefer the look of the before picture, this is a perfect example of the power of shooting Raw.  

Disney 10k - Demonstration of recovering details from the Shadows


In the following photo, I decided to meter for the runners, but encounter the problem of blowing out the sky.  In the before photo, we lose all details and color in the sky.  Because I did not have the option to use a flash, I must rely on post processing to get the desired look.

Another Disney 10k shot - the clouds were simply wonderful during the weekend


For the longest time, I did not care about white balance because most cameras can appropriately adjust for varying types of light temperature/colors.  It wasn't until I decided to work with legacy glass that I saw strange blue, green or yellow/orange casts in the picture. Thankfully, a few adjustments with the temperature and color slider can get you a more realistic photograph.  The photograph below demonstrates a common problem where two different light sources with different light temperatures can "confuse" the camera.  It is clear that the camera is compensating for the light coming from behind the subject and not the light shining directly on him.  I was able to adjust the light to make the subject look more "natural" at the risk of making the light from behind more cool/blue.  In this case, I am perfectly OK with that.

Darrell from Mestico Afro-Latin Cuisine.  Look him up.  He is a fantastic chef.


In the case below, I loved the photograph, but the darn red lights from the stage were just too much and totally unusable...if I had taken it in JPEG.  With a little adjustment with the Temperature Slider, Tint Slider and HSL Color Saturation bar, I was able to get the picture to a preferred look.  In this particular case, I made the photo cooler and slid the tint to the greener spectrum.  


Stephanie Wall as Alice - Happy I was able to recover the color/look I wanted
At the end of the day, you really have to choose whether or not you want your burgers cooked by you or by someone else.  When providing photographs for a client, I tend to want to process the photos myself.  Plus, it also means working with a larger file.  The picture below was given to a "client" on a 16" x 20" canvas print.  I had no fear of losing resolution or quality.  Needless to say, they were happy with the results.



Sometimes a Double Double just doesn't cut it and you have to whip out the grill and make your own 4 x 4=).  Thanks for stopping by.  

So say we all,
Dino