Saturday, April 13, 2013

Shooting RAW

Shot through a kitchen window using a Fuji FinePix HS10 shooting RAW.

For years I resisted shooting RAW. I used a couple of high end Canon DSLR cameras shooting for the newspaper and these cameras did just fine shooting jpgs. A powerful program like Photoshop had no difficulty colour correcting my shots and when working to deadline most of us in the photo department found jpgs quicker to correct and send off to the desk than RAW images. One shooter actually shot RAW briefly and then switched back to jpg. For me, this confirmed that shooting jpgs was the way to go at the paper.

That said, since leaving the paper a big disappointment for me has been the incredible amount of processing performed on jpg images by point and shoot amateur cameras. My early Canon SD10 wasn't anywhere near as sophisticated as todays cameras and I believe it was a much better camera for it.

My Canon S90, as nice a camera as it is, has some faults that are making me question whether or not I have been too accepting. For instance, the in-camera processing will sometimes blur areas in the image. Sharpening and blurring are both done in-camera when saving jpgs but neither is carried out on RAW files.

Unfortunately, shooting RAW turns off the image enhancement features you want along with the ones you don't. The Canon S90 lens suffers from a lot of distortion at wide angle. For the most part, the photographer shooting jpg does not see this. The in-camera computer corrects this distortion before saving the images as jpgs. Shoot RAW and the distortion will be there to see. No in-camera correction.

So, why am I thinking of shooting RAW? I got a real deal on Photoshop a year or so ago. I've got software powerful enough to fix any distortion. Render intricate detail as blurry mush and there is no amount of Photoshopping that will bring back the missing visual information.

Look at the far left of this image, at the little rabbit's rump, do you see how blurry the fur is. My guess is this fur would be detailed if shot using RAW rather than jpg.

For a more detailed discussion of shooting jpg vs. RAW, here is a link to a fine technical site:

Understanding RAW

There was a time I was an I-care-about-the-science kind of photographer. I used to try water bath development to capture detail in church windows while holding detail in the dark, shadowy pews. Slow, I had those concerns beaten out of me. I learned that three years of art school and more years spent at Ryerson earning a degree all worked to fill me with far too much fear.

I learned to focus on the subject to the exclusion of everything else, to strive for images that could be delivered quickly to the desk while capturing the subject accurately enough to keep the editors happy. Heck, by the time a reader saw my shot it had been translated into a halftone, separated into three colours and printed on newsprint. One could easily get too concerned with quality, quality that would never make it to the reader.

Now, some years into my retirement, I am starting to think it may be time to get back to my roots and spend some time getting a good handle on this digital photography beast. It may be time that I learned what my computer-that-takes-pictures (my digital camera) is really up to. The world of silver halide is gone and maybe I need to get in step with the changes.

--- As you may have noticed, this is more a blog than a source of great photographic insight. Follow my tips and you'll be a better shooter but that's all. Maybe better isn't enough. Maybe I should raise the photo quality bar. ---

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cameras aren't toys . . . uh, yes they are!

Fiona, 3, taking some pictures of a bunny in our backyard.

"Fiona! Gug-ah's camera is not a toy!" This was the warning shouted at Fiona when she dared to take my camera to get a shot of something that "made a picture." Let me make one thing clear, it wasn't a warning from me. I've given the little girl permission to use my small point and shoot anytime she needs a camera.

Fiona has been taking me up on my offer since she was two. Now, at the age of three, she is beginning to amaze even me. And I'll admit, I'm partial to the little kid's work.

I like this shot but Fiona wasn't satisfied.
When Fiona asked for my camera this morning, it was to take some pictures of a bunny nibbling grass in the backyard.

I gave her my Canon S90 with the lens zoomed out to 105mm and I went for my other camera, a Fuji FinePix HS10. Fiona took shots of the bunny; I took pix of Fiona.

When I viewed Fiona's work, flipping through the images on the camera-back monitor, I was surprised to see she had captured the rabbit very nicely in a number of her shots. The short telephoto hadn't caused her much grief. The biggest problem was subject movement and camera movement. Both worked together to screw up almost all her pictures. Even the ones posted, suffer some from movement.

I was most disappointed by all the photos showing the rabbit mainly from the back. The bunny's rump was the main thing in those pictures.

Chatting with Fiona, I was surprised to learn that my granddaughter wanted to take the pictures accenting the bunny's "behind." According to the little girl, pictures of a rabbit from the side or front, ones that accent its face, are common; Shots featuring a rabbit's rump are not your everyday picture.

Fiona's approach is a simple one and will increase anyone's chance of a successful shoot.

  • Know what you want to feature.
  • Shoot lots. If you don't get what you want, at least you'll get something.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Bounce fill often better than adding another light

Years ago I heard a famous New York fashion photographer describing how she lit her shots for the covers of famous magazines. She used one light and a carefully placed wall of inexpensive white foam board for fill.

It was a good tip and one I went on to use for not just fashions shoots but food shoots and more. Now retired and blogging, I needed a shot of a drug blister pack showing some writing on the foil. My first shots were all too contrasty.

I was doing my shoot on the dining room table with the light supplied by a nearby window. The light was soft, directional and yet too harsh for the foil.

I looked about and grabbed the napkin holder filled with white napkins. I slid the hold into position below the blister pack. (See picture.)

The white napkins reflected the window light back into the shot, lightening the harsh shadows that had been hiding important lettering. The yellow table cloth also benefited from the boosted light level.

It took five seconds to add a "second" light. Five seconds!

Check the results. It was five seconds well spent. And the napkins could still be used as napkins later.