Friday, August 2, 2013

Experimenting with RAW

I tried my first shot with my Canon S90 set to RAW. There are clear advantages to using RAW but there are also clear disadvantages -- especially if the jpeg artifacts don't both you.

This RAW image was not print ready in the least. The highlights were light and the colours lacked density. The image was soft but then it hadn't been given any automatic sharpening in the camera.

If I'm asked, I'll post some of the intermediate images. There are two. The original as it came from the camera and the one showing the result of the conversion from RAW to jpeg. The above image is the third whack at correcting the image.

Here is where the embarrassment comes in and the reason I took a couple of day to post the intermediate images. There was a woman in the background off to the side of the engineer. I removed her. I found her distracting and removed her. This was a firing offence at the newspaper where I once worked. I felt, and still feel, like I have sinned.

But, this isn't journalism as has been pointed out to me by those who have read this post and looked at the picture. So, here are the two intermediate images.

This is the way the original RAW image appeared when I first opened it in Photoshop. The major problem was that it was incredibly burned out. In Photoshop I darkened the highlights of the RAW image, deepened its shadows, sharpened it overall and adjusted its colour. When I was done, I saved the corrected image as a JPEG which can be seen below.

Next I yielded to temptation and removed the woman using Photoshop tools. I thought the woman, seen here off to the side of the engineer, was a distraction. Then I darkened the image a bit -- maybe a bit too much.

The result of the experiment was that, using my simple, amateur equipment, the RAW image has the potential to make a better quality image than the JPEG. With expensive high end DSLRs, this experiment is not valid. Those cameras can make fine images while using the JPEG format. Almost all newsphotographers, whom I know, use JPEG for its ease and speed.

Shooting jpeg? You must be a little generous.

I have been shooting jpegs with my Canon S90 and RAW with my Fuji FinePix HS10. This has made me acutely aware of the in-camera affects that can muddy an image. Shooting RAW circumvents all this automatic image enhancement. Unfortunately, the bigger RAW files take longer for the camera to process and save.

If you are going to shoot jpegs, you are going to have to be a little generous with the image quality that you are willing to accept. Just note the hair in the little girl intently colouring. The hair is smudged in some areas and exhibits overly powerful highlights in other areas.

If you cannot accept the software enhancement flaws in your images, do not shoot jpeg -- consider shooting RAW. Discover whether you are more comfortable with images produced using that approach.

I have excused the processed look by hiding behind the it's-artistic-excuse. The excuse is growing thin.