View Full Version : Working with RAW?

03-26-2008, 08:46 AM
Hi all,

This is my first post in this forum. Seems like a nice place to be.

I have a question, I recently got into digital photography. I've been shooting strictly jpegs. I'd like to get into shooting RAW. Can anyone help me by suggesting a RAW conversion program and describe the work flow in getting the images from raw into a format that can be working on in photoshop.

Basically any tips on working with RAW would be greatly appreciated.

03-26-2008, 10:04 AM
The software that came with your camera is the place to begin. There is usually a RAW program in there somewhere. Both Photoshop CS3 and Paint Shop Pro do RAW as well, but not always the particular version of RAW that you may have with a new camera. Raw Shooter Essentials is a 3rd party program that a lot of pros use too.

I should indicate that originally cameras were producing poor jpegs and RAW was the only answer for picky photographers with a really good eye. Now many cameras are outputting quality jpegs that are hard to improve on, even going through RAW editing and conversions. JPEG editing software has also considerably improved.

So, I would venture to say that unless you have a very good eye that comes with lots of experience and shots that can only be visibly improved through RAW editing, to stick to jpeg.


03-26-2008, 12:17 PM
Thanks Tegan. I find that the jpegs I shot had very little latitude in terms of being able to manipulate them in photoshop. Is working with RAW a hassle or is it just more involved? Why do you suggest staying away?

03-26-2008, 02:35 PM
Well here is where I must strongly disagree and you should always shoot in RAW if at all possible. Look at RAW as a negative, it contains all the DATA of the photo, it is Lossless where JPEG is not. You have far more leeway when fixing photos when in RAW then JPEG. Although RAW files are much larger I cannot see anyone not shooting RAW when they have the ability. Programs such as Adobe Lightroom and Apples Aperture work great with RAW and you can use Photoshop CS3 also although I recommend you use one of the first two programs, to me that is just my preference (At this point Aperture 2 is at $199.00 and Lightroom is $299.00 and both have 30 free fully functioning trial downloads). Incidentally, if the camera records 12 bits of data then each pixel can handle 4,096 brightness levels, and if 14 bit then it can record 16,384 different brightness levels. If you've saved the file in-camera as a JPG than it is converted by the camera's software to 8 bit mode and you will only ever have 256 brightness levels to work with. Look at working with RAW as you would a negative in a Dark Room. I am a big fan of RAW and believe it is far too underused by those taking photos. You can always convert RAW to JPEG but you can never convert JPEG to RAW. Go with RAW, in the end you will be happy you did.

03-26-2008, 04:15 PM
Thanks Tegan. I find that the jpegs I shot had very little latitude in terms of being able to manipulate them in photoshop. Is working with RAW a hassle or is it just more involved? Why do you suggest staying away?

You can do a considerable amount in RAW and it does give you more data to work with but there are inherent contradictions involved. If you look at the book: Adobe Camera Raw by Rob Sheppard, you will find that there is a considerable amount of information and skill involved in using it correctly but at the same time in order to make the very refined adjustments possible you also need a eye for very fine detail and colour.

Realistically, given time constraints does spending time staring at one out of several hundred photos trying to decide what adjustments you are going to make in RAW before conversion really make sense? It does for the odd scene with a spectacular tonal range and varied lighting but not for many shots.
Minor lighting, colour, sharpness and a variety of other problems can easily be solved and quickly too with some of the current Photoshop plug-ins.

If your photo requires major improvement in RAW then it may not be worth fixing. If it only requires minor work, then it can be done quickly in jpeg.
As to the difference in quality, that will show up most in very particular types of shots such as studio product work or with unusual lighting or a unique environment. I doubt that most people would be able to distinguish between a shot in RAW that is edited and converted to jpeg. versus a shot of the same subject in jpeg and edited in jpeg.

Bottom line is that I will only shoot in RAW + jpeg. when the lighting or situation would be impossible to replicate.


03-26-2008, 09:22 PM
I shoot maybe 300 to 400 photos per shoot and find I may like maybe 30 to 40 of them and of those I end up with maybe 4 or 5 I think are actually worth printing, uploading or using in anyway, the rest are just stored away for now and I do revisit them and on occasion find a gem I overlooked. So for the few I do keep I would not bother with JPEG when with RAW I can finish the image to what my goal is, never more as I have previously posted then I would do in a Darkroom. I imagine it depends a lot on what your trying to achieve. I am only after the best of the best of my photos, the rest are digitally put away like I used to do with all my negatives. When using film I assumed if I got one good photo out of 36 photos I was very, very lucky. I had contact sheets piling up and the photos I bothered to print were never that much. It is a personal decision, I think RAW is the only option, others it appear disagree lol, which is good gives you another opinion, however wrong it may be LMAOOOO, :D I am just kidding about that, just had to lol. Whatever my opinions are, are just that my opinions, with photography like anything else you will have options and you will have to make the choice for yourself as not everyone will agree. Take anything I say with a grain of salt, never that serious about much :) ...

PS: You may be able to go back to where you have done a previous shot but I have found it is never the exact same, usually the photos I really like is just everything comes together for that particular shot, the clouds, the angle of the sun, the shadows and many other things. It is I find hard to replicate any of the photos I find I really like, I could go back and redo a similar shot but they are never the same twice and is not worth the risk of losing a once in a lifetime shot.

03-27-2008, 08:46 AM
Vive l'Acadie Libre! You made some very good points. I was a film photographer for years and the analogy you made with RAW and negatives makes a whole lotta sense. Tegan makes good points as well. I figure when I'm just taking snapshots I'll be going the route of jpeg when I want to have more flexibility with my image. This was a good discussion. Thank you both.