Posts Tagged ‘RAW’

Is That What Your Camera Saw?

July 24th, 2014

Occasionally at art festivals a visitor to my booth will point to one of my photographs and ask, “Is that what your camera saw?”  This question points out a common misunderstanding about the physics and art of photography.

Those of us who are serious about our photography capture our digital images in RAW file format.  That’s a format that does a minimal amount of processing on the image before it saves it to the memory card.  It is more like what the camera sees.

The other format is  JPEG and is not what the camera sees but rather a highly processed image that is controlled to a large extent by the settings the photographer sets in the camera – settings like sharpness, contrast and saturation.  So if the photographer likes saturation he just has to up the saturation setting in the camera.

JPEG is much closer to the photographs that were captured in the wonderful days of film.  Each different type of file had its own unique way of responding to the scene.  Kodachrome film was great for reds while Ektachrome was perfect for blues.  Fujichrome was prized for its treatment of greens and its high contrast.

So what did the film camera see?  The question is really, “What did the film see?”  Was it a faithful documentation of reality?  Not in the least.  The same can be said for JPEG digital files.  They are no more a faithful documentation of reality than film was.

The fact is, RAW files are closer to what the camera saw than film or JPEG files ever were or will be.  And, as one workshop participant put it to me, “I don’t like shooting in RAW because the photographs are so plain and uninteresting.”  There you go.  What the camera sees, exactly what the camera sees, is often plain and uninteresting.

So the physics of digital images captured in RAW format is that the images are the closest to what the camera sees.  But from an artistic point of view, these images generally do not speak to us.  These are documentation but that’s not art; art is interpretation.

Now, a RAW file is the perfect starting point from which to create art.  It is neutral, unbiased and open to the artist to express what she saw, what she experienced that inspired her to set up the camera and compose the image, that led to the decisive moment that the shutter was pressed.

In the days of film we relied on our selection of the type of film that would do the best job of rendering particular situations.  In the digital era we have much more powerful tools that we ever had with film – Lightroom, Photoshop, Photomatix and all the wonderful software that we have access to that allows us to express our vision, our interpretation of reality.

So, are my photographs what the camera saw?  Not at all.  They are what I saw.


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Color Management Made Simple – From Computer to Print

June 29th, 2013

Color Management is the science of getting the colors you want in your photographs – consistently.  And in my workshops I hear all too often that people are disappointed because the colors they get in their prints are not what they saw on their monitors.  They often go to a lot of work preparing an image and when they print it it’s as if all that work was a waste of time.

Color Management is indeed a science and can be very complicated and technical.  But getting the same colors on the print that you see on your monitor is essential if you are to have control over the creative process.  For that, color management is the key and in these series of articles I’m trying to break it down to make it more understandable and accessible for all of us.

plaskette_rock_setting_sun_110808

In the previous two articles I presented the concept of a color space and what happens behind the scenes when you move the image from the camera to your computer.  See Color Management Made Simple – Color Space and Color Management Made Simple – From Camera to Computer.  In this article I’ll be covering the all important aspect of getting your prints to look like what you see on your monitor; that is, from Computer to Print.

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Color Management Made Simple – From Camera to Computer

June 21st, 2013

If Color Space can be described as a box of Crayons as we suggested in  Color Management Made Simple – Color Space,  what else do we need to know about Color Management?  Well, Color Management is essentially about getting the right colors – and here’s the most important word – consistently.

Let’s spend a few moments talking about the ‘right color.’  (I’m inclined to add, ‘whatever that is.’)  The story begins when you press the shutter.  Let’s suppose you are photographing the beautiful redwoods of Northern California.

redwoods_130528__SM36093_4_5_6_7-Edit

The scene is full of rich browns and oranges and vibrant greens.  We can say that these are the right colors, these are the colors you want.  You set up your camera and snap a picture and your sensor captures these colors, pretty much just as they are (the sensor is playing with pretty much the full big box of 120 Crayons). The camera’s processor does its thing and the image is saved in a file to your memory card.  Eventually we’re going to view the photograph on our computer’s monitor and we just might be a bit disappointed.

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Color Management Made Simple – Color Space

June 6th, 2013

Color Management is a very complex topic.  And it’s possible to get bogged down in a lot of technical details.  But it’s extremely important, especially if you want to print your photographs.  And it can be broken down into a few simple concepts.

On my workshops I often get asked questions about color management and the topic is huge and a bit technical to get into the details.  So I thought I’d give an overview of the topic in a few blog posts.  Who knows, maybe I’ll create a presentation that can be used during  a workshop.

Color Space

Let’s start with color space which is the whole reason we need color management.

A color space is all the colors that can be rendered using a given technology.  Think if it this way.  You all enjoyed coloring with crayons when you were young. And I don’t know  about you but I was always envious of my friends that had the big giant boxes of crayons with 120 different colors.  They had every color under the sun.

crayons_120cnt

We can think of the 120 crayon box as being the color space of the real world with every color under the sun.

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File Naming Strategies

May 19th, 2013

OK, so this isn’t a very sexy topic but having a strategy for naming your image files can save you a lot of grief down the road.  Let me run through what I’ve worked out over the years (and believe me, it’s taken several years to perfect this).

So it starts in Lightroom which gives you the option of renaming your files when you import them.  I’m following Scott Kelby’s recommendation here.  Let’s start with a file name as it is created in the camera.  It’s going to look something like this – _SM35116.CR2.  By the way, here’s the photograph that that goes with.

hidden_valley_130119

Hidden Valley (2013)

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Lightroom Tutorial – Workflow Made Easy

March 2nd, 2013

Lightroom is a great tool. It’s quick and easy to use – once you get the hang of it. But sometimes mastering the workflow, the steps you go through to take a raw file to a ‘final’ image, can be a bit daunting.

Let me say up front that Lightroom is an important part of my workflow but it’s not the only part.  Every photograph I work on starts in Lightroom but is completed in Photoshop.  Nevertheless, Lightroom gets a photograph to about 80% of the final product.  I know many people who use Lightroom exclusively and Photoshop only in rare circumstances if at all.

So back to the workflow.  Can it really be made easy?  Yes it can.  There are four major steps (not counting import – see Lightroom Tutorial – Importing Photographs):

  1. Mechanical adjustments like dust spot removal and cropping
  2. Tonality adjustments
  3. Hue adjustments
  4. Saturation adjustments

Let’s skip the first step and start with the second.  The example will be in Lightroom 4.

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Lightroom Tutorial – Importing Photographs

March 19th, 2012

An important part of post processing is importing your photographs into Lightroom.  The goal is to copy the files from your camera or laptop and store them on your desktop computer.  At the same time you also want to make a backup of all of your files.

You might be interested in the configuration of my desktop computer.  It has about 5 terabytes of storage.  This is where the image files will be stored.  I also have several terabytes of external storage – external hard drives.  This is where the backup copies go.

In this example I’ll be copying files directly from the camera.  The plan is to copy the files as they are to the backup storage.  But the files I store on the desktop storage will be converted to DNG format.  More on that in another post.

So with the big picture in mind, let’s get into the details.

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Lightroom Tutorial – Shooting RAW

July 19th, 2011

Last night I ran across an example of why we shoot in RAW (not in the RAW – puhleeeze).

Digital SLR cameras and a few point and shoot camera support the RAW file format for our images.  RAW is essentially what the sensor captured – unprocessed, uncompressed, unadulterated.  It takes a bit to get used to but once you do you’ll not go back to JPEG, the other file format.

One of the benefits of RAW is it gives you a lot more flexibility including recovering from poorly exposed images, especially over exposed.  Now, if you’ve read any of my histogram posts (search this blog for Histograms to find them), you know that the single most important thing to avoid as far as exposure is concerned is highlight clipping.  But with RAW you have a chance to recover an overexposed image and turn it into something very acceptable.  It doesn’t always work but sometimes it does.

big_sur_scouting_110424__A1P2014-1OK, so I was scanning images in Lightroom last night and ran across this one.  It’s washed out except for the foreground and there is a tremendous amount of highlight clipping in the upper right hand corner.  (I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reading hear and said, “There’s no way he can do anything with that image.  It’s a mess.”  Which it is.  But humor me and read on.)

By the way, you can click on the images to see them in a larger format.

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Thoughts on Raw vs JPEG

May 18th, 2008

I’ve been having a discussion with a friend regarding the benefits and challenges of JPEG and RAW file formats.  There’s already a lot of discussion on this topic out there but here’s a bit more.

The challenge my friend has with RAW is that the images are not as striking as JPEG.  In fact, she says the RAW images are rather flat and she’s right.

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