Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Digital Photography Or How To Shoot In The .Raw

When I made the switch from film to digital cameras I had a lot of learning to do. My world as I knew it had changed and I needed to change as well. ISO? What the heck was that? Mega pixels? RAW? I beg your pardon!

OK, now to get back to today's world. As with most change, you've got to understand the terminology. Translate, if you will, into something you can understand. ISO is the new ASA. Mega pixels, well lets just say the more the better. Although, that's really not true but that's for another blog. AND RAW. That's what I hope to shed a little light on with this blog entry.

I only have experience with Canon cameras so it may be a little different with other camera makers. But, I think most of the information will be relevant.

Think of the .RAW file as the negative(or film) in the film days. This file contains all the information that was captured by your cameras' sensor when you clicked the shutter release. It contains everything, the good and the bad for that frame, in one file. Because of that, the file is very large. That's where the mega pixels comes into play... but I'm not going there in this post.

My raw files are 13-15 meg each, depending on the shot. That's why it is important to get a large CF card to store more frames. I use a 4-gig card. Not very big in today's terms but I get bored when reviewing a days shooting so I use a smaller CF. 

You can only shoot in the .RAW format (Canon cameras) in what they call the 'creative zone'. That's in the Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and manual modes. When I first started in digital I didn't venture into those settings... I just configured my camera to take large JPEG files. That was OK but I was missing out on the post production adjustments. Darkroom in the film days. Half of the quality of the picture is created in the 'darkroom'. Again, another argument/discussion for another post!

With the .RAW file and software you can make up for any shortcomings of the photo. Don't get me wrong, you have to have a quality photo to begin with, but with post processing, you can make the exposure be all that it can be! A second chance if you will, to make it a perfect picture.

If you only shoot in JPEG you have really limited yourself. You cannot easily edit your photos and if you should get lucky enough to have someone interested in publishing your photo, you will need to have a .RAW file (or high resolution) photo to give to your publisher!

I took a few 'once in a lifetime' shots in JPEG format only and now I'm sick about it! Can't really do much with them because the resolution is so low. Still kicking myself for that!! That's the reason for this post. To save you from having a constant reminder of what could have been!

To shoot in .RAW (Canon cameras) you will need to be in the 'creative zones'. Set your camera to AV, TV or M. (see manual for instructions). You will also need to install software on your computer to read and convert the .RAW files. I'm using the software that came with my camera... "Canon Photo Professional". That software will display your .RAW files and allow you to tweak your shots and then convert them to JPEG and a host of other formats.

Photoshop also has a FREE plug-in that supports the Canon .RAW format. Oh, I forgot to mention that camera makers have made it tough, .RAW files are not standardized. Nikon has a different format of .RAW files. But I think Photoshop supports most camera makers formats. Also, the newer versions of Photoshop may already support .RAW files (no plug-in required).

All of this sounds confusing, but once you get the hang of it, it's really easy.

I hope you will at least set your camera to capture in both JPEG and .RAW. It may seem like mumbo-jumbo now but when you learn more about your camera and how to take photos... you'll be glad you did!