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DPChallenge Forums >> Photography Discussion >> Why am I afraid of RAW?
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09/17/2010 10:53:36 PM · #1

Three years using a DSLR and I still haven't made the switch to shooting raw. I like shooting sports (even at a pathetic frame rate) and have also liked being able to just hand a memory card to family (while still at their house) and let them copy my jpg shots right then and there.

I read a LOT of photo books and magazines and therefore KNOW that I would welcome more creative control, but I'm somewhat intimidated by advanced editing packages. And, I don't think I know enough about color yet. I can't just look at an image and instantly know what needs to be adjusted color-wise.

But It's time to step up. Especially now after just upgrading my camera.

Who is/was in the same boat?
09/17/2010 10:57:56 PM · #2
I'm sure your d300s has the option to save both RAW and jpeg format at the same time so maybe this can be an option for you. You can still show your jpegs this way.
09/17/2010 11:02:36 PM · #3
I think I shot JPG for a couple of months after I got my DSLR, and got used to RAW pretty quick once I started using it. You don't need to be intimated by all the controls and sliders. Most of them are the same basic adjustments you have in any image editing app, such as Brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpening, shadow and highlight adjustments, curves. Just experiment with them a little bit, see what they do and you will gain more comfort with it. Shoot RAW+JPG mode, and you will still be able to hand your relatives the files straight from the camera.
09/17/2010 11:12:49 PM · #4
Some reasons to choose RAW besides not having to worry about selecting the right white balance:

1) Significantly more data from the exposure giving you more exposure latitude in post processing
2) Having the RAW means you can take advantage of future processing enhancements, RAW converters keep getting better, and you can reprocess your file at a future date and take advantage of that.
3) You don't get stuck with the in-camera noise reduction, you can decide later whether to reduce noise, and by how much.

I have shot RAW since my Canon G2. I did shoot RAW+JPEG for a while when I got my first Nikon, but it's just a waste of space for me, I prefer to keep the RAW files online for the above reasons, and it's silly to keep both long term.

What makes RAW really practical is a program like Lightroom which lets you quickly generate as many JPEGs as you want with as little or as much processing as you care to apply.


09/17/2010 11:17:41 PM · #5
I started off shooting full size jpg + RAW files, and just saved off the RAWs since I didn't have software that would handle it (BTW, even the basic Preview application on the mac will open RAWs now).

Now I just have small jpegs saved off, only look at them if I need quick previews to downselect, and I don't keep them once I have the RAWs on my computer and backed up. Otherwise, I deal only with RAWs, and it is really not intimidating at all. With Lightroom or Aperture, non destructive editing, and the extra information in the RAW file to work with, they are actually easier to work with.

Trying to edit a jpeg is actually intimidating (or at least annoying) now :-)

Take the plunge--you'll wonder what you were worried about and why you waited so long. But start with the dual RAW + Full Size, Fine Jpeg settings on the D300, so you can always fall back to jpeg until you get comfortable. Then you'll wonder why you are wasting so much card space and disk storage on big jpg files you never use :-)

Message edited by author 2010-09-17 23:19:04.
09/18/2010 12:07:34 AM · #6
So, I have a basic question regarding editing in RAW. Does it not "destroy" the original? Or do you make and copy and edit that? Still learning...
09/18/2010 12:14:27 AM · #7
Originally posted by tanguera:

So, I have a basic question regarding editing in RAW. Does it not "destroy" the original? Or do you make and copy and edit that? Still learning...

Raw editing is nondestructive. The changes are made to the copy in memory that is displayed, If you make changes and save the RAW, all that is changed is the list of the changes that were applied.
09/18/2010 12:14:30 AM · #8
Originally posted by tanguera:

So, I have a basic question regarding editing in RAW. Does it not "destroy" the original? Or do you make and copy and edit that? Still learning...

I edit in Photoshop CS3. I use Adobe Bridge (part of Photoshop) to open the RAW files. When Bridge comes up, I may or may not make a few adjustments. But when you're ready to open the file to work in Photoshop, don't just click on Open, do alt-Open - that way it opens a copy and not the original RAW file. That's been my workflow ever since I realized that altering the original ain't a good idea. I have nearly a year's worth of very small jpegs from my first digital point and shoot with no originals. How sad is that?
09/18/2010 12:15:39 AM · #9
RAW files remain intact. It's different for different programs, but basically what you have is the original data and a list of processing steps used to generate the final output (usually a Photoshp, TIFF, or JPEG) file.
09/18/2010 12:26:47 AM · #10
Great to know. I've been afraid of editing RAW because I thought it changed information in the file!!! Now, about TIFF, I've been saving as jpeg. Is there an advantage to saving as tiff?
09/18/2010 12:29:44 AM · #11
It is STILL a good idea to save all your RAW files on two drives. One that you never touch. The other for editing purposes. This is only for back up purposes. (and if you back up the edited versions, so much the better)

My flow is card from camera goes into reader, copy all image files to a separate drive (that is also backed up automatically). Then copy all files off the card onto my working drive (also backed up). Then clear the card. Then import RAWs into Aperture 3.
09/18/2010 01:11:11 AM · #12
Originally posted by Melethia:

I edit in Photoshop CS3. I use Adobe Bridge (part of Photoshop) to open the RAW files. When Bridge comes up, I may or may not make a few adjustments. But when you're ready to open the file to work in Photoshop, don't just click on Open, do alt-Open - that way it opens a copy and not the original RAW file.


That's admirably cautious but it's not necessary. Bridge cannot alter a RAW file, nor can ACR (the RAW converter Bridge uses), nor can Photoshop. What ACR does is create a "sidecar" file that stores all the adjustments you have made in the RAW converter, and when it sends the file to Photoshop it is with those saved adjustments in place. But at any time, in ACR, you can choose to reopen the file "as shot", "raw default", various different options other than the saved sidecar version.

When you try to save these files in Photoshop, it saves them, by default, as PSD files. Photoshop can't write to any of the RAW formats. By design. Plus it would be pretty hard to keep up, so many proprietary RAW formats out there...

R.
09/18/2010 03:31:07 AM · #13
Originally posted by tanguera:

Great to know. I\'ve been afraid of editing RAW because I thought it changed information in the file!!! Now, about TIFF, I\'ve been saving as jpeg. Is there an advantage to saving as tiff?


so i can tell you that in MOST images i cannot tell the difference between a JPG and a TIFF. SOME images with fine tone or color gradients may exhibit more banding if compressed to a JPG but that additional banding and tone/color rounding errors are in fact only avoided if you both edit and save them in 16-bit color mode (16 bit tiffs). in terms of printing, i have never been able to tell the difference between a JPG and a tiff, also the people over at MPIX (a popular printing site) have said that they cant tell the difference either and therefore only accept JPGS for printing. (i do realize they could be saying that in order to minimize server space required by their operation but frankly i believe it to be a true fact as well)

ps: i see that some people have included the steps of their workflow. i would DEFINITELY like to expand on this trend and have a thread within a thread where you all tell us what your typical workflow is... heres mine:

Photos taken and saved as RAWS to 4 gb extreme IIIs

Photos downloaded to my computer using Bridge CS4 and saved under <camera model>/<year>/<month>/<event name>

Photos sorted using bridge labeling system to identify the best of the batch (usually done in 3 passes)

the photos marked for review are then processed as tiffs and stored in a \"Work\" folder under same path scheme as the RAWS (to have an iterative copy on my hard drive in case anything happens to the RAWs)

the best of the batch are then processed in CS4 and saved to a \"Processed\" folder sorted in the same scheme as the previous two folders typically as jpgs. the portfolio-worthy photos are first saved as tiffs to a portfolio subfolder organized by genre (portrait,landscape, urban, architecture, series, etc)

so at this point i have my RAWs saved, a simple raw conversion to tiff saved, the best photos edited and saved as jpgs, the best of the edited photos also saved as tiffs in a my portfolio.

my portfolio is configured with a folder action that automatically copies any file i add to it into a \"web\" folder, resizes the photo to 800 px max side length, and converts to JPG. that \"web\" folder is symlinked to my dropbox acct so that all of my websized photos can be accessed from anywhere via internet and password. note: this dropbox symlink is NOT a backup. if i delete the web folder the files will no longer appear in my dropbox.

finally, every week my hard drive is cloned to a 500gb WD passport, and an apple time capsule using super duper. my pictures folder which contains my portfolio, web folder, raw folder, work folder, and processed images folder is also backed up to a separate 160 gb external drive. my portfolio is also copied weekly to a thumb drive. the only fault in my plan is that although i have iterative on site storage, i do not have any off site storage. although this system of backups may seem to be overkill, to me... its comforting.

09/18/2010 09:52:36 AM · #14
I too always shot in jpeg and just recently started shooting in raw, part of the reasion i finily decided to make the switch was a friend gave me a Scott Kelby book.
7 point system for potoshop
the 7 key techiques for taking your images from flat to fantastic.

09/18/2010 11:16:26 AM · #15
Hey Michael, very efficient process! A tip for those who want "off site storage" - take a hard drive to work and keep it in your desk drawer, if you're allowed to have personal items at work. Take it home once a month, update it, take it back. Voila - off site storage! :-)
09/18/2010 11:32:32 AM · #16
Originally posted by wormtown:

... I still haven't made the switch to shooting raw. ...

You could start off gradually, by shooting in the raw.
09/18/2010 12:10:07 PM · #17
Originally posted by Strikeslip:

You could start off gradually, by shooting in the raw.

Touché Slippy.
09/18/2010 12:10:58 PM · #18
I have always loved taking pictures and have annoyed family for many years with my snapshots but until the last few months. Over the last few years my interest in taking better shots and not snapshotishy.

One of the ways that I accomplish that is by using RAW and not JPG formats. The first thing that I noticed when I adjusted my first RAW picture was that my sky taken at a terrible time of day was respectable once data recover for the highlights was used. The thing that RAW format brings to pictures is a deeper level of adjustment prior to data loss that is otherwise not available. Because there is more data there obtained by the larger sensor my ability to compensate for my inexperience and poor conditions.

Although it's still harder for me to manage using mostly manual controls, it still seems produce better pictures. Not that I as the operator am producing anything better but it does give me more to work with in post processing. Although many of my shots still look like snapshots, not all of them do and the number of good shots is growing with each shoot. Steve is an amazing teacher that I appreciate every time we go out. I just have to manage to remember everything and do it correctly. Maybe, eventually, I might be as good as he is but till then, I will enjoy the outings, enjoy the travel, and most of all, enjoy the time we are spending together.

Don't know if this helps explain anything but for now I'm going to keep shooting mostly in RAW and some in jpg because it's a bit easier to not have to control EVERYTHING.

Message edited by author 2010-09-18 12:11:16.
09/18/2010 12:20:14 PM · #19
You should be, it is very addictive! I can really not get off RAW, jpegs for me is like eating board chalk for a headache.;-)
09/18/2010 12:23:05 PM · #20
Just do it and if you need a safety net RAW+JPG.
Try your best to work with the RAW files as much as possible.
09/18/2010 12:59:22 PM · #21
The main difference between TIFF and JPEG has to do with the compression scheme they use. TIFF files are either uncompressed or use the LZW algorithm (almost the same as ZIPping a file) which is lossless -- when the file is uncompressed the file is restored to it's original state, bit-for-bit.

JPEG uses a variable compression scheme which will discard different amounts of data deending on how small you want the compressed file to be. When the file is uncompressed, the data will be slightly different than the original. Each time you open and re-save a JPEG you can lose some data and quality, so that format is best reserved for final output; it's rather like making a copy of a copy of a copy on a Xerox machine -- eventually the quality degrades.

However, it is my understanding that, in the CS versions of Photoshop, the highest-quality JPEG setting is also lossless, avoiding the degradation problem, but also not making the files as small.

BTW: Photoshop-format files are also compressed losslessly, which is why they are sometimes smaller than the same image in uncompressed TIFF.

Hint: Photoshop usually shows the file size in both total size of the PSD file (with all layers, channels, etc.), and the straight, uncompressed size of the final flattened image:

' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/0-4999/1031/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_910011.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/0-4999/1031/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_910011.jpg', '/') + 1) . '
09/18/2010 01:01:04 PM · #22
Originally posted by Strikeslip:

You could start off gradually, by shooting in the raw.


Slippy, I have this image of you, lurking in the forums, until someone posts something that triggers your gutter brain :-)
09/18/2010 02:00:56 PM · #23
Originally posted by tanguera:

Originally posted by Strikeslip:

You could start off gradually, by shooting in the raw.


Slippy, I have this image of you, lurking in the forums, until someone posts something that triggers your gutter brain :-)


Yeah... Lurking naked!

On a moe on topic note, I'm also intimidated by the processing of raw files. I do shoot jpeg+raw. I seldom use the raw file. The jpeg usually looks like a better starting point. I have to confess a lot of my processing amounts to clicking on different presets till I find one that looks good, or at least less bad...
09/18/2010 02:08:05 PM · #24
Originally posted by ambaker:

I do shoot jpeg+raw. I seldom use the raw file. The jpeg usually looks like a better starting point. I have to confess a lot of my processing amounts to clicking on different presets till I find one that looks good, or at least less bad...

The JPEG is your RAW data processed by the camera according to the White Balance, Contrast, Sharpness, and other settings in the camera. Processing the RAW file allows you to control these settings later, in the conversion program; you are not committed to the settings you had in-camera when you pressed the shutter.

If your JPEGs look good to you now, just set your RAW converter to similar settings and process away ... but, you can also tweak those settings if needed, like if the White Balance is off, or you have blown highlights or blocked shadows -- these are often recoverable by careful processing of the RAW file.

FWIW: My cameras have only ever shot in JPEG, so I don't process RAW files myself ... :-)
09/18/2010 02:08:41 PM · #25
Originally posted by GeneralE:

The main difference between TIFF and JPEG has to do with the compression scheme they use. TIFF files are either uncompressed or use the LZW algorithm (almost the same as ZIPping a file) which is lossless -- when the file is uncompressed the file is restored to it's original state, bit-for-bit.

JPEG uses a variable compression scheme which will discard different amounts of data deending on how small you want the compressed file to be. When the file is uncompressed, the data will be slightly different than the original. Each time you open and re-save a JPEG you can lose some data and quality, so that format is best reserved for final output; it's rather like making a copy of a copy of a copy on a Xerox machine -- eventually the quality degrades.

However, it is my understanding that, in the CS versions of Photoshop, the highest-quality JPEG setting is also lossless, avoiding the degradation problem, but also not making the files as small.

BTW: Photoshop-format files are also compressed losslessly, which is why they are sometimes smaller than the same image in uncompressed TIFF.

Hint: Photoshop usually shows the file size in both total size of the PSD file (with all layers, channels, etc.), and the straight, uncompressed size of the final flattened image:

' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/0-4999/1031/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_910011.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/0-4999/1031/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_910011.jpg', '/') + 1) . '


Great info GeneralE. Folks, read this! :)
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