Friday Photo — RAW deals

Last week, I said I would delve some into my experience with RAW images.  If you have looked into reasons why shooting RAW is the way to go (in many cases, though not all*) if you want to achieve professional results with your photography.

instamatic x-35

instamatic x-35 (Photo credit: alexis mire)

English: Canon PowerShot G5 camera

English: Canon PowerShot G5 camera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now I’d the first to say that I’m not a professional photographer.  I’m using an older digital camera that is just a few steps away from one of those old Instamatic Polaroids and not even as convenient to use as newer ones because I still need to find someone to print my photos.

Left image ≠ right image, but they’re more similar than you might suspect.

But I do have some advantages too.  With my G5, I have a full manual mode, allowing me to set my f-stops, ISO and shutter speeds.  While I still usually use the automatic white balance, I have toyed with it in the manual mode, and I’m enjoying the flexibility of manual focus and being able to add specialized filters and macro lenses to my camera for different effects.

MY camera --taken w/ my hubby's iPhone (with which I take really crappy pictures)

MY G5–taken w/ hubby’s iPhone (with which I take really crappy pictures)

However, I’m starting to think that the best feature of my camera is the ability to shoot RAW images as well as jpeg files.  If you’ve ever worked with film negatives before, you know how powerful a tool they are.   I actually never used them myself, but I’ve seen the different ways a single negative can become a multitude of different images.

You can do this sort of processing with a RAW image a lot more precisely than you can a jpeg (although there are a lot of programs out there to help you with your jpegs too).

As close to the original as I dare upload

As close to the original as I can upload

Now a RAW image pretty much is “meh” if you use a viewer (like Picassa) to see it.  Booooring! Colors are washed out–the amazing reflected sunset we saw that night was just…well gone.

So I used RAWtherapee to tweak the white balance and saturation (as well as applied some noise reduction) as per this page (A Simple Workflow for RAW Processing) to get this:

MUCH closer to the tree we saw

MUCH closer to the tree we saw

It still needs work.  A lot of work actually…  But it’s a start.

I’m still learning all of this stuff–in fact today was my first “close to successful” attempt to use RAWTherapee for processing my RAW images.  I was taking them all this time, without being able to really use them, because I knew someday I would.

I need to decide if I want to pay for a Photoshop subscription for further editing, so I just applied a few finishing touches in Picassa to the second image for this final result.  I like it.  I think it’s a pretty cool tree too.

Lovely Tree

Lovely Tree

Don’t you?

* There is a movement (in part because of the direction camera manufacturers are taking in their technology) that advocates using the built-in camera jpeg format as opposed to the more work-heavy RAW processing.  My own camera does OK with jpegs, but its 5MP limitation and the blue-haze it edges things with often make RAW mode work a necessity.  Look at both sides of the RAW/jpeg debate and choose for yourself–it’s still worth considering despite changes in the technology.  What’s the worst that could happen?  You learn something new to try later.  🙂

5 responses to “Friday Photo — RAW deals

  1. Wanted to throw this in the comments…. This post on RAW vs. JPEG images gives an excellent overview of what the two files really involve.
    http://digital-photography-school.com/raw-vs-jpeg

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  2. Gorgeous. A great writer and now photography! All I can say is WOW. And where are the sloths?

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    • Thanks, Susan. I don’t know how long I’ll be following this photography thing… might have to see if I can afford the next camera first. 😉

      Sloths? Oh, you need to visit Lena Corazon… She has sloths! And if you search on her site, you’re likely to find MANY more

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  3. Picasa claims on their web site that they support RAW files, but when I load my RAW files in, they look horrible, and I can’t see any EXIF data. I’m guessing that Picasa may support RAW, but perhaps not for my particular camera (Nikon CoolPix 5700). Has anyone else used Picasa to process their RAW images? Does anyone know if there’s a plug-in (or something like that) that will load my camera’s RAW settings into Picasa? Thanks!

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    • Picassa does allow one to do some basic editing on RAW images, but it’s not very precise. You’re a lot better off using a real RAW converter. I’m learning to use RAWTherapee (it’s free) and while it’s not all that intuitive, it does enough. As for your camera’s EXIF data, that’s not Picassa’s thing anyway as far as I can tell. I get very little info on my camera setting if I use it as well.

      Really, you’re best off getting a RAW converter or using Adobe’s Bridge software.

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