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« Great new cameras from Nikon and Canon | Main | Exciting landscape workshop in Lake Powell »

Use RAW format to get a better photograph


I love using strong sidelight to define form and create a sense of depth to an image.  The problem with doing so is that the contrast pushes the ability of the sensors in digital cameras to capture all the information from highlights to shadows.  That's were shooting in RAW format makes all the difference.

 All DSLR's and a growing number of point and shoot cameras allow you to shoot in RAW format as well as jpg.  Jpg is great because it takes less room on a storage medium, but compromises the amount of information the sensor captures.  RAW holds on to a lot more information, and using a software like Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop Elements or Adobe Photoshop you can retrieve that valuable detail in the highlights and shadows.

 Knowing that I can recover information in post processing, I expose so that I hold most of the detail in the shadows, allowing the highlight to push a bit beyond what the histogram on the back of the camera says is safe.

 Here is what the file looked like in Adobe Lightroom with the highlight warning turned on.  Where you see red, detail has been lost and would show as pure white in the image.

 But by using the Recovery slider, I can pull back in the detail that seemingly was lost (and would have been if I shot in jpg format). Notice how the red is gone on the face now, meaning detail has been retrieved.  I've also salvaged detail in the bevelled window glass on the right, something I think is visually interesting.

So when you have a camera capable of shooting in RAW, make it the normal protocol to shoot in that format.  The argument for shooting jpg because of the cost and size of storage media is long over, so why not give yourself the benefit having more rather than less information to work with to fulfill your creative vision?

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Reader Comments (1)

Many photographers shoot in Raw mode when they are uncertain about the circumstances and Jpeg when everything is straight forward. Others shoot in Raw all the time and only switch to Jpeg when their cards are nearly full.

March 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermspy

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