RAW photos. What is the point?

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scubajen
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RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by scubajen » Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:04 pm

I finally started shooting RAW, because that's what everyone says to do.
But it is a colossal amount of work to even view them, much less make them editable. And when I export them to jpeg, they look super grainy.

Going back to jpeg format. Unless someone can convince me otherwise.

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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by nwscubamom » Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:08 pm

I came to the same conclusion Jen. I don't have the time to work on RAW files, and most of my showing and viewing of my photos is done digitally online, so I really didn't see the point either.
I do keep my photos archived in the highest resolution possible with jpeg (180ppi, 4000px X 3000px) and when I do any editing to them, I save as a copy, so as to not mess with the original. I have printed out my photos at times, 16X20" size, and they look great.

But I sure haven't heard or seen a good argument as to why I'd need RAW photos either.
I'm all ears and will be interested in everyone's responses!
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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by Dusty2 » Thu Aug 22, 2013 4:32 pm

RAW is for professionals who want total control of the post processing. For the average lay person it is a study in frustration. All you are looking for is decent photos to show your friends and family. Digital cameras have a little Genni inside that takes care of all that stuff for us and most are content with his work but professionals don't want that they want to be able to tweek all the things that make up a photo so that it looks the way they want it to. Allowing the camera to do the post processing tends to restrict what can be done and looses allot of the original information that was generated when the photo was shot. There are tons of things you can manipulate in a raw photo that are not there in a jpeg.

Unless you are looking for the ability to create your own art from your shots RAW is just too much effort and requires a lot of training. Most point and shoot cams are more than capable of producing great pix on their own. Now if your are going the SLR route that's a whole other game but for most P&S is all you need.

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Matt S.
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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by Matt S. » Thu Aug 22, 2013 5:25 pm

Dusty2 wrote:RAW is for professionals who want total control of the post processing. For the average lay person it is a study in frustration.


That's an exaggeration.

I am not a pro and for me, working with a RAW file takes about 20% longer than working with a jpg but yields much better results. It's all about the tools you use. I find the basic RAW functionality in Photoshop to be all I need, but tools like Lightroom and Aperture can sure offer a dizzying array of knobs. And with any tool, there is always the chance to mis-use it and make things worse. That can definitely happen!

I understand the OP's frustration. It's how video editing makes me feel--I kind of hate everything about it, and it takes forever. But as I find tools that suit me, and learn all the pitfalls, it gets better.

RAW files have great benefits, especially for underwater shooters. Basically, your camera sees, and RAW records, more information than can be shown in a JPG. When you "develop" a RAW file you can produce a JPG that is more to your liking, as opposed to taking the camera's best guess at what that should be.

If you get satisfactory results with JPG, great. If you find yourself struggling to correct white balance or poor exposure, learn to use RAW files as they make those tasks much more fruitful.

Personally, I shoot RAW + JPG mode on all my cameras. Most of the time, the JPG is fine and just needs cropping. But if I need to recover a borderline bad photo, having the RAW file sure helps.

For example, maybe a shot is underexposed, and I want to boost the exposure. That's a snap with the RAW file and it produces a result that is much better than just turning up the brightness on a JPG.

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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by 60south » Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:28 pm

It all depends on what you want to do with your photos.

If you just want snapshots, JPG is fine. But JPG is often a 'lossey' format, depending on the compression level, meaning that every time you edit and save the photo it will lose information in the compression process. Eventually it may look awful.

For my purposes, I take thousands of photos but I'm really after the one or two that are publication quality. They may need significant editing and retouching; RAW format preserves all the information when the photo is saved.

Like Matt, I shoot RAW+JPG, using the JPG for quick emailing and Facebook posts.
Last edited by 60south on Thu Aug 22, 2013 8:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by 60south » Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:18 pm

Here's an example showing the problem with JPG format... (See photos)

Most people don't zoom 500% on their pics, so this exaggerates the problem -- they'd probably never notice the difference. But if you're after really crisp prints, it matters.
Attachments
original_resized.jpg
The original image, resized for this post.
raw_example.jpg
A 500% zoom on the wing of the center bird, starting from RAW format.
jpg_example.jpg
Also a 500% zoom, but from a photo originally saved in JPG format. (Open the full image to really see the problems.) The blocky, smeared appearance and distortions around the wing edges are compression artifacts, and these may get worse every time the image is saved as a JPG. The JPG has also lost some color and contrast information when compared to the RAW image.

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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by lundysd » Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:10 pm

Here's an original ambient light shot from the Fishing reef shot in RAW before processing.

Image

Here's the same shot edited in Lightroom to the proper white balance and with added contrast (probably overcooked a bit, but bear with me)

Image


Finally, here's the same original image saved to JPEG, re-imported into Lightroom, and edited to the best of my ability. More than anything, notice the drab colors and the lack of contrast. The green looks terrible, the orange is muted, and the overall color profile is very distorted.

Image

Guys the biggest advantage of RAW is the lack of hard-coded color information and the ability to adjust white balance in post without distorting colors. If you're shooting around here, where everything beyond a few feet away is green (even with strobes), then the flexibility of RAW is absolutely indispensable.

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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by RoxnDox » Fri Aug 23, 2013 10:37 am

Yep. RAW gives you the actual data from the camera's sensor, and you can use the tools in Lightroom, Photoshop, etc to manipulate the data and adjust the white balance, contrast, color cast, all that stuff... Or, you shoot in JPG and you allow the camera's firmware to do the exact same processing, only with less control (i.e. it does it based on the camera menu settings, not adjusted quite as finely as you can do with the much more flexible and sophisticated tools in your PC...). Or you shoot RAW+JPG and get both.

I've shot both quite a bit. 99% of the time I use the jpg, but when you need the Raw you need it...

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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by LCF » Fri Aug 23, 2013 12:53 pm

I'm kind of confused by the folks who say processing RAW images is a pain. I'm virtually computer illiterate, but I have Lightroom and I did a thing of tutorials on how to use it. I don't do a whole lot with my pictures -- some of my mentors are like Renaissance painters with the program -- but I don't find it hard to use at all. My only concern with RAW is the file size. After you get a whole mess of pictures, you almost have to look for offboard storage for some of them.
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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by Dmitchell » Fri Aug 23, 2013 2:11 pm

I tend to agree with the above. Part of dealing with RAW images is having the right software which I suspect some if not most people are hesitant to spend the money on.

Lightroom is a great package and allows you to work with the RAW images without actually making changes to the original file, you can edit, and organize to your hearts content. Then when you are ready, you can very quickly export JPGs to your computer, Facebook, Flickr, a personal site etc with about 3 mouse clicks.
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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by Matt S. » Fri Aug 23, 2013 2:20 pm

Dmitchell wrote:I tend to agree with the above. Part of dealing with RAW images is having the right software which I suspect some if not most people are hesitant to spend the money on.


Photoshop Elements is affordable... looks like it is $70 bought direct from Adobe. A 30 day trial is available too.

I use Adobe Bridge as the browser, and the Photoshop (or Elements) built-in raw tools. Haven't found the need for Lightroom or Aperture yet, but I do not process thousands of files.

Cameras often come with raw processing software as well, though quality varies. Scubajen, what camera do you use?

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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by Dmitchell » Fri Aug 23, 2013 3:18 pm

Lightroom is $149 it's not unaffordable. I haven touched Elements in about 6 versions.
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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by RVbldr » Fri Aug 23, 2013 3:57 pm

Just adding on as a RAW convert, I shot some blue water in jpeg with a new Sony RX100 and did OK on the post processing, although I just couldn't get what I wanted from Light Room on the jpegs, but then when moving to our local green water, I found shooting in RAW really allows some spectacular recovery of the data. I had been using Light Room v3.6 and upgraded to v5.0, which includes the updated Sony RAW converters. It's easy to plug in the camera, import the photos, do your own development and then export to jpeg or any other format or service you want. Lundy's comparisons above really show the dramatic difference when using RAW and I submit that it's really not that big of an issue. If you want to shoot around here, you're putting in the time to manage your camera in the local waters with thick gloves/ drysuit, etc, so why not put the effort into making your photos the best they can be? Just as a plug, if you want to run some nice post processing, do look at Light Room; it's a pro-level tool, but is easily learned by those of us dabblers!

Below are a couple of my first efforts at working with RAW on my RX100 and I was pretty happy with results; being the total u/w photo noob that I am!

http://sdrv.ms/1dbnHgM
http://sdrv.ms/18PLQEP

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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by Matt S. » Fri Aug 23, 2013 4:39 pm

Nice wolfie!

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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by scubajen » Mon Sep 02, 2013 11:35 am

Sorry to have started the thread then get silent.

Mr. Lundy -- seeing your images, I'm convinced. Yet clearly I don't know how to use the tools... need to take classes or at least the tutorial.

I do have Lightroom and plan to get Photoshop (or at least Gimp).

Thus far nothing is easy or fast in Lightroom... have to export every image individually -- I know, I know -- it's because I have not yet figured out how to batch process.

So yes, much to learn and I won't give up on it yet. But I have to admit that the thought of shooting 150 images per dive on a trip when I'm doing 5 dives a day for a week sure sounds like a lot to process! My weekly local diving is about more than I can handle. Even just with jpeg.

Thanks for all the input!

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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by GearHead » Mon Sep 02, 2013 2:58 pm

Lightroom is all about batch processing. If you set your camera to a fixed white balance (instead of auto), you can even apply batch correction to imported images.

I like Scott Kelby's book on LR.

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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by RVbldr » Tue Sep 03, 2013 9:37 pm

Other than some major backscatter removal, I'm not sure what PS is going to give you over LR digital processing; you might hold off on that purchase until you really need it, or just figure out GIMP. You might also search around on the web, I believe Adobe has some decent tutorials on using LR which should help. Again, LR is all about batch import, development, file management, and export. Once you figure it out you can generally move through photos fairly quickly.

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Re: RAW photos. What is the point?

Post by H20doctor » Tue Sep 03, 2013 11:02 pm

ive taken some good photos without having to shoot Raw or edit them at all ... I would say do what works best for you , and if you feel the need to venture out into the Raw format just ask some of the members here to get you on the way...
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