RAW! Huh! What Is It Good For? (Absolutely Everything?)

Lightmeter

Firstly, I feel I should apologize for the appalling title of this article – to you for insulting your intelligence and to the family of Edwin Starr for causing him to turn in his grave!

I’m not going to bang on about the benefits of shooting your digital photos in RAW mode or what you can and can’t do in the processing stage. This is all pretty well documented elsewhere. Really, I just want to underline the simple, fundamental and yet apparently often overlooked truth about shooting RAW:

RAW is there to allow you to achieve the best possible quality from your digital camera, not to allow you to compensate for shoddy technique.

Yes, you can tweak the exposure, the contrast range, the sharpness, blah, blah, blah to “fix up” the under/over exposure, poor lighting arrangement, etc. However, capturing the “perfect” RAW image in the first place allows you to manipulate the photograph to express your creativity instead of forcing you into a rescue attempt.

In the days of film (oh, here we go again!) you paid a much higher price for shoddy workmanship. You learnt that your method of capturing the image was directly relational to the finished picture. Perfecting your exposure technique would save you time and potentially a huge amount of money.

Now that many of us work in an entirely digital workspace, we don’t consider cost in terms of materials. We can shoot as many pictures as we like, load them on our computers, manipulate them and only commit to paper those images we are happy with. But there is still a cost – pride. Have you ever presented a client with a picture you knew was not really up to the mark? One that you did a pretty good job of rescuing, considering what you had to work with? Did it eat away at you?

Modern cameras, whilst they are truly technological wonders, do not “understand” light, they merely measure a small sample of it as a guide. It is up to you how that image is captured. Stop and think for a moment before you release the shutter.

Strive for perfection. The processing stage will become much more enjoyable, I promise you.

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