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aladyforty Apr 19, 2005 10:50 PM

Ive never used RAW because my computer just does not seem to deal with it. Is it really all that important in the end for getting a good shot. I have seen many shots in other forums of wildlife shot in RAW and i can honestly say that most dont look any different to what I can get out a jpeg image.

Nagasaki Apr 20, 2005 4:10 AM

The advantage of RAWis that it is the unprocessed sensor data. No processing is applied in camera. This means that you decide what the final result looks like. You can adjust the exposure slightly andmodify the white balance. You can probablyprocess the file at 16 bits per channel, even though you'll probably reduce this to 8 bits eventually it's worth making the initial adjustments at 16 bits. The final adjustment that you gain control over is sharpening. You get to decide just how much sharpening is applied.

The other thing to consider is that JPG is a lossy format. When the file is compressed some data is lost. It may be insignificant but once lost it can't be recovered. I guess you know that TIF is a far better format to use for intermediate saves when you are editing a picture.

The downside of RAW is that it takes effort and time to produce the same result that you get instantly using JPG. I always use RAW because I shoot mostly underwater I can't always get things just right. Being able to make adjustmentsin post processing is a big benefitand I'm prepared to put in the time in order to get full control over the final result.

For different views try this thread;forum_id=9

aladyforty Apr 20, 2005 8:02 AM


DBB Apr 20, 2005 10:15 AM

Let me put it another way...

A good friend came by with the ame question at the very moment I was processing the results of a shoot of Egrets.

As you know, blowing the highlights on such a bird is not very difficult. So I exp[lained to her that this was a negative, not a positive. That I could underdevelop nor push the film any way I wanted to..

She didn't buy it :(

So what I did was lower the exposure and the feathers on the Egret became visible. I then reset the dialogue to 0, with the highlights blown and brought it into photoshop. No matter what I did with the levels control, the highlights remained blown - no feathers.

This, if you pardon the pun, highlights the advantage of RAW.

And of course, there are a number of other aspects of the question, as has been pointed out.


eric s Apr 21, 2005 12:16 AM

There is the question of what a RAW is, and there is the quesiton of what it does for you.

While what it is seems like it matters, it really doesn't.
What matters is what it does for you.

It isn't JPG. Any time you save something as JPG, the saved image has had a lossy compression applied to it. So you loose some detail (in trade for space.) With birds, feather detail is king so I shoot RAW.

RAW lets you adjust the white balance easily. There is a slider and a white balance tool that lets you fairly easily adjust the color balance to get the colors right. I shot a wonderful sunset with a heron flying through it... in JPG. It took ages to get the colors back to something like what they should have been (it looked like MUD originally.) With RAW this would have been easy. With birds, getting proper colors is king, so I shoot RAW to make it easy to get them right.

RAW lets you adjust exposure some in post production. You can do similar things with levels and curves. I don't feel you can do as much as you can with RAW conversion. This might be a statement of my skill level, though. If you are better as PS than me, maybe you can? I know that with RAW it's easy. You can also convert the image multiple times at different exposures and blend them together. I did it on a woodduck picture I posted here:
it let me bring back a little bit more detail on the beak where the white is, and not blow out the white tracery in the plumage. Feather detail is king with birds, and blown hilight destory that (and look bad) so I use RAW.

RAW has cost me shots, though. An eagle flys overhead. I start shooting ('cause you never know when he'll back away from you.) Just as he flies directly over me my camera stops shooting 'cause the buffer limit is hit. With JPG I would have had more shots. RAW cost me those pictures.

RAW takes up more space on the flash card. This has never cost me a shot, but it could. It does use up hard disk space faster.

RAW slows down processing of images. Slower to load. Annoying.

RAW is a propritary format that few things can read/convert. It is possible that in 10 years, you won't be able to read those RAW files. If they were JPG you probably could (easily solved, convert your images to a standard like TIFF without compression... but again, that is a hassle.)

Personally, I couldn't live without RAW. Fixing white balance alone is so easy I find it worth it. The sun goes behind a cloud while you're photographing and then your white balance gets messed up. Auto white balance isn't bad, but it isn't perfect.


PeterP Apr 21, 2005 12:44 AM

I'm not too sure about this shooting in the RAW thing.

Up here in Canada it is still a bit chilly, and itmay get you into some troubles too.


DBB Apr 21, 2005 10:19 AM

Well, I agree, never having shot in the raw. however, even in the most remote locations from time to time I encounter photographic subjects, who just like the birds, are in the raw. Always livens up both my day and theirs....

Also one of the reason I shoot with a 110 pound dog; who acts as a calming agent in these little confrontations with people living the wildlife....:-)


slipe Apr 21, 2005 7:13 PM

It has been my experience that highlights are blown in the CCD and you can't recover them much better with raw than you can from JPG.

I always shoot with minimum sharpening and contrast when extracting JPG to get the widest dynamic range and least sharpening artifacts. Even minimum could give slight clipping of the white and black points and a small amount of sharpening in some cameras. There is also noise suppression in the processing in some cameras. The greater bit depth might help a little. Those things might contribute a tiny amount in being able to recover blown highlights, but not very much. I find that getting the exposure right in the camera is just as important with raw as it is with JPG.

Basically you have to pay attention to framing/composition, flare, exposure and focus when shooting raw. Everything else can be adjusted in the software just as if you were doing it in the camera, so you can concentrate on the factors that are important.

Alan T Apr 21, 2005 8:11 PM

aladyforty wrote:

...never used RAW because my computer just does not seem to deal with it. Is it really all that important in the end for getting a good shot.
As I understand it, 'RAW' will let you twiddle, after the event,everything that the camera's software could have done, EXCEPT the shutter speed and aperture, which were fixed when you (or the camera) chose them and you pushed the button. I'm not sure about the ISO setting (gain) - it may well be that you can't change that either. You get the original signals from each of the pixels of the CCD, and then you can process them later in software.

So, in principle, it gives you greatest flexibility for amending the image to look as you'd have wanted it.

In the olden days of film, you chose a film and then a shutter speed and aperture, and took the shot. After that everything was down to the chemical processing of the film,the darkroom twiddling, and the chemical processing of the print. In recent years, with colour processing,the scope for all that was very limited.

Now, you can do all sorts of twiddling in your camera, and this is a genuine advance. Most people don't even know they're doing it. The stunning images from little point & shoot digicams on 6x4 prints are down to good optics PLUS a bit of judicious sharpening. (You won't get this on your dSLR - they assume you'll choose to do it later if you want it.)

'RAW' files will let you do that after the event, just as the camera would have done it.

You'll be able to *simulate* most of those twiddles using your image editor on your PC on a high quality jpeg, but you'll start a bit further away from the original. However having seen the standards of your work, I really don't think it's that important. It's the person behind the camera that does the job, really. Don't let the technology submergeyour art.

An IMPORTANT point about 'RAW' files is that they're not a standard, and are proprietary for each camera as I understand it. Therefore, if you decide to use them, for goodness' sake keep well backed-up high quality jpeg copies of everything as well.

It's also possible that your very own image editor will be as good as or better at producing a good finished image from a high quality jpeg than the software for processing your 'RAW' image, which you're likely to twiddle later in your image editor anyway.

Hope this helps. If I'm talking rubbish I'm sure I'll be corrected pretty quickly.

Keep on shooting,

Alan T

Alan T Apr 21, 2005 8:30 PM

Nagasaki wrote:

You can adjust the exposure slightly
I think you can't in reality adjust the exposure. The exposure is how long the CCD was exposed to the optical image and through what aperture. That was chosen by you or the camera when you pushed the button.

What you can do afterwards on a 'RAW' image is alter the brightness&colour balanceof the pixels, which is not the same thing. If a pixel was overexposed in a bright highlight, or completely black in a shadow, there's nothing you can do to get it back. That was determined when you pushed the button.

The exposure, the image recorded by the CCD, isbased on anoriginal mechanical event, involving an iris diaphragm and anelectronic timer. That's real photography as it's always been. After that it's all data processing.

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