"Developing" your Photos - Digitally

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Andy
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"Developing" your Photos - Digitally

Postby Andy » Thu Oct 02, 2008 12:59 pm

The conversation we have had on the "thank you" thread has really gotten a long way away from its original intent (which is fine -- I like the "free flowing" discussion), but I thought I would start a new on -- more on topic.

It kind of stems from comments about filters, "modes," file formats, and "processing and manipulating."

Al makes a really good point. All "destined-for-display" photographs have always had some adjustments made to them between in-camera capture and final display. Anyone who has had serious darkroom experience can attest to that.

As I stated in my "Essay" (thanks, Carol :) ) on filters in the "thank you" thread, a digital capture is nothing but "zeros" and "ones" or "bits" of digital information which are put together in a way that ultimately results in a photographic display. In a way, this opens a whole new world.

In the film world, for the most part we had two choices. One, which most consumers used, was "color negative" or "reversal" film. The idea was to expose the film and then print it. The other choice was "color positive," or transparency film ("slides"). They were generally intended to be projected, but many (perhaps most) "serious" photographers ultimately used transparency film and then attempted to print from it. The characteristics were very different. Because of its nature, negative film was generally much more "forgiving" of poor exposures. Consequently a lot of users never knew how bad their exposure technique really was. As Al stated, the processors made adjustments so the final print looked "good."

As a teaching tool, I have always encouraged would-be serious photographers to use transparency film -- precisely because it was rather unforgiving, and thus demonstrated flaws in exposure in a rather painful manner.

With digital, we have different characteristics (kind of a "mix" between the two) and a whole new technique must be employed. I capture all my photographs in "RAW" format. This is almost at the basic level of the "zeros and ones." The reason I do this (and it emulates many pros and serious photographer's actions) is that it gives me the greatest ability to "work" the photo in post-processing in a non-destructive way, to achieve the result I want. My RAW files become those color-negatives and my Photoshop manipulations, the processor/developer.

When I download my shots from my camera and first bring them up in my RAW processing software, they look really dull. I used have the heart-dropping feeling, until I learned that what I thought I took was really still in there -- just buried in the "ones and zeros." With just a small amount of adjusting, I am able to bring them to the level I want. The reason they come into the computer "dull" is because I have turned off every in-camera adjustment or enhancement.

I don't want the camera to "make it look better." Two reasons: (1) My computer/Photoshop combination is better at it; and (2) I think I will do a better job than letting my camera "guess" at things. The camera is nothing more to me than a tool to capture the image. Adjustments, enhancements, and yes -- manipulation -- that's my area.

I know people who want it to look as good as it can right out of the camera, so they can print it. So the set the camera to "sharper" and "more vivid," etc. Neither view is "right" or "wrong." But to me, second only to getting out there in nature and doing it, the most exciting part is working with an image that "has possibilities" and seeing it develop into a "wall hanger."

I am interested to know what others think; what file format you use, etc.
Andy

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Postby autzig » Fri Oct 03, 2008 5:28 pm

Andy, like you, I only shoot in RAW and for the same reasons.

I've written a photo tip on my website that starts: "Your camera is as dumb as a rock…so why are you letting it choose your exposure settings? " Here's the link to the article: http://goldimagesphoto.com/shutterspeed.html

Your are right. The camera is a tool but far too many people let the camera do the work for them rather than learn how to use it. Camera makers know that most people don't know how or don't want to know how to use their cameras so they make automatic exposure so that on average, it will produce an average exposure. I don't want an exposure that the camera chooses, I want to choose my aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings because of the effect they will produce. I like slow shutter speeds for waterfalls for example. Sometimes I want a slow shutter speed but I have to wait until there is no wind or the foreground is a blur. Maybe I'm just a control freak but I want to get the most out of my camera so I tell it what I want it to do rather than the other way around.

I also use the full version of Photoshop in my post processing. Sometimes the final photo matches exactly what I think I saw when I made the exposure. Sometimes I make adjustments that turn the photo into what I so much wanted it to be. Here's an example of a shot I took last year near Ludlow, VT. http://goldimagesphoto.com/newengland/ne0807.html This scene had so much potential. I loved the location but there was just too much green and yellow. My adjustments turned the photo into what I pictured in my mind's eye. Some people think that doing that is wrong. Me? I've got a beautiful photo that I enjoy looking at more than the way it looked when I made the exposure. I'm happy with it and that is all that matters.
Last edited by autzig on Tue Oct 07, 2008 8:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

abby
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Postby abby » Tue Oct 07, 2008 8:31 pm

Hi Al,
First and foremost, I want to add you to my "thank you's". You were so inspirational to me last foliage season and I loved seeing all of your photos.

I got error messages on both of your links you posted. I'd love to read what you have written on your website about shooting RAW, and I'd also love to be able to see the example photo.

Andy has privately been encouraging me to shot RAW and sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't. I SHOULD HAVE SHOT RAW on this past week's foliage trip but I didn't and on some of my photos I am kicking myself in the butt because I would have had more control over some that were tough for me to get a good exposure. I encountered various weather conditions and mostly cloudy skies the past 5 days.

I use CS3 to process my jpeg's and I love to see them "pop" after a few tweaks. I really need to stop being lazy and shoot RAW more often. BUT, I will say, in some instances, I don't see much of a difference between my jpegs and RAWs, but in other instances, it really does make a difference.

Carol (abby)

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Postby autzig » Tue Oct 07, 2008 9:09 pm

Carol, try the links now. Apparently the period at the end of the sentence was incorporated into the link. I've fixed it.

Actually I didn't write about shooting in RAW, only about the photographer choosing the settings instead of letting the camera do it.

I shoot in RAW only because it preserves all the data. Jpg compression just throws away too much stuff. RAW comes to the rescue if you really screw up a shot. When I learned that in RAW you can virtually reset the exposure to what it should have been when you shot the photo, it just blew me away. With only one RAW shot, you can change the exposure and get multiple exposures for the same photo. Then using Photomatix or something like it, an HDR image can be turned into something pretty good.

As a rule, jpg images are fine and there really isn't a lot of improvement that you can make. But when you need to fix a problem, a RAW image offers the opportunity to turn that one bad photo into a great shot.

One last thing, because jpg compression is applied every time you save a photo, the quality can be lost if you save it very often. I always save my files as tifs.

Thank you for your comments about me being inspirational. It is nice to think that in some small way I may have made a difference.

I just hope the leaves keep hanging on. I fly to Burlington next Monday and I'll only have Tuesday afternoon for some photography.

Al

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Postby abby » Wed Oct 08, 2008 8:15 pm

Hi Al,
Thanks for fixing the link. I just checked out your website and I didn't want to leave it. Your photos are beautiful and I savored each and every one of them.

Your explanations are wonderful and easy to understand. I enjoyed reading through your photo tips.

I hope you have a great time during your short stay in VT next week and I wish you photographic success!
Carol (abby)

P.S. Yes......I meant it when I said you were inspirational. I'll always remember how impressed I was with your photos you shared last year.

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Postby autzig » Wed Oct 08, 2008 8:27 pm

You are too kind.

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Postby Andy » Fri Oct 10, 2008 10:50 am

Carol: I had to kind of smile at your comment about "being lazy" and not shooting RAW. I don't get that at all. Its just a setting on your camera. If you set it ONCE, you'll never have to do it again :P. I do understand, though, that you mean that regarding post-processing. And, yes there is a certain amount of necessary work to post-process a RAW file that isn't necessary with a jpeg. It is precisely for that reason that a lot of pros (weddings come to mind) shoot in jpeg. You can, however, use the batch processing features in PS to obtain jpegs without having to do each one manually.

Actually, I can make an argument that ONE of the reasons I shot RAW is because I am lazy :) . In RAW, I don't have to worry about white balance, or whether my photo is "warm" enough. I just shoot and then adjust those items in my RAW converter.

One BIG downside to RAW is that the files are very large. But memory (especially these days) is cheap. Some of today's DSLRs give you the option to do BOTH. You can set the camera to create a RAW file and a jpeg each time you shoot the image. While you can set up batch processes to do that post-processing, that may be an option for some. I don't do it on mine, because I don't want to use up the memory.

One difference between what outdoor and nature photographers do and wedding photographers (and other studio photogs) is that they have so much more control (normally) over their shooting conditions. They can set their white balance, e.g., for a room and reasonably depend that it won't change. Ours may change from scene to scene. For me, that's just one more "tech" think I have to think about.
Andy

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Postby abby » Fri Oct 10, 2008 8:54 pm

Hi Andy,
Yeah, when I said lazy, I was referring to the work I'd have to do to process the RAW images. Although, I know it's really not that much work. When shooting RAW with both my cameras, I get both a RAW file and a jpeg. I took 1200 pictures and didn't want to take up so much space. I'm also impatient and hate to wait for all of those files to download or upload or whatever it's called onto my laptop. :)

So RAW it will be for me this weekend. I won't be shooting many photos anyways....at least if I want to stay married I won't be. :)
Carol

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Postby pwt54 » Sat Oct 11, 2008 7:27 am

Abby, I would keep only 1 camera on RAW because of the slow processing time. That photo of the Pleasant Valley farm on my webshots album was the second photo I took. The first one was nice but not as dramatic as the second one. If I had been shooting raw I would never have been able to shoot the second. Always allow for "happy accidents".

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Postby autzig » Sat Oct 11, 2008 8:37 am

pwt, I don't understand your reference to slow processing time. My 40D will handle 6 frames per second in RAW and up to 17 images before the buffer is full. Even my old 10D will shoot several images before the the buffer is full.

Al

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Postby pwt54 » Sat Oct 11, 2008 9:46 am

Abby and I have medium priced cameras. (for now) and they take a little longer to process. My G-9 is is quick, but the panasconic is slower. I haven't shot Raw to much because my software doesn't handle it. I have to use my cousin's computer. When I recover from my Florida trip, 2 birthdays and Christmas, I plan to add more memory to my laptop and buy photoshop elements.

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Postby Andy » Sat Oct 11, 2008 10:13 am

pwt54 wrote:Abby and I have medium priced cameras. (for now) and they take a little longer to process. My G-9 is is quick, but the panasconic is slower. I haven't shot Raw to much because my software doesn't handle it. I have to use my cousin's computer. When I recover from my Florida trip, 2 birthdays and Christmas, I plan to add more memory to my laptop and buy photoshop elements.


Phil: I don't understand the first part of this. If anything, the RAW files will take longer to process. That's the (only, as far as I am concerned) downside to shooting RAW (as opposed to shooting "IN the RAW" which, of course poses all sorts of challenges). RAW files are HUGE compared to even the highest quality JPEG (and are getting even larger in newer cameras, as the Megapixel "wars" increase the size of the files).

When you do buy Elements, you MAY need to download a file to read the RAW files from your camera. If you do, and can't figure it out, e-mail me and I think I can help.
Andy

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Postby pwt54 » Sat Oct 11, 2008 11:35 am

I'm not sure if the photoshop elements has the raw either. But I can download the raw file. That cousin I mentioned has the full blown photoshop so I have had a little practice. He'll be happy to train me for a six pack of long trail ale. :D

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Postby abby » Mon Oct 13, 2008 8:11 pm

I think perhaps what PWT was referring to was the lag time you get when shooting RAW with our cameras. It takes a good 4-5 seconds before you can press the shutter again. I think what he was referring to was the sun poked out for just a very brief time during our Pleasnat valley farm photo stop.....long enough to get a few shots off......but if shooting RAW it may have only been possible to get one shot before the sun went back in.
Carol

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Postby Andy » Mon Oct 13, 2008 9:44 pm

Well, that makes sense. I have a Nikon P&S which shoots RAW images and it does take a long time to "process" each shot from the time I depress the shutter.

NOTHING in the world like the instant response of a DSLR -- especially when you are trying to capture the moment!

I hated that about my first digital, which was P&S, and almost went back to film, before I bit the bullet and bought my first DSLR

(So, what I am saying is I was AGAINST digital BEFORE I was FOR it?) Never Mind :twisted:
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .



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