Today's image was brought to you by... shooting in RAW. By shooting in Raw I mean that nothing of this original file was compressed or eliminated by the camera as it recorded each shot, and all the digital information was there when I opened this image in Corel's PSPx3 and proceeded to make some adjustments and fine tuning. Yes it means it was a rather large file, yes it means it took up a lot of space on my computer, yes it means I have to have a program capable of opening it but I couldn't have made this shot without it. So for everyone who has banned shooting in RAW for good because jpegs just seem easier, I have some concerns on that way of thinking. I'll use today's image of this regal Poppy to expound further.
The first reason this image was successful being shot in a Raw format was (drum roll please....) "reds" are difficult. You heard me. Intense reds are extremely reflective in nature. They cause your meters to react in wild and woolly ways. Hard sun and you have blowout galore, losing whatever rich color was present. On overcast days like the one I was out in when I took this shot, the blue cast from the clouds overhead did strange things to the color as well. To get a very accurate poppy red in this image, I needed to be able to tweak color temperature, adjust select areas of exposure where the red became too hot no matter what I adjusted in camera, and I needed to use almost a high def processing to keep the layers of petals from bleeding into each other. Bring in some curves adjustment, some clarify, and some high pass sharpen and I had far more control over this in Raw processing than if I had a limited jpeg to work with, no matter how big that jpeg file might be. All without compromising the digital integrity of the file. Here's the unprocessed version with the best exposure possible that day....
Can everyone say "BLECHHHHH"....? Exactly. Dull, with no oomph.
Here's another reason why after all that editing, shooting in Raw won out. The image quality was never compromised after mucking about in all that processing. I could have done the same to a jpeg, but unless you're working with a killer pro camera who's jpegs are bigger than Atlantic City, you're going to notice the image quality begin to compromise. Excessive noise, edges and once sharp details show degradation, and gone is the possibility of a massive gallery print with impact. (All because of an unruly color.) This is just one more reason I work in Raw. But there's more...
At some point, someone is going to want to use your images! You may not think you're heading in that direction right now, but don't purposely eliminate the possibilities folks. This is where I regretted listening to so many people early on in my photographic journey who said I'd never need large files from Raw images, and didn't look into the major benefit of shooting in Raw. I missed my first huge breakout into the world of professional photography when an image caught the eye of another artist/magazine editor and wanted the image in their personal collection and on their magazine cover... and I couldn't give it to them. The file size and resolution was too small because I thought a fine jpeg setting in my camera was enough. Had I used my Raw menu option in my camera, I could have printed the giant canvas he requested, and also could have had a final tiff file that would have more than adequately met his cover page requirements for size and resolution. I can't stress enough that unless you have a monster camera to begin with... you need all the digital info you can get packed into your images. Shooting in Raw does that. Shooting your career in the foot? Not so fun. Trust me.
My advice to the few of you I've had conversations about this with, is don't let the word RAW intimidate you. Do your homework, work out the differences for yourself as you extend your knowledge of shooting with a DSLR, and big, large, slow files or not, Raw doesn't have to hamper your enjoyment of photography. All you need is to find a Raw program in Adobe, or Corel that suits your budget and your needs and the frustration can disappear as you go smoothly from one workflow to the next. The quality of your photography will know no bounds. And that's just too important to ignore shooting in Raw.
Thanks for the ramble... and have a good one!