Jun 8, 2005

Shooting in the RAW, Perfecting the Image

Source: New York Times
Written by Ivan Berger

SNAPSHOOTERS don’t bother, but serious photographers like to do things the way professionals do: spurning shiny chrome cameras for black, for instance, or lately, setting their camera’s menus to RAW.

Selecting RAW changes how the camera saves the image, maximizing picture quality and giving the photographer more control over the way the pictures look, but at a sacrifice of some convenience.

Most digital photos are saved in the JPEG format, which takes the data from the processor that applies the camera’s color and other settings and then discards some data to compress the file to a more convenient size. A RAW image saves the data that goes into the processor, not the data coming out of it, including some the processor might skip, producing clearer and more accurate images. It’s a pure record of the pixels captured by the camera’s sensor.

Working with RAW also allows you to undo mistakes you may have made while shooting. You used indoor light with the camera set for daylight? One mouse click and your computer fixes that. You can even bring out highlight and shadow details that the camera’s image processor would have considered too dark or bright to capture.

These adjustments don’t change the image data, just the instructions for interpreting it. The original RAW image stays intact, so you can rethink and redo your choices. You save the processed version as a new image in the compact but “data shaving” JPEG format or as a TIFF, a memory-stuffing format that preserves everything in the processed image.

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