Posted Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Should You Shoot RAW?

There are almost as many photography Web sites as there are digital cameras, but I read only one of them regularly: The Luminous Landscape.

While the vast majority of photography Web sites are obsessed over buttons and dials and specifications, Michael Reichmann's site concentrates on the art and craft of photography. There's plenty of tech delight here, too, but it always takes an appropriate back seat to the art of photography.

I digress (again). Michael has written an excellent overview of the RAW format, which is becoming increasingly popular among digital photography enthusiasts. In "Understanding RAW Files," he points out the pros and cons of shooting in RAW format.

My take on RAW? Here's an excerpt from The Macintosh iLife '04.

Going RAW
Many advanced digital photographers are embracing the Camera RAW format, which is supported by a growing number of mid-range and high-end cameras. RAW images contain the exact data captured by the camera’s CCD -- without performing any in-camera color or sharpness adjustments. A RAW image isn't necessarily superior to a JPEG. It's simply more malleable -- you can alter its appearance with much more fl exibility. With JPEG or TIFF files, the camera has already manipulated the original CCD data -- there’s no turning back.

But working with RAW greatly complicates your workflow, especially with iPhoto in the mix. iPhoto doesn't support RAW. So you must import your photos using other means (such as a media reader), process them in Photoshop or elsewhere, save them as Photoshop files, export them as JPEGs, and then bring those JPEGs into iPhoto to order books, prints, make slide shows, and the like. Whew.

For many digital camera users, RAW offers no great advantage. Today's cameras do a better job of image enhancement than an inexperienced user could do with RAW post-processing in Photoshop. Still, there's an appeal to having access to exactly what the CCD originally captured, especially for photographers who know their way around Photoshop.

If you aren't ready to go RAW, go partway: master your camera's manual exposure modes and white balance settings, and tweak any settings relating to color vividness and sharpening to take them down a notch or two.

Hoo-RAW! The latest edition of the original digital hub book is at the printer (and DVD replicator) now. Almost 300 full-color pages. A two-hour companion instructional DVD that's also packed with GarageBand loops, AppleScripts, utilities, and more. All for the no-it's-not-a-misprint price of $20.99 on Pre-order The Macintosh iLife '04 today.