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Thread: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

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    The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    The intent of this post is in the context of the CIC aim of being a learning forum. The aim is to provide ONE point of view on digital photography. It's neither right nor wrong, it is just a demonstration of one path to the desired end result of quality imagery. Other people do things differently and produce as good or better results. The point is that each of us has to develop an understanding of digital photography and a process from field to end result that works for the specific individual and/or for a specific need.

    Some years ago when I was early into digital I followed the advice of one of the popular on-line photography "gurus". The person touted straight out of camera as the only way to go and due to that made a solid argument for shooting jpeg. Since I was recently converted from film and still in my "purist" phase at the time it made sense. Now these years later I curse his advice and my stupidity because I have some shots taken during that time period with awesome content but unrecoverable exposure problems. All part of the learning process.

    Anyway, now I shoot almost exclusively RAW(aka NEF for Nikon shooters), and always do so when shooting something critical. The argument for RAW is that the file contains more information and therefore more can be done with the image in post processing. With that in mind I've migrated so far as to consider the camera as a data collection device with no expectation of spitting usable images out as shot. On the other hand, that doesn't necessarily mean hours spent on the computer to convert the data into usable images. Like any workflow, once one understands what is required, it can become efficient. In fact, I am able to process many images using only the rudimentary editor found in ViewNX2 and indeed frequently batch process multiple images at the same time. (still haven't taken the plunge with LR )

    So to demonstrate this concept, I came up with an example of how dramatically different an image can look SooC compared to the final processed version. This is a fairly dramatic example chosen purposely for demonstration purposes. Most times the pre/post processed images look a lot more similar than this.

    Camera settings: NEF lossless compressed, Nikon picture control set to neutral and customized to zero saturation, zero sharpening. NOTE: my reason for setting the camera up in this manner is so that the RGB histogram in camera best represents the quality of the RAW capture (IOW how good the collected data is).

    Manual exposure mode. Matrix metering used to sample ambient lighting by taking several shots in the area, checking histograms, then using judgment to set exposure for highlights just pushing right side of histogram.

    Here is a SooC version of an eagle BIF. Chimping the image as shot looks pretty bad set up this way but the RGB histogram was as desired, the bird was in focus, and the content was good. So with the understanding of how RAW images can be converted, in the field I was pretty content that I had something useful. I was shooting with the camera mounted on a shoulder stock and if I recall correctly the serious out of level horizon was due to having to lean around an obstruction and shoot off balance.

    The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    Processing as follows using CaptureNX2 on the NEF and PSE6 thereafter:
    • straighten/rough crop
    • adjust WB
    • increase saturation
    • export as TIFF
    • no NR was necessary on this image but this is where I would normally do it with either NeatImage or Topaz (Nikon NR stinks)
    • layer mask of bird and adjust shadows/highlights to bring out details and protect highlights
    • overall lighting adjustment
    • overall saturation adjustment
    • mask bird and adjust lighting on BG (darken)
    • final crop/resize
    • sharpen


    And the final result:

    The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    For comparison, below is the best I was able to do in-camera editing/jpeg conversion.

    The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

  2. #2
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    That's a well-written, well-considered, measured post and will enable many people to not only learn, but also consider their own thoughts about developing the skills that come with deciding to shoot in RAW.

    I'm certainly going to save the thread URL and refer people to it whenever the question of shooting RAW comes up, as it fairly frequently does.

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    Stagecoach's Avatar
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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    Dan,

    Posts such as this are an excellent help for those that are learning and certainly give encouragement.

    To be able to see and determine in-camera in the field on a 3" LCD the potential of what when viewed is a fairly mediocre shot is something very important in the learning curve.

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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    Awesome! Very instructive.

    And the images are great.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    Dan - while I can't disgree with what you have written; but I am pretty well a 100% jpeg + RAW shooter. Part of this comes from shooting on the road, where I don't have access to my higher quality monitor (the one in my laptop is not particularly good for assessing colours) and I find that I usually get excellent quality images that need very little tweaking. So for posting as I go, this technique works very well for me.

    I tend to have my camera set to non-standard processing and add saturatuib and contrast to the jpegs (other than people shots); and while I could do it in post, shooting this way saves me a few steps and I really don't see enough of a difference to bother going the RAW route on these run-of-the-mill images.

    The best images get printed or the ones that I post on photo sites get the full treatment starting from RAW. To be completely honest, there are are times when I have gone through and edited the RAW images I wonder why I bothered, as the tweaked out of the camera jpegs are pretty well just as good. On the other hand, especially when I am shooting in difficult lighting conditions or am dealing with a subject with a lot of subtle detail, there no question that the RAW file allow me to extract data that I could never get out a a jpeg.

    Bottom line is that I find that I need to use RAW less than 5% of the time.

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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    ...I am pretty well a 100% jpeg + RAW shooter. Part of this comes from shooting on the road, where I don't have access to my higher quality monitor...
    My reasons for shooting RAW are the same as your reasons for not doing so. A good case in point that there is no right or wrong way in absolute terms. What's right is what works for a given person. Aren't we humans interesting creatures ?

    Frankly those who can shoot jpeg with good results are simply more skilled than I at judging lighting, etc. RAW is much more forgiving. A characteristic that I frequently need

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    tbob's Avatar
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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    Thanks Dan. I followed the same arc in logic and processing as you.

    Good images to illustrate this

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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernFocus View Post
    My reasons for shooting RAW are the same as your reasons for not doing so. A good case in point that there is no right or wrong way in absolute terms. What's right is what works for a given person. Aren't we humans interesting creatures ?

    Frankly those who can shoot jpeg with good results are simply more skilled than I at judging lighting, etc. RAW is much more forgiving. A characteristic that I frequently need
    I think a lot of this comes from my film background and shooting transparency film (I was very much into making Cibachrome; (later Ilfochrome)) prints. The exposure latitude of transparency films not great (4 to 5 stops) , so I had to be bang on in my exposures and very selective as to what I shot to get a good end results. I guess old habits die hard.

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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    Thanks, a good and useful post. The bottom line, for me, is simply control. I don't want to give up control over editing to a fixed in-camera algorithm, and I don't want the lower level of control in subsequent editing that jpeg entails.

    Frankly those who can shoot jpeg with good results are simply more skilled than I at judging lighting, etc.
    I think you are being too hard on yourself. SOOC means deciding on initial editing parameters (contrast, color balance, white balance, sharpening) in advance of taking the shot, when you select a picture style. No sophistication in handling a camera will make up for an incorrect choice of any of these parameters. True, if you shoot jpeg, you can try to patch things up afterwards if any of these parameters is wrong for the given image, but as you showed, your ability to do so is reduced when you start with a jpeg. So I don't think of shooting raw as a way of compensating for weak technique.

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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    As mentioned in the OP, we all make decisions for different reasons. So another one of my reasons for shooting this way is that for most of the things I shoot there are no redos. Nor is there typically time to be precise with metering, test shots, etc. So my goal is to try to set my equipment up with as much margin as possible for what I THINK is going to occur. Then as long as events unfold within acceptable limits I'm good to go. The only thing more frustrating to me than missing a great shot is missing it because I'm fussing around with the camera controls.

    Which brings up another point. I also hate fussing with the camera in the field. Shooting as I described minimizes the amount of button pushing/dial twisting while standing in the rain, on the tossing deck of a boat, etc. As long as it's close enough, all of the adjustments can be made sitting in an easy chair with a cup of hot coffee or a glass of fermented carbohydrate of choice.

    When shooting landscapes I do try to get the exposure as spot on as possible though do still shoot RAW.

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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    I echo Donald's comment regarding the original post...

    Let me add my own opinion, opinions are like noses, everyone has one (Note: I cleaned up this saying for general publication)...

    I always shoot in RAW and I find it easier to edit an image using Camera RAW 7.0 and will most often use Photoshop CS6 to open in RAW a JPEG image sent to me.

    Here are some reasons that I do this:

    Attaining white balance is easier for me using RAW the white balance eye dropper tool is neat...

    The eleven slider controls in the Basic Editing screen facilitate editing

    There are several ever groups of editing tools: Tone Curve, Detail, HSL/Gray Scale, Split Toning, Lens Corrections, Effects, and Camera Calibrations... Of my favorite groupings other than the Basic is the Lens Corrections Group: you can use sliders to correct distortion (pin cushion or barrel), Vertical. Horizontal and Rotation... While I can correct for most of these problems using Photoshop CS6; the corrections using Camera Raw are easier for me. I use Vertical correction and Rotation most often. I can see the effects of the rotation as I am moving the slider.

    So for me, instead of RAW being more difficult and time consuming, it is actually easier and quicker. I am just mentioning how it is for me... Other photographers might not feel the same way!

  12. #12
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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    Dan,

    Fantastic thread mate, but having read the replies I'll add a few points relevant to this site being a learning community.

    I think for the most part, people that contribute to threads such as these have an understanding of the "basics" of the raw (RAW, stands for nothing, as it's not an acronym) vs JPEG (Joint Photographer Experts Group) discussion.

    So my advice to the people (Beginners) looking in would be this,

    Look for an understanding of what JPEG compression does to an "image". Even when shooting in raw, your camera display will show a JPEG image, and this includes the histogram. Which is changeable in a raw converter.

    The beginner; Shoot raw and JPEG. The latter is normally fine for sharing across multiple formats; print, email, facebook and stuff like that. Keep the raw files for the future.

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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    Good points, Mark. I guess the original thread is targeted at "transitional" shooters rather than true neophytes. Those knowledgeable enough to be aware of the differences in formats but not fully aware of the consequences of choosing one over another and possibly becoming confused. And getting confused is easy enough to do as SOOC shooters and PP advocates emphatically promote their own preferences as advice .

    You brought up a good point about the value of having the RAW files saved away. Software and (presumably) one's skills improve with time and previously unusable images may be recoverable in the not to distant future.

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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernFocus View Post
    You brought up a good point about the value of having the RAW files saved away. Software and (presumably) one's skills improve with time and previously unusable images may be recoverable in the not to distant future.
    Piggy backing on Dan's last comment. Because RAW is non-destructible, you can always have a RAW file to fall back upon if a new version of Camera RAW comes along (Camera RAW 7 has several capabilities that CR-6 did not have). Along with that comment, if a new processing technique or program is introduced you can have the RAW image on which to try it. I have worked with some older RAW images which I had opened and processed with Camera RAW-6 and Photoshop CS-5 since I now have Photoshop CS-6 which includes Camera Raw 7. I now also have the NIK software suite to work with...

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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    Dan, I'd like to say that from my perspective I believe your initial setup is flawed in that you are presenting your position on the difference between raw and JPEG yet you skew the results by crippling the capabilities of the camera. (neutral, zero, zero) Additionally, taking it to layers for further editing doesn't really make it a fair comparison as that is comparing one flat JPEG to the multiple raw outputs (photos) of foreground and background.

    JPEG is simply a protocol used to translate data with the characteristics set by the software engineer and supplemented by your own settings. ViewNX2 is just a Nikon translator. In-camera options on most recent products offer more sophisticated adjustments than what the viewer can do.

    As you noted, leaving the Picture Control alone and shooting in Standard or Landscape with default settings would have presented something much closer to your doctored example. In fact about half of your post processing list for the raw example is doable within the camera.

    It can go even a bit further. When I do shoot to get raw+JPEG results I typically use one of the optional D2X Picture Control settings from Nikon that I've downloaded into the camera. Additionally, D-Lighting, Sharpness and especially Contrast settings are adjusted depending on the quality of light.

    As others have noted, SOOC is much to do about the skill of knowing your tools. Your first mentor was trying to push the point that what is needed is the knowledge to rely more on your capabilities as a photographer rather than as a computer operator. Yes, further editing will improve the results of difficult shots but we should be striving to make that a minimum requirement rather than an expected norm.

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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew1 View Post
    capabilities as a photographer rather than as a computer operator.
    It is a very strange statement to make when in fact it is the camera's ability to perform functions the were previously done on a computer by a "computer operator" that you are now trying to promote as part of being a photographer. They are essentially still computer operator controlled choices. The fact that you download options set up using the optional DX2 control settings confirms a computer operator task.

    So all we are left with is the point in time when the "computer operator" skills are applied. In the field I prefer to utilise my photography skills regarding composition, focus and exposure by capturing in RAW and leave the far less time critical adjustments to when I do my final adjustments in an environment and with tools that are far more suited to the task.

    Neither method is the best but you cannot argue on the basis of photographer vs computer operator if you plan to use the post capture processing power of a modern camera.

    The end result is the only criteria of judgement. The sequence used to achieve it is total unimportant and up to the photographer. Indeed the people with the most limited "computer operator" skills may benefit the most by shooting RAW and then be able to observe and modify the adjustments needed using interactive tools.
    Last edited by pnodrog; 9th August 2013 at 08:28 AM.

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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    So another one of my reasons for shooting this way is that for most of the things I shoot there are no redos. Nor is there typically time to be precise with metering, test shots, etc. So my goal is to try to set my equipment up with as much margin as possible for what I THINK is going to occur.
    Yes, that's where I am coming from, too.

    But there is another reason. I ACTUALLY ENJOY IT. By which I mean, learning how to pp effectively is a new skill for me that I am only learning and have a long way to go, and I enjoy learning and developing new skills. I don't have thousands of images, or any time or commercial pressure. As has already been said, we all choose our own way for our own reasons.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    Quote Originally Posted by davidedric View Post
    By which I mean, learning how to pp effectively is a new skill for me that I am only learning and have a long way to go, and I enjoy learning and developing new skills.
    Dave - after the RAW conversion; PP is going to be more or less the same, whether you are working with what started out as a RAW file or one of the other formats that are available to the user.

    With my camera, I can natively record 16-bit TIFF files; so if I look at things I can gain almost all of the advantages of shooting RAW The only two exceptions that I can think of right now are:

    1. The RAW converter lets me tweak the white balance setting of the image. The TIFF file has that information baked in; and

    2. I can adjust the gamma in the RAW converter; and again the TIFF file will have that baked in.


    Anything else I can accomplish either through in-camera settings or do in post. The TIFF does have another downside; the files are even larger than the RAW ones. From a practical standpoint; the white balance is probably the most important one to me and the one I will use most

  19. #19
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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    I say cherish the one's you get SOOC and if need be let that be your goal for every photo afterwards. Just be willing to lose out on a few opportunities because your camera settings aren't ideal for the shot that's in front of you.

  20. #20
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    Re: The Pro-RAW, Anti-SOOC Shooter

    Here we go again... IMO, No Image SOOC is ideal. Although I strive to capture the very best image possible, wanting to use an image without post processing (or SOOC) is not a road-map for success. I personally consider wanting to only use an image SOOC inane and counter-productive. However, if that is the game some photographers want to play, more power to them...

    The reason that I shot JPEG at the very beginning of my digital photography experience is that I was actually quite afraid of using RAW. I made the transition originally by shooting RAW + JPEG and then, after I realized that I was no longer touching my JPEG images, I switched to RAW completely...

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