Saturday, February 11, 2012

RAW files

Most of my imagery is iPhone captured.  If I do use one of my DSLRs I will usually do much, or at least some image  processing on the iPad.  It's funny then that I still wonder about RAW files.  I suspect it's one of the mental exercises used to occupy the time spent alone in freezing early morning fog or  some such, waiting to see how the lighting changes.  We all know that place.

The accepted "truth" has been that RAW is the only good way to shoot.  After all, keep as much control as possible.  In-camera processing uses someone else's opinions about what's important.  JPEG shooting relinquishes creative decision making.

Experiences with RAW capable cameras over the last year or so have caused me to dispute that "Truth" however.  I'm thinking that in-camera processing is the way to go.  Providing of course that some attention is paid to White Balance.

I know from experience that technology producers have their own proprietary systems.  Some of this is for competitive reasons but some is because they really do understand their equipment best.  This is very much true of chip manufacturers and camera manufacturers.

Software attempts to "crack the code" and does so quite well, ACR, Aperture, and others.  It's interesting though that different types of software will interpret the same RAW file differently.  This makes me wonder just how much of the "goodness" is a 3rd party software vendor capable of delivering.  90% ?  More/less?

Over the last few iterations camera manufacturers have quietly and significantly improved their internal software "engines."  They are more than likely getting more of the "goodness" from their proprietary files than other's are getting...and they are doing it very very quickly and for free.  (I believe that new camera decisions are made for many reasons but that a new engine isn't on the list.)  Oh.  The file sizes are smaller also making management easier and less expensive.

There's always the argument that future advances in software will allow re works of RAW files.  While true I do wonder about the practicality.  How many of the (tens?) of thousands of images you took last year, or the year before, or in 1995 will you rework with the newest iteration of Photoshop?  Assuming that new software still reads the old files, and of course that your DAM system allows you to find the file.  I'm guessing the number will rhyme with Nero.

"Sometimes we Differ"

Mike Johnston writes TOP The Online Photographer an excellent blog I'm certain many of us are familiar with.  (yes I know but "with which many of us are familiar" sounds pretentious now doesn't it.)

Discussing the subject of photography as art, or different from art,  he touches on an area I know I've wrestled with, do words enhance photographs?  If a picture is worth a thousand words then how many more could it need?  Yet, how many of us appreciate a caption?  I know personally I like having a bit of the photographer's personal voice added to an image...I always look for a caption.  Or is the mystery worth something more?

It would be interesting to hear other's opinions.

Speaking of opinions, I have followed TOP for years and enjoy it very much.  I do recognize that some of my "life" opinions are rather different from Mike's.  Comments in the past have started a stream of personal e-mails between us voicing that disagreement.  Regardless I value his opinions and expect that if we ever did meet I would like him very much.