I learned about shooting in RAW format a couple of weeks after first using my Canon Rebel T2i. I used to output only jpeg photos from my Canon camera (jpeg being its default). Of course, as I want my pics to be as perfect as possible (who doesn’t?), I try to adjust them in photoshop, taking care to make the results as natural-looking as I can. Like I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I don’t fall for pictures that don’t look as natural as the ones a naked eye sees on the actual scene. Taking long exposures of waterfalls for instance produce silky smooth water, but that’s not what you actually see in real life. The resulting picture thus, though pleasing to the eye, looks so artificial and so not real. Well, it’s cool the first time, but after seeing so many pictures with this effect, it starts to loose its appeal.
I learned that taking photos in RAW format gives me so much control over my final output. In the past, film photography requires one to make the exposure just right and the focus perfect before pressing the shutter. After that, there’s not much you can do to the final output. In the digital era, software like photoshop can give you a second chance at making the output approach perfection. And if you opt to shoot using the RAW format, you actually gain even more control over the whole process.
The more I shoot in RAW, the more I realized that my progress at mastering the fine aspects of photography seemed stunted and slow. I found that I (beginner as I am) have become so dependent on the knowledge that I can just adjust my pictures later, thus making me take for granted such practices as carefully analysing the available light and adjusting my camera to compensate for such conditions. All I’m watching out for are minimizing camera shake (though Image Stabilization [IS] almost takes care of it all), making the proper composition, and adjusting for proper field depth.
My idea now is to go back to shooting in JPEG, so that I’m forced to really take care of the analysis of the subject, the surrounding area, the light sources, and making the corresponding fine adjustments in the camera. I do have the luxury of doing this because I’m not shooting photos for clients. I’m only shooting for myself (and only when I feel like it) as photography is totally just a hobby of mine. Perhaps after some time (years?), I’d finally (if ever) acquire the finesse that pro photographers have. Then, maybe I’d go back to shooting in RAW. That way, there’s no chance I’d output less than perfect photographs. Perhaps, I’d also go for one Canon lecturer’s advice to get me a monitor calibration tool (e.g. Spider 3 Pro or Elite). Then perhaps I’ll entertain thoughts of going beyond hobby photography.
So, what do I think of RAW? It’s the final tool for perfection. I should use it but not depend on it.
Hereunder are some pictures which I took in RAW format and then adjusted using Canon’s Digital Photo Professional.
Note: This is only a rambling of one who’s just beginning to learn photography. The photos above (even after the adjustments) are definitely not perfect (this, my amateur mind suspects even this early), composition-wise, lighting-wise, whatever. If you have any violent reactions and have to speak your mind, make it constructive so I’ll learn how to do things better.