Since some of you are asking about RAW, let's make it lesson 6...
RAW file format is a general term used for a digital negative. Different camera companies have their own versions of different RAW file formats (Canon, Nikon, etc)… RAW shoots in 12 bit vs. JPG that shoots in 8 bit. When you shoot in RAW, you have to convert it to JPG before you can upload it to the web or take it to the lab for printing. So, what’s all the bother then, right? Versatility… you can manipulate it like crazy, fix mistakes, manually set white balance, compensate exposure, under expose photos on purpose to avoid blowouts and then adjust in the RAW converter, punch up colors for landscapes, decrease saturation for interest, adjust levels and curves, change to black and white or sepia tone, etc… and it’s all in one little converter program package.
Some programs have RAW converters, and some don’t but I'm not sure which. The one that I'm using (Photoshop CS3) does (thank goodness!)... I love RAW. It's so versatile. Here's a simple way to test if your program supports RAW file management... take a picture in RAW, upload it to your computer, and then double click on it. If a program opens to manipulate it, you're in business – you’ve more than likely got a converter. If not, it will open into windows viewer and look terrible. RAW is essentially a digital negative. You can manipulate everything about it (almost the same as the lab tech's do with film). But, as you save it, the changes are saved but can be manipulated back... RAW remembers the original settings. You can fix your exposure, tones, saturation, lighting, pretty much everything... punch up colors, etc. And, in the end, you save it as a JPG… so again, you wonder: “if it’s going to JPG anyway, what’s the deal with shooting in RAW?” Versatility of manipulation.
I found an article that simplifies the mystery of RAW… you can read it at this address: http://www.photoxels.com/tutorial_raw.html
In addition, another good argument for shooting in RAW can be found here: http://blogs.photopreneur.com/shooting-raw/
Now, originally, I was working with other programs and none of them would allow me to preview my RAW images. I found this very frustrating because I didn’t want to open every RAW file into the converter to see if it was even worth working on. Since getting Photoshop CS3, it comes with Bridge 3 (a viewing program) which allows RAW file preview. This has made all the difference to me. I now shoot almost exclusively in RAW because of the preview feature. CS3 also comes with it’s own RAW converter and it’s amazing!
Assignment – RAW:
This week’s assignment is to shoot anything in RAW and test to see if you have a converter by double clicking on the RAW file. Report back on your experience (ability to preview, which converter you have, if no converter then research where and how much, etc). If you have a converter, post the picture the way it was shot as well as the RAW adjustments in your blog with a brief description of which converter you used as well as some of the adjustments you made.