Sunday, May 31, 2009

Post-processing (or, why don't I like my digital RAW photos?)

If you are new to digital (huh?? new to digital?? it has been around for ten years or longer now!!), meaning new to DSLR photography you may be less than thrilled with some of those shots coming out of that beast.  I find that many Club members either resist, or have no current intention, getting involved in post-processing.

Well, friends, you will get involved in post-processing one of these days.  How do I know this?  That was me, about five years ago.  I made the transition from film to an early Nikon digital compact camera - one of those that shoots only jpegs with in-camera settings that amp up the saturation and sharpening so everything coming out of it "pops."  I thought I was happy.  That is, until I read up on "raw" photography and used all that new knowledge to study up on the best equipment out there which led me to the purchase of my first DSLR.

Let's just say that my first experience with raw photos left me with that nauseated, "What the .... !!" feeling. Those shots just plain sucked...I thought.  So, I went right back to that article which had sent me into the store to purchase my first DSLR in the first place, and there it was - the techie talk near the end - and it went something like this...  "Every digital SLR raw photograph requires post-processing."  What the heck?  I read on.  "RAW photos are akin to what we called "negatives" in film photography." Then, it struck me - many of my film shots went into the waste basket.  Why was that? Because the lab just printed what I sent in...bad as it might have been.  The lab could have dodged and burned my shots, making them much better, but they didn't.  If I had wanted every shot to best the best it could be, I would have had to purchase darkroom equipment and chemicals - and even then, I probably would not have been good at it.

It's much the same in the digital world.  Only now, the darkroom is called "Photoshop," or "Capture NX2," or a host of other hot post-processing titles.  If (when) you decide you want to get the most out of your photography, you will take the plunge into RAW and then, by definition, you will have plunged into the world of post-processing.  I have yet to take a RAW photo that did not require some degree of post-processing (PP) work. The good news, unlike the darkroom and chemical days of film, computers present us with many opportunities to set up repeatable processes, or "shortcuts" that were simply not possible with film.

We'll dive much deeper into this topic at our meetings, I'm quite sure.

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