Editing in Camera Raw

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I admit that I don’t fiddle around too much with images in RAW format. I’m on the fence when it comes to shooting in RAW – I don’t really have an opinion about it one way or another. I can see circumstances where it would be really useful; I can see other circumstances where it’s just a waste of memory card space. Pretty much all of my shooting is done in large-format JPG, and I really haven’t come across too many circumstances where I’d wished I’d shot in RAW.

With that said, I know a lot of people who are adamant about the necessity of shooting in RAW, and I do agree that it’s an extremely useful tool when you need that extra degree of flexibility during post-editing.

I edit all of my photos (well, the ones that need editing, anyway) in Adobe Photoshop CS3. I use Adobe Bridge when editing my photos – it’s an extremely useful tool that I will expound upon in a future entry. Adobe Bridge has the ability to open and edit an image in Camera Raw. This functionality can be used to edit both RAW file formats, and JPG file formats, with some essential differences in editing capability.

For the purposes of this article, I took two pictures of what was in front of me at the time that I had the idea for this entry – a nice tall frosty pint of beer. I took one picture in RAW format, and one in JPG format. Both were shot at 1/8s at f/5.0, ISO 1600, focal length 41mm. Either picture can be edited in Camera Raw by right-clicking on the image and selecting “Open in Camera Raw”.

(click on the photo for a larger image)

The first difference I noticed right away, was the file size. The JPG came in at 3.99MB, while the RAW came in at 9.29MB. So, that’s definitely something to consider if you only have a single memory card on you.

(click on the photo for a larger image)

Next, there are expanded editing capabilities, as can be expected, when opening a RAW file in Camera Raw. Notice in this screen shot (above) that the user has a wide variety of white balance settings available with which to adjust the photo. This would come in extremely handy for incorrectly exposed photos. The theory here is, the end user should be able to completely redeem a sub-standard photo, to the quality that it would have achieved had the camera’s settings been adjusted to capture the correct exposure.

(click on the photo for a larger image)

In this screen shot of the opened JPG file (above), you can see that it does not have as many white balance adjustment options, though all of the rest of the settings remain available. The theory here is, the end user does not have as much of a capability to recover incorrectly exposed photos, when taken in JPG format. Some adjustment can be done, however, to correct fill light, brightness, contrast, etc.

For my circumstances, I would probably shoot in RAW, and edit in Camera Raw, if I were shooting in a venue where I knew it would be difficult to capture the correct exposure, with the equipment that I have available to me. I would love to hear other folks’ experiences, either shooting in RAW format, or editing in Camera Raw. Please feel free to describe your experiences in the comments!

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