Why I Shoot Raw When Shooting Macro

If you ask 10 different photographers why they shoot the file type they do you will get 10 different answers.  Every photographer has their own work flow, partly based on need and partly based on preference.  Whatever your preference or your habit this is why I shoot Raw.

There are 2 or 3 main formats you can shoot on most cameras, JPEG, TIFF or RAW.  JPEG’s are compressed formats that are universally readable.  The camera will modify the file, compress it and send the final image to your memory card.  TIFF’s are images that have not been compressed by the camera and are able to be read across multiple platforms.  In order for the image to be readable the camera must lock in all the data and render the image.  Raw files comprise the data exactly as it comes off the cameras sensor, unaltered in any way.

Raw files require a program capable of reading their format to view and modify them.  These programs do not modify the raw data.  The editing changes are stored in a separate file then applied to the original for editing and file conversions.  The original file is always preserved.

This unaltered state of the raw image is their greatest asset.  They provide the most flexibility and manipulability in postproduction.  I am going to show 3 sample images taken in raw and then edited to get more from the photo.  These images were all edited in Adobe Camera Raw and have not had any additional work done in Photoshop.

Tomato Caterpillar Unedited

This tomato caterpillar was photographed in the later afternoon. The image is nice but does not stand out.

The tomato caterpillar had good detail but the color was a bit flat and the background did not have much going for it.  While editing I was able to darken the background isolating the subject.  With adjustment to the curves I was able to bring a lot more color and emphasize details in the caterpillar.  I also added some blacks to the image bringing out a richer color.  The end result is an image that jumps off the page, showing every ripple in the body of the subject.

Tomato Caterpillar Edited

After editing the caterpillar has the detail and color to make it jump off the page.
The final result accentuates the fleshiness of the body.

When editing this photo I wanted to bring out more detail in the center of the Milk Weed.  By adjusting the color channels and curves I was able recover the detail in the individual strands and the subject overall.  I also gave the background some more color pop.

Milkweed Unedited

This Milk Weed photo has lost some of the detail in the silky center. Many strands blend together into a white mass.

Milk Weed Edited

The Milk Weed has more color pop and detail in the center. You can also see some of the browns that had been lost.

When shooting always have your editing requirments in mind. Shoot to your edit, allowing it to guide some of the decisions you make along the way.  I always shoot a 1/3 to 2/3 under exposed to give me flexability on the back end.  You have more options with an underexposed image than with an overexposed one.  I leave a little of the blacks out of my shots so I can richen the color up in post.

Purple Flower Unedited

This shot has a great composition but is a little dark. The colors are just ok as well.

With this photo I really wanted to saturate the colors in the flowers.  Also with all of the water droplets I wanted to bring out definition in them as well.  I added some blacks to bring out the colors in the flowers and the greens.  The greens provided separation from the background giving the shot more depth.

Purple Flower Edited

In the final edit the colors have great saturation and the water drops really stand out.

With Raw files you can render out your image in any number of file formats.  You get the best possible JPEG’s and TIFF’s when you convert them directly from a Raw image.  When you make a TIFF from a JPEG you are losing quality in the image, an image whose quality was already reduced in the camera.  Raw always give you an unaltered file to start from and return to time and time again.  Why give up quality when you don’t have to?

Editing your images is part of the process no matter what file format you decided to go with.  Every image I send out to a client has been hand corrected to give them the greatest photo possible.  Each of the edits in this article took about a minute of work in Raw Converter.  You will spend time editing regardless of the choices made during production.  Shoot raw and expand the possibilities you will have during editing.  Maximize your creativity.

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