Saturday, November 12, 2016

Photographing in Raw Format

When I switched from my point-and-shoot Fujifilm to a DSLR, for a month I tried to soak as much technical information regarding digital photography as could. One of the most covered topics was the raw format, but I could not find any satisfactory practical article which enlightened my noobness. Some articles even unabashedly bashing the JPEG format to an extent that it left me with an anti-RAW feeling just for the sake of it. Fortunately those zealots didn't affect that tiny objectively thinking part of my brain much. So I thought of giving it a try during my trip to Amsterdam.

It was a back-lit sunset situation at around half past six in the evening. I haven't become a photography ninja as of yet, so I just applied my limited knowledge and took this photo in manual mode with my Nikon 5300D and 18-105 Lens. I was in manual mode on a purpose to learn the ins and outs of exposures. Honestly, this situation called for exposure bracketing, but I just wanted to experiment and see to what extent this otherwise unexciting photo can be recovered in Lightroom to get hands on RAW recovery experience.

Original Image as taken at 1/200 f/9.0 ISO 160

After doing some editing in Lightroom it turned out like this:

Recovered Image in Lightroom.
Place your mouse pointer anywhere on this image to see the original image hidden beneath in layer for easy comparison!

Though zooming right in the recovered areas do expose the noise, I must say the quality of the recovered image is outright acceptable given that this photo had so much shadows in it and if I was shooting JPEG it would have ended up in trash. RAW did more than just impressing me, it convinced me to keep it a standard format on my DSLR: (by moving your mouse over to the edited image) Look specifically those pinkish red buoyancy floats on the boats on the middle left side of the image which were more or less lost in shadows in the original image. Also those beautiful sunlit leaves of the cropped tree on the right side. Even the lens flare in the center right is completely invisible in the original image.

I can totally understand those excited opinions regarding RAW Format. JPEG does have its place in those mass point and shoot occasions or some banal photos. RAW on the other hand is the way to go for me during a thought out shooting walk or when the highest leverage in post processing is necessary. It would have been a fair experiment if I also had an original JPEG image. In that way I would have two originals and two recovered images one from RAW and one from JPEG to compare the recoverability of RAW and JPEG side by side. But from previous experience with JPEG, I can safely say the recovered image might not even come close to what was recovered with RAW here.

You can download the original RAW image here in case you want to experiment yourself with it.

Here is another pair of recovered image from that session. I tried to push the limits of sense to get whatever amount of details I could get but the recovered image has that unnatural over-the-top saturated HDR look.

Just don't overdo it or it'll look like an ugly HDR photo.
Again for the sake of showing the squeezed juice, move your mouse over to see the original unedited image.

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