Exercise: RAW

The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate the processing advantages of RAW, but at the same time, to put these advantages in perspective. Higher image quality from raw is often over-praised. Provided that your camera offers the choice, set it to the combination of RAW plus the highest quality JEPG. This means that each shot will be saved twice, once in raw and also camera processed as a JPEG.

In theory, JPEG compression can introduce artefacts, particularly if it later received strong adjustments in post processing. In practice, with what we will do in this exercise, there will be no noticeable loss of quality.

Plan and shoot three images in three different lighting situations.

One should be in daylight, One in artificial lighting, and One in high dynamic range.

Open and process each pair of images, JPEG and RAW, in your usual image processing software.

Compare the two versions of each scene, paying special attention to:

  • Dynamic Range
  • White Balance and Colour
  • Local adjustments of any kind

What differences, if any, do you see between the JPEG and RAW images.

I used auto white balance for these images. I used light room 4 to process the JPEG and RAW images.

Daylight Images:

RAW

Original Image

raw begin

I opened this image in light room

raw start

There was highlight clipping in the cloud areas, with some loss of detail and information. The image appeared very unsaturated and almost ‘washed out’. When I zoomed into the image, there was a small amount of noise, especially in the darker areas, towards the train tracks.

raw after 2 saturated

I processed the image. I began with an auto tune which took the highlight clipping away and added the saturated blue sky. I then made adjustments to the brightness and contrast. I made adjustments to the colour saturations to make the colours of the plants, flags and the sky, more prominent. I then sharpened the detail in the image.

Final Processed Image:

IMG_5062

JPEG

Original Image

IMG_5062

I opened this image in light room

jpeg start

There was significantly more highlight clipping in the cloud areas, compared with the RAW image. There was loss of detail and information. The image appeared very unsaturated and almost ‘washed out’. When I zoomed into the image, there was a small amount of noise, especially in the darker areas, towards the train tracks.

jpeg after

I processed the image, trying to keep the image as similar to the RAW image as possible. I began with an auto tune which took the highlight clipping away and added the saturated blue sky. I then made adjustments to the brightness and contrast. I made adjustments to the colour saturations to make the colours of the plants, flags and the sky, more prominent. I then sharpened the detail in the image, just like I had performed on the RAW image.

Final Processed Image:

IMG_5062

IMG_5062IMG_5062

Comparing both of these images after they have been processed, I can see a large difference. The JPEG is the image that is closer to the situation at the time, however, the sky was not that bold blue colour, it was more of the colour in the RAW image. I feel that the RAW image had retained the most detail and information, compared to the JPEG. The detail in the RAW image is more sharped and clearer, however, there is more noise. I was able to retrieve lost information in the cloud area in the RAW image, but was less fortunate with the JPEG image.

raw cloudsjpeg clouds

This was a difficult image to process because of the colour more than anything. The RAW image looked darker to me no matter how much I adjusted the contrast, brightness etc. The sky in the JPEG image was hard to adjust. I tried adjusting all of the hue, saturation and brightness, however, it still retained the bold blue tone that it has. There are qualities in both images that I really like. I think that if I spent more time processing each, I would end up with more similar images. This image has taught me that in this type of situation, it would be best to shoot in the RAW+JPEG format. That way, when it comes to processing the images, you have more of a choice.

High Dynamic Range Images:

RAW

Original Image

RAW Begining

I opened this image in light room

RAW start

There was highlight clipping in the window area. When I zoomed into the image, there was noise. The red colour of the paint was slightly too dark, and would need lightening. The image was also off centre, and would need straightening, and a small amount of cropping.

RAw after

I began by straightening the image, which cropped some of the edges. I then auto tuned the image. I adjusted the saturation of the red colouring, in order to make it more brighter. I then adjusted some of the brightness and contrast. I sharpened the image to refine the detail. When I zoomed into the image, I could see a lot of noise.

Final Processed Image:

IMG_5079

JPEG

Original Image

IMG_5079

I opened this image in light room

jpeg start

There was significantly more highlight clipping in this image, compared to the RAW image. The red colour was also dark, and would need brightening and saturating.

jpeg after

I tired to keep the processing the same as with the RAW image, in order to produce a similar final image. I began by straightening the image, which cropped some of the edges. I then auto tuned the image. I adjusted the saturation of the red colouring, in order to make it more brighter. I then adjusted some of the brightness and contrast. I sharpened the image to refine the detail. The detail was not as sharp as the RAW image. When I zoomed into the image, I could a small amount of noise.

Final Processed Image:

IMG_5079

IMG_5079IMG_5079

Comparing both of these processed images, I can see that they are very similar, the only differences being a slight variant in the colour of the red and the wall behind. The RAW image is the closest to the situation at the time. The RAW image had retained the most detail and information, compared to the JPEG image, however, I am surprised by how sharp the detail is in the JPEG image. It wasn’t until I zoomed into both of the images, that I could see slightly sharper detailing in the RAW image, otherwise, they are both very sharp.

raw zoom noisejpeg zoom noise

With this image, I have learnt that it would be ok to use RAW or JPEG, as the results are very similar. If you want sharper detail, then use the RAW format, otherwise, JPEG would be just as good.

Artificial light Images:

RAW

Original Image

raw orig

I opened this image in light room

raw start

There was highlight clipping in the light bulb area, with slight shadow clipping in the frame area.

raw after

I processed this image only slightly. I began by using an auto tune. I then adjusted the brightness and contrast in order to discard the highlight clipping. I then sharpened the image, in order to make the detail sharper, especially around the light bulb area.

Final Processed Image:

IMG_5157

JPEG

Original Image

IMG_5157

I opened this image in light room

jpeg start

The JPEG image has slightly more highlight clipping in the bulb area compared to the RAW image.

raw after

I processed this image the same as the RAW image, in order to make the final results as similar as possible.

Final Processed Image:

IMG_5157

IMG_5157IMG_5157

Comparing both of these image, I can’t see much of a difference. The RAW image is slightly darker, and the detail is only slightly more sharper, when zoomed in on the image. This situation has also taught me that it is ok to use either RAW or JPEG, as the final results are similar. However, I do believe that I could have better results if I chose a better situation or location with artificial lighting to shoot. I wanted to keep my ‘Train’ theme continuous. I chose this image because I took this whilst stood in a train carriage doorway. I was unable to take a picture of the artificial lights on the train carriage, due to it being busy and in sunlight.

Conclusion:

This exercise has taught me that using RAW produces images similar to JPEG. Some of the differences between RAW and JPEG images are ever so slight, you can argue whether or not shooting RAW is worth it in the end. Shooting RAW allows you to retrieve lost data and information, which you may not be able to do in a JPEG image, for example; you can see with the clouds in the daylight images I took, I was unable to retrieve information in the JPEG clouds, however, I was able to in the RAW clouds. I read an interesting article online written by Ken Rockwell. Rockwell mainly shoots using JPEG, “…If you shoot hundreds or thousands of images in a day shoot JPG and don’t worry. The quality is the same for almost all intents and purposes as raw … I almost never shoot anything in raw, and when I do I never see any difference for all the effort I wasted anyway. (I can see differences if I blow things up to 100% or bigger on my computer, but not in prints.)” Ken Rockwell.

I somewhat agree with Rockwell. I have only shot using JPEG, simply because I was apprehensive to use RAW, as I am still learning to use light room, and my version of Photoshop will not let me process RAW images. I usually use my practical photography magazine, online forums or google, in order to help me learn how to process my images. Rockwell does go on to discuss how RAW files need certain processing software in order to for you to process them, which takes up time. Therefore, I agree with him that if you want to shoot hundreds of images, then shoot JPEG. JPEG allow you to process them just as well as RAW files do, and you end up with similar results. If you want to spend more time processing your images, and you are looking for a more ‘Professional, sharper detailed’ image, then use RAW.

I am still unsure whether or not I will continue to shoot using only RAW. I think that shooting using JPEG+RAW is the best option. I hope this set of exercises and assignments will help teach me some more and I will be able to reach a conclusion.

 References:

JPG vs RAW, Get it Right the First Time, Online Article. 09 January2009, KenRockwell.com.

http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/raw.htm

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