Shooting in the

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Well, no, you don't have to walk around wearing only your camera when you take photographs. I'm referring to shooting photos in the raw format with your digital camera. Today's digital SLR and advanced compact cameras (also called prosumer because their features are in-between "pro" and "consumer") can capture images in raw format, leaving the enhancements up to the digital photographer. That unprocessed image file — a digital negative — provides more artistic control. An example is the image shown in Figure 1-1.

Unprocessed raw image Processed in Camera Raw and

Photoshop CS2

Figure 1-1: Raw format gives photographers more creative control in processing images.

Unprocessed raw image Processed in Camera Raw and

Photoshop CS2

Figure 1-1: Raw format gives photographers more creative control in processing images.

Why raw?

As a photographer, I shoot in raw format because it gives me better creative control over the image data captured by my digital camera. Raw format gives me an image file created exactly as the digital camera's sensor captured it. I can adjust white balance, tint, brightness/contrast, and hue/saturation exactly the way I want. I don't have to settle for what my digital camera's firmware (built-in internal software) does to the image.

As an added bonus, shooting images in raw format gives me a huge advantage over JPEG: I can correct nearly any incorrect exposure or off-kilter white balance I may have made while shooting. Don't get me wrong, getting the correct exposure and white balance is still just good photographic practice and well worth the effort — you have less tweaking to do later — but sometimes, when you're out in the field taking photos and (say) that bright green UFO lands right over there, you may have to shoot first and ask questions later.

Also, getting an accurate reading of the exposure is tricky if you're simply squinting at the images you've just taken (and their tiny histograms) on your digital camera's LCD screen — especially if you're shooting outdoors on a bright, sunny day. When you download those images to your computer and view them in Photoshop, you may discover that your image is either under-or overexposed. (It happens!) Raw format lets you use the capabilities of Photoshop to compensate for under- or overexposed photos without degrading the quality of the image. It's a nice backup if you ever need it.

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