Getting Your Photo from a RAW File

Photography Masterclass

Photography Masterclass Online Course

Get Instant Access

Unlike TIFF or JPEG, RAW files do not have a universal format. Each camera company has its own proprietary RAW, with unique names, file extensions, and software for opening, editing, and saving the files. For instance, Konica Minolta's RAW files are MRW Nikon's are NEF, Canon's are CR2 and CRW

(Canon's older RAW), and so forth. But it isn't just the names that are different. The actual structure of the format varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. That means you can't even view the pictures you've shot in any of your imaging programs, unless you have the appropriate software.

All cameras that shoot in RAW ship with the necessary proprietary software. However, some companies (such as Nikon) ship what might best be described as RAW Lite, or, little more than a converter utility, viewer, and minimum editing tools. More robust, versatile versions are optional and at extra cost.

Until recently, shooting RAW meant that you couldn't open up your images on any computer that didn't have the right software for your specific camera. If you were on a trip or in someone else's studio and the PC at hand didn't have the right RAW utility installed, you were stuck, shooting blind, uncertain what pictures you had until after you processed them. This was just like the old days of film, when you couldn't inspect your shots until they came out of the darkroom. Luckily, the newest version of Photoshop now opens most RAW file formats. Better yet, Adobe has assured us that they are working on providing support for all RAW file formats as soon as possible. In addition, other software vendors are moving to support RAW (See the sidebar entitled "Should I Use Photoshop's Camera RAW or the Camera Company's RAW Converter)?"

Regardless of which brand or model digital camera you are using, the RAW file conversion utility process (though not the steps) is remarkably similar. The software opens the file and inspects it to ascertain what settings you used to take the picture. That's the starting point only, because you then have lots of options to fine-tune color balance, tonality, exposure, and so on. (See Figures 5-2 and 5-3.)

Figure 5-2: Until recently, simply opening a RAW file required proprietary software, such as this Konica Minolta DiMAGE Viewer, which we used to open and process this picture of Jeremy Kaplan (a PC Magazine editor), which was shot with a Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2.

Figure 5-3: Once the RAW file is brought into the RAW processing interface, the photographer has extensive aesthetic and technical control over her photo. In this figure, notice the depth of information available in the metadata to the right, plus the floating boxes displaying two of the DiMAGE software's precision tools for color and exposure.

Figure 5-3: Once the RAW file is brought into the RAW processing interface, the photographer has extensive aesthetic and technical control over her photo. In this figure, notice the depth of information available in the metadata to the right, plus the floating boxes displaying two of the DiMAGE software's precision tools for color and exposure.

The problem is that RAW utilities are not created equal, and all require a commitment to master and time to use. When affordable desktop photo scanners were first introduced about 15 years ago, we experienced the same kind of chaos and difficulties with their software. Fortunately, the software improved, and the scanner industry eventually developed a standard interface, called TWAIN, that simplified and standardized the scanning process. Hopefully, RAW will follow the scanner experience. If so, the software needed to process and import any RAW file will be available as a universal Photoshop-compatible filter—which means it would work as a plug-in for any photo-editing software.

What is quite interesting about RAW is that almost all the settings you use in the digital camera simply "throw a switch" to alert the software how you will probably want the file processed once you bring it into your computer. What that means is if you choose to shoot the scene as black and white and save it in RAW, when you upload the photo to your computer, you can actually change your mind and decide, after the fact, that you want it to be a full-color picture. In other words, as long as the file is saved in RAW, all captured data will be saved. However, be sure to use the traditional camera /-stop and shutter speeds you want for depth of field and action shots (see Chapter 6) when shooting, because those are not really software switches and cannot be altered effectively in software.

Many of the tools used by conversion utilities look similar to those in photo-editing programs (such as Photoshop). But as we show in Figures 5-4 and 5-5, making the adjustments in the RAW utility yields far superior results to doing it later in the photo editor.

After you have finished editing the picture in the utility, you can (and should) output it into a more universal file format, such as TIFF or JPEG.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Photoshop Secrets

Photoshop Secrets

Are You Frustrated Because Your Graphics Are Not Looking Professional? Have You Been Slaving Over Your Projects, But Find Yourself Not Getting What You Want From Your Generic Graphic Software? Well, youre about to learn some of the secrets and tips to enhance your images, photos and other projects that you are trying to create and make look professional.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment