Friday, October 30, 2009

Shoot Raw But Make A Copy? Why?

I look at more and more demos and tutorials where the person says the first thing to do once you've opened an image is hit CRTL J and make a copy of your background layer. Some will tell you to save the file under a new name. That's fine if you shoot in JPEG format, but is a waste of time if you shoot in RAW. One of the first things you learn about RAW files is that you can't make permanent changes to them. If you look in an application like Adobe Lightroom you can see that you have a "history list" of everything you've done to the image. You can get back to square one during this session, tomorrow, next week, or next year. Any changes are still there. Press CRTL "E" and bring the modified image into Adobe Photoshop. It's still a RAW file. You still cannot permanently change the base file. Do whatever you want to it. Crop, swap heads, change colors, add text or clipart, warp, skew or scale using Free Transform, screw it up until it's unrecognizable. It's okay. Once you're finished doing what you're going to do, just "Save" it. Don't worry about "Save As", just a plan vanilla "Save". Before your head explodes, remember one thing. Say it with me " You cannot change the base RAW file". That's RAW files 101. No changes allowed. So, what happens when you hit the "Save" button? If you use Lightroom, switch over to it and watch your original RAW file. Poof, right next to it another file is magically created and populated with your changes. Hover your cursor over the new image and whichever setting you've selected (PSD or layered TIFF) shows up as the name of the new file. Something like "Tom 267 PSD Edit". Just remember, a RAW file is a RAW file IS a RAW file. It never changes. Enough of a rant, if you'd like to learn a little about today's image, hit the "read more".

Today's image is a simple reflection of fall foliage interspersed with the predominate pines. There's two way to approach this type of shot. One would be to go crazy with the color and highly saturate the scene. Another would be to go very soft on the colors and let the reflection speak for itself. I looked at both and today's final image is the results of a lot of contemplation and rumination. It wasn't an easy decision, based on my past performance of being very heavy handed with the saturation. What you see is the muted colors. You might be able to imagine what the bright colors looked like.

Color is such a subjective thing in photography. There are some things that require "proper" color such as skin tones. There are times when the project itself requires "proper" color. If you're shooting Fred's Sweater Emporium's rose colored, top of the line, sweater, you'd better be right on the money with the color or you might not get "the money". As long as the aim of the image is artistic, "proper" color is pretty much whatever the "artist" thinks looks good. Now, you're not going to be able to convince anyone that you really meant the model's face was, in your opinion, supposed to be orange, but using Hue/Saturation to make her/his shirt blue rather than yellow shouldn't be a problem. That would be an artistic decision. Maybe yellow would clash with the surroundings and blue would complement it. So, make it blue. You might get some funny looks if you were shooting a client for money. They might screw up their faces and say "but I don't have a shirt that color".

So, today's image is an abstract and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.