Friday, July 20, 2012

Working With RAW Files In Photoshop CS6

I was over at a friend's studio the other day and as I got there she was working on one of her amazing images.  Great photographer, great post processor, she just comes up with images that blow me away.  Some are amazing in their simplicity, some in their attention to the fine details, some in content, others in concept, but always something that makes you say "WOW".  We were sitting around, flipping through some of her recent shoots when I stopped her and said a particular shot had some great potential.  She decided we should kick it around, tossing each of our ideas around to see what we could come up with.  That's when the fight started.  Here's this lovely woman and we almost came to a fist fight... over RAW file handling.  ???

We co-developed the image in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 until we wanted to take it into Adobe Photoshop CS6.  The first thing she did to the modified, but still a RAW file was save it under another name.  The second thing was to make a copy of the Background Layer.  Then the verbal  fists began flying.  I asked what the heck was she doing.  Her reply was that she wanted to save the original file and she "always" worked on a copy.  Then she "always" made a copy of her Background Layer so she could get back to "ground zero" if she really made a hash of things.

We probably spent a half hour debating RAW files 101.  Whenever I do any one on one teaching I try to use a "guided discovery" style.  One of the first things you hear when you start using RAW files is that a RAW file (and I can't stress this enough) cannot be altered.  Short of tossing a grenade into your computer, a RAW file is a RAW file is a RAW file.  It's always going to be a RAW file.  In LR4 you can make nondestructive adjustments, but you have the ability to hit the Reset button and get back to the As Shot condition.  The RAW file is always there.

When you take a RAW file into CS6 (or any PS version that supports Raw files) the original RAW file stays put, if it's coming from LR4 (or any version of Lightroom) or from Adobe Bridge.  You can add Layers, Filters, Adjustment Layers, clip things to specific Layers, Liquefy parts of the image, turn it upside down, flip it horizontally and whatever other torture you'd like to apply to the image.  But (and this is the key) when you do a simple Save (not Save As) you wind up with another file sitting right next to the original RAW file. 

It goes back to the fact that a RAW file cannot be changed.  In my own workflow I bounce back and forth from LR4 to PSCS6 multiple times.  Every time I bring the latest iteration of what can best be done in LR4 into PSCS6 and Save it back to LR4 I get a new file.  I end up with 123.ABC.tif_Edit, Edit Edit, Edit Edit Edit, etc.  I saw a limit of three (Edit Edit Edit) in PSCS5, but haven't found a limit in PSCS6.  It just keeps going.

BTW:  Today's image IS NOT the photographer talked about in today's post.  It was just used to get your attention.  She was at a Renaissance Faire, hence the costume.