This issue, Michael Freeman explores how to make the most out of the data in your RAW files
Get more from your RAW files with Michael Freeman’s guide to the best way to recover missing details in shots
Some people say processing, others say editing, and yet others say post-processing, but whatever terminology you use, this is essentially an activity that you
carry out on RAW files. You can work on JPEGs and TIFFs in apparently similar ways, often with the same software tools, but only a RAW file has the depth of information that enables different interpretations of an image without any loss of image quality.
As we saw in issue 40’s article on RAW vs JPEG, the captured image – whether you shoot in RAW or JPEG – has to undergo basic processing to deliver a viewable image. The difference is that if you shoot in RAW, you can do all this processing, and more, using software that’s more capable than the camera’s. Here we’ll show you the essential techniques for getting the most out of a RAW image file.
RAW-processing software has benefited from lots of improvements over the last few years, and this will continue. These improvements have been in two main areas: the number of tools available, and the quality of the edited image. However, a lot of what goes on during this processing is concealed in various ways, not because software companies are trying to hide anything, but because it keeps things more user-friendly. Given the complexity of the computing involved this isn’t a bad idea, as most of us would rather get on with taking pictures, but it does cause some confusion. With so many sliders doing apparently similar things, which ones should you use, and in what order?
Probably the most widely used RAW processing software is Adobe Camera RAW, or ACR, which is used in both Lightroom and Photoshop, and this is the one we show here to keep things simple, but that’s not to say other options aren’t as good – these days, the standard of RAW-processing software is pretty high across the board.