If you are new to photography like I was, I found I was processing/editing my images and dealing with JPEG file types. But as my time progressed and I learned how to take pictures in manual mode l heard more people talking about RAW files which I learned to be very similar to an old film negative where there has been very little processing done by the camera. A JPEG on the other hand will have been edited and compressed by your camera this therefore leaves little room for post processing. RAW files allow you to add your own create style to enhance pictures, while playing and understanding exposure, contrast and colour which helped improve my understanding of my cameras settings and what I should tweak while out taking pictures with the added benefit of less time in front of the computer post processing/editing.
What is a RAW file?
A RAW file is a lot larger than a JPEG and the files tend to come in the format CR2, NEF, ARW etc this depends on the camera type you have. RAW files also have a secondary separate file XMP (Extensible Metadata Platform) which holds the information about any changes made to the RAW file. These files are created when you open a RAW file quite often these are present on your computer but might not be displayed (Hidden).
Note: When taking pictures in RAW you may find the pictures you view on your cameras LCD will be different to what you upload to your computer. The camera will display the pictures more like a JPEG format.
Now to view RAW pictures you will require a program on your computer. I started out with a program called GIMP which is free but to use this for editing images I had to convert them first, to a RAW file GIMP could recognise now you have an option to download a plugin for GIMP called UFRaw. GIMP is a great way to learn photoshop, as the screen layout is almost identical and it is free. I eventually did progress to photoshop but sometimes still head back to GIMP to edit pictures. (Adobe Bridge or Lightroom are file management systems and help organise your pictures. Lightroom is a lot more extensive). Most cameras that allow you save your images in a RAW format will come with their own software to edit the images. If like me you are using a DJI drone to take your pictures and you want 20% off adobe creative cloud check out this article!!
Once you have your chosen program and opened your RAW file I would aim to edit the following points:
- White balance
- Basic exposure adjustment
- Lens correction
- Noise Reduction
- Localised adjustments
These are the points I was taught to remember, the order of which may not matter, as little bits may need tweaking here and there once you have changed various points.
A worked Example,
I located my .DNG file as I have taken this picture with a DJI phantom 4 drone. (DJI prefer the .DNG file type). There are differences between .DNG files and RAW files. A .DNG file has the XMP file merged together so there is only one file. (A lot better for file management). Make sure your .DNG files are backed up and you only edit copies, when originals files have been modified and saved there is no going back.
I find my DNG file and open the image file using Adobe camera RAW
- Using the white balance selector tool I would aim for an object I knew was white, black or grey until I was happy.
- Next using the exposure adjustment option and with the help of the histogram I would adjust the exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites and black sliders. Again until I was happy with how the image started to look.
- I would then play with the Clarity (midtones), Vibrance (helps with balancing the weaker colors) and Saturation(will increase all of the colors in the picture)
- Adjust for lens correction to assure my lines and horizons were straight.
- Adjust for sharpness and noise reduction.
- Localised adjustments with the adjustment brush tool, graduated filter toolradial filter toolAdjustment brush allows a painting action, Graduated filter for a large region and radial filter tool to create a round selection and make the changes inside or outside.
- Choose the spot removal tool and move down to the type, this allows you to Heal or clone
Note: As with any type of digital work never save or overwrite your original file save a copy as you want a back up to return to if everything goes horribly wrong. I have taught myself a lot about Photoshop and photography but if you would like a helping hand I can recommend the Shawacademy, they have helped me progress a lot and I have signed up as a lifetime member. If you would like to read my review you can Click Here