October 21, 2009

The RAW Deal

As you know, I've been shooting individual photos in RAW lately. Given the ongoing debate between RAW vs JPEG photography, it was worth getting my feet wet with a few shots. Alas, RAW photography isn't everything that it's cracked up to be - at least, not with my current software.

Before you start throwing tomatoes at me, let me explain the reasoning behind my conclusion. After I download a RAW image to my PC, I convert it to DNG format using Adobe's free Digital Negative Converter. Next, I open the DNG file in Photoshop Elements 4.0 and make the necessary changes before finally saving the file as a JPEG. Keep in mind that upon initially opening the DNG file, a window opens where I can make changes which don't subtract from the quality of the file. This is a clear advantage over editing a JPEG file, where every edit takes away from its quality.

Unfortunately for me, the advantages end here. Since there is no direct option in Elements 4.0 to save a DNG as a JPEG, I have to work around that issue by saving for the web. Even though I always save it as a maximum-quality JPEG, my dpi is sharply reduced to 96. That's a very low value compared to the 300 that a normal JPEG gives me and the 240 in a DNG file.

The disadvantages don't stop there, neither. When I upload a 96-dpi JPEG to Flickr, no properties (things like ISO, aperture and whatnot) are available for viewing. I'm all about details when it comes to my work; I simply cannot accept the fact that the information behind any photograph is invisible. I might as well keep it on my PC instead of uploading it.

Having said all of that, there is one way that I can work around these problems: use the in-camera editing software on the RAW file, then save it as a JPEG for further editing. Even with this extra step, I retain my 300-dpi advantage. Going forward, this is only way that I'll be shooting and processing RAW files...at least, until I get software that doesn't strip information from photographs.

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