Bite Size Tips: The Truth About Shooting In Raw


You have probably heard the general advice in photography that you should almost always shoot in raw format. Why? Simple – raw files hold a lot more information than jpegs so you can do more with them in post-production.

The problem is that when you open up a raw file, it's often pretty drab, even when you have that perfect, bell-shaped histogram (meaning you exposed your images properly). Don't sweat it, that is perfectly normal for raw files to look a little dull.

So what can you do about it? 

Well, in general terms there are a few common edits that help most raw files pop a little more, though you should defer to your personal judgement primarily. Also, the type of image you took will have a massive impact on how you decide to edit it (landscapes versus portraits for example). But these quick little Lightroom edits will probably help.

  1. Whites Slider – Hold down the option key and take the white slider to the right until you start seeing blow outs – then back to the left slightly so you don't keep the blow outs.
  2. Blacks Slider – Hold down the option key and take the black slider to the left until you see clipping. Then back to the right so you don't keep the clipping.
  3. Clarity – Jack it up slightly to give a little punch to your mid tones. It should increase contrast in those areas primarily.
  4. Vibrance – Bringing up the vibrance will increase the intensity of the more muted colours. Don't go overboard.
  5. Saturation – Bringing up the saturation will increase the intensity of all colours. Go easy with this one. What does this do? Nothing extreme, just a bit more punch, like this:

That's about it in general terms. You don't want to go crazy with any of these ideas – it's just a general way to give a little more punch to most raw files. As always, use your own creativity to build on this.

And if you really want to dig deeper, you might want to take a look at Effortless Editing by Josh Dunlop that goes right down the rabbit hole and takes a look at a lot of very specific edits you should be considering.

About Author

Dahlia is a stock photographer and full time educator at Light Stalking. You can find her on Gurushots and see some of her more popular articles at The American Society of Media Photographers. Get to know her better here.

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