A S C R A P B O O K O F S O L U T I O N S F O R T H E P H O T O G R A P H E R
Enhancing the enjoyment of taking pictures with news that matters, features that entertain and images that delight. Published frequently.
7 March 2017
We were, for a time yesterday, fixated on the storm clouds moving south over the ocean. They were enormous, casting dramatic dark shadows on the water. Then we looked to our left at the ridge.
Those trees look like lace against the bright sky as it darkens and threatens them. The houses on the hill take the full brunt of the wind out of the north, which can turbo-charge a 20 mph gust to 60 mph as it comes up the valley.
We composed a diagonal scene. Storm in the top right corner. City in the bottom left. A bright band separating them. Briefly.
There is more data in a Raw file than you can see at once.
It's the perfect case for a Raw capture. A JPEG capture -- say, from a smartphone -- would not preserve the detail in the houses on the hill or the bright clouds. In some cases, like our image, it would preserve neither. Typically the brightest parts of a scene are rendered pure white with no detail at all.
But with a Raw capture, you can choose what to preserve yourself. We worked hard to deliver detail in the hill but we didn't light it up. We kept it dark.
And with that accomplished, we worked on the highlights, leaving the brightest white alone and darkening the other highlights to give the clouds the body they had.
There is more data in a Raw file than you can see at once. So using sliders to reveal what's there helps. Curves works too. You'll be amazed at how many more tones and colors are there if you've only worked with JPEGs.
The tones are simply the range from black through the grays to white, how much of each. And because those tones are filtered red, green and blue for each channel, when you shift the tones in each channel independently you are also changing the mix of red, green and blue and therefore the color.
You end up with a 24-bit JPEG, exactly the same amount of data as a smartphone would save, with red, green and blue 8-bit channels. In fact, in the rollover above you can compare our Raw edit with an Auto JPEG of the same image. The camera saves a JPEG thumbnail with the Raw file, from which we derived our comparison JPEG.
But which tones are in each channel, and therefore which colors are in the image, we manually selected in post processing to optimized the image.
And it shows.