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how to process your raw photos

this isn't your ultimate guide to raw editing. rather a quick tutorial to clear things up and get you up-to-speed in raw processing. meanwhile, this is the right place to GET 10 DAYS OF FREE _SHMO SUBSCRIPTION and win your life back

Do you shoot in raw format?

There is no need to feel bad if you don't. Most serious photographers shoot raw, but there are some who prefer jpegs. And there is nothing wrong with either choice because, like most things in photography, every choice you make is the best one if it serves your goals and fits your style.

What is a raw photo, afterall?

Imagine all the light that hits your sensor and all those micro photo diodes get excited, actually converting the light energy levels to electric signals. Those signals are processed internally by your camera processor and stored in a file (just like a computer does). This file contains all data captured by your camera, influenced by capture parameters (length of exposure, lens, sensor technology etc.).

There are ample materials to read if you must thoroughly understand how all this works. A starting point could be the Wikipedia page on image sensors. But, if you're like us and you care more about photography than technical details, let's assume that raw files contains everything that hit the sensor. Simple enough?

What's a jpeg, then?

In-camera jpeg files are what camera software thinks your photo should be, considering your settings and all the other adjustments made by the camera software: colour decisions, lens errors compensation, contrast and sharpness and lots more. Even if you set your camera to shoot jpeg, it still create a raw file internally and use processing algorithms to create a final jpeg. Hence, raw processing!

RAW is pretty much everything that hit the camera sensor!

Do I need raw?

The answer could be yes or no. Raw has it's benefits and drawbacks so let's first review the disadvantages of shooting raw photos!

Benefits of raw versus jpeg files

There are also good reasons to use raw and these can compensate the disadvantages! It's all about your choice, as you will soon begin to understand!

So what should I choose between raw and jpeg?

It all depends on image destination, personal style and willingness to spend time in front of the computer.

Leave raw processing to us! Subscribe to our mailing list and win 10 days of full _shmo raw editing power and all extra goodies!

Let's say you are a casual shooter. In other words, you shoot for yourself, without any concerns for image quality other than pleasing your eyes. If this is your case, then we suggest to set your jpeg settings in camera to what's looking good for you. Most current cameras have settings for different shooting conditions and you can play with them to find what suits you best.

If you're more of a serious photographer, either amateur or earning a living from your photographic passion, then raw can help you to create more tuned final images, with settings that helps your photos to look better on print or screen.

Either way, it's a matter of personal choice. Don't let anybody say you're not a good photographer if you shoot jpegs. We've met incredible talented photographers shooting jpegs (meet Hajdu Tamas). And you can easily find dull uninspired images shot in raw and badly processed into jpegs.

What are the requirements for raw editing?

You definitely need a computer. A faster one (speedier processor, 16GB or more of RAM, SSD as storage) will help you process many images (think wedding photography) with less time lost during processing and faster image-to-image editing.

The most important hardware component of raw processing is the monitor. We recommend you quality screens that can display at least full sRGB or even AdobeRGB (a must for demanding photographers). If you don't see the real image (because the monitor can't display it properly) you can't process your raw files accurately. In other words, if you don't have a good editing monitor, you will not trully know how your images will look on paper or on other people's displays (think phones). On the latest smartphones there is a strong trend towards accurate colour rendering so if you care about your photos, you should use the most capable monitor you can buy. We use BenQ SW monitors and we are thrilled with the quality of the build and the colour reproduction abilities.

Last (but not least), use a capable raw processing software. There are some free ones and some commercial ones. We trust Capture One editing software because it proved to have the best raw conversion algorithms, outputing the finest jpegs in the industry. Other choices could be Adobe Lightroom, DxO PhotoLab Elite, Serif Affinity Photo or the software that you received with your camera. Keep in mind that there are differences between free and paid software and photographers tend to use one of the two: Lightroom or Capture One.

Ok, how do I process my raw photos?

Let's details the needed steps to process (or develop) your raw photo into a proper jpeg.

  1. Open (import) your raw into your desired raw processor
  2. Crop and/or rotate the image to give a sense of equilibrium and to bring your focus points closer to thirds (read more about rule of thirds here)
  3. Adjust the white balance. It's best to do this right after cropping, as white balance adjustments can (and will) affect your exposure. You can make use of the white balance picker, click on neutral areas (white, grays or blacks) and refine the white balance using the two sliders (kelvin and tint) or the more advanced HSL controls.
  4. Adjust exposure. This is where things can get a little complicated, due to the many exposure affecting parameters. You can use exposure slider or brightness, or you can drag the level tool endpoints. In Capture One you have also the Courve tool (similar to Photoshop). Each tool has it's benefits and allows you to fine-tune your photo brightness to the desired levels. There is no bad or good practices, only your eyes, taste and experience will tell you when you reached the optimal exposure setting.
  5. Use highlight or shadow recovery to bring back details (if possible) in brightest or darkest areas. Don't overdo it, otherwise your image will end-up looking a bit cartoonish.
  6. Adjust contrast to your taste.

    You can stop here with image adjustments and export your image choosing carefully all involved parameters (image naming and location, metadata included in jpeg header, final output sharpness depending on screen or print destination, color space, jpeg compression and other important details).

    Or you can add some fine touches before making the final export:
  7. noise reduction or the opposite (add noise)
  8. vigneting can draw attention to the center of the image
  9. local adjustments by creating layers in Capture One and adjust any color, exposure or other parameters only to a specific area of the image
  10. apply styles (presets) to your image (we use Mastin Labs excelent presets)

For the purist photographers, image processing isn't something inherently bad. Photographers always did it to certain degrees. Nowadays you get these fancy software tools to alter exposure, contrast and colour but these adjustments were always made using various techniques in the darkroom.

As you can see, raw processing is all about having control over the raw conversion to the widely used jpeg. It isn't something scary or hard to do but it takes time to master and all about it is subjective in nature. You can do it by yourself.

Or you can leave raw processing to us!

We take raw editing to the next level. That's why we have prepared a 10 days subscription free to our services. It's like earning a 35 EUR prize!, no string attached, nothing to fear!

First, we would like you to take a tour of our editing services and see if they fit your needs!

Key features to remember!

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Read _shmo user manual and see that you can regain control of your life using our services! Be that James Bond of photographers with fast delivery and happy clients! Just 7 (SEVEN) days and your images are beautifully edited in your own style or even better! Upload your catalog to us and have your edits ready in maximum 7 days, at really low prices and with great quality attached!

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