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Post Processing and RAW Files

Why shoot RAW and why should I post process?

When you take photos it is easy to make mistakes. You could get the exposure wrong, not be level or even slightly out of focus. Most problems can be remedied to a certain degree during post processing, although its a balancing act. Push too far and you can cause more issues than you started with.

In order to get the most from post processing you need to use RAW files. This is the unprocessed and ‘raw’ data from your camera when you take a photo. When you shoot a JPEG file what you camera actually does is capture the raw data, and then processes it into a JPEG file. A normal JPEG will have the colours for each pixel set by the camera, using the sharpening, contrast and other settings defined by the manufacturer, depending on the option you choose when setting your camera up.

This limits the changes you can make post process as you only have a limited amount of pixel information remaining. When it comes to post processing the more information you have the better. Shooting in RAW means your file sizes will increase, but you aren’t losing any information from each shot.

Photo under or over exposed? You can freely change the exposure by almost 2 stops provided you don’t ‘clip’ a colour channel. Noise in the photo? You can add smoothing with more control and less chance of artefacts when using a RAW file. This is because you have more detailed information available for your choice of software to alter.

The end results of a well processed image can be drastically different from the original file (example above), however it is worth remember not to push an image too far as you can ruin a photo if you are not careful. This is another reason to shoot in RAW, as any changes made are non-destructive meaning you do not alter the original data captured. Any changes are stored as a log meaning you can roll back at any point.

In summary, good post processing is a necessary skill to develop if you are serious about photography, it certainly beats using the filters on Instagram!