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04-10-2012, 07:35 PM   #1
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Is it possible to have a perfect RAW photo?

Is it possible to have a perfect RAW photo? Or does it have to be fiddled with (white balance ect) when its converted to JPEG?
And also do we rely too heavily on post processing and consider it normal?

I started playing with film cameras again, suddenly all the DSLR stuff I take for granted now seems rather fiddly. Do they actually design the camera to produce a perfect RAW image so long as the exposure is correct, or is it deliberately intended to be adjusted either by the camera or PP afterwards?

I seem to recall correctly framing the photo when I took it rather than rotating or cropping after and getting the exposure right the first time to be standard procedure back in the day, no color adjustments necessary. With digital I feel like I've gotten lazy and sloppy all of a sudden.

04-10-2012, 07:43 PM   #2
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Great question. I sometimes wonder whether we are supposed to view RAW images or just use them as a starting point for tinkering. It may not even need that much post processing - or as others have noted in other posts the in camera may do enough without further tinkering, but it seems that most images need something to get them back to what we were viewing before we took the picture. That said - I never processed my own color negs or prints, so I don't know how much tinkering the average person did in the darkroom, or when working with a developer. I know on a few occasions I got them to tweak the dials a certain way to enhance the images - and I suppose that too qualifies as post-processing.

I'm looking forward to seeing further replies.
04-10-2012, 07:56 PM   #3
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If you shoot jpeg, the RAW is developed according to the parameters the camera manufacturer established. In recent Pentax cameras, you can tweak the settings the jpeg engine uses to cook the RAW into the final image but still you are relying on the camera to do your processing.

By shooting RAW you take on the responsibility of applying adjustments to the RAW to obtain an image that suits you. Whether you can do better than the camera jpeg engine is sometimes debatable (at least using my skill set).

That said I do think it is too easy to say "I'll get close and fix it in PP." I have been trying much harder to get it right the first time, in camera rather than taking a bunch of snaps and then working on them in LightRoom.

I guess a perfect RAW would mean no PP required, but the camera processes all images when it makes jpegs so is it realistic to think a RAW would require no PP? I have a standard preset I apply to all RAW images as they are imported to tweak curves, saturation, etc. If the preset ends up not requiring any additional processing I guess that is 'perfect'.
04-10-2012, 08:13 PM   #4
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I think something else to remember that I was surprised to discover some people don't know is that RAW is an uncompressed image file, JPEG (.JPG) is simply one format of compressed image that became the most popular around the time the internet started because it worked well, no more or less. A .RAW (or .DNG or whatever raw format) image that is compressed into a .JPG image should look identical in every way except for loss of quality depending on the amount of compression applied (like when you save in PP) The fact that camera manufacturers choose to use the conversion to JPEG as the time to do all the fiddling is purely their decision.

You'd think if the camera were doing its job of collecting light correctly and the photographer didn't screw anything up that the raw file would be a perfect finished product, only higher quality for lack of ever being compressed.

04-10-2012, 08:17 PM   #5
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To take one example (and likely the most important one) since the DR of film maybe less than desired one has to modify the film by pre-exposing it, or modifying the development process. With digital although less can be done, by exposing to the right (purposely getting to light an image) one can then adjust the raw file. In that sense you are using the medium as best you can--which does not mean no pp, rather it means the most appropriate/advantagous pp.
04-10-2012, 08:20 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by PPPPPP42 Quote
I think something else to remember that I was surprised to discover some people don't know is that RAW is an uncompressed image file, JPEG (.JPG) is simply one format of compressed image that became the most popular around the time the internet started because it worked well, no more or less. A .RAW (or .DNG or whatever raw format) image that is compressed into a .JPG image should look identical in every way except for loss of quality depending on the amount of compression applied (like when you save in PP) The fact that camera manufacturers choose to use the conversion to JPEG as the time to do all the fiddling is purely their decision.

You'd think if the camera were doing its job of collecting light correctly and the photographer didn't screw anything up that the raw file would be a perfect finished product, only higher quality for lack of ever being compressed.
JPG became the defacto compressed standard because GIF, which I believe predates JPG, was owned by Compuserve and they worked hard to protect and license their IP. For non-compressed images, I believe TIFF is still the standard.

Not sure if I agree with the last sentence. Yes, the camera should produce a good image - but not necessarily perfect. If you go back to thinking about film - even for a fixed ISO, Kodak and Fuji (and others) would have a range of films that would handle different colors differently. I remember the Fuji film being great for greens but washed out for blues. The camera has to do a certain amount of work to "fake" ISO settings, determine metering etc. So while it can "mimic" different types of films, it doesn't mean that it always gets the settings right, any more than one kind of film or developer would be perfect for every shot or print.
04-10-2012, 08:24 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by PPPPPP42 Quote
I think something else to remember that I was surprised to discover some people don't know is that RAW is an uncompressed image file, JPEG (.JPG) is simply one format of compressed image that became the most popular around the time the internet started because it worked well, no more or less. A .RAW (or .DNG or whatever raw format) image that is compressed into a .JPG image should look identical in every way except for loss of quality depending on the amount of compression applied (like when you save in PP) The fact that camera manufacturers choose to use the conversion to JPEG as the time to do all the fiddling is purely their decision.

You'd think if the camera were doing its job of collecting light correctly and the photographer didn't screw anything up that the raw file would be a perfect finished product, only higher quality for lack of ever being compressed.
Unfortunately you are completely wrong.

RAW file is just a RAW data from sensor. It must be developed.
04-10-2012, 08:25 PM   #8
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Would you settle for "decent" finished product? I suppose perfect was a bit strong of a word considering the advantage of a range of film as you say.
I have the impression that the raw from a DSLR is more like an unsanded piece of wood furniture, sure you might stain it or paint it this way or that after but the least the camera could do is finish the product first. But then I do have limited experience with RAW so maybe many RAW images do work out as is.

EDIT:
QuoteOriginally posted by Edvinas Quote
RAW file is just a RAW data from sensor. It must be developed.
Hmm, I was under a total misconception there, good to know. Which changes my question more from "perfect raw" to just getting it right in the first conversion as opposed to having to fix it and tweak it constantly.


Last edited by PPPPPP42; 04-10-2012 at 08:34 PM.
04-10-2012, 08:28 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by MSL Quote
JPG became the defacto compressed standard because GIF, which I believe predates JPG, was owned by Compuserve and they worked hard to protect and license their IP. For non-compressed images, I believe TIFF is still the standard.
Jpeg replaced GIF because it was designed to work with photographs in mind. GIF works great with graphics, but not with photographs. GIFs have an 8 bit color depth (they can only hold 256 colors), while JPEG has a color depth of 24 bits (16 million colors).

TIFF is the basis for RAW file formats. Just about every RAW format is a variant of TIFF.
04-10-2012, 08:41 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by PPPPPP42 Quote
Would you settle for "decent" finished product? I suppose perfect was a bit strong of a word considering the advantage of a range of film as you say.
I have the impression that the raw from a DSLR is more like an unsanded piece of wood furniture, sure you might stain it or paint it this way or that after but the least the camera could do is finish the product first. But then I do have limited experience with RAW so maybe many RAW images do work out as is.
I would say that analogy is quite appropriate. The jpeg then would be a piece of IKEA furniture. You can modify it if you like, paint it green, make a hole in it to put electrical through, etc, but the quality might not be what you are hoping for as compared to doing the sanding and staining and building yourself on the same shape.

The main things that RAW affords you is some creative help. Split toning and lens color corrections are a really useful thing in case that you got some odd color shadows or weird skin tones, or if the image lacks something small that you had in mind for it in the first place. The GND filter in Adobe PS Raw is nice for sunset pictures that you might not necessarily like to run the fill light for.

Some pictures cannot have a perfect shot because there is not enough DR compression to display them as you would want to see them. That's why you expose for both sides and take care of the rest with the RAW.
04-10-2012, 08:47 PM   #11
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A couple more things tO remember:

1. Film negatives are printed on paper, which has contrast and tone characteristics, through filters, which also have contrast characteristics.

2. Film cameras have no anti aliasing filter, so no additional sharpening is needed. Digital cameras do.
04-10-2012, 08:51 PM   #12
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Ok, now I require another clarification, when I open a DNG file am I actually seeing the raw sensor data or an interpretation of that data no different than if it had been converted to jpeg?
04-10-2012, 08:55 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by PPPPPP42 Quote
Ok, now I require another clarification, when I open a DNG file am I actually seeing the raw sensor data or an interpretation of that data no different than if it had been converted to jpeg?
Interpretation of that data, i.e. you see RAW image developed using default settings of the software you're using to view RAW.

Also, most of RAW files, coming out of the camera have embedded jpeg image, which often is used to dispplay image preview/thumbnail, etc.
04-10-2012, 09:06 PM   #14
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Ah, ok. I think its that point that mislead me to believe that one could actually view a raw file directly.
So things being what they are I suppose I will just have to tweak the settings so the jpegs come out right.

Thanks all.
04-10-2012, 09:26 PM   #15
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Any version of this book will explain Raw Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS2 A few years ago, I bought a used copy of the Adobe CS3 version. The principles remain the same. I read the first few chapters until I understood the principles.

In any case, the best outcome is from a good exposure, whether slide, negative or digital. Even so, someone as accomplished as Ansel Adams revisited and reprinted negatives decades after they were made, burning and dodging all along, a type of camera raw processing with a Black & White Darkroom instead of a Digital Darkroom.

Last edited by Brooke Meyer; 04-10-2012 at 10:08 PM.
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