Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Power of RAW ... and Lightroom ... and a Great Shot

I had a photo course over the past couple of days with a friend. We were shooting here in Key Largo, but he brought me some of the images he'd shot in the past including a very nice series from Palau's Jellyfish Lake. There was one particular image that was so striking compositionally I asked to see the RAW file so we could see what we could extract from it using Adobe Lightroom 2.

Actually, everything we did was done in only a few minutes. The original RAW, bottom photo, was very yellow and green. Actually, the water was probably yellow and green, but that doesn't mean that we had to be too literal about it. We tweaked the exposure, boosted the blacks, and then used the eye-dropper tool to select color. The eye-dropper can be used on any area in the photo that is black, 18% gray, or white (white that still has detail, that is) and it will add the color shift that will change the overall tint to achieve what mathematically the program would deduce is black or white or gray.

Sometimes, that gets one closer in a single jump than can be done using the color balance sliders. Still, one should rarely trust that is the final color fix, and fine-tune the color balance. Additionally, we spotted a couple of small bits of backscatter, and used the new graduated filter tool, dragging it from the upper right down into the fin area. (The graduated filter and adjustment brush, where you can actually brush exposure variability onto select portions of the photo are reason enough to upgrade from Lightoom 2 from Version 1.0.)

The adjusted color version is in the center, and then with a click on the grayscale button and a couple of slider tweaks the black and white image resulted. We decided that was our favorite from the series.

All of that is very powerful, but what really rocks is that the images don't exist as megabytes on my harddrive until exported. Before that, they are merely instruction sets that exist on Virtual Copies of the master RAW shot, and these are only a couple of kilobytes.

Lightroom presents massive time-saving options to the digital photographer, and keeps the archive mass reasonably manageable as well.

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