Monday, February 22, 2010

First RAW Experience

A couple of days ago, I shot this still-life of some chess pieces I made over a year ago. While composing it, I thought it might look good in monochrome, so I went ahead and shot in RAW+JPEG mode. That way, I figured, I could try playing with the RAW file in Lightroom, and if I didn't like it I could always default to converting to monochrome from the JPEG in Photoshop.

Turns out I was right. It does look good in monochrome.

click to enlarge, or see it on Flickr
Aperture: f/6.3
Shutter Speed: 6 seconds
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 36 mm

The Lightroom tools for monochrome are extremely intuitive, even when working in RAW. In fact, had I not known, I wouldn't have been able to tell that I was working in RAW. When I was happy with my result, I exported to JPEG. Just for comparison purposes, I did my best work on the JPEG with Photoshop to see if I liked that result any better. It wasn't even close. RAW is champion when it comes to monochrome. I couldn't get close to the amount of contrast I wanted without severe posterization.

My last step was just to experiment with a vignette in Photoshop until I liked it. There are a few things I feel I could have done better, and a couple of things I thought I wouldn't like, but turned out really good. The pawn isn't in sharpest focus. It's pretty close, but I should have been paying more attention when I set the shot up. The aperture could have been stopped down just a little more, to achieve the really distinctive hierarchy of levels of focus I was going for. And I didn't think the unfinished tops of the pieces would look good, but I think they add some character to the shot.

I may try a redux of this shot sometime with a more carefully set-up environment, etc. But now I know: for monochrome photos, don't bother with anything but RAW anymore.


  1. I am enjoying watching your epiphanies unfold into the world of RAW and D-SLR photography! It was a whole new world for me when I switched from my PowerShot to the Rebel t1i. It's a major leap out of "snapshot" into art. Although, like you, I always tried to maximize the most of my PowerShot, learning composition, lighting, effects, settings, etc. It makes the transition natural, and SO much fun and endless potential and possibilities!

  2. I usually always shoot in RAW/JPEG mode. The only time that I don't is when I'm doing sports shooting, and I want a faster burst rate. The dynamic range of the image usually seems much better in RAW to me.


Like what you see? Have a question? Leave me a comment!