Tag Archives: raw

My Approach to Shooting and Processing on Crappy Weather Days

This is the finished image. This is pretty much what it looked like to the naked eye (through the viewfinder) when I took the shot given how dark the sky was.

A rare arrival was due on a day that was not good from a weather perspective.  It was dull and rainy and so not what you would hope for.  Conditions like this mean I try to exploit some of the features of the camera and the processing options available.  First, how to set up the camera?  With the light being bad and variable, I went to a pretty high ISO level.  I shot in aperture priority mode and added a lot of exposure compensation.

In my experience, the metering is pretty good when shooting against the sky in clear weather but, when there is a lot of cloud, the camera tends to treat the clouds as too bright and it underexposes the subject too much.  I use a lot of exposure compensation in this case with a setting of +2.0 being used on this day.  The reason I do this is that, aside from the exposure question mark, there is a lot more information available in the lighter end of the exposure curve.  Shooting in RAW gives you options.

This is how the camera recorded the image. This is the in camera JPEG that I extracted from the RAW file using Instant Raw From JPEG.

If you were to look at the aircraft at the time, you would see a dark and menacing sky but you would see plenty of detail on the plane.  The camera does not see that for the original shot.  The aircraft would be very dark.  When processing, this dark area would give you something to work with but the variation in data would be more limited.  Shoot overexposed and you get more to work with.

This approach will only work well if you are shooting RAW.  If you are using JPEG, too much of the usable data will be discarded during the processing in the camera.  To show you what I mean, here are two images.  These are both from the same shot.  One is the RAW file as it showed up when imported in to Lightroom and the other is the embedded JPEG that you can extract from the RAW file and which can be seen when the file is first imported before the rendering is undertaken.  As you can see, the JPEG is over exposed but the RAW rendering seems even more so.

There is way more data in the RAW file though.  Immediately, as I bring the exposure slider back down, the clouds go from being white to quite dark – just as they appeared on the day.  Meanwhile, the fuselage of the aircraft has a lot of the data intact and maintains a lot of the brightness that you could see at the time.  Very little needs to be done with the blacks and they are almost in the right spot by the time the exposure is good for the clouds.  The fuselage might be a bit too dark though.  A small tweak of the blacks and a little boost in the shadows to compensate for too much darkening with the exposure slider and suddenly the shot is looking a lot more like it did when I saw it develop.

My RAW processing baseline always results in a slightly more overexposed shot the embedded JPEG includes. When you first open the image, the embedded image you see in the previous shot initially shows up and then it renders the RAW file. This was the initial RAW rendering prior to any adjustments.

One advantage of shooting on such a crummy day is that the sky is a giant softbox – in this case a very soft one!  The result is that the light is a lot more even than on a sunny day.  The darker look can actually make the colors look a bit more intense than if they were losing out to the whites when the sun is right on them.  While there was only one plane I was specifically there for, playing around with these other shots and working on the technique was a nice extra benefit.

Another Go at Stitching iPhone Raw Shots

As I posted a while ago, I have been experimenting with stitching shots from my phone.  Since I am shooting in raw on the phone, I have some latitude to play with the shots in post that wasn’t there before.  This time, though, I thought about it a bit more and put the camera into manual mode to fix the exposure.  This should make the stitching and blending easier than when it changed between shots (although, to give the Lightroom team credit, it did a pretty good job anyway).  I allowed plenty of overlap and the merge seemed to go pretty well.  Since it outputs a dng file, you still have the chance to edit more aggressively than would be possible with a jpeg.  Meanwhile, you get a higher resolution shot than with the internal pano mode.  This may be my go to method from now on.

Shooting RAW on the Phone

The update to iOS 10 brought with it the possibility to shoot in RAW on the iPhone.  For some reason Apple didn’t bother to incorporate this feature in the base phone app but they did make it available to other camera app developers.  Camera+ is one that I use a bit so I figured I would start shooting in RAW via that.  Obviously RAW means larger files but, since I download my files to the desktop frequently and tend to clear out the phone, this wasn’t a concern.

First thing I found out was that other apps could see the shots.  I had taken a few shots and wanted to upload to Facebook and it turned out there wasn’t a problem doing so.  However, the main benefit was anticipated to post processing back on the desktop.  With the SLR shots (is there any point to saying DSLR these days?), it is possible to recover a lot from the highlights and shadows.  Would the same be possible with the phone?  Sort of.  You can get a bit more in these areas than would be the case with the JPEG when things are quickly lost.  However, the sensor data is still not anywhere close to being as adaptable as it is for an SLR.  You get more flexibility to pull the sky back but it is still pretty limited.

Is it worth using?  Definitely.  While it might not be the post processing experience you will be used to with SLR files, it is certainly better than the JPEGs provide.  The increase in file size is hardly an issue these days so I will using it from now on.  The camera app doesn’t have the pan and time lapse stuff so easily to hand so the phone’s base app will still get used but, aside from that, it will be my choice.  My main gripe now is that they have a random file naming protocol that is a little difficult to get used to.  Small problems, eh?

High ISO Raw File Size

On my previous camera bodies I had occasionally shot at very high ISO settings as a result of the lack of light.  I had not paid a huge amount of attention to any secondary effects of doing so.  My current cameras had a work out in some very low light when I decided to test them in some rather unfriendly conditions.  When I was at home, I was running some disc backups and I found I could not get the normal number of files onto a single disc.  A quick bit of investigation and I could see why.  The high ISO shots had a significant increase in file size.  As I understand it, RAW files, while containing all of the data from the sensor, do have an amount of compression applied.  I imagine that the noise inherent in high ISO shots means that the compression is less effective as there is so much variation across pixels.  As an example, a shot at ISO 320 will average at about 22Mb.  The shots at ISO 51,200 are coming in at over 30Mb.  At ISO 204,000, the files can hit 40Mb. That is quite an increase!  Something to keep in mind when planning to shoot in very low light conditions.