Shooting RAW: Workflow Considerations

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

A personal note: On Wednesday I will have the stitches removed from my recent hand surgery. For several weeks after that I’ll be wearing a brace made by physical therapy. The brace is supposed to let me make photographs and type and I will let you know how it goes. Check my Instagram feed (@joefarace) for updates from Mary on how I’m doing.

Post continued from my car photography blog

Photoshop users have access to Adobe’s Camera RAW software that works with most DSLR’s and mirrorless camera’s RAW files. Some camera companies don’t/won’t provide Adobe with their RAW file’s specifications and in those cases implementation of a particular RAW format is reverse engineered by Adobe to make it work. (Perfectionist alert!) Users of Photoshop Elements have access to ACR too.

The same limitation of reverse engineering that affects ACR is also true for most, if not all, general-purpose image programs that process RAW files, although I am told that is not true for Phase 1’s Capture One. Which brings up the biggest downside of using RAW files: They are proprietary and some critics feel the use of closed, proprietary RAW file formats limit your processing choices.


To me the biggest danger of this proprietary approach is the probability that sometime in the future a RAW file may be unreadable. If you don’t think that can happen, just ask photographers, like me, that have Kodak-produced disks full of images saved in the now defunct FlashPix format. In the meantime, Adobe offers the DNG (Digital Negative) format that has been adopted by a few manufacturers, such as Leica, for use as the RAW file default some of their cameras. I think Pentax gives you a chose of DNG or their own proprietary format for RAW capture. To help overcome this problem, Adobe also offers the free DNG converter software that lets you convert many camera’s proprietary RAW files into DNG. You can download a copy here.

As I mentioned on my original post on my car photography blog, I used to shoot almost everything in JPEG but over time the constant drumbeat of “shooting RAW” convinced me that I might be wrong. But I also hedge my bets by shooting RAW+JPEG for lots of reasons but almost always ends up working with the RAW files. If the model or client wants JPEGs, I’ll given them the JPEGs.

Cameras with dual card slots make shooting RAW+JPEG  easy by giving you the option of writing RAW files to one card and JPEG’s to the another card. This is a technique I use when shooting monochrome portraits and always do it when shooting landscapes with one of my infrared converted cameras.

With infrared images, I start by opening the file in ACR, which looks mostly magenta. Sometimes I’ll adjust the image using the contrast slider but more often than not, I just open the file into Adobe Photoshop, convert to monochrome using Silver Efex Pro and then perform additional tweaks to get the results I want.

The point of all these true confessions is that I use the same workflow for JPEG, RAW+JPEG or whatever else I’m shooting at the time. The biggest difference when shooting JPEG is that I can skip Adobe Camera RAW and work using some of Photoshop’s and third-party filters to tweak my images instead of using any of ACR’s built-in capabilities.

How I made this shot: At the giant Jacks & Ball sculpture in Parker, Colorado, I photographed  model Maria Cedar with her back to the sun using an Olympus E-M10 Mark I and M. Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 lens. The camera’s built-in flash (GN 19 in ft) was used as fill with some assistance from the camera’s exposure compensation control. Exposure was 1/250 sec at f/4.5 and ISO 320 with an exposure combination of plus 0.7 stops. There are more details on this particular shoot along with a different portrait of Maria in my post Shooting Outdoor Portraits with Entry-Level Cameras.

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If you would like my take on glamour photography pick up a copy of my book Joe Farace’s Glamour Photography. It’s full of tips, tools and techniques and includes information on all of the gear used as well as the exposure data for each image. New books are available from Amazon for $27.43 with used copies starting at $5.45, as I write this. Kindle version is $11.99 for those preferring a digital format.