By Roger (31 Oct 2013)
Just a quick note tonight because I have to go give out Halloween candy to the local neighborhood urchins. ;-)
Tonight, I have a good example of why I shoot RAW and use Lightroom to process my photos.
Yesterday, I was trying to catch up on the pile of photos I haven't processed yet, and I found a dumb mistake. I often shoot in Manual Mode for complete control of the exposure, and I had just come inside from taking a shot in the bright Las Vegas sun. I didn't check my settings before I took this first photo in a series. The photo came out underexposed - very underexposed. I make this mistake every couple of months because, um, well, I'm not paying attention to the information clearly visible inside my camera's viewfinder. Hmm, didn't I just recently write a blog about slowing down and paying attention?! Yeah, I did, but I also said I was guilty from time to time. I had a laugh about that when I got to this photo.
You can't tell it from this dark frame, but this photo is from the Westcott Lighting booth, during the recent Photoshop World Vegas. The Westcott booth is one of the most popular places to visit at PSW because they have models, in interesting sets, to demonstrate their products. You can find their site here (link). Be careful on their home site – they have many excellent products and have caused me to surrender several dollars to take many of them home. They also always run a photo contest for all the PSW photographers crowding around the models. (This photo wouldn't have been a contender.) You can see the contest winners here (link), including a much better shot of this model from Duane Miller.
Anyway, back to the topic.
For fun, I decided to process it. Since I almost always shoot in RAW, I knew that there was something inside that darkness. I added five stops of exposure – as far as the slider goes – and increased the shadow detail. I did some work to reduce the noise that immediately becomes visible when you add that much exposure to a photo. All of these adjustments are in Lightroom, and we've blogged about them. Here are the settings.
Turns out the photo is a dumper because her eyes aren't sharp enough, and she's looking off into space, but that isn't the point. Here is what is hidden in the darkness of this terribly underexposed photo.
If you applied the exact same, extreme settings to the full size JPG, the photo begins to break down. There is a further loss of sharpness and the color begins to shift, part of what is often called "jpg artifacting". You can see how much better the RAW version is. Here are photos, side-by-side. I increased the magnification to 100% to make it easier to see the difference.
So, you make the decision. Now, I admit this is an extreme case; these photos would have much fewer, noticeable differences if I had used the proper exposure and made less dramatic adjustments in Lightroom. I still prefer RAW.
There's the doorbell, again. Where are all these kids when I need my leaves raked?