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Better Photos After The Fact

Tips for better photography

Commenting on my last blog post, Amanda Mahnke, the editor of Ardmore-Wynnewood-Merion Patch wrote:

"I'm really bad at figuring out how to deal with lighting when I take my camera off semi-automatic. I know how to (and do) change the shutter speed, but do other settings play into that too? Case in point: your grad photos as opposed to my grad photos, taken in the same building under the same lighting conditions."

So I looked at  and . I was pleasantly surprised to see that Amanda had done a very good job under less than good conditions for good photography. She is a much better at photography than I am at writing, which I sometimes have to do on Patch assignments. As I looked at her photos I saw that the core of her problem photos was not the technical aspects of capturing the image as she thought. It was the processing of the images after they are captured. That processing is done in a computer not in the camera.

I decided that I should demonstrate the benefits of post capture processing in this blog. To do that I selected a photo taken by me at last week's Harriton High School Graduation assignment. It was not in the published article because I had really messed up on the exposure when shooting it. I had a lot of images that were better exposed and therefore more suitable for publication without much work being done on them. 

The accompanying gallery contains the same image in different stages of post capture processing. It starts off as taken and being underexposed (too dark). That was my error but a mostly correctable one. This is good time to look at the gallery photos and their captions that explain each step I took in improving them. The return here to read on.

All digital cameras capture images in what is called RAW form, that is, as a bundle of digital data. RAW files are large and take up a lot of digital storage on the camera's flash card and on the computer hard drive. The advantage of them is that they record all the data that the sensor has captured.

Most professional photographers shoot and work with RAW files because they want that data and the processing latitude it offers. Most amateur photographers and almost all point-and-shoot camera users capture JPEG files because they have small file sized and do not require processing to get a good enough result. 

A JPEG is a RAW file that has been processed in the camera to make an image that the manufacturer sees as acceptable for consumer use without processing outside of the camera. Its smaller file size is achieved by deleting data that is not needed to make an acceptable result. Once deleted that data can never be recovered. That lost data has value in fine tuning a photograph to look better, so pros usually shoot RAW to have the greatest post-processing latitude to achieve the best result they can.  

Should everyone shoot RAW? No, it is overkill for most amateur photography, and it must be processed in the computer before it can be used. That takes time and skill that has to be acquired. Can you process a JPEG? Yes, you can, but the latitude of adjustment is less than RAW so the result might be limited by that latitude data loss.

RAW and JPEG images can be processed with software made by camera manufacturers, software companies, and online photo-sharing sites. I am a Mac user and have been for decades. My images are all processed in a Mac. I use Aperture, Apple software that is available in the App store for about $80 now. Years ago it several hundred. Mac user can also use Apple's iPhoto which come installed on some Macs. It is not a versatile as Aperture, but it gets the job done for the most part.

As you can see from the gallery, digital photographs can be made better after they are taken. All it takes in software, learning, practice, and time. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Amanda Mahnke June 14, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Thank you! Looks like I'll be switching to RAW...

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