Great Photography Tools (Part 1 – Shoot In The Raw)

Summer’s coming. Time of the year when people are getting out and snapping more photos with their phones. There’s a group of photographers though that still love the higher quality images from DSLR cameras. Yeah, it is true that mobile devices have come a long way and the cameras inside them can be pretty amazing. It is only my opinion though that they still don’t beat a high end Nikon with all the available lenses.

I shoot in the raw. Good thing I went to Weight Watchers eh?

What I am really talking about is that I shoot all my photos “unprocessed” in a “raw format.” When you take a photo, quite a bit goes on when you click the shutter. A sensor detects the light and colours, converts to pixels and if you are shooting with your camera set to jpg output, the camera then processes that image and creates the jpg based on the settings you’ve set as well as its own logarithms.

But did you know you can do your own photo processing? Think of it in a way how many professional photographers would create pictures in the “old days” before digital. They would compose their photo looking through the viewfinder after choosing the film with the ISO they want. Then they would select f-stops and shutter speeds depending on the light conditions and what they were hoping to capture on film.

When the film roll was exposed, the photographer might have their own darkroom to develop the photos and then “process” the film into prints. They could make adjustments in the darkroom to get the final photo including special effects in there.

Today, many people don’t think about this part and how you now can process your photos (if you want) at your PC. You can do some photo processing with apps like Photoshop or Gimp but you can get much more powerful tools when you shoot raw photos and then process them in apps like Lightroom, darktable, and Luminar. There are others.

Personally, I like darktable. It is free and does everything I want. And most of the time, I don’t want to do a lot.

Easily adjust the exposure, the white balance in case you forgot to set your camera to the correct one or the auto setting just didn’t get it right. Remove haze (nice to not have to use UV filters all the time, but they can protect your lens so they are not entirely bad).

One of my favorites is like a preset named Velvia that adds extra rich colour tones similar to what some Fuji films would do.

If you’re interested in trying this, make sure your camera has a setting to delivery big raw format files to your card. Lower end cameras might not have this. You should be aware that shooting raw means very large file size – giving you lots of information to work with when you are processing. My Nikon’s raw .NEF format are typically around 18MB each. You will want to keep that in mind.

Next, get into some good YouTube tutorials on using darktable. I like the way Bruce Williams delivers tutorials. His channel is here on youtube.

You can start with this:

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