Processing Raw files

Processing Raw files

As we discussed in part one of this tutorial, you should have shot the wedding on at least a decent semi-pro DSLR, and preferably a professional full-frame camera, so the day after the event you should find yourself with several gigabytes of Raw files which will need to be processed. The main reason for shooting in Raw mode is that it gives you a safety net. Standard JPEG images from a compact camera are recoded in "8-bit" format, in other words for each pixel, 8 bits - binary ones and zeroes - are used to describe each of the three primary colours (red, green and blue), for a total of 24 bits per pixel. With a high-spec professional camera shooting in Raw mode, 12, 14 or 16 bits per channel are recorded, and the image is usually uncompressed. This extra data may fill up your memory cards faster, but it means that more colour and brightness data is recorded per pixel than is actually visible on your monitor or in a final print, giving you more latitude to adjust exposure, contrast and white balance without loss of detail or degradation of the overall image quality.

The downside of shooting in Raw mode is that they have to be converted to JPEG or TIFF format before they can be shared or printed, which can take a long time. There are basically three options for Raw file conversion. You can either use the software that camera with your camera, such as Canon's Digital Photo Professional or Nikon's ViewNX, use a third-party Raw file converter such as Bibble, or do what most professional photographers do, and use Adobe Camera Raw with either Photoshop or Lightroom. Abobe Camera Raw provides a wide range of adjustments, including exposure, tone, noise reduction and even correction for lens faults such as chromatic aberration. I've written a more complete explanation of its abilities in a previous tutorial.

If your camera is has a good exposure metering system, as most professional cameras do, you shouldn't need to make to many adjustments, which is just as well. You will probably have at least a couple of hundred shots to go through, so hopefully you won't need to spend more than a couple of minutes on each one. If you have used the same camera and lens combination for a number of shots, such as the various group photos after the ceremony, you can save a set of adjustment settings and re-use them for each shot.

In general you want the shots to look as natural as possible, but it's a good idea to boost the saturation and contrast a little, by about 10-15 percent or so. This will make the colours stand out more in the final prints, and in the JPEG conversions that will be needed for online sharing.

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