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Saturday, January 1, 2005

Keeping The "Phun" In Photography

Use a digital workflow that works for you

If you like Fujichrome Velvia, there's a good possibility you'll like sRGB better than Adobe RGB. I've seen several pros automatically shoot Adobe RGB, then do little to no adjustments, and their photos don't nearly have the snap and sparkle of film. If you want to work quickly from a file without doing much adjustment, sRGB is a great way to go and it may even make your process more fun. Yes, you can match and beat sRGB if you work in Adobe RGB, but if you don't need it, why bother with the added work? It seems silly to arbitrarily use math (color space diagrams) to prove that something is better for a photographer. A process' worth should depend on how well it meets a photographer's needs.

Since we're on the topic of color management, I'm also not convinced that most photographers need to use anything other than automatic with inkjet printers (as long as the printer driver is set properly for the right paper). In Photoshop, that means setting the print space to Same As Source. By doing this, the average photographer can achieve a quality print faster and make better use of the built-in (and very good) algorithms of modern printer drivers.

Let's return to RAW. I only shoot RAW when I think I need it for special purposes because it slows down my workflow. For me, it becomes a hassle to deal with in the computer, and it's not as much fun. That may change in the future, but when I challenge digital gurus on the need for RAW, they hedge a bit and try to show me things that most other photographers wouldn't see or look for. Don't misinterpret me; I believe RAW is an important format that has some great features, but it isn't the "professional" format and JPEG the "amateur" format.

JPEG may be an easier and more fun way to get to a high-quality print for the average photographer because modern in-camera processing is like having a RAW conversion expert built into the camera. I've done tests with Canon (which uses its DIGIC processor) and I can show you JPEG images that are better than a straight RAW image.

Admittedly, you can match that JPEG with RAW processing, but that adds extra steps and time to your workflow. If that time in front of the computer is relaxing and enjoyable, then go for RAW. You can't go wrong with it. It's a matter of workflow. Photography should be fun, and the RAW workflow is definitely one way of getting there.

I take issue with those experts who try to impose their workflow on photographers who don't need it, thereby making photography less enjoyable for those who feel burdened by this technology. RAW and JPEG, for example, are workflow issues that are related to quality, but too often that's a smoke screen that takes many photographers away from the joy of digital photography. RAW can be an essential format in certain situations, but it simply isn't for everyone and its value has been overhyped.

There are many elements of the technology that are worth learning, just as it was important to learn the relationship of ƒ-stops to shutter speed or what depth of field is all about, for instance. Learn and use what works for you, and if you're enjoying the process, don't feel like you have to do anything else.

Photography should be fun for everyone. I love what digital offers the photographer, and I want to share that joy with others. Digital can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be.



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