Week 2/52 ~ Shooting in RAW for Monochrome

by Heidi Egerman January. 09, 2019 305 views

Welcome to Week 2 of 2019.

I have actually been all over the board this week trying to figure out where to begin. I've been reading articles, watching videos, and taking monochrome classes for shooting and editing. It is overwhelming, but I'm determined.

I’ve have come to realize that getting a great shot right from the start (in camera) is the best place to start and will decrease the amount of post-processing necessary. We all want that. So that is where I'm starting although it is easier said than done. I will have a future post about taking pictures for monochrome but for now I want to talk about something that I've read a lot about when shooting for Black and White.

Shooting in RAW

I know that I won't be getting great shots in the short term so this is one area where shooting in RAW comes in. I know there is a lot of controversy regarding RAW versus JPEG. For now, I'm simply going to go down this path and I may change my mind later as I learn and experiment. Here is what I've learned about the RAW file format. You can find much more information online, but here are some convincing highlights I would like to share.

A RAW file gives you more opportunities to fix the image in post processing than a JPEG file. The Raw file has more data to work with, where a JPEG file has already been processed by your camera. Over the years I've heard this again and again. I have even experimented shooting in RAW, but I was always frustrated by the work required to process the files to get good results. Therefore I abandoned RAW and stayed with JPEG because I was primarily shooting color images and the pictures were pretty good right out of the camera, or with minimal editing. I feel that I can use all the help I can get for my black and white photography so I'm going to make the switch.

Here’s why.

“RAW files will give you the best image quality and the most flexibility in your digital files. As you probably may know, JPEGs are already processed in camera, so any changes made to the JPEG are made on top of the settings that are already there. This is very important in black-and-white photography because the tone and contrast are largely locked in with a JPEG photo, while you can process the RAW file to get much better image quality and control in the tones and contrast.

How does this work?

“Raw files are converted to 16-bit color in the image editing software which will capture 281 trillion colors. You can’t really see this many color, but for black and white it provides flexibility and smoothness as the image goes from light to black. It also allows for more details in the shadow and the highlights (eliminating any possible banding).”

Reference3: Black and White Digital Photography, Photo Workshop, by Chris Bucher

This does not mean that you cannot get an excellent black and white JPEG. Sometimes the camera can interpret the color or makes the black and white conversion resulting in exactly what you had in mind when you took the shot.

Work in Progress

Now that I've made a decision to work from a RAW file, here is my work in progress. Right now I'm shooting in RAW and Monochrome JPEG. The black and white JPEG image allows me to see the image in the viewfinder and review the histogram right after I shoot the image.

I will will continue to work through the editing process in the weeks to come as I learn more about editing RAW files in ACR (Adobe Creative Raw). Below are two image that I've been working on this past week. These are RAW files converted to black and white in Adobe Camera Raw with minimal edits. As I get better, I will continue to work on enhancing these and other images over the course of my studies. These is still so much to learn. I know they can look even better.

Image: Raw file. Post processing in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw)

Image: Raw file. Post processing in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw)

Image: Raw file. Post processing in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw)

Image: Raw file. Post processing in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw)

Image reference below: Color RAW image (no edits) before black and white conversion was made.

 Color RAW image (no edits) before black and white conversion.

Color RAW image (no edits) before black and white conversion.

Disclaimer: I realize that this approach does not work for everyone for any number of reasons. If you have experiences using RAW that you would like to share I would very much like to hear from you. The good, the bad and the ugly!

Additional Relevant references:
12 minute video: Raw vs. Jpeg, Which is Better?
Article: 10 Reasons You Should be Shooting RAW

Join the conversation
There are 7 comments , add yours!
Jay Boggess 1 year, 2 months ago

Great info! Your curiosity & determination are quite encouraging fo me to go deeper in my understanding.......Bravo!

ps belated thanks for "liking" my Santa shots!

1 year, 2 months ago Edited
Berckmans Peter 1 year, 2 months ago

Hey,you are on the way. Try to find your own style in edit. That after a while it becomes a signature. In raw you can change every setting from your camera in edit. But as you said try to make a good one straight out of the camera.I do not like heavy edit,many times it is not realistic anymore. I like the details you brought out in the leaves, be carefull they not get to hard. Have fun on your journey

1 year, 2 months ago Edited
Heike 1 year, 2 months ago

Heidi, maybe I don't understand you correctly, but why do you compare a color jpg with a raw mono? For me it (the comparing) makes only sense, if you have both formats in the same condition...

1 year, 2 months ago Edited
Heidi Egerman Replied to Heike 1 year, 2 months ago

Oh my gosh, I did make this confusing so I'll clarify and try to change the post. I shoot in 'monochrome' picture style which gives me a monochrome .jpg. I do this so I can see the black and white image right after I shoot it.  In this case I did shoot the image in color .jpg and that is the last image. I should have posted the monochrome .jpg or the original RAW file. The RAW file always has the color data, which can then be edited in Adobe Camera Raw or Photoshop; or it can be converted to monochrome for further editing, which is what I did.  I just changed the last image to the RAW image before it was converted to black and white. Sorry for the confusion. Hope this clarifies things?

1 year, 2 months ago Edited
Heike Replied to Heidi Egerman 1 year, 2 months ago

Ok, now it makes sense for me. Thanks for clarifying, Heidi!!

1 year, 2 months ago Edited
Björn Roose 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm pretty sure you're right on the editing possibilities being better for RAW-pictures. The only reason I'm not shooting in RAW is the simple fact that RAW-pictures take up an amazing lot of space on my memory cards and that I don't usually go for a few photos. On an average "tourist" day I easily shoot 2 to 300 photos (there have been days in which I made about a 1000 photos), which would mean changing memory cards all too often. Apart from that: I love the monochromes you shot smile

1 year, 2 months ago Edited
Heidi Egerman Replied to Björn Roose 1 year, 2 months ago

Thank you Bjorn. Yes, I get it. I am drowning in pictures that I took last year and those are JPEGs. I have this ambition to take fewer good pictures, but only time will tell. I’m thinking that if I focus on monochrome this year it might just happen. My process needs to improve as well.  I’ll get back to you in 6 months. I’ve got a lot to learn.

1 year, 2 months ago Edited
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