2017 Week 10 Theme: Put Your Lightroom Skills To The Test With Our RAW File Editing Challenge

Photo by Radek Gryzbowski

Join us this week as we enter uncharted territory for our weekly theme challenges. If that sounds exciting, well, it certainly should be. We usually ask you to shoot and enter pictures around a certain theme or genre. This time though, we’re delving into the fascinating world of post-processing. I’ll provide you with 5 downloadable RAW files to experiment on.

Before we get started, let’s find out who the winners of last week’s Family theme were…

2017 Week 9 Theme Winners:

Congratulations to these members! Keep up the great work.

2017 Week 10 Theme: The Lightroom RAW File Editing Contest

One of the questions I get asked most by people new to photography is:

“What is the difference between a JPEG and a RAW file?”

It’s an important question. If your camera is set to capture JPEGs, it takes the raw data from the sensor and, in a fraction of a second, discards a ton of information. In the process of turning raw data into a finished product (a JPEG), it makes multiple creative decisions for you.

JPEG vs. RAW

Earlier today, I used my Canon 5D Mark II to take a photo of my desk. The RAW file was 24mb. Next, I set my camera to capture JPEGs, then took a picture of the same scene. The JPEG file was only 5.5mb. My camera’s computer compressed the raw sensor data, discarding details which resulted in a file that was 80% smaller.

Photo by Mikaela Shannon

I mentioned discarding details. This affects your image’s dynamic range (the variation between the lightest highlights and the darkest shadows). When your camera converts raw data into a JPEG, these highlights and shadows are the first things to be compressed. Once discarded, there’s no getting this data back. It’s gone forever. Shooting in RAW preserves every shred of precious data.

If you shoot only JPEGs, here’s an experiment to test out what I’m saying. Find a picture you’ve taken with heavy shadows. Using an image editing program, move the shadows slider to brighten the shadows. The black areas of the image will remain black. This is because the data has been discarded. If this was a RAW file, the areas would lighten to reveal hidden detail in the scene.

From RAW to processed

There are many benefits to shooting RAW files, not just in preserving details in highlights and shadows. But, because RAW files are unprocessed data, we have to process them in a program such as Adobe Lightroom.

A memory card full of RAW files is the equivalent of an unprocessed roll of film. Lightroom is the equivalent of a film photographer’s darkroom.

If you’re sitting on the fence about JPEGS or RAW, give our fun editing challenge a try this week. I’ll provide 5 RAW files for you to download and experiment with in Lightroom. If you don’t have Lightroom yet, don’t worry! You can download a free trial here.

Do your best to process the RAW files, then export them as JPEGS. Finally, post post them as a blog with the title Weekly Theme 10 and tag the post with 2017theme10. Many users will know about the weekly theme but many won’t, so why not write a bit about the task? Enjoy!

How to Participate:

Deadline: March 12th, 2017

How to submit: Add 2017theme10 as one of the tags in your post on the PhotoBlog platform

Check out the submissions: Use the Weekly Theme tab

Support and encourage: Like and comment on your favorite posts

Resources For Getting Started

If you’ve had plenty of Lightroom practice, then skip this section and go straight to the downloads. Newbies with Lightroom should watch this introduction video by Photos In Color. Presenter Ed Gregory takes you through his 10 top tips for getting started in Adobe Lightroom.

Since launching our official blog, we’ve published a number of posts concerning Adobe Lightroom. The following articles are full of tips for beginners, tips from pros, free presets, and more:

  1. 8 Easy Lightroom Tips That Will Save You Hours Of Post Processing Time by Erin Fitzgibbon

  2. 50 Free Lightroom Presets to Enhance Your Photography by Nancy Young

  3. How To Create And Install Adobe Lightroom Presets by Elliot Pelling

  4. 7-Step Lightroom Editing Workflow To Level Up Your Landscape Photos by Dean Wormald

  5. How I Process: A Look Into a Pro’s Workflow by Will Nicholls

If you get stuck this week, send me a PM over on the PhotoBlog platform asking me about my own Lightroom workflow. I’ll reply with some extra step-by-step tips!

The Images

Below are 5 RAW files from my own catalog. Download them, then import them into Lightroom. Enter Develop mode, then go to work one by one. Finally, export the finished edits as JPEGs before posting in a blog on the PhotoBlog platform. Why not write a bit about the task too? The judges will simply judge whose edits they like the best. Have a go at one, a few, or all of them!

Follow this link to download the RAW files.

I love challenges like this and I hope you do too. Just a friendly reminder to advanced Lightroom users: please do not add your own metadata (name, copyright details, etc) when you import these RAW files. I’m granting permission to share your edits on the PhotoBlog platform only. Since it’s our first editing challenge, we’d appreciate hearing your thoughts and feedback. Best of luck to everyone!

About the author

Ben McKechnie

Ben McKechnie is a location-independent photographer specializing in travel, documentary, and portraits, as well as a freelance journalist. His work is driven by a fascination in people, and the relationship they have with their culture. Ben is a graduate of both MatadorU's Advanced and Fundamentals Travel Photography courses.