Digital photos require a three-step process just as film cameras did two decades ago. It’s popular to think of photography requiring two steps (shooting the picture and producing a physical print), but the process involves three steps with digital images too, even if you print an image directly from your camera. Surprised?
In film days, images were 1) captured on physical film, 2) the film was developed in a photo lab and hung to dry, and then 3) prints were produced from the negatives… three steps. It would seem that digital pictures only require two steps; capturing the image and printing the picture, but you should know that there is a third process that will (and must) take place before the image is printed. All digital images that are printed must include capture, processing, and printing.
Virtually all digital images are captured by the camera’s image sensor as RAW data. You may choose to save the images in JPEG format, but your camera originally captures RAW data. That’s the way digital camera work! It is the single function of the image sensor to collect all the light data from the scene. What happens to that data after the capture process is totally up to you. You can opt for the camera to process the image as a JPEG (literally let the manufacturer decide what your picture should look like) or you can choose to save the RAW data and then YOU shape the image on your computer.
JPEG Files. The image sensor sense reads each point of light and passes the information on to the camera’s image processor to convert the light measurement into digital data. If your camera is set to save JPEG images, the processor parses the data (analyses the light hitting the sensor) and forms it into an average contrast picture. Most JPEG images deliver reasonable results from average lighting conditions. If you set your camera to save only JPEG images, the original RAW data is converted to JPEG before it is discarded, and you’ll be the proud owner of a “reasonable” picture. Hm-mm. Photo finished!
OR, you can choose to save the image as a RAW file and process it yourself. Even if you choose this option, your camera’s version of the JPEG image will display immediately when you open the file in Camera Raw or Lightroom. Nothing lost! If you like the camera interpretation, you can keep it (sounds like a political phrase, but it’s not).
However, if you want to make some adjustments to the image, that RAW file is packed full of adjustment options (color and tonal elbowroom) that allow you to be your own photo finisher. Now that’s true photo finishing. Absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.
That’s the way I sees it. If you have an argument with this position, take it to a higher court! In the mean time, sign up (above right) to get personal notices of future posts.
If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light!