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Review of “How to Shoot RAW without FUD” Video Tutorials

raw01.jpgHow to Shoot RAW without FUD is a 2 DVD video tutorial (also available via download from www.rawworkflow.com). When I was asked to review the program, I immediately was interested because I had previously watched Tapes’ very informative free Lightroom v1 tutorials available on this page of rawworkflow.com.

OVERVIEW

The tutorials are taught by Michael Tapes, a Florida-based photographer and industry consultant who is no stranger to Raw file handling; he was co-author of one of the first 3rd party Raw file convertors named YarcPlus.

The tutorials are separated into four sections, and each section is separated into video segments of about two to thirty minutes, with a total of about six hours of content. Like the previous Lightroom online videos, the audio and video quality are superb. The video image area is very large (about 700×500 pixels) and the audio is clear and easy to understand, which makes learning much easier.

SECTION BY SECTION

Even though the training program is about using Raw, in Section 1 “Raw and JPEG,” Tapes talks about JPEG modes and even shows some of the JPEG camera menus on Canon and Nikon cameras. It’s primarily so that he can explain why shooting Raw is preferable to JPEG. For example, he explains that if you shoot a JPEG photo in the camera’s monochrome mode, your image will be “baked in” and you won’t be able to get the original color back, compared with Raw, which is much more flexible with regard to the amount of editing that can be done after the shot in a raw editor, while still retaining maximum image quality.

raw02.jpg In the segment called “Raw Renditions,” Tapes shows the development of the same image multiple ways using Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop CS3. In the segment “Instant JPEGs from RAW,” Tapes discusses a few different Windows-based software programs that he uses to quickly rename images, view and make quick JPEGs from his RAW files. One of the programs is free and the other one he shows costs less than $100. The real value of this section is that Tapes takes you through a common workflow–in this case, choosing images from a shoot followed by making a quick web gallery.

Section 2, “Working in Raw,” is where most on the hands-on instruction takes place. Tapes begins by showing how a single shot, single sensor digital camera (the most common type of digital camera sold today) captures an image. He shows very clearly how a sensor with a special combination of color filters is able to then be processed using a special algorithm.

For the balance of Section 2, Tapes discusses various Raw Converters, and takes viewers step by step through Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. This group of videos totals about two and a half hours, and are extremely well presented. They should help users of all levels to better understand the effect that each of the adjustments will have on their images, and they should also help people to more efficiently import, select (or “flag”), and process their Raw files. He also shows a side-by-side comparison of ACR and Lightroom, plus some of the differences between both programs that I found very helpful.

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Michael Tapes describes similarities and differences between Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom while displaying their windows side-by-side in Section 2 of the tutorial.

The Tone Curve information that Tapes covers is especially helpful because having control over both sliders and curves means that you can really fine-tune your image editing and, in many cases, do little (or no) further contrast and color correction in Photoshop. The information about exposing to get the maximum detail from your camera, using Presets and controlling “clipped areas,” (those that have 0 or 255 values in Red, Green or Blue) are also very helpful.

Tapes also shows some of the different ways in which batch processing is done in Adobe Camera Raw compared with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. In the segment “Adjusting Raw in Lightroom,” he takes us step-by-step through a number of real-life images, and these tutorials are absolutely fantastic. For one image, Tapes shows a technique that he calls “dual developent,” that uses the “virtual copies” feature in Lightroom. He then brings two files into Photoshop CS3 (one with a properly exposed foreground, and the other with a properly exposed background) and merges them together to balance exposure. The Photoshop portion of the tutorial can be helpful to any Photoshop user, whether or not you use Lightroom to process your files. At the end of the video, he explains how to do achieve the same results in Adobe Camera Raw, which does not have the virtual file feature. Later in the tutorial, in the “Lightroom Library Module” segment, Tapes shows how virtual copies can be used to quickly produce different “looks” of the same image in Lightroom.

Tapes also takes us through a series of beautiful images by photographer Onne van der Wal from initial import to editing using Lightroom’s Develop mode, which really helps to understand how one might cull through a shoot of tens, hundreds, or even thousands of photos. It’s very well presented, and should help photographers to reduce the time they spend editing their work.

Tapes references a “WhiBal shot” a number of times throughout the series, and later shows how a photo taken using the WhiBal target in the scene are used to make batch image adjustments. The WhiBal is a White Balance Reference Card designed by Michael Tapes. The newest WhiBal is the G6, and is available in three sizes: Pocket (2×3.5in), Studio (3.5x6in) and Reference (8.5x11in). The purpose of the WhiBal is to help achieve proper white balance in a scene, and you can find out more about the WhiBal here. There is an excellent review of WhiBal on this page by Mike Pasini, Editor of Imaging-Resource.com, and a series of WhiBal video tutorials can be found here.

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Michael Tapes holding a WhiBal card in front of a scene he is photographing. He then chooses the gray area of the WhiBal card to set a gray balance in Photoshop Lightroom for a group of images shot in the same lighting.

The real gems in this series come when you see Tapes use shortcuts and “real-life” editing techniques, such as changing the size of thumbnails across the bottom of the screen, hiding and turning panels on and off, adjusting color interactively using the TAT (targeted adjutment tool), quickly looking at a before and after views, and making a series of adjustments that can make a huge difference in the quality of the final image.

I also like the notes that come up from time to time with helpful information, such as the one below that discusses why some Canon Raw files have a .TIF extension.

In Section 3, “Photographers: In Their Own Words,” a number of photographers and imaging experts show their work, speak about Raw processing and give advice about photography, lighting and some of the tools that photographers use. These are fantastic presentations, and include many captivating images and a lot of good information. It’s an ideal way to showcase how working pros use Raw files, and a list of the photographers can be found on this page.

In Section 4, “The Other Stuff,” Camera selection, Color Management and specific comments and suggestions from Michael Tapes are covered. All of these sections are very helpful, and it’s great to hear from Tapes about the cameras he owns and uses, from a waterproof camera to a point and shoot, to a few different Digital SLRs.

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From the Color Management tutorial in Section 4.

In the Color Management section, Tapes’ describes the differences between and importance of color working spaces. I agree with Tapes that you can get very good looking on-screen and printed images using the sRGB working space. I also agree that because many modern printers can reproduce colors outside the sRGB space, people who want to retain colors outside the sRGB space (especially those who are more experienced with raw) should use Adobe RGB or other wide gamut working space, such as ProPhoto RGB. The key though, as Tapes explains, is that people understand what working spaces are and how to handle those images when they get transferred for use on the internet or for a pro photo lab. Tapes shows what a specific color image with a wide gamut space will look like if it is uploaded to the internet and viewed on most browsers. He also covers 8- vs. 16-bit (high-bit) workflows and why you should choose a high bit workflow with certain working spaces.

EXTRAS

The Extras Disk is packed full of links to great resources with comments from the author that really help give the links more meaning. The extras disk also contains product discounts and a very good monitor profiling tutorial for the X-Rite Display 2 colorimeter. Also included are links to the websites of all the contributors to the DVD.

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A screen shot from the step-by-step video tutorial for the X-Rite i1 Display 2 colorimeter. This video, produced by GretagMacbeth (now X-Rite) is provided on the Extras Disk.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The subtext for the tutorial is Video Tutorials by Michael Tapes for photographers using digital SLRs. I believe however that anyone who shoots Raw (even with point and shoot cameras such as one of the Panasonic or Canon models which Tapes mentions in the video tutorials) can greatly improve his or her productivity, image quality and print quality by having this series in their library. Even those who shoot JPEGs can benefit from the information Tapes shares in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop Lightroom.

How to Shoot RAW without FUD is an outstanding title, and one that I found to be helpful from beginning to end. The download version is $29.95 and the 2 disc DVD-ROM is $44.95 (the download version is free when the DVD-ROM version is purchased). For more information, or to download a trailer and sample video from the series, visit rawworkflow.com.

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