How To Process A RAW File
A step-by-step approach to getting the most from a RAW image file
RAW files are gaining interest among all photographers for good reason. In part, they hold a mystique as the "pro's format," which isn't completely true, as many pros also shoot JPEG. RAW files are notable for their processing potential to help you get the most from your shot.
RAW isn't for everyone or every sort of photography. In the past, I often hesitated recommending the RAW format for general use because the increased file size caused problems in storage, camera speed and processing effectiveness. That cost wasn't necessarily worth it because of the great results that are possible with JPEG.
RAW bestows you control over the image that isn't possible with JPEG, however. It's a valuable format worth considering by any photographer. Nowadays, cameras have become much faster, computers no longer choke on big files, and you can purchase cards with enough memory to allow you to shoot RAW+JPEG for a reasonable price. RAW+JPEG is a great solution, as it lets you gain the most from both formats.
RAW Done Smart
When you begin working on a RAW file in a RAW converter, you're dealing with the best data possible from your camera. For that reason, you should make as many of the major adjustments (brightness, contrast and color) to your image as possible in that converter.
To get the most from your file, you need to do those adjustments smartly. It's important to remember what your photograph is about and why you took it, as this will influence your choices. Arbitrarily adjusting an image based on some sort of "objective" criteria will sooner or later get the photographer into trouble with an image or, at the very least, lead to less than pleasing results. You need to know the purpose of the photograph and make adjustments that support its cause.