JPEG or RAW. Use what you want.

RAW Doesn’t Make You Better by Ritchie Roesch (

I read something yesterday that bothered me. A really talented photographer, who has a blog that I like to read sometimes, posted an article stating that the number one thing you can do to improve your landscape photography is to shoot RAW. His argument was, essentially, that post-processing is a necessary aspect of photography, so you might as well fully embrace it and start with a RAW file. I get that if you plan to significantly manipulate your photographs you should probably use RAW because a JPEG is limited in how far you can take it before it begins to degrade. I disagree that post-processing is always or even usually needed, and I don’t think anyone should feel like they must fully embrace it. Edit if you want, or save yourself a bunch of time and strive to get the look that you are after using the options found in your camera. Most of the time it’s possible to get the look that you want straight out of camera, no editing necessary.

I’m going to make a bold statement. I think your missive is as one-sided as that other photographer. I think you’re both wrong.

When I am out in shooting I do not have the luxury of time to endlessly fiddle with the camera settings to get a JPEG. And that JPEG is the one the camera algorithm produced as opposed to the one I could produce in Adobe Lightroom. If you are happy with your JPEGs. Great.

Most of the time, nothing I see in the camera is what I want the final result to be. The camera NEVER sees what I see. It’s just a starting point.

I shoot in RAW+FINE. I keep the RAW file as my negative. I toss the JPEG file into social media. Then I download the RAW image — my digital negative — into Lightroom and manipulate it to create what I want to create.

I don’t toss my film negatives into a fire and only keep the print interpretation of that negative that CVS/Walmart provide me.

DarkTable is a credible open source alternative to Adobe Lightroom

After outgrowing Photos and Picassa, I bought a copy of Adobe Photo Lightroom. In 2010 I paid $300 for a copy of Lightroom 3. It was a difficult purchase. $300 is a lot of money and this was the most I had ever paid for software. But I reluctantly handed over my credit card to Adobe because I wanted the features and functionality offered by Lightroom.

Some of my friends had suggested the open source software GIMP as a free1 alternative. Those friends obviously don't do much photography because the GIMP is the most unreliable piece of software I have ever used. On the Mac, GIMP would crash within minutes of making an edit. GIMP simply lacks any stable photography workflow feature that remotely resembles anything in the Adobe Photoshop suite.

However, I recently discovered an open source project called darktable that "gets it".

darktable is an open source photography workflow application and RAW developer. A virtual lighttable and darkroom for photographers. It manages your digital negatives in a database, lets you view them through a zoomable lighttable and enables you to develop raw images and enhance them.

A “lighttable and darkroom for photographers"2? I think they stopped short of calling it an open source Adobe Lightroom replacement. From the feature list I can tell the developers are aiming at creating exactly that.

Here’s a shot list of features:

  • Fully non-destructive editing.
  • A collect module allows you to execute flexible database queries, search your images by tags, image rating (stars), color labels and many more. Filtering and sorting your collections within the base query or simple tagging by related tags are useful tools in your every-day photo workflow.
  • Import a variety of standard, raw and high dynamic range image formats (e.g. jpg, cr2, hdr, pfm, .. ).
  • Tethered shooting.
  • The powerful export system supports Picasa webalbum, flickr upload, disk storage, 1:1 copy, email attachments and can generate a simple html-based web gallery. darktable allows you to export to low dynamic range (JPEG, PNG, TIFF), 16-bit (PPM, TIFF), or linear high dynamic range (PFM, EXR) images.
  • darktable uses both XMP sidecar files as well as its fast database for saving metadata and processing settings. All Exif data is read and written using libexiv2.

Wow! There’s a lot more. Too much for me to cover in this blog post. If you don’t already have Adobe Lightroom and you are on a budget, download a darktable and start playing around.

  1. Free as in free beer since most users of open source software never look at the code. 
  2. Instead of Lighttable and darkroom

How to create photo albums on an iPad using iTunes

A good photographer friend of mine is quite frustrated — rightfully so — with the native Photos app on the iPad. He's been importing photos into his iPad using the iPad Camera Connection Kit and was hoping to create photo albums from his shoot to show to his clients. Of course the Photos apps is not really designed for photo professionals. It is designed around the needs of the point-n-shoot camera family photographer — the ones who only bring out the camera for family events but leave the images on the camera for months. Even if the family photographer has "upgraded" to a DSLR they will most likely be shooting JPEG.

I'll let my friend describe his frustration:

Alright... I am trying to import photos from my camera to view on the iPad. Simple process — connect camera to iPad camera card and import. Unfortunately, when I am shooting RAW it imports in some format that other slide show type programs do not understand. Secondly, it will only show the imported files as they were imported to a specific album.. what do I mean? well when I do an import of 10 pics then another import of 10 pics they are in separate albums. This does not allow them to be show in a single slide show... can only show one folder at a time.... I cannot seem to figure out how to combine the folders. I can copy and paste a single shot into an email but not into another album.

I am trying to set up a slide show of the wedding/getting ready shots for the reception.

I am at wits end with this one. I even purchased the $15 Portfolio program in hopes that it would work... however, it cannot read the imported RAW files from the stupid, individual albums... UGH.

Yep. That sounds very frustrating. When you import into the Photos app on the iPad it imports in the native RAW format of the camera. Unless the other app is written — that's the developers choice — to read from the Photos album the user will be quite frustrated. Put another way, if I import photos into Adobe Lightroom as Nikon RAW (NEF) a program written to read Canon RAW won't be able to read it. Most point-n-shoot cameras shoot in JPEG which any iPad photo app can read. The iPad Camera Connection remember was designed to be easy for the general and novice photographer.

So how do we solve my friend's problem? iTunes has a feature that allow the user to sync photos to the iPad (or any iOS device) from a folder. We'll use that feature to create albums on the iPad.

First create a folder on your computer called "iPad Albums". It can actually be any name and be located anywhere but on my Mac I created it inside the "Photos" folder.
Screen Shot 2011 09 04 at 4 21 45 PM

Create a number of sub folders containing the photos you want to sync.
Screen Shot 2011 09 04 at 4 22 00 PM

Now, connect your iPad to iTunes. Select the iPad in the left pane and then select the Photos tab. Select the Sync Photos From drop down and then choose the folder you created earlier.
Screen Shot 2011 09 04 at 4 17 26 PM

You can chose to sync all the sub folders or just specific ones.
Screen Shot 2011 09 04 at 4 22 08 PM

Once you click sync, iTunes will create albums in the Photos app with the names of the folders you created. These albums are kept in sync.
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