The Gadget Guy

How To Shoot RAW Without Fear, Uncertainty And Doubt

The next series of videos, "How to Shoot RAW - without Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt," answer one question: why shoot RAW? The corollary is: "What are the disadvantages of shooting JPEG?" For a self-produced DVD, the quality is superb. With only an occasional awkward transition or fade, Michael is at his best. He is clear, informative and uses clever analogies. In one particularly clever segment, he compares taking RAW pictures to baking a brownie.

The main criticism I have is that some of the analogies and explanations are a bit belabored, and Tapes never mentions the advantages of shooting JPEG, at least for casual photographers. These include much faster writes to storage media and less or even no post processing to achieve a usable image.

As a side note, the subtitle refers to using these tutorials for digital SLRs, but the videos and the RAW principal applies to any digital camera that can shoot a RAW format, such as many advanced point-and-shoot cameras.

The DVD cover of "How to Shoot RAW - without Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt" by Michael Tapes. The music and flipping background for every section introduction within each chapter is grating - even annoying - but otherwise these video segments are well done.

In the first chapter, Tapes sets out to convince that we should always shoot RAW. The main reason is that with RAW, all the original information is recorded, so we can subsequently reprocess image information without any loss, as the mood suits us. In a later segment, Tapes points out that the RAW format is equivalent to a permanent latent image that can be repeatedly processed non-destructively. As new tools become available, that image can be reprocessed with no loss.

The second chapter includes very long segments, starting with a quite technical explanation about how CCD or CMOS sensors record light, and the Bayer-DeBayer process using a ray-traced rendering. Unfortunately, Tapes never defines all his terms, such as what the Nyquist limit is. The Nyquist limit, as it relates to digital photography, is the highest frequency that can be coded at a given sampling frequency in order to fully reconstruct the signal. Stated differently, the Nyquist limit requires that the sampling rate be at least twice the highest waveform frequency. Other segments in this chapter describe, in great tutorial fashion, how to process RAW using Photoshop CS3, Lightroom and Adobe Camera RAW. In fact, these tutorials are more about image processing of files that happen to be RAW and can sometimes be applied to JPG images.

The third chapter is very revealing and helpful. Some 15 different pro photographers describe why and how they use RAW. In very short segments, as you hear the photographer’s voice, you see their best images. One of those photographers is Michael Tapes, and his selected photographs are much better than the examples he picked as illustrative points in his WhiBal tutorials. However, compared to the examples from the pros, most of Tapes’ work exhibited in this chapter lacks the pros’ superb sense of composition.

The fourth and last chapter has sections on choosing a camera, color theory, and Tapes’ philosophical musings on art and photography, as well as other odds and ends: ProPhoto, metadata, DNG (digital negative) and JPEG uses. In the camera section, Tapes recommends the D-40 over the D-40x, because not all the megapixels translate to a better picture, unless you are shooting pictures to be enlarged significantly. True, but the 40x has other advantages over the D-40 besides resolution. Other advice he gives about buffers and burst mode is excellent. The color theory and management sections probably should have been placed earlier, but they were among some of my favorite sections.

The extra DVD, available only as a physical disk, is interesting, but serves more as an appendix. In a neatly laid out Webpage, Tapes provides glossary-item topics from the tutorials as hyperlinks. However, most of these references are not for content on the DVD, but for Web links. The sections are organized by subject, chapter and ancillary information relating to the first DVD. As an example of the links, Tapes’ references for the section on choosing a camera to shoot RAW include links to manufacturer information, independent professional photographers and the site Digital Photography Review for the selected cameras. Included are recent previews of the Nikon D-300, which is not scheduled for release until November of this year. As a Canon fan, of course, Tapes included links to the new 40D.

Not surprisingly, most of the links have to do with RAW. Links to WhiBal tutorials and Wikipedia definitions are included, though surprisingly, the tutorials are not on the disc. The hyperlinks for photo software on this second DVD could be much better organized. In the section "Instant JPEGS from RAW," an installer is included on the DVD, but for two out of three products, the software is a time-out or locked version. In some cases, this is only apparent after you begin the installation.

I was frustrated, because the initial menu does not indicate, with one exception, which software is commercial/locked or freeware. Because there is no explanation about whether or not each of the many links is to software on the DVD, a Website or trial or free software, you quickly lose interest in navigating through all the choices.

One of the dangers of only including links, of course, is that links tend to change, and under Color Management Theory, the Chromix link is invalid. There are some links to whitepapers on Adobe Camera Raw, or Adobe DNG (digital negative), for example, and on sample RAW and JPEG images to show how exposure or color correction may be better served by RAW. Finally, as a purchaser, you have exclusive access to a private forum that Tapes maintains.


In short, this is a great series of tutorials on post-image processing. As a bonus, you get superb examples to follow or to be inspired by. The minor flaws I mentioned are only those that keep these DVDs from perfection. Most photographers would benefit from listening to whole segments of tutorials, and most advanced amateurs I know should probably watch the whole thing. And my WhiBal has already found a permanent home in my gadget bag.

List price, download, $29.95; DVD, $44.95, includes extra tutorials on Lightroom, and commentary.

Create a new thread in the Streaming Video & TVs forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
No comments yet
Comment from the forums
    Your comment