Many people find it easier to see composition in black and white. If you’re one of them, try setting our camera’s preview to black and white. When you do this, seeing line, shape, form, and relative light and dark relationships may become easier. Doing this will also help you get a better sense of how an image will look in black and white. Remember though, the saturated hues in your image can be converted to black and white as either light or dark, so the relative tonal distribution of your image is quite fluid – and seeing the hues in the image (whether with your naked eye or on the camera’s LCD) will inform you how fluid you can expect it to be, where it will be fluid and where it won’t.

Setting your camera’s preview to black and white will only affect the JPEGs your camera creates; your Raw files will still be in full color.

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Here are some commonly asked questions that, once answered, will demystify setting camera file format.

“Should I set my camera to JPEG, Raw, or JPEG and Raw?”

If you want to create files with the highest quality, set your camera to create Raw files. Raw files contain the widest color gamut, highest big depth, have flexible white point, can have highlight and shadow detail recovered, can be reprocessed infinitely, and are free of compression artifacts. Raw files are larger and require post-processing before presentation. They take up more room and they take longer to use.

If you want files to create files to share immediately without (or with minimal) post-processing, set you camera to create JPEG files. JPEGs are excellent for transmission, posting to the web, and print on demand. (Remember, the highest quality JPEGs are the ones created by post-processing Raw files, not the ones created by your camera.)

If you want both Raw and JPEG, set your camera to create both.

A camera creates a Raw file every time it makes an exposure. Setting a camera to create a JPEG file requires it to make a conversion to JPEG, which it does with incredible speed. If a camera is set to JPEG, it will replace the Raw file. If a camera is set to Raw, only a Raw file will be created. If a camera is set to Raw + JPEG it will create a JPEG copy in addition to the Raw file.

“How do you set file format on a digital camera?”

Camera interfaces and terminology vary. On the Canon 1Ds Mark II, you can set image- recording quality by pressing the Quality button (a square icon that breaks into pixels) and dialing to the setting of your choice. Four quality settings are available – one Raw and three JPEG: Large/Fine, Large/Normal, and Small/Fine.

“Should I save my JPEGs in another file format?”

If you edit them, once you edit them, save copies of JPEGs as TIFFs to avoid additional JPEG compression artifacts. Every time you save a JPEG file it’s re-compressed, which causes progressive artifacting and cumulative damage.

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Here are five commonly asked questions that, once answered, will demystify camera color spaces.

“Why do my digital camera files have an sRGB profile?”

sRGB is the default color space for most digital cameras today. Most camera interfaces will allow you to change this default. Interfaces and options will vary. The widest gamut default color space most digital cameras support is Adobe RGB (1998). The profile for the camera’s default color space is attached to JPEG files but not to Raw files.

“Is Adobe RGB (1998) the widest gamut I can get with my camera?”

No. The camera sensor is capable of quite a lot more. To access color spaces with a wider gamut than Adobe RGB (1998) you typically need to shoot in a Raw file format. This also allows you to acquire a high bit file – 16-bit instead of 8-bit.

“Where do Raw files get their profiles?”

Raw files don’t have profiles until they are converted into a standard editing space, either with the manufacturer’s software or another Raw file converter like Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom. Most Raw converters offer a choice of editing spaces including sRGB, ColorMatch, Adobe RGB (1998), or ProPhoto RGB.

“Which color space do you recommend using?”

Use ProPhoto RGB for digital output. It’s the only editing space that can encompass the full gamut of both your camera and your inkjet printer. Use ProPhoto RGB for master files. Make all output specific derivatives from them.

Use sRGB for the web. If a browser isn’t color management compliant, colors won’t be distorted as much as wider gamut color spaces. Use sRGB for derivative files.

“How do I set color space on a digital camera?”

Camera interfaces and terminology vary widely. On the Canon 1Ds Mark II, you can toggle between sRGB and Adobe RGB (1998) by pressing the Menu button and going to the Recording menu (the first icon, a camera), then dialing down to Color matrix and continuing within that to Set up.

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Jay Maisel Speaks

December 28, 2010 | Leave a Comment |

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Using Histograms – ETTR

December 27, 2010 | 2 Comments |

Review Histograms After Exposure

One big advantage of shooting digitally is the ability to view a histogram in the LCD screen on the back of your camera body. A histogram is a graph of the relative distribution of the data in your image from shadows on the left to highlights on the right. You can use a histogram to evaluate not only the tonal distribution but also the quality of your exposures. By viewing the histogram immediately after exposure, you can determine if you need to make additional exposures at alternate settings to get better exposures. Simply program your camera to display a histogram immediately after exposure. You’ll find this immediate feedback will result in much higher success rates.

Don’t Clip

When evaluating a histogram, the primary concern is clipping or loss of data due to underexposure or overexposure. When a histogram ‘hits the wall’ to the left, the image is underexposed. If the histogram ‘hits the wall’ to the right the image is overexposed. This indicates that you should change exposure settings to get a more balanced exposure.

A Camera’s LCD Displays the Histogram of a JPEG

The histogram displayed on the camera represents the information of an image in a converted JPEG state, even if you are shooting in Raw. Because Raw is so flexible, you won’t know what its histogram will look like until it has been processed. Settings on your digital camera will only be applied to JPEG files it creates but they will also influence the histogram preview. Many digital cameras will allow you to set JPEG contrast to a low setting, which reduces the likelihood of clipping and provides a better Raw preview.

Raw Files Have More Data in the Highlights

If you shoot Raw files, you’ll not only have more data  in your files (16-bit instead of 8-bit), you’ll also have the option of processing files yourself with a RAW converter rather than having the camera process it for you. The Raw files you shoot will have more data in the highlights than is indicated by the histogram on a camera’s LCD. Typically there are many more bits of data in the highlights than the shadows. Assuming your photo has a 6-stop dynamic range (6 f-stops between the darkest and lightest parts of the photo) the progressive increase in bits of data looks like this from dark to light: 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048 (see above diagram). Because of this, data in shadows tends to be noisier and of lower quality than data in highlights. So, when shooting in RAW format, favor ‘overexposure’ rather than underexposure; optimal Raw exposure looks overexposed but without clipping. Expose to the right (ETTR). Then, later during processing, darken it. You’ll get better shadow and highlight detail this way. You’ll be amazed at how much highlight detail you can recover.

How to Quickly Achieve Optimal Exposure

In short …
1    Review histograms after exposure
2    Set your camera’s JPEG preview to low contrast
3    Expose to the right (ETTR) but don’t clip
4    Darken your Raw files during processing to create a pleasing appearance

1 clipped low

2 poor

3 good

4 better

5 clipped high

6 too contrasty … bracket exposure

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Kiran Bir Sethi shows how her groundbreaking Riverside School in India teaches kids life’s most valuable lesson: “I can.” Watch her students take local issues into their own hands, lead other young people, even educate their parents and start national movements.

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