When I first began snapping pictures with my lovely, lovely Canon 40D (did I mention it’s lovely?), I horded every image file as if it were the only thing standing between me and certain death. Every image was a masterpiece of lighting, composition, framing, colour management, blah, blah, blah. Well……the truth is that most of those early pictures were, at best, okay. And that is being rather generous. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has moved up to a dSLR (or a super nice compact super-zoom) as there is a learning curve with the camera, forgetting completely about the learning curve that comes with the process of photography itself. But within a few weeks of blissful dSLR ownership I was struck by a certain problem: what do I do with all these image files?
For your consideration:
A lovely picture, no? And no doubt it is a picture. And it was shot in both Canon’s RAW format as well as JPEG. So what do I do with these files once I get home and upload them to my computer? It was a keeper (as not all were from this particular shoot)….the JPEG version was good, but with the RAW file I could make some minor tweaks (to coin the phrase of a certain Flickr mate) and then convert to JPEG, thus making the from-camera JPEG moot. So what is one to do?
Well my solution was to delete the from-camera JPEG, edit the RAW image file, create a new JPEG from the RAW file and then upload that to Flickr. The nice thing about the RAW editing software I use for much of my workflow (Capture One 4) is that it doesn’t really alter my original RAW files, but creates a new file that tracks all my adjustments to each image file within a given folder. If I re-open an image file in Capture One 4 it displays with the afore-mentioned adjustments, but if I open the file in another app (say….Photoshop Elements) then I am once again working with the unaltered RAW file. Heck, if I want to start over completely all I need do is delete the Capture One 4 created file from the folder and there you go! But this isn’t really to what I was referring earlier. I really mean when do I keep the RAW file and when do I only keep a JPEG (either from-camera or generated from the RAW file)?
For me I look at my image files in the context of “What was my intent?” Was I trying to do something interesting or was I trying hard to make a better picture, or was I simply pointing and shooting and thus creating a record of a moment in time that I wish to have? I guess I could split this concept in a different manner….the creative/working hard for a better picture side wants to use the Canon 40D, while the record-creating side can use the 40D, but would have been just as happy with the Canon A630 point-n-shoot. I do not usually carry both cameras with me, so I often end up using the 40D for point-n-shoot situation photographs like the image above and the one below.
Maybe it sounds like a bit of a strange way to do things, but I’m finding that it works well enough for me. I keep two folders on my computer: one for images that are simply records of a moment in time and one for everything else (hoping that ‘everything else’ are better or more interesting pictures). I really don’t know if this is such a great system, but one must have a system otherwise their picture collection will become completely unmanageable. And isn’t that the real kick in the head? Because even if you do have a system, if you find or discover one that may work better there isn’t much change of making the change because it could involve so much work as to make it unfeasible.
Isn’t that a warm and fuzzy feeling?