The moment struck me like a ton of bricks. I guess I really knew it all along, but I really hadn’t thought much about it. Sure, the camera has a bazillion settings and options, but what would I do with them all? And who needs them when photo editing software does so very many cool things? But is that really the story?
The answer is no. Or at least that is the conclusion to which I am arriving. I hadn’t really considered the meaningful differences between the various photo-editing software that are available and that come with the purchase of a digital camera (whether the camera is a point-n-shoot or dSLR). Since acquiring my Canon 40D dSLR I have been primarily using one bit of software by which to work on the RAW image files and that software has been Capture One 4. It was free with the purchase of some higher-end Compact Flash cards from SanDisk (my trusted name in flash media) and I can say that I have very much enjoyed using it. It’s not resource hungry. It’s rather intuitive. It does a lot of things, but isn’t as robust as Photoshop Elements (or any of the even more robust suites like Lightroom or CS3). What it does and does well is let me tweak (as one of my Flickr mates likes to say) my RAW image to get from it what I want. But I didn’t fully understand its own limitations until just the other day.
It was after my Woodland Cemetery photo shoot that I came across something I hadn’t anticipated. The shots I had taken with the in-camera monochromatic setting were showing up as colour images in Capture One 4. Huh? I opened the resource-hungry Photoshop Elements 6 and found the same odd results. More huh. Baffled I elected to do something I hadn’t done yet, not in the almost 11-months I had owned my Canon 40D: try using the supplied Canon software.
When I opened what I knew were monochromatic images (that is, shot in monochromatic) in the Canon software, monochromatic images appeared on my computer monitor. As a matter-of-fact, not only did the images appear as I thought they should I found that the software had editing tools that matched the in-camera settings (at least in regards to the various Picture Styles, filters and tones). I could, for example, now take my shot-in-monochromatic images and change the Picture Style from monochrome to Standard, Portrait, Landscape, etc. and suddenly I was looking at a colour version of my formerly monochromatic image. It was at this moment I realized the true potential of the Canon-supplied software: what it may lack in other photo-editing abilities it made up for in the ability to alter the image at a very fundamental level. I really should have realized this all along, but I hadn’t.
In part my lack of understanding comes from not having played with the Canon-supplied software. But there is also at play a misconception in my own mind as to what software could do with a RAW image file and I think that this misconception is more at the heart of my misunderstanding than anything else.
This entire incident has really left me in a mild state of anxiety. Suddenly I’m confronted with a whole host of issues directly related to how to use the various software suites in my possession as well as which suites to use based upon what outcome for which I’m looking. Suddenly just tweaking images can effectively be done in either Capture One 4 or the Canon-supplied software, but with neither having a clear advantage over the other, yet both having what I perceive to be advantages when compared to Elements, LR, CS3, etc. (at least in regards to tweaking).
Between the host of in-camera settings (which are, in no small part, meaningless seeing how I can change damn near most things with the Canon-supplied software, short of shutter speed and aperture), the Canon software, and a bevy of third-party software suites it’s too much to ponder.
Suddenly that lovely JPEG-only-shooting Canon A630 point-n-shoot is beginning to look pretty sweet…..