April 2, 2012

Revisiting jpg vs. raw ...

Ok. Y'all know I'm pretty much a jpg shooter, right? I wrote a big, long post about it way back oodles of years ago in 2009. And I'm still pretty much (95% of the time) a jpg shooter.

But sometimes, an occasion pops up where a raw file will just hold up much better than a jpg. Like this last weekend. When I photographed Littlest Dude's school performance of Theseus and the Minotaur. In the dark. I kid you not. D.A.R.K. The windows were taped over. In some scenes there were no overhead lights, only flashlights and the glowing red eyes of the Minotaur. So, at the rehearsal, I popped the camera into raw+jpg mode for a couple images to do a little experiment. Here's the SOOC.


The image above is shot at ISO 4000(!!), 100mm, f/4 (the widest aperture on my 24-105mm lens), and 1/40 sec (yes, way too slow, and yes, slower than I'm able to handhold well). As you can see, despite such a high ISO and such a low shutter speed, the image is nevertheless underexposed. Oh yeah, and it's also orange, noisy, and ugly (not the people! the image of the people).

Below are my two edits. Note: these are both quickie edits done in Lightroom. I don't like to spend oodles of time trying to fix sucky pics. For both I significantly bumped the exposure, used the custom white balance dropper to click on the students' shirts (thank you, GCA, for choosing 18% gray uniforms. grin), and reduced the noise from high ISO and underexposure. The first one is my jpg edit.


This next one is my raw edit.


The raw file was a significant enough improvement that I decided to shoot the evening performance in medium-raw mode. Did you know there was such a thing as "medium" raw? I didn't :-}. But I opened up my camera manual and went searching, because I didn't want to wrack up a bunch of 26mb files, 'cause that'll eat up my hard drive more quickly than I care to consider.

So here were my takeaway decisions for shooting the evening performance based on my rehearsal experience:

1. Ditch my 24-105 lens (which is what I usually shoot performances with). Instead I brought my 24mm. I needed to be able to gobble what little light there was. The 24mm lens is a light gobbler. Yup, I'm pretty sure that's its technical name. Light gobbler.

2. I shot in medium raw format (resulting files are about 12mb, instead of 26mb).

3. I kept my ISO at 3200, my f/stop at 2.8, and my shutter speed above 1/160 second (except for the minotaur scene; some of those exposures are 1/10 second).

The result images of these settings is in the slideshow below. The rehearsal is at the beginning; the evening's performance begins at about the 1:55 mark.

And that's my little tale of why I shot in medium-raw this weekend. Oh, and Littlest Dude? He was the most adorable "scary narrator" EVER. And yes, as his mom, I might be just a little biased. (the 3 other scary narrators were also excellent!)

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Anonymous said...

I'm so intrigued by medium raw. I actually shot my ballet production in jpeg (I know! CRAZY) but now that I know there is a land between Full Raw & Jpeg I may be convinced. :)

Andrea said...

You now have me totally convinced to shoot raw+jpg for all important events. ;)
The only time I've actually ever shot raw was for my first (and so far, only) family photo shoot. My dad is a photographer and when I asked him for tips for the shoot he said - Shoot RAW!! So I did. :-)

Eva said...

Thanks so much for these tips!

Perfect timing as I will be shooting my daughter's first dance recital next week.