Shooting RAW: Streamlining Your Workflow

By Hilary Quinn, Shutterstock Submitter

As any online stock contributor knows, we will do anything to avoid a rejection. So why do some of us shuffle our feet when it comes to shooting RAW? Perhaps it sounds too intimidating, or we think it will slow down our work process. Not so. Hopefully, with this article, you might give it a try.

Because photography is a hobby for me, I have chosen to keep using my entry-level DSLR Canon EOS 350D [Editor’s Note: The U.S. version is the Digital Rebel XT], as well as cheaper lenses, and I am still able to meet the high standard of quality expected from both Shutterstock inspectors and their clients. It is only by shooting RAW that I can reach this high level of quality, and minimize rejections based on quality issues.

Why is RAW better quality? RAW data from most DSLR cameras contains 12 bit data, which means that there can be 4,096 different intensity levels for each pixel. In an 8-bit JPEG file, each pixel can have one of only 256 different intensity levels. This means you can manipulate a RAW file to a greater extent without degrading the quality.

Step 1: Find the RAW setting on your camera. This should be under your main menu, and you will be offered a few options depending on your camera, namely:

a. RAW

b. RAW + JPEG

I recommend just RAW, as RAW files take up more space than usual on your memory card. So for a 2GB Compact Flash memory card, you should be able to fit approximately 200 RAW images. If that isn’t enough for you, simply upgrade your card to 4-8GB, depending on your needs. A 4GB card is enough for me for a day’s shooting, whether in the studio with multiple models, or out and about, so that is the size I recommend.

Enjoy shooting ““ that is the fun part!

Step 2: So now you have a full Compact Flash (or other) memory card; time to download those beautiful images. I used to use the direct USB connection that came with my camera before I got sick of the waiting time between reading the data on the camera and beginning the image transfer. The best thing you can do to save time is use a memory card reader. Most new computers have memory card readers already installed, but if you are using an older computer, just pick up an external memory card reader that plugs into your USB port. I promise you, you will never look back, and you can pick one up for under $10 while getting hours and hours of your life back!

Step 3: Copy the RAW images from your card reader to your computer. We are going to use Adobe Bridge, and Adobe Photoshop CS2 to process the images. Once your images are safely copied into a folder on your hard-drive, start Adobe Bridge and locate that folder using the drop-down file menu on the toolbar.

When you start up Adobe Bridge, it is set to the default view. I prefer the film strip view for online stock photo editing, so using the toolbar go to: Window > Workspace > Film Strip Focus.

Now you can scroll through your thumbnails and see a nice large preview of the images before you decide on the best from the bunch. Simply drag the image you wish to process into Photoshop.

Step 4: In Photoshop, you are presented with a dialogue. At this point you can control and tweak exposure, white balance, tint, and more.

Let’s start with the workflow options underneath your image preview.

Below are the attributes I have set as default when saving out a JPEG file:

Space ““ Adobe RGB

Depth ““ 8 Bits/Channel

Size ““ 3456 by 2304

Resolution ““ 300 pixels/inch

I have left the depth at 8 bits for the purpose of this tutorial as we are saving JPEG only, but if you do want to save a TIFF format also, I recommend a depth setting of 16 bit. I have left the size at maximum for my camera — this will vary depending on your camera’s resolution, but be careful not to upsize images by having this setting significantly higher than the resolution offered by your camera or this may negatively affect your image.

Next I’ll address the image settings. These will change depending on the lighting conditions and location of each photograph. Below you can see the settings I used for a high key studio setup. For online stock photography, I tend to edit the images to be slightly brighter and whiter than usual. However, be careful not to blow out highlights too much, and always keep as much detail as possible in your post-processing work.

Once you are happy with how your image looks, you can save the exact settings for future use if you wish, so that you can quickly apply the same look to a batch of images.

Step 5: When you are happy with the settings you have applied to the RAW image, just click ‘open,’ to open the image with these settings applied in Photoshop. At this point, you can manipulate the image further if you wish (worthy of a whole other tutorial!), and you can also add keywords.

To add keywords, just go to File > File Info using the toolbar.

You will see a dialogue box (see below), where you can add the title, description and keywords relevant to the image.

Click ‘OK’ once the data is entered. The beauty of this keywording method is that when uploading the image to Shutterstock, the site automatically pulls this data into the title, description and keyword fields, which speeds up the uploading process exponentially. [Editor’s note: Shutterstock recommends that all of our submitters adopt this simple workflow procedure.]

Once you have finished your keywording and are happy with the image, you’re finished! Simply save out your JPG file at the highest quality setting (or prep a TIFF file just as easily), and upload to Shutterstock.

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