One of the great things about modern photography is that digital photography allows us to take a ton of pictures and see them almost instantly on the little screen on the back of the camera or on your cell phone. So you'd think that professional photography is just pointing the camera and clicking the shutter button, and voila! Perfect image. That's just not the case.
Cell phones and basic digital cameras take pictures and save them as JPEG files, which are then ready to email or post online or be printed. Professional photographers shoot in RAW format, which then needs to be developed using software. A JPEG processes the scene in front of you as you see it and takes its best guess at exposure and color levels, while RAW is capturing zillions of bits of information and saving the pixels in its memory, allowing us to tell the information exactly how it should look. The benefit of RAW is that it allows SO much more to be done with the image. An example? You really love the Adele song "Rolling in the Deep" so you buy her CD or download that specific song and play it on your iPod. Sounds great! But what if you go to an Adele concert in person and she sings "Rolling in the Deep" better and richer and more soulful than you've ever heard it on the radio or on the album. That's like JPEG vs. RAW for us photographers. The JPEG will be ready fast, but the RAW will be so much better for actual quality of the image.
Changing to shooting in RAW was the best thing I've ever done for my photography, but the big drawback is that it requires post-processing in either Lightroom or Photoshop. A single image may take me 15 minutes to get perfect, or it may take me HOURS. Modern digital processing is amazing and because it is RAW, it allows me to completely transform an image.
I have to confess, I really really love Photoshop. And not just for taking wrinkles off my own pictures! It's a fabulous tool for taking splotches off newborns. And remember what I said above, that JPEGs guess at the details but RAW is just basic information that needs to be developed? Look at the RAW below, which is dull and dark and grayish - that's how a RAW always looks unprocessed.
This is Carter. He's a handsome little fella that I got to hold on his first day of life (reminding me that babies smell SO good when they are born!). We did some candid photos in the hospital and we also did a newborn session on about day five of his brand-spankin'-new life. Unlike most newborns, Carter just didn't want to snooze! That was fine because we got some fantastic images with his eyes open. Sweet Carter with the wonderful smelling head had some blotchiness going on, which is typical for a newborn. Oftentimes wee ones can have flakes and peeling and scratches, which is easy enough to clean up thanks to the magic of Adobe Photoshop.
The level of retouching that someone would like done is always a guess, and I think it's always better to err on the side of caution. No one wants to look plastic, after all. I think he looks real but perfect.
This happens to be Carter's mother's very favorite picture of him. She says that you can see the whole world through his eyes.