Photo Editor: Raw To The Rescue!

Posted on 15 Aug, 2014 by Scott Jones
Jorge Lorenzo Le Mans Pit Lane by Scott Jones

I’ve observed that most of my colleagues in MotoGP shoot in JPG format. They tend not to do too much fine tuning of their images, but let the camera’s software apply contrast, saturation and sharpening for them on the fly.

There are many advantages to this approach. It’s automatic. Files sizes are much smaller. Image previews load faster.

The file size is a double benefit, because it means you can fit more images on a storage card AND you have smaller archives of each race weekend.

Occasionally I shoot JPGs and each time I do I wish I could ALWAYS shoot JPGs. But I always go back to raw format images, and today’s example shows why raw is sometimes worth the extra overhead. (It’s a lot of overhead btw – an average race archive for me is 40-50GB.)

While photographing Jorge Lorenzo at Le Mans this season, someone walked almost right in front of me just as I made an exposure. No big deal, happens all too often in pit lane where things are pretty hectic with mechanics, other photographers, video camera crews, reporters, VIPS, etc. moving around.

But when I got back to the computer, something about the look in Lorenzo’s eyes caught my own. I wanted to see if I could salvage something from this moment.

First, the Exif data for the above image:

Nothing unusual here, except perhaps that the D4/70-200mm combo is at f/4 instead of wide open, which is my habit in this situation. The high ISO setting is to allow me to get decent exposures as the subject moves from the dark garage to the brighter pit lane. I’m shooting on Aperture Priority so that I only worry about what f-stop I’m using.

Now the Develop panel from Adobe Lightroom 5.3:

You can see from the histogram that we have way too many white pixels, represented in the image by the giant white blob of the pedestrian’s shirt or glowing radioactive skin, perhaps.

So first I have to see what detail is there in the raw file. I make the following changes to the file to see what is there:

The main change is that the Exposure is darkened a lot. Everything that’s dark is made darker while the highlights are also dropped almost as much as possible. To balance the drop in Exposure, I bring the Whites back up.

More on the next page:

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