Seeing Beyond The RAW Capture
Every time I hear somebody say, Just give us raw files, we'll take care of the digital processing, I want to cringe. I never deliver RAW files to my clients, and it's not because I want to charge them for digital post-production, it's because their guy can't possibly know what I saw when I made the image, nor can he interpret my files to match my vision... and my vision is why my clients commission me to begin with.
Yesterday morning at five o'clock I was standing on the shore of Lake Michigan contemplating the skyline of Chicago's Gold Coast. It was about 70°F and the sky was clear, and though it's a relatively low temperature considering our recent weather, the 90% humidity and the hike from where my car was parked to the location where I was standing, with a 40 pound pack, had me slightly sweaty.
The sky was already starting to brighten and I'd hoped to be shooting by then but I was delayed trying to make sense of Chicago's Byzantine parking regulations (reading those signs at 5:00 AM can make you want to turn around and go back home!), so I hustled through my set-up and started shooting right away. By 5:20 AM I'd made my best picture already but I hung around for sunrise and made some more. By 6:05 AM, sixty seven frames later, I was on my way to the office to start processing my take.
Sunrise was gorgeous by the way, but I wasn't feeling all that good about the shoot, especially as the images started displaying on my monitor as they were imported from the camera. They looked kind of dull and grey, not at all what I'd seen. It took a little color correction and enhancement in Aperture, and then some perspective correction, distortion correction (all zoom lenses exhibit pin-cushion distortion) and cloning in Photoshop, before the image would match my vision... what I saw in my head was more attractive than what I saw with my eyes, and that takes a little work that only I can do.
I think you can tell which is the before and which is the after.
Both above: Canon EOS-5D Mark II, 28~105/3.5~4.5 Canon EF Ultrasonic lens, ISO 100