RAW files must be edited…must. If you think that taking a RAW image out of a camera and printing or posting it as is is the “pure” thing to do you are just not familiar with how digital photography works. A RAW image is there to be edited and you are the editor. A jpeg or jpg image is “edited” by the camera and it will look better in the computer than a RAW and unedited image…but it will be in no way a professional looking final edit image. And as mentioned before, if you are shooting in jpeg (always shoot in RAW) you are giving up much of your editing opportunity and options forever more on that image.
If I have not made the case for always shooting in RAW and then editing the image using software in your computer, it is only because of my lack of writing skills. The concept is 100% correct. So…if you are not convinced, email me at email@example.com and let me try to walk you through the concept so it is clear to you.
There are so many editing programs out there. Mac has one built in called Photo. I use Photo to help me sort my RAW images and catalog my downsized final edits so I can sync them to my iPad and iPhone…so I can easily find them and show them to people in the gallery or anyone else that I can rope into looking at my best work. I never ever edit a photo in Photo…because it is a very limited editing program. Also, you should know that Apple has a history of getting you hooked on an editing program and then absolutely abandoning that program. If you want to see tears form in my eyes, ask me about my days as a true expert in Aperture…an Apple editing program. When Apple went to their latest IOS operating system (Catalina) in late 2019…they made it impossible to even open an Aperture file (there are work arounds that I know all too well but they are such that I actually plan to always have one laptop that will never get upgraded to Catalina just to use so I can still access my Aperture files). I, long ago, rescued the RAW files from the Aperture trap and have access to them.
For now, please subscribe to Lightroom and Photoshop. If you want to try some of the other robust editing programs down the road, great, but learn to edit in Lightroom and Photoshop first. It is just about magic, easy to get started using and easy to do simple edits. It is also so powerful and tool rich that it would take a lifetime to master everything they have to offer…not that you need to master those items…but they are there.
Lightroom and Photoshop are subscribed to together. In the old days you would buy the program and periodically have to buy upgrades to it. Today, you subscribe for a small amount per month and you get both programs and many more…I am not even going to go into what else they have to offer…let’s just stick to LR and PS.
The Adobe folks who produce LR and PS will push you into their cloud products. This is probably generational or a control freak thing…and I have had bad experience with iCloud and other cloud products…so I don’t use their cloud program. If you are comfortable with it…you are probably better off, as it is clear that is the way computers and computing is headed. I use Adobe Lightroom Classic. My images stay on my computer and I send them to various attached hard drives…and I actually send some of them off to a cloud I use for back up…but it is a cloud of my choosing and not the Adobe one. My thought…start off with the Classic program and you can decide about the Cloud product later on when you know what you are doing and how this all works.
If I had it all to do over again, I would have started out by taking a hands-on class in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop…started with the absolutely basics of how to import photos, sort them, edit them, catalog them, store them for safety…all using my computer and the Adobe products. I did not, so I have made up my own workflow and yours can be so much better if you start off right. If you are actually intent on becoming a professional or high end photographer you MUST be a good…actually great…editor. If you look into the history and photo life of Ansel Adams…the first world class photographer from way back when…born in 1902…you will be amazed at how much editing he did to his black and white photos…with no software of any kind. In fact, one of his best known quotes is “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” Editing is not cheating…it is as essential as actually taking the photo. I will talk about the abuses of it in a later post.
So…get LR and PS and learn how to use them. It will take some work, but it will astonish you at how cool that photo you took can actually become. And the first time you see a little tool in Photoshop work…one called Content Aware…you will believe in magic.
One last point I want to make very clear. If you are headed down a path of becoming good or great with a full sized digital camera you must also take on the skill set of becoming a good to great photo editor. You can not just do one…you have to both take the photo and edit it. If that is too daunting a task…stick with phone photography…much easier, less expensive, less time consuming and phone photographers are getting better and better results. Trust me on this one…If you think you will buy a high end camera and just take the photo and not bother with editing it…you are fully and completely wasting your time. It is not an option. You will end up both frustrated and looking foolish. You must take the photos AND edit the photos.