My sad RAW workflow

I’m beginning to really enjoy shooting RAW format with my digital SLR, so why am I sad? Read on gentle friend…

I’ve had my Pentax istDL for a few months now – I just love it. I know there are better credentialled and featured cameras around, but I’m not a professional photographer, I just wanted mor control than my dear, faithful little Sony Cybershot. The reports about slight under-exposure are correct – most shots come out a little darker than you’d really want, but I don’t have any other complaints.

For a while, I was happy with shooting JPEG – still am for certain subjects, but I wanted a little more finesse so I knew I had to shoot RAW – just like the pros! Here was my first bit of sadness. Apple iPhoto doesn’t talk Pentax RAW! darn!!

The camera came with a CD, which I totally ignored at the time. Now, I pulled it out of the cupboard and tried installing the shipped software, confident it would offer me a reasonable solution. Oh, whoah! it’s dreadful. What were they thinking? It crashes and hangs – the menus and functions are utterly mystifying and user-hostile. There’s a plugin for photoshop, which just utterly refuses to work. This is horrible software. I know the software that ships with cameras is usually bad, but even I was surprised by this waste of bytes.

Photoshop Camera RAW import is an option. It certainly worked. The photos look good. You can save settings from one pic to the next and sort of do batches, but it’s way too clunky and slow to be used with any pleasure. That’s why I take photos – for pleasure… not to wrestle with ho-hum interfaces and double, even triple handling. Nope, my use of RAW was going to be limited until something friendlier comes along.

Last week, things changed dramatically. A friend was using the Adobe Lightroom beta and suggested I try it out. This is what I call fun! Lightroom imports directly and smoothly. You can start working on loaded images while the rest of the batch continues to download in the background. The interface is slick… really slick! All so intuitive and smooth, I feel like I know it already. I suppose there’s a bit of Photoshop in there, but it’s not ugly like PS, it’s beautiful.

You get an overview of what you’re doing, it’s so important to be able to compare one photo with another – to build up a picture of true colour. All the controls and functions are there when you need them and neatly hidden away if you don’t. Performance is excellent, I run a 1.25Ghz eMac at home – not exactly a professional machine, but Lightroom does all the grunt work in the background, so it still feels fast and slick.

I can’t say enough good things about this software, yet I’m still sad. Why? well, when the beta runs out, they’re going to ask me to pay for it and I’m guessing it’s going to be way out of my league. Maybe by then, Apple will have realised that Pentax exists. In the meantime, I implore you – if you shoot RAW, get lightroom and enjoy!