RAW files and photo software to read them

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by Susan P, May 12, 2005.

  1. Susan P

    Susan P Guest

    I am having quite a lot of difficulty in dealing with a photographer
    who took some pictures for me.

    He and I agreed that he would give me all the photo files from the
    session. The photographer used a digital Nikon camera to take the
    pictures and has has some sample 10 x 8s printed by a photo printing
    company.

    QUESTION 1: The prints are on Epson paper. This suggests to me that
    they have been done on a computer-attached printer rather than at a
    photo company. Is this correct? Is a professionally printed digital
    photo is better than one printed by a computer printer?

    Then my photographer explained to me that the pictures are in RAW
    files and that a photo printing company would not be able to read
    them. This seems odd to me. QUESTION TWO: Can someone tell me if
    this is true? I am in the UK if that makes a difference.

    When I pressed him for the files he gave me the option of having the
    files converted to JPEG or TIFF. I don't know which one file format
    best preserves the quality of the original so I went for JPEG. These
    are studio pictures of me which are in color but many of which I will
    have printed in Black & White. I will need to have some of them
    retouched with Photoshop or something like that. QUESTION THREE: Is
    JPEG better than TIFF for my purposes?
     
    Susan P, May 12, 2005
    #1
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  2. Susan P

    Jeremy Nixon Guest

    You're right about how they were printed. Many people prefer to make
    their own prints in order to control the process and get better results.
    It's true; RAW files cannot be sent for printing. They are unfinished
    files, and will not have any color balance, color correction, tonal
    correction, etc., applied. You wouldn't know what to do with them,
    in other words.
    JPEG is compressed in a lossy way; TIFF is better if you're going to be
    editing the pictures and re-saving them, but the files will be much
    larger and may need to be converted to JPEG to send them for printing.
     
    Jeremy Nixon, May 12, 2005
    #2
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  3. Susan P

    Alan Browne Guest

    Usually. However for many prints, good quality "home" printers,
    properly used will give results that are indistinguishable (and often
    better) than most prints from many 1-hour photo services.
    It depends on the company. If they use Photoshop (which is very likely
    somewhere in their organization) then the photo printing company can get
    the RAW PLUGIN for photoshop and then read the file. It is a question
    of communications, usually, to make sure the company understands the
    content and what to do with it. ..The service people who take the
    orders might not be educated about RAW.

    It is not necessarily in your best interest to submit a RAW file in any
    case. As the term suggests, "RAW" means "unprocessed". You may
    (likely) want to make adjustments to the image prior to committing the
    job in TIFF or JPG.

    TIFF can conserve detail better than JPG. JPG immediately truncates
    (re-scales and truncates) each image pixel from 12 bits to 8 bits and
    that is just the beginning of the evil it does... Having said that, once
    a 10/10 JPG gets to the printer, a print cannot even bring out the full
    depth of the JPG.
    B&W in JPG is fine. Keep the RAW (which may be converted to the
    'universal' DNG (Adobe)) for long term storage. Or for processed
    images, best keep them in TIFF for full depth.

    Cheers,
    Alan
     
    Alan Browne, May 12, 2005
    #3
  4. A1: In my opinion professional photo paper is better than an inkjet. I use a
    very large professional inkjet at work and while the results are fantastic,
    I feel that a photographic print ie. one that has gone through stinky RA-4
    chemicals is that bit better. They also have better longevity and are more
    robust.

    A2: RAW files to put it as simply as possible are the data captured by the
    sensor in the camera without any "buggering about". This leaves the
    photographer the option to bugger about with it later on the computer. I
    doubt any labs would be willing to accept RAW files without charging extra.
    Try www.colorworldimaging.co.uk or www.colab.co.uk

    A3: TIFF. A JPEG is a compressed file format that is lossy i.e. it throws
    information away in order to compress the file. A TIFF should retain more
    information. To be honest though, you may not notice the difference unless
    you repeatedly open the JPEG, make adjustments and then save it, because
    each time it is saved it throws away more information.

    Regards,

    Craig
     
    Craig Marston, May 12, 2005
    #4
  5. Susan P

    Alan Browne Guest

    I meant to add: "however, the inks used on various printers have
    differing life on paper. Some may fade earlier than others."
     
    Alan Browne, May 12, 2005
    #5
  6. Susan P

    Dirty Harry Guest

    Can anyone else comment on the quality of prints from high end inkjets? HP
    claims that if you use their top end photo paper you will get prints that
    last "up to twice as long as traditional prints". What do you all think
    about this?
     
    Dirty Harry, May 12, 2005
    #6
  7. Susan P

    Paul Mitchum Guest

    Your photographer should be answering all these questions for you. If he
    isn't, then hire another photographer.

    You want TIFFs, which are lossless. JPEG is good, too, more than likely.
    You might as well get the RAW files, as well, just to have them. CDs are
    cheap.
     
    Paul Mitchum, May 12, 2005
    #7
  8. Susan P

    Hecate Guest

    NB Don't try Colab, they're currently in administration and looking
    for a buyer.

    --

    Hecate - The Real One

    Fashion: Buying things you don't need, with money
    you don't have, to impress people you don't like...
     
    Hecate, May 12, 2005
    #8
  9. Susan P

    Frederick Guest

    A quote from one recent review:
    http://www.photo-i.co.uk/Reviews/interactive/Epson R1800/page_14.htm

    "As a professional photographer with over 30 years experience and
    exhibited at many venues, I can say that the print I produced this
    afternoon is better than anything I have ever done in the darkroom. The
    print has sharpness, great colour saturation and all the qualities that
    I would expect from a wet chemistry photograph, let alone a digital
    print. It is stunning. Any photographer who questions the quality or
    merit of a digital print compared to a wet chemistry print need only
    look at the output from the R1800"

    That review is for an A3 inkjet printer that costs a bit over US $500 -
    not a professional level expensive machine. Similar quality results are
    available from similarly priced printers from Canon and HP. Epson
    probably has the edge on quality and print longevity. If A4 is big
    enough, then an Epson R800 costs about 40% less.

    It is not comparing the results to a "one hour photo lab", but to
    skilled, painstaking wet process printing.

    Where I live, the cost of consumables per A3 print from that printer is
    about 1/3 of the cost per "one-off" print from a lab, and about half the
    cost per "one-off" A4 sized print. A lab is probably cheaper for small
    prints, and about the same for multiple large prints - once you
    negotiate a discount.

    You can factor in the capital cost of the printer to make it appear less
    attractive compared to a photo lab, but it is hard to quantify the
    inconvenience of dealing with a lab versus the convenience of printing
    at home.

    If the prints from that epson printer last only 1/4 as long as they are
    claimed when displayed, then they will still last twice as long as some
    wet process prints that I have had done in the past.

    There are issues relating to print head clogging, particularly if the
    printer isn't used regularly, or is switched off from the wall plug.
    There is probably little - or much less - point printing at home unless
    you want larger prints, are reasonably computer literate, and have
    either good digital camera equipment or can get good quality scans from
    film, and will use the printer regularly.
     
    Frederick, May 12, 2005
    #9
  10. Susan P

    Guest Guest


    I've seen great prints from a Durst Lambda printer, they were taken on a
    Nikon D100 and were printed to A2 from the Jpeg file, the printer has built
    in interpolation software that does a great job. The print was about £30
     
    Guest, May 13, 2005
    #10
  11. Susan P

    tacit Guest

    The answer is "it depends."

    Some "printing companies" use ordinary inkjet printers of the kind you
    can walk into a Circuit City and buy yourself. Some use more expensive
    inkjet printers (high-end inkjets can run many thousands of dollars).
    They are still computer inkjet prints, not photographic prints.

    Does that make them worse? Again, it depends. Color photographs are easy
    to make from computer files, but most color photographs don't really
    last very long. An archival inkjet print may last longer than an
    ordinary consumer photograph.
    Photoshop can read RAW files; so can the stand-alone software you can
    download from the Nikon Web site.
    No, no, no.

    JPEG degrades the quality of the picture. It does this to make the file
    smaller on disk. JPEG is only intended for situations where file size is
    critical and image quality is not important. That's why it is used on
    the Web--file size is more important than image quality on the Web,
    because big files take a long time to download.

    TIFF files are bigger, because they do not degrade the quality of the
    image.
     
    tacit, May 13, 2005
    #11
  12. Susan P

    Paul Furman Guest


    Agreed. It is unusual to get the files from the photog but if that's the
    agreement there should be tricks or holding back & he/she should know
    the answers.


    Sure, get the RAW files but you'll have to pay someone skillful a lot to
    fiddle them into the final product. Really though I can understand the
    photog not wanting to release those because someone might do a bad job
    of processing & his/her name is on the job but whatever you agreed to.
    RAW is equivalent to a negative. I never heard of a photographer giving
    out negatives though in this case it's easy enough to make a duplicate.

    If you get TIFF, ask for 16 bit if you plan to have them edited further,
    otherwise jpegs will be almost identical to 8 bit TIFF if the quality
    setting is high and with jpegs you will be able to send those direct for
    lots of prints, TIFF could cause you a lot of hassle. Wouldn't the
    photographer be the best person to do any touch ups though?


    I vote for jpegs & RAW.
     
    Paul Furman, May 13, 2005
    #12
  13. Susan P

    Lionel Guest

    In your shoes, I'd ask for a CD-R/DVD-R with both the RAW & TIFF
    versions of the photos.
    Maybe, maybe not. There are plenty of bureaus printing on Epson inkjets.
    That said, I prefer Lambda or Frontier prints to inkjet prints.
    In general, yes - especially in terms of print longevity.
    Yes, it's true. RAW files are better quality than JPEG or TIFF, but each
    brand of camera has its own format, requiring special software.
    OTOH, if you intend to have the images edited in the latest version of
    Photoshop by a competant photographer, it supports RAW format for all
    the big name cameras, so RAW format would be the one to go for.
    Not if you have the option of 48/16 bit TIFF, no. If the TIFF file is
    24/8 bit, there is no practical difference from JPEG, for your purposes.

    Hope this clears up some confusion for you. :)
     
    Lionel, May 13, 2005
    #13
  14. Susan P

    Paul Furman Guest


    It occurred to me that Susan may be a model/performer, etc putting a
    portfolio together in which case it would be wise to get RAW files.
    Maybe a set needs to be put together from different shoots & the white
    balance matched between those.
     
    Paul Furman, May 13, 2005
    #14
  15. Susan P

    james Guest

    Is it in writing that he would give you unprocessed original files
    straight from the camera? If it's not in writing, he's within his
    rights to give you only jpegs, and he can retouch them if he wants.

    What you needed to do before this session was to negotiate copyright.
    That way, if he wanted to withhold the originals, it wouldn't matter --
    he would not be allowed to publish them as his own work.

    Does he want your business again? If he does, he really ought to give
    you what you want. But then, if this is a wedding or something and
    you're never going to hire a photographer again, maybe it's not going to
    be very persuasive when you point out that he's not coming to your next
    gig.
    Did he give you a CD with jpegs at least?
    Well, most lab prints are done with a laser process, and Ilford paper
    would say "premium", and this is obviously done on an Epson printer with
    ink. Not bad. But not the process you do for an archival gallery
    print.
    It's just a proof, you said. There are better processes.
    RAW format is specific to the Nikon camera (in this case), and are not
    really useful as-is. They must be converted to another format before
    printing. However, the RAW file is the digital equivalent of the
    negative. The difference is, it can be copied.

    But you should not be in a position where you have to explain why you
    need the RAW file. The photographer should explain to you why he needs
    to keep it, destroy it, or withhold it from you.
    I know how the agreement would work, if there is one, in the US. As for
    the UK, I am vaguely aware that a system of civil law exists there, and
    that they pronounce it "lore", but that's as far as I go :)
    It would be perfectly reasonable to give you both. There is some
    information lost in the conversion. Is it important? Probably not.
    I'd ask for TIFF, in your case. You can make your own JPEGS from that.
    RAW format is the only one that completely preserves the original image
    as the camera recorded it. TIFF is close, and arguably, better. I'd
    want both. If I couldn't have both, I'd probably want TIFF, since there
    are some benefits to having the photographer convert it (benefits
    regarding things like white balance and color correction.)
    Ah, they are of your likeness. You need to stop framing this in terms
    of what you receive, and instead, make sure the agreement does not
    convey the right to publish your likeness.
    TIFF is better, generally speaking, and if you're talking about
    professional work that's worth keeping, you're better off starting with
    RAW. I'd be more concerned with the reason the photographer wants to
    keep the negatives, if I were you. Does he have a model release from
    you? Did you agree to let him publish the work, or even incorporate it
    in his portfolio? If not, then what possible reason does he have for
    keeping the negatives? (RAW images?) What is his reason for not giving
    them to you? ("You're ignorant and wouldn't know what to do with them"
    is not a reason you should accept.)

    They may actually be your property, or they may be his property. What
    does your agreement say?
     
    james, May 13, 2005
    #15
  16. Susan P

    james Guest

    I have prints that I carelessly made in the 70s with Dektol and Rapid
    Fixer, and didn't even wash properly, that I'm actually proud of today.
    I know there are "aging" processes that let the inkjet people make
    claims about the archival quality of their process, but how many of them
    have been hanging on a wall in my mom's house for 30 years? To me, the
    only test of time that counts, is time. If I wanted to make a B&W print
    today, I think I'd be very tempted to (1) shoot a negative from my
    digital image, and (2) print it old school. I mean, I *know* that
    stands a chance of outliving me. What do I know about inkjet? Or even
    whatever the lab does these days?
    And not getting the RAW data, deprives you of that privilege. (A
    privilege that should have been clearly negotiated from the start, but
    it carries the same significance as "who keeps the negative" does for
    film.)

    If you would be willing to accept only prints from the same photographer
    using film, then you should be willing to let him destroy the RAW file.
    If he *keeps* the RAW file, is he keeping it on your behalf? Or does he
    hold the copyright on the image? What about the model release? If he
    doesn't have the copyright and the model release, then he has an image
    he isn't allowed to publish or distribute. So why doesn't he surrender
    it to you?
    If Ansel Adams had shot a landscape of your grandfather's ranch in
    Wyoming, and given him a print, saying "the negative isn't important",
    "you wouldn't know what to do with it anyway", etc., how would you feel
    about it today?
     
    james, May 13, 2005
    #16
  17. Susan P

    james Guest

    I think they are making a claim based on something other than direct
    observation. I remember looking at Steiglitz prints and some Westons in
    a gallery. I know those have aged well. Anything printed with a
    contemporary inkjet process hasn't stood the test of time, period. It
    may have stood a simulation test, but, there I was, looking at Stieglitz
    prints with my own eyes. To be fair, I doubt Alfred was sure his
    photographs would be visible for 50 or 100 years, but, there they are.
    The inkjet people can only hope they are right.
     
    james, May 13, 2005
    #17
  18. Susan P

    james Guest

    I'd go a bit further. If that photographer doesn't have permission to
    use my likeness, I want him to give me the negatives or RAW files, and
    destroy his copies. If he has negotiated copyright, that's different,
    but then, the expectations would be clearly understood and in writing if
    that is the case. The fact that the model doesn't seem know who has the
    copyright here, tells me that she (or he) probably isn't in any position
    to negotiate. But if she (or he) is paying this photographer, I'm sure
    it's time to pay a different one for the next gig. I don't like to work
    with people that argue with me over what I do and do not want.
    "I'd like the RAW files please"
    "You don't want them, you couldn't use them anyway"

    That would be the end of our professional relationship. You don't work
    for me and treat me like I'm stupid. At least you don't work for me
    twice.
     
    james, May 13, 2005
    #18
  19. Susan P

    james Guest

    Is it unusual? It's the same arrangement as getting the negatives,
    which is not at all uncommon, and essential in circumstances where
    copyright or proprietary data in the images is concerned. The negatives
    are part of the deal in medical, forensics, architecture, and anything
    where there is attorney-client privilege restricting the information on
    the image.

    Why is the RAW file any different?
    What are you talking about? Okay, some people go to school for 2 years
    to get basic skill in Photoshop, but come on. You can learn enough in a
    fortnight to do a fine job of preparing images for printing, and if
    the images are any good coming from the camera, there's not much to be
    done anyway. Maybe you'd need to learn about calibrating your computer
    monitor for color and gray, but come on, it's not that big a deal!
    That is the first argument I've heard that makes sense. But I don't buy
    it.
    I can think of more gigs where you don't end up keeping the negative,
    than ones where you do. The line tends to be between images made as an
    artistic endeavor, versus those created as a professional service. Do
    medical or crime scene contracts for a while, and see how often you get
    to keep your work for your own portfolio.
    Not if he's been an asshole and you don't plan to ever speak to him
    again after this gig is settled up. My advice is to take the TIFFs,
    leave the test prints, and walk away, and do not sign a model release.
     
    james, May 13, 2005
    #19
  20. Susan P

    james Guest

    I'd hardly call Photoshop "special software".

    If anything, I'd call it "standard software", and converting a Nikon RAW
    image is among the most bone-standard processes in digital photography.
     
    james, May 13, 2005
    #20
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