Raw Horror

I was attending an Aiken Photography Meetup Group meeting a year or so back and the issue of shooting "RAW" images came up. When I mentioned that I had never made RAW image files that night's expert speaker was aghast-- "YOU DON'T SHOOT RAW????!!!!" was his horrified reaction.

 No, I don't shoot RAW and, frankly, I seldom use any settings other than auto exposure mode using my Canon T3i. JPG files are fine with me.

Why make this the subject of a post on a site like retrophotojournalism.com you might ask. The answer is simple. I'm usually trying to record something specific, not make a beautiful photographic image. Maybe I'm naive but I'm more concerned with capturing the specific subject I want. Making the "perfect" exposure is a distant second place concern.

I mentioned in an earlier post that one of my role models in photojournalism was and still is Henri Cartier-Bresson. He is the originator of the phrase "the decisive moment." That's what I try to capture in my photos of people and events.

Many years ago an AP photographer (sort of a mentor back then) told me I had to anticipate what will happen while covering breaking news. The classic example of this is being at the police station and waiting for a suspect to be brought outside for transport to a jail. Now widely known as a "perp walk" this is still a standard staple of TV news.

It's more complicated than simply waiting by a doorway. If you think about it in the context of a crowd of photographers jockeying for position AND the hope that you might get a unique shot it rapidly becomes a complex situation for the shooter.

The whole point is that I always want to make a well exposed, sharp image -- that's a given. But my concern is communication not beautiful photography. Shooting RAW gives today's photographers a lot of technical control over the final image. When I'm shooting something I just want to faithfully reproduce whatever I'm shooting. It's the subject itself that's important to me.

With today's sophisticated cameras (even at the low end of the price range) it's hard NOT to get a relatively sharp, well composed and exposed image. The real challenge is to portray a specific subject. For me the "decisive moment" is magical and my ultimate goal.