Saving mediocre images that were captured in RAW format

Try as we may, photojournalism does not always allow us as photographers to maintain total control over image capture. In the hectic process of both following the action and keeping control of all aspects of the exposure … sometimes we make sacrifices that affect the image file.

While working around an incredible crash site in Glenview, IL that looked like it was staged for a movie shoot … I found myself at times shooting into the sun. The scene was huge and there were victims being extricated and treated in several places throughout the half block long debris field. I would shoot in one area then swivel quickly to document the action elsewhere then back again. I was shooting in aperture priority mode and switching between exposure compensation adjustments to offset the bright backlighting.

In essence, several of my exposures did not depict the scene as I’d envisioned nor as I’d seen them through the viewfinder.

firemen working at crash scene
Raw capture with no edits shows a washed out image with detail in the shadow area. Larry Shapiro photo

Fortunately, I capture images in RAW format which records huge amounts of information in the file. This allows a tremendous latitude for post-capture editing to bring the image back to a pleasing exposure. Saving mediocre images that were captured in RAW format is image editing, not image manipulation. Nothing was changed or altered. All adjustment edits dealt with brightness, contrast, vibrance, and cropping.

firemen rescue multiple victims from a car crash
This edited version of the RAW file changed nothing in the image, only various tonal values to make the image more pleasing and natural. Larry Shapiro photo

Every image that comes out of the camera isn’t always the way we saw it … but RAW files give us the best opportunity to bring them back.