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Easy corrections to Exposure & White Balance are the most important reasons to shoot Raw format.

Good exposure and good white balance are the two most common problems photographers have with their pictures. If exposure & white balance are off, they can ruin otherwise good pictures, producing ...

  • Pictures that are too dark or light (under or overexposure).
  • Pictures with the overall color slightly off, accompanied by a yellow, green, orange, brown, magenta, or blue cast (white balance errors).
  • Pictures with a combination of exposure and white balance problems.

Good exposure & good white balance are the heart & soul of a good picture. Learn how to correct them and you'll be a lot happier with your results.

If I didn't shoot Raw, I'd often find myself struggling with a difficult, inconsistent, sometimes losing battle with exposure & white balance repairs on in-camera Jpegs or Tiffs in Photoshop. (Not fun.) On the other hand, because I do shoot Raw, I can easily correct exposure and white balance problems after the fact with some simple adjustments in my Raw processing software. Not worrying about exposure and white balance means quicker and more spontaneous shooting. (And more fun!)

That's why I let my camera automatically meter itself, leave my in-camera exposure compensation set to "0" (no compensation), and leave my camera's white balance set on automatic, concentrating my attention on composition, content, and focus point.

With Raw format, the camera captures a picture with enough surrounding data to cover two stops of over or underexposure, all possibilities of white balance, and several additional variables. Just like a regular Jpeg or Tiff, the camera sets the exposure & white balance where it (or you) think it should be according to its metering & white balance analysis ... but if they come out wrong, they can be easily reset on your computer.

Exposure Compensation and White Balance are the most important tools for Raw files, they're also the easiest to learn & use.

Raw format is a choice for virtually all modern digital SLRs and many point & shoot digitals. Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Fuji, Sigma, Pentax, Kodak Professional, and others offer Raw format shooting and have their own processing software. Besides factory branded software, independent software developers such as Bibble Labs, Capture One, QImage, Adobe (Camera Raw), and others have Raw processing software.

Tool Palette 1 & 2

(At left) Nikon Capture 4 software is a good example of Raw Conversion Software.

It has a wide array of controls & adjustments and is compatible with pre-D3 / D300 series Nikon digital cameras.

Below: Raw Nikon D100 flash photo, matrix metered, significantly underexposed. The bright sunlight in the background windows made the camera's matrix exposure calculations way too dark for the subject.

Original Picture

Because the picture was taken in Raw format (NEF), the exposure can be corrected after the fact using Nikon Capture software.

How? NEF picture files record & retain two full stops of exposure value (EV) data on each side of the original settings. And when a NEF file is opened in Nikon Capture, the software allows you to reset the exposure anywhere within those two full stops, up or down.

(Below) In this case, a boost of +1.75 corrected the exposure nicely.

EV Adjust

Example of white balance problems shown below:

Before correction:

Before Correction

After correction:

After Correction