11. Building a Digital Workflow: Making Quick Work of Raw Images
Digital photography has been around in one form or another for well over a decade, but it's only recently that it has truly hit the mainstream. Today, the question is not whether, but when digital capture will replace film for the vast majority of uses.
That said, anyone who has made the switch from film to digital can tell you that one majorand usually unanticipatedbottleneck crops up as soon as it's time to choose the "keepers" from a day's shooting. With film, you can pay extra for rush processing, and sort the images on a light table. Digital captures, however, have to be transferred to the computerand if they're saved in the camera's raw format, they must be converted to RGB imagesbefore you even know what you've captured.
We've doubtless made some enemies by saying this, but the excellence of most camera vendors' hardware tends to be matched equally by the wretchedness of their software. Some photographers despair at the lengthy processing times for raw images, and opt to shoot JPEG instead, sacrificing both quality and flexibility in the interest of getting the work done quickly enough to allow them to have lives. Others rely on third-party conversion tools that complicate the workflow as well as cost extra money.
The Adobe Photoshop team delivered a set of powerful solutions in Photoshop CS, but Photoshop CS2 takes things even further. The old File Browser has been replaced by a new standalone application, Bridge, which acts as your virtual digital light table. Version 3 of the Camera Raw plugin, which ships with CS2 and can be hosted by Bridge or by Photoshop, adds important new functionality. Together, they form the building blocks for an efficient, speedy workflow using raw files. But before we get into strategies for this workflow, let's look at what a digital raw capture is.