You've heard it hundreds of times from your photographer friends: if you want to get the most out of your images shoot RAW. Sadly, many photographers aren’t maximizing the potential of their cameras by using the RAW image format. Processing RAW files can be perceived as too involved when compared to other formats like JPEG. Exposure, white balance, contrast and all those other variables have to be set manually for those RAW files to look their best. It can be much easier to let the camera make those adjustments and use the JPEG files. If you're shaking your head in sympathy for those photographers, good for you!
Fortunately, for those photographers and those who are going to all the trouble to work with those RAW files there's a much easier way to edit your images that will give you consistent settings for entire batches of images from a shoot. It will save you an unbelievable number of hours at the computer and ensure that all your photos taken under the same conditions get the correct initial adjustments in your favorite editors like Photoshop and Lightroom.
So, how is this time-saving miracle achieved? It's actually a simple process that involves an ingenious and very affordable device from the folks at Datacolor. It's called SpyderCUBE(tm) and it's one of my favorite additions to my camera bag. Here's how it works:
- Set your camera to save your images as RAW files.
- Place SpyderCUBE within a shot in the same lighting as your subject.
- Take a reference shot.
- Remove SpyderCUBE and shoot all of the required shots under those lighting conditions. When you change locations or the lighting changes, take another reference image with SpyderCUBE.
- Back at the computer, open your reference shot in your editing software.
- Use SpyderCUBE as a reference to adjust white balance, exposure and contrast and save the settings as a preset.
- Apply these settings to the rest of the RAW files in the set.
That's it! By using SpyderCUBE as a reference you can quickly edit an entire batch of images to correct white balance, basic exposure and contrast and render the scene accurately. You can now review and adjust individual images as desired to achieve any particular effects. It doesn't get any smarter and simpler than this!
SpyderCUBE is a 3 dimensional reference that you use like a gray card. The SpyderCUBE, however, provides more references than a traditional gray card. It's small, lightweight and durable, so it goes along with you easily. The colors on the surfaces are through-pigmented, to ensure that they'll last and they are spectrally neutral to provide a stable reference under any light source.
In my opinion, every photographer should own a SpyderCUBE; especially since it's priced so well. Don't take my word for it, though. Watch the short video below and visit Datacolor's website and get your own. Your RAW processing woes are about to go away!