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Tips & Tricks

Bizarre Vermillion Cliffs Landscape Sunset – Weekly Edit – Season 2 Episode 6

By Matthew Saville on April 18th 2014

matthew-saville-white-pocket-sooc-nikonNikon D5300, Rokinon 16mm f/2, FotoPro C5C Tripod, Sigma EX Circular Polarizer
1/10 sec. @ f/9 & ISO 100, SOOC image, Vivid Picture Control, +3 contrast & saturation
(Click HERE to view a larger version!)

In today’s episode of our Weekly Edit series, we’re going to pursue a topic that has been very close to my heart for many years – the pursuit of creative vision, and the idea that our cameras are a lot more powerful at rendering beautiful colors “right out of the box” than we think.

From portraits and weddings, to wildlife and landscapes, one thing I frequently encounter when chatting with photographers is how their RAW images look so beautiful on the back of their camera, and yet flat and dull on their computers.  Why does this happen?  Because our cameras are processing our images much more so than, for example, Adobe Lightroom does by default.

This is both a blessing and a curse.  On the one hand, shooting RAW enables a photographer to harness incredible control over their final images.  A RAW image offers much more dynamic range, (highlight and shadow detail) and of course full white balance control, among other things.  On the other hand, sometimes this feels like driving a Formula 1 race car on a daily work commute.  If my RAW images look great on the back of my camera, why bother spending hours to re-process them all in a third-party program?  This is why I sometimes find myself “proofing” my RAW images using Nikon View NX 2, a program that allows me to browse, sort, and export / share my RAW images as if they were in-camera JPGs.

After struggling with these dilemas of tonal control and perfection over the years, I’ve slowly begun to develop my current workflow that involves not just a RAW capture, but also the reference point of a JPG, in-camera rendering of my creative vision.

[Click here to watch a previous video in which I explain Picture Controls (Picture Styles for you Canon shooters) more in depth!]


Watch The Video

The Original Images

matthew-saville-white-pocket-sooc-nikonSOOC (straight-out-of-camera) image from Nikon View NX 2, with zero Lightroom / Photoshop. (Basically, as if I had shot JPG)

matthew-saville-white-pocket-adobe-defaultAdobe Lightroom‘s rendition of the NEF image, with Adobe’s standard defaults.

matthew-saville-white-pocket-SLR-lounge-presetSLR Lounge Lightroom 5 Preset: BASE – VIVID / Light Crush – Color

matthew-saville-white-pocket-adobe-vivid-profileSame Image, With Adobe’s Profile Changed from “Adobe Standard” to “Camera Vivid”

The Final Images

matthew-saville-white-pocket-final-lightroom-editFinal image, with adjustments to HSL, (orange) basic tones, and vibrance / saturation. (dialed to zero) Click HERE to view a larger version!


At the end of the day, I find myself continually impressed by our camera’s capabilities when rendering beautiful colors in-camera.  This definitely causes me to lament over the drawbacks of shooting in JPG, versus the incredible advantages of shooting in RAW.

With a little finesse though, and a good understanding of what your original creative vision was, you can still achieve “perfect” tones and colors with your images.  I do believe that without having the in-camera JPG as a reference point, I might have never known  what I was missing in the subtleties of color and tone.

[Click here to read my article about how to not lose sight of tonal creativity in your HDR / landscape photography!]


So if you’ve never given it a second thought, (and even if you’re a die-hard RAW shooter) you might want to consider adapting or adjusting your workflow to include the reference point of your in-camera colors.  This type of workflow might not be reasonable for a high-volume photographer who needs to batch-process thousands of images per week, however for any sort of fine-art landscape or similar type of photographer, it is in my opinion a valuable possibility!

Take care, and happy clicking,
=Matthew Saville=


 Learn HDR Photography

For more HDR education, be sure to check out HDR Tutorial by SLR Lounge. This comprehensive “gold standard” guide will give you a mastery of HDR photography, from the scene considerations to the actual shooting to the post production. Click here for more info.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Lightroom 5 is, in our opinion, by far the most powerful workflow tool for any photographer especially wedding and portrait photographers who need to achieve perfect color correction at a rapid-fire pace.  Become a Lightroom Master using our complete Lightroom Workshop Collection for Lightroom 5!  This DVD workshop includes extensive tutorials for everything from organization & workflow to image processing and our awesome preset system.

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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jeff Morrison

    i want to Learn HDR Photography

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  2. Stan Rogers

    Indeed. One often hears (and I’ve said it myself often enough) that shooting RAW is like shooting a negative, while shooting JPEG is like shooting slides. There is a kernel of truth in that, at least insofar as trying to rescue a JPEG that has problems is only a little bit easier than trying to get a good Cibachrome (er, I mean Ilfochrome) or publication/projection dupe from a problematic transparency. But it’s also a blatant lie.

    Shooting RAW is, for the most part, postponing your film choice until after the picture has been taken. And that’s a great thing to be able to do. But back in the day, there was usually a reason why I would have chosen Velvia or Kodachrome or Ektar or Reala or VPS or Tech Pan or TMax or Tri-X for a particular shot, and it wasn’t always (or even usually) because of the film’s sensitivity — it was the rendition I was after. Camera picture styles and/or RAW processor presets (commercial or homemade) fulfill that function, especially when you pair them with calibration and profiling — and you get a lot of tweaking room that you wouldn’t have had without a lot of fiddling with masks and filter packs/dichroic sources and repeated test exposures, etc. And you’ve always got the right film with you. Life is good.

    But so may people build their workflow around the idea that they need to formulate a custom emulsion for every single picture they take. We own these absolute miracles of modern technology, and we insist on using them to *somewhat* speed up what is essentially a mid-19th-century process. Not that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with that; the long, slow, error-prone and labour-intensive process of creating a dye-transfer or carbro print was almost always worth it in the end — for the few pictures that merited the effort.

    Not to knock anybody at all, but if you’re producing more than a couple of dozen pictures a year that are truly “exhibition grade”, you’re running so far above the above-average that you probably can’t understand ordinary mortals at all. But even if you are some sort of weirdo genius freak, there’s probably a good chance that “choosing a film” (applying a camera style or a preset) will get you into the right ballpark, and probably into the right section and even the right row of the bleachers, leaving you only the relatively light task of finding your seat in that row. And the chances are pretty darned good that you knew more or less what you wanted when you pressed the shutter button.

    It’s nice to be able to change your mind when your original vision doesn’t quite work out. It’s even nicer to be able to correct mistakes and recover from accidents (like somebody else’s flash going off during your ambient-light exposure). But every once in a while, you might want to trust your initial intuition. In ye olde days, we learned to see in film. Today, that would be learning to see in camera styles or presets. Tweak what needs tweaking. But save the dye-transfer matrices for your next gallery show; you won’t need them on Facebook.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Stan, thank you so much for your comment, I really appreciate it. When I post images and workflow ideas like this, I’m always afraid that I’ll get blasted by pixel-peepers or other types of fan-people who don’t understand. While I’m okay with that, and it won’t change the way I see the world before me and capture it, It’s really nice to know that there are others out there who envision the same type of creative pursuit.

      I still have an affection for Velvia, but indeed it isn’t always practical to shoot. I love what digital (and RAW processing in particular) offers us in technological innovation, but I also enjoy the traditions of an artistic vision, even if they’re “oldschool” or simplistic.

      Take care,

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