Photos: Time to Go RAW

I shot a bunch of pics at the Academy of Okinawan Karate’s Friends & Family Day event a week ago, and I’m thinking more and more that I need to bite the bullet and switch to RAW format shooting. With time at a minimum, I’ve been afraid to spend the extra time tweaking and adjusting pictures, learning new software, and adapting to a new workflow. However, my pictures are starting to suffer as a result, and if I’m going to do something, I may as well do it right.

Here’s a good example:

Bo Sparring 2

Shihan Joseph Walker and Mr Joey Johnston spar with bo

I don’t hate this picture, I think it caught the action fairly well (you should see how fast they were moving). As always at these events, I used a 50mm prime lens with a wide aperture to freeze the action in the low light. Normally I also set a custom white balance off of somebody’s gi (uniform) to ensure the whites are where they belong. In the past, this has worked fine for me.

However, I’ve been standing in different positions, and the lighting has changed somehow. There are different dim areas, and I’ve been getting a subtle yellow to off-white hue on the pics. The gis in the picture above should really be crisp white and pop, just as they’ve done in the past. I can’t think of anything else I did different while standing on the sidelines.

You can see some of the same issues (and different white balance results) in the rest of the set. If I shift to RAW (or RAW+JPEG), I’ll be able to mess with the white balance in post and nail it for each picture.

In theory, anyway. I need to sit down and learn how to do it. With The Pack: Lie with the Dead already later than I wanted, it may be a little while longer before I mess with it.

In contrast, take this simple self portrait I shot on Thanksgiving:

My Ugly Mug

My ugly mug

The lighting is clean and even, and the white balance is just fine. I should probably get rid of that reflection/glare on the door jamb by my right cheek, but this is just a quick-and-dirty example. This picture is right off the camera, unretouched. I used the 18-55mm kit lens with an external flash bounced off a white, stucco ceiling.

The trade-off in the dojo is missing some of the action with the flash. I have to time things just right, and I have to be close enough to the action for the flash to be effective.

This Saturday the dojo will hold the annual Winter Tournament. It will be a good time to start from scratch and rethink my process.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

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  1. […] Academy of Okinawan Karate ran their Winter Tournament earlier this month, and as I’ve mentioned earlier, I decided to go back to shooting with flash rather than mess with focus problems due to uneven […]