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Book Review: The Art Of RAW Conversion – How to Produce Art-Quality Photos with Adobe Photoshop CS2 and Leading RAW Converters by Uwe Steinmuller and Jürgen Gulbins

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According to Uwe Steinmuller and Jürgen Gulbins, one of the most important steps for demanding photographers occurs between shooting the image and image processing or manipulation. It occurs with the conversion from the raw format into images of a standardized format. The Art Of RAW Conversion focuses on how to prepare files for conversion and how to set up an efficient conversion.

Although the authors agree that Photoshop may not be the best solution for all image operations, they do focus on Photoshop for much of this book. In addition, they do describe other image converters as well.

The Art Of RAW Conversion is divided into 14 chapters and two appendixes. The goal of this book is to provide a workflow to help you work through taking the photos that you shoot through conversion, manipulation, printing and archiving.

So what is RAW conversion? Many cameras allow you to save in either RAW or some sort of compressed format such as JPEG or TIFF. When the camera saves your file in a compressed mode, it throws out data to save space on your digital storage device. If you are using this image on a website or to create a four-by-six inch picture this may not be a big deal. If you ever want to enlarge this picture, you will find that your picture is lacking in clarity and the sharpness needed to create a good enlargement. By taking your picture in RAW format and converting it to JPEG or TIFF, you can retain the original elements of your picture and convert to the needs of the moment.

In The Art Of RAW Conversion, Steinmuller and Gulbins begin by introducing you to RAW files or what have come to be called digital negatives. They explain how in-camera conversion works and how to work with general camera controls.

They then proceed to color management and profiling. This chapter is an overview and serves well to enlighten you on this topic if you are not familiar with it. Color management it too big of a topic to cover here and not the focus of the book.

In chapter three they explain about workflow. Here the authors go into enough detail to get the reader familiar with the process and give a good foundation for someone to get started. Steinmuller also has a more detailed workflow book listed on his website.

Chapters four through eight are about different raw converters and how to use them. Included are Adobe Camera Raw, Pixmantec Rawshooter, Apple’s Aperture, Adobe’s Lightroom and a number of other camera specific converters such as Canon Digital Photo Pro and Nikon Capture. Generally I am not a fan of books that try to throw a bunch of different products and try to explain them all, but in this case they balance the time spent quite well, and if you are trying to evaluate what will work for you, this makes a nice overview.

Then we come to what makes this book work. The remaining portion of The Art Of RAW Conversion concentrates on what is the core of the sub-title “How To Produce Art-Quality Photos.” Here the authors are able to take you into what is needed to perfect images and set up batch processing techniques so that you can streamline your process. They talk about working with Digital negatives and Metadata. They then finish up with profiling your camera with your RAW converter and a little bit on creating black and white photos from color images.

This book is a great overview of the use of RAW files and Digital negative techniques to get the best from your images. If you are an amateur just getting into photography or a professional who is moving to digital, The Art Of RAW Conversion will be a useful addition to your library. Also check out Uwe Steinmuller’s wonderful website Digital Outback Photos.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.