RAW - making it less antisocial


Sunny Frimley
Bill Palmer
So, here's the thing.

I want the best quality outputs from my cameras without spending all my time slithering sliders.

In the past, there were three "levels", for want of a better word. A bit like the Frost Report sketch featuring John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett, there were the "working class" who dropped their camera into Boots and the nice spotty lad behind the counter processed the film, dropped in a new one for them and handed back a wallet of prints with "helpful" stickers all over them.

Then there were the "middle class" who looked down on them, and used slide film. They were very careful to get everything right in camera, and send their rolls off in the little mailers to Mr Fuji and Mr Agfa and of course Mr Kodachrome.

They looked up at the "upper class", who did it all themselves, with a home darkroom and enlarger they would spend hours like mad scientists trying out new brews and spotting their big prints. They looked down on everybody.

The Boots people knew their place... :rolleyes:

Today, it's different. The "working class" of yore now snap away with their mobile phones and share photos on Facespace and Triller. They rarely print, but if they do the JPEG is adequate to their needs.

The "upper class" have swopped their darkrooms for Lightroom. They still manage to avoid talking to their spouses in the evening by sitting in front of a screen and primping pixels to their hearts' content.

But what of the "middle class"? Where is the modern equivalent of the slide - high quality but low maintenance?

I have a life. I don't enjoy sitting in front of a computer screen. The thrill for me is in the chase and the capture not in endless vistas of faffing with esoteric settings followed ultimately by a brief visit to the divorce court and pot noodle for tea forever thereafter.

What I am looking for is a RAW converter that requires a minimum of user input. I require one that doesn't force me to buy a Mac, or completely restructure my fileproof fooling system. I want one that offers controls labelled in English that do clear things, not something that is less easy to understand than the Euro crisis.

At the moment I am using Rawtherapee - it is about the best I have found so far, but I am open to suggestions - keep 'em clean though ;)


Vancouver, BC
I find working in lightroom is fairly quick, although we do have a pretty skookum PC on which it is installed. However even on my laptop I can stand using the application.

My filing system is by date, which is the LR default. If I import a session from a particular type of shoot I can rename it so it shows up more easily. I find this works for me but if you are used to a subject based filing hierarchy you might need to talk to other LR users to see if that is possible and easy rather than anti-social. You can of course use meta data to group things via searches but that is slightly anti-social.

Tuning images in LR is fairly easy once you get to know the app; it doesn't anywhere approach the arcane and anti-social.

Overall, I like it. Is it the best raw processor for your particular camera? Don't know. Some do better with others.


I guess I'm lucky because my wife likes to watch reality TV at night (ugh) so we each have our evening activities. Sometimes, I'll sit beside her while I process photos until the TV shows drive me away.

I use RAW Developer and it is pretty quick since I know my way around it and have a few profiles that kick start any processing work. It is not as comprehensive a processing app as Lightroom (and only works on RAW files), and therefore offers you fewer settings, however sad to say you would have to buy a Mac :eek:

I suppose one could spend the time to tweak the JPG settings to create great our of camera files without any need (or minimal) processing. Not all cameras have great JPG engines, but some offer a lot of flexibility. And assign different JPG profile to the custom (my) settings.

I used to shoot with Sigma DP cameras and Sigma raw processor has an "auto" button that in many cases got me 98% of the way there. Speaking of, the Foveon sensor has been equated by some to Kodachrome transparencies. Having never shot slide film I can't really comment on that.


Dublin ,Ireland
I found lightroom really easy and enjoyable but everyone likes different programs.The easiest raw programs are the ones that come with the camera!!
programs like silkypix,or canon raw are really simplified but then dont do a whole lot!


Administrator Emeritus
Philly, Pa
Bill, if your really not into processing Raw files... Just do jpegs.
Seriously, the GXR, Pens etc make great jpegs.
If you insist on being ambivalent about raw, get Lightroom.
I am not a jpeg shooter but the files I see from the GXR are fabulous.


Hall of Famer
I've been wondering the same recently.

I'm currently using either Silkypix or RawTherapee, but I'm finding neither particularly intuitive (and RT's lack of RGB curves bugs me to no end). I downloaded a trial version of PSE, which I found much easier and quicker to use (loved the functionality of the detail sliders), but it was too simplified for me (I was particularly unhappy about not being able to use proper curves and other colour management beyond the absolutely basic).

Once I get some free time to do spend on photography again, I'll download a trial version of Lightroom, to see if that fits my needs better. Also, I'm hoping a filter pack like Nik Color Efex will save me a lot of time, it looks pretty nice on their website, plus it adds the ability to make localized adjustments quickly. Once I get the LR3 trial, I'll probably download the Nik CE trial as wel to see how I like it. If I do, I'll still have to find out how I'm gonna afford them though...


seattle WA
Great article!

but i agree that it's a bit of a paradox you're describing here, since the RAW format is specifically meant at being creative and benefit a lot from shots with a bit more effort and dedication.
my guess is that the "high quality but low maintenance" concept isn't realistic. High quality also comes from artistic decisions based on tweakings and creative choices operated by yourself on a Raw photo. Now based on your (awesome) photos, i would say like Streetshooter: why not shoot jpegs? apart from the advantages of DR from Raw, are we always really needing it?
London UK
I'm 'Upper Class' Whoo Hoo!!

Lightroom is the quickest way to edit RAW files. The quickest is to get it right in camera 1st then save in Jpg. All you need to do is some very light tweeking after that in any software prog.


Vancouver, BC
I'm not sure I'd call Silkypix easy or enjoyable! ;)

I do like shooting in raw, especially when shooting multiple cameras of the same subject. Sure the Fujifilm jpgs are nice but when I want to do more than accept their version of the reality I saw, raw makes it easy to interpret the subject the way I want it to be interpreted. Fortunately with LR that's easy to do, and if you want to further edit a LR managed file with Photoshop or Photoshop LE or a third party product like Silver Efex, etc, that's easy to do too, without breaking the managed file relationships.

At any rate it is worth downloading for the 30 day trial; only you can judge if it is the right application for you.


Super Moderator Emeritus
Down Under
Not something I usually admit, but I'm with the herd on this one ;) Lightroom is very fast for what I want from my images - and interfaces well with programs like Photoshop, Photomatix, Nik Efex, etc. So it's the ultimate PP engine for me....also presets are simply gold. I know these aren't restricted to LR, but when you have a formula right then one click to save it off and the next time around, one click, and you can be 98% there.


betwixt and between
Bill, I love your post! I can relate in so many ways...having been in all three stratas of photographic society at some point. Lightroom really is a great program, while those who use Aperture will say the same thing whether one is shooting RAW or jpegs. Certain cameras have superior jpeg output both in my personal opinion as well as in the opinion of others.

Next jump is to the iPad2...though it is an Apple product and that may not be something you care for for whatever reasons. Let's not turn this plea into a pro or con Apple thread, please.:drama:;) What Nik now offers for the iPad (Snapseed) for photo processing is pretty darned impressive. Check out their website. Briar(Karen), Pete (Azpete), Alf and Christilou(Christina) and several other members here...have shown what it can do and one of the reasons I am so interested in the iPad2 (or 3 if I can wait) is for the very reasons you've written about...

Nik software in general is superb and the recent upgrade to Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex are fantastic. I'm especially in love with the latest Color Efex Pro.

Beauty and quality are in the eye of the beholder. Maybe you can try out a few different methods before springing for them? Sometimes I love to post process...other times I don't. Some photos of my own can require very little whereas other times I sit and adjust tiny things ad nauseum...

Going back to jpegs, I do believe that certain cameras offer advantages in their output. Olympus, for example, is known for its jpeg colors and output. The X100 has been extolled by many, as well.

Just my babbling on before I face the wintry mix that I must take my dog out for our constitutional in before it gets worse!

Steve Noel

Casey County, KY
I have PhotoShop and can sorta' get what I want from the raw. And for those shots that have serious issues (wb, over/under exposure, etc) I can salvage a lot. But truth is I am not as good as Oly, Pana at creating good jpegs. The other problem is work flow. Recent wedding of our grand son in another state. Several family members "dumped" their memory cards on my laptop. My intention was to sort, delete, process when I got home (2000 + pics). But then several people wanted a "few". They were from several States, and had very limited storage with them. Some pics were JPEG and the better photographers used raw. So I spent many hours of my vacation PP etc, selecting a couple hundred pics for quick sharing. It has caused me to almost totally give up shooting raw. I know that for the normal shooting that I do, JPEG is fine, and I'm happy with it. But now and then there are some situations when lighting is so bad that Raw is required if I get it right. So I use PhotoShop. Best? Probably not.