Book Review: Getting Started with Camera Raw by Ben Long

Over the last 3 to 4 weeks I have been reading Getting Started with Camera: How to make better pictures using Photoshop and Photoshop Elements by Ben long.  I just finished it and will be reviewing it here.

This book is actually rather “old” by todays standards of 2nd and 3rd editions coming out in 2 to 3 year intervals, however, most of the content is still relevant today.  It was published back in 2006.  Since 2009, when I first had access to a DSLR (Pentax k-2000 or k-m) photography has become my primary hobby and I am continually trying to improve and educate myself.  One area that I felt that I was really lacking in was knowledge of post-processing  and the “theory” behind it.  I could tweak photos in Aperture 3 and adjust exposure and contrast and I can even do a little HDR with Photomatix and get what in my opinion and opinion of friends are pretty good-looking photos.  I have also been shooting in RAW because I have noticed that I do get a lot more editing overhead, however, I felt like I was not getting the most out of the RAW files and was not sure if I was using the right tools the “right way”.So around 4 weeks ago I walked into a used-books store looking for a book on the programming language C.  I didn’t find one on C, but I did pick up Getting Started with Camera Raw for $2 (90 Philippine Pesos).  I leafed through it and noticed that a lot of it was about using Photoshop and Photoshop elements, both of which I don’t really use.  But, I also noticed that it had a lot about the basics of editing photos, whether jpeg or RAW, and this is what caught my attention.

This book covers how your camera takes pictures and what it does to the light data it capture to produce jpegs.  This might sound boring, but I have found that an understanding of this is actually important and useful, for me anyway (maybe it’s because of my engineering background).  Again, this book covers image editing basics from correcting tone and contrasts with levels and curves (both of which I didn’t know how to use before reading this book).  This book also explains what the various controls do and which control to use in certain situations.  For example, should you use the exposure slider or the brightness slider for an overexposed image?  Before, i never really touched the brightness slider.  I always used the exposure slider.  Well now I know when to use both.  A chapter on advanced editing methods are also included, and this is one of my favorite chapters since I learned a ton.  I learned things like how to use masks and how to use curves to fine tune edits with the exposure sliders.  For people who want to know more about Workflow this book also has a chapter on Workflow using Camera Raw, Photoshop, Elements, and so on.  The book ends with a chapter on shooting raw and how you can capture the most data with your camera.

There was one thing about the book that confused me, but by the end of the book I figures out what the author was saying.  I thought that when you say “exposing for the highlights” this meant that you underexposed so that you could preserve the details in the bright areas and ensure that you didn’t have blown-out highlights.  Well, I guess I understood this wrong and what this actually meant is that you expose the shot so that you preserve the highlights and don’t make them dark and turn them into mid tones.

Because of the advancements in technology specifically related to HDR, this book is kind of out of date unless you use Photoshop CS2.  But that is really the only area.  I would also like to point out that I don’t use Camera Raw nor Photoshop nor Photoshop Elements for my RAW workflow.  I use Aperture 3, but I still found this book helpful and it is a great introduction to understanding and working with RAW.  Overall I found this  book to be very informative, well written and easy to understand.  I learned a lot and I did not find it boring to read.  Then again, I find thermodynamics books to be kind of interesting.


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