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22nd November 2007
Understanding RAW Photography by Andy Rouse
by Ian Burley
4484: Understanding RAW Photography by Andy Rouse

Avoid that heavy going feeling with Andy Rouse's introduction to RAW

Author: Andy Rouse

ISBN 978-1-86108-515-3

144 pages, hardback.

For Amazon prices


Andy Rouse is not your obvious technical handbook author, after all, his claim to fame is as a prolific and accomplished wildlife photographer. Indeed, his new book 'Understanding RAW Photography' is a showcase for some of his best wildlife shots - my first tip; have a look at the kingfisher 'swimming' with its prey on page 128. Rouse, in fact, previously produced the popular 'Digital SLR Masterclass' and 'Digital SLR Handbook'. So is his new book any good at helping you get to grips with shooting with RAW image files? Actually, very much so.

First of all, Rouse deals with some basics and answers the question 'why shoot RAW?' This section is covered in a very simple manner, skirting around technical details maybe too much. On the other hand, one is thrown in at the deep end with the references to 'Lightroom' and 'Aperture' without any explanation. It is good, however, that both the Apple Mac and Windows operating systems are covered in fairly equal measure throughout the book.

Next the important concept of workflow is tackled. Choice of software, looking at DAMS (Digital Asset Management Software), RAW downloaders and browsers, RAW correction software and various combinations. The next chapter is a surprise as it's a glossary section dealing with small selection of technical terms, even though there is a much more comprehensive glossary at the end of the book. Following that is a section emphasising the importance of monitor calibration, though not really covering colour management as a whole. Next we have a look at setting the camera up. It resembles another glossary section. Onwards, we have a section examining the issue of digital camera exposure. Almost half a page is devoted to reading the exposure histogram, but this is actually covered far more thoroughly, with diagrams, in a couple of other places in the book.

You could regard it as a bonus; the chapter on Field Techniques is all about keeping the camera's sensor clean, managing the camera's image buffer, backing up and other in-the-field advice, though none of this has anything to do with RAW image use.

There is much more 'meat' in the middle of the book, with plenty of easy to follow advice on using RAW workflow tools, though there are books with a better structure covering these topics.

You might assume that I'm lukewarm about Understanding RAW Photography, but although I think the book's layout and content in certain areas could be improved, what holds it all together is the use of many interesting and beautiful shots from Rouse's wildlife portfolio as examples to illustrate the points being made in the book. This helps maintain one's interest in the light of a what is - in many ways - a heavy subject that requires plenty if concentration to absorb.

So, overall, I can recommend Understanding RAW Photography by Andy Rouse as a useful book for anyone looking to tackle RAW for the first time - especially if you're a fan of wildlife photography!

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