RAW vs. JPG: My Personal Experience with Both Formats.
Article by: Sarah Harbuck

My thinking on RAW years ago was that it was unnecessary.


When I first started out in digital photography I shot only in JPEG. I was still getting my bearings with a new photography format and RAW was a foreign concept for me. Making the leap from film to digital, while it seemed like a natural progression given the way the market was shifting, there was a learning curve I had to overcome. Coming from a film background there were things I didn’t know or understand when it came to digital photography. Shooting in RAW was one of them. And now almost 10 years later I’ve learned quite a bit.

My thinking on RAW years ago was that it was unnecessary. RAW files took up too much space and took more time to process & edit and I thought that you must not be a very good photographer if you couldn’t shoot an image correctly in JPEG. Which I admit was pretty snobby & arrogant of me. Of course most of that idea was born in ignorance and inexperience. Aren’t all prejudices?

I was doing just fine shooting only in JPEG. My images were professional and were a good quality. But there were times when on certain photo shoots I’d have issues with lighting or color balance and exposure and would have a hard time editing the JPEG images later on to get them looking correct. The quality wasn’t all there. So when I upgraded to Photoshop CS5 several years ago, I decided to really and truly try out RAW shooting and learn once and for all how to use the ACR editor.

By doing so, a whole new world opened up for me. There were more possibilities than ever before and I was amazed that I could bring a photo back from the brink of deletion. I realized for years I’d short changed myself by not really exploring the options of RAW. I felt I had a lot more freedom and that my editing improved greatly and my images were just better overall because of the switch. I’m really glad I overcame my own ignorance and decided to learn something new because it really improved my results and my photography for the better.





Digital Photography School has a great post on all the technical info about RAW vs JPEG. It’s definitely worth a read (though a little dated) if you have questions about the advantages and disadvantages to the different formats. Search youtube for step by step video tutorials on how to navigate & edit photos in ACR (adobe camera raw).

So what photography technique have you been reluctant to try? Are you inspired to go try them out now?

Sarah Harbuck is a freelance photographer in the East Texas area specializing in artistic portraiture. “Like” her on Facebook: AMZphotoartdesign or contact her at for information.

Hi everyone! Sarah here again. When last I left you, we were discussing taking photos with whatever camera we have handy. These days, for me (and I’m sure many others), it’s my cell phone camera. It sure makes things convenient to be able to upload immediately and share with friends & family. My cell phone is something that I always happen to have with me. And as they say, the best camera is the one you have with you!

If you’re like me, sometimes you want to get creative with your photos, even the ones you take with your camera phone. Well it’s easy with Apps. Apps are relatively easy to use and even a novice can be an artist when using these handy little tools. But which app should you use? There are many and it can be overwhelming if you’ve never dipped into the photo app foray. I’ve read many blogs, talked to friends & family and based on my own experience have compiled a list of apps for you to get started. So let’s discuss shall we?

There are apps only available to iPhone users and only apps available to Android and then there are some that work on both systems. Below are categorized lists for each.

Apps for both systems:

Instagram – This is a free app that adds fun filters & frames to your photos and was just recently added to the Android catalogue of apps. You can use this app as the camera or take photos from your gallery and manipulate them. Then share them on your Instagram account or Facebook or Twitter or any of your linked social media sites. I LOVE Instagram and use it almost everyday!



Adobe Photoshop ExpressAndroid or iPhone: A free app that offers a few photoshop features for photo editing. It offers In-App purchasing of bonus packs of enhanced features. Personally I find this app limiting, but if you’re wanting quick editing that’s slightly more advanced than your camera’s default editor this may be for you.

PS express.jpg


Retro CameraAndroid or iPhone: This is a free app that has several different camera types & filters and as the name suggests adds a “retro” look to your photos. I find this to be a fun app to use when you’re wanting to experiment.

retro camer.jpg


Pudding CameraAndroid or iPhone: Another free app like Retro camera that offers different camera/lens types and filters to enhance the look of your photos. It has a feature to upload directly to your social media sites right from the app. It’s another fun app to use when you’re wanting to play around.

pudding camera.jpgpudding-app.jpg


Photo ShakeAndroid or iPhone: Use this app to create photo collages of your photos and then post them to your social media sites. These are fun when you’ve got several photos you want to showcase but don’t want to spam your own Facebook wall! And best of all…it’s FREE!



Android camera/photo Apps:

(I personally own & use a Samsung Galaxy S2 even though I’m usually a hardcore Applephile and almost bought an iPhone 4S. I was afraid the apps would be limited with an Android but was surprised to find they weren’t bad. The Android market still has a lot of catching up to do with Apple but I think they are well on their way. And since Androids now make up half the cell phone market you can be sure this list will be ever-improving in the months to come.)

Camera 360 – Next to Instagram this is probably my favorite photo app. I really enjoy the effects and the user interface. You can’t go wrong with this app on Android.



Pixlr-o-matic – If you like to add a vintage look to your photos then this app is for you. Much like retro camera, it has more vintage filters for your photos. There are color overlays and lighting effects and even frames.



Daily Photo or 365 Photo – Are you working on a Project 365? Well these apps help you keep track of your daily photos. Developers say that upcoming updates will include daily reminders & widgets to keep you on top of your Project 365!

dailyphoto.jpg photo 365.jpg


PicsArt Photo Studio – This app includes a photo editor, special effects, drawing, doodles, frames, stickers & clipart. I find this to be more for the silly side of photo taking or when you want to send friends & family cute picture mail!

picsart.jpg picsart2.jpg


QuickPic – A no muss no fuss photo gallery that’s super easy to use and is more visually stimulating that the standard photo gallery that comes with your phone.

quicpic.jpg quickpic.jpg


PhotoGrid – Another app dedicated to creating collages of all your camera phone photos! It offers a few varying layouts & designs slightly different than Photo Shake.

photogrid.jpg phtoogridf2.jpg


Camera ZoomFX – The only paid app on the list at $2.99, it’s almost like having the controls of a typical P&S camera. It has many of the features of the other apps all rolled into one. With over a million downloads, it’s pretty popular.

camera zoom fx.jpg

iPhone camera/photo Apps:

Camera + – From everything I’ve read & what users have told me, this is the best photo app out there. Currently it’s being sold for $0.99 (on sale), a bargain for all that it does. There are lots of great editing options and it’s heralded as an app that makes photos look like they were taken with a fancy dSLR. I personally wish they’d make this one for Android so I could try it out for myself. It looks like a great app.

camera +.jpg


Photo 365 – Like it’s Android cousin, Photo 365 helps you keep track of your Project 365 photos, by cataloguing them for you and making them easy to view & share. Cost is $0.99.

photo 365.jpg


Snapseed – Currently only available for iPhone, a version for Android will be coming soon. With this app you can add grunge textures or vintage filters or even boost the color and add drama to your photos. It seems like a high quality photo editing app but a bit pricey at $4.99.



Notica – This app lets you attach notes to your photos. So if you’re working on a Project 365/52 or just scrapbooking daily life/Project Life photos, this app will help you not only capture the photo but do a little journaling too! I wish this was available for Android as well! Cost $1.99.



Hipstamatic – Much like Instagram, it adds filters & frames but you can also choose different “lenses” & “flashes” when taking your photos. And also like Instagram, you upload to it’s own site as well as your social media sites if you want. Cost $1.99.



Dynamic Light – Want to create HDR images with your camera phone? Well this app can let you achieve it very simply. Their sample images are stunning and I wish Android had an HDR app this good. Cost $0.99.

dynamic light.jpg


TouchRetouch – Use this app to remove unwanted objects in your photos. The results are pretty amazing. Cost $0.99. There is a free version but all images will be watermarked with their logo.


There are many apps out there and many offer the same sort of features. It’s up to you to decide which ones you like and work best for what you like to do. These listed are just a few of my personal faves.

Which ones are your go to photo/camera apps? Let us know!

Sarah Harbuck is a freelance photographer in the East Texas area specializing in artistic portraiture. “Like” her on Facebook: AMZphotoartdesign or contact her at for information.

What Do You Love?

photography by Miss Mint

Love photography? Love challenges? Love winning free stuff!? Join our on-going Click-a-Pic Challenges to sharpen your shooting skills and win some loot! Sarah’s come up with a really fun challenge for us this round and I think you are really going to love this one. Find 9 photos of the things you love most, whatever that may be and upload them into Big Huge Labs Mosaic Maker and out will pop this nifty little collage featuring YOUR photos! Of course you can also make your own collage in Photoshop or your photo-editing software of choice. You can use photos that are part of your archive or you can shoot 9 new photos….whatever inspires you!

201111122240.jpgphotography by Sarah Harbuck

Post your mosaic by Tuesday November 15th (midnight EST) in the gallery and in the challenge thread to be eligible to win a $5 gift card to the store.

I just came across an amazing article by Steph over at The Daily Digi that was too awesome not to share. I know I’m not the only one who has been utterly disappointed to find that you’ve captured the PERFECT shot…but it’s blurry.


So you delete it. Reluctantly.

Well delete no more my focus challenged friends.

It looks like the folks at Adobe have solved that problem. They debuted sneak peeks of their latest developments at Adobe MAX 2011. No word as to when these features will be available or if they will be available in Photoshop but clearly the technology is there so it’s only a matter of time so you might want to hang on to those ‘almost’ winning shots! There is hope! Check out the video below. The gasps of shock and utter disbelief from the crowd (surely a room full of Photoshop geeks) indicate a truly impressive result.

The video is actually pretty amusing thanks to silhouette man #2 (actor Rainn Wilson). The “unblur technology” can also recover data (text) from blurry images that are unreadable. So let’s keep our fingers crossed that we find this in Photoshop CS6.

If you’re using a dSLR camera, and you’re shooting in manual mode (or any mode for that matter) you’re ideally aiming for ‘zero’ on your exposure meter.

And typically this will provide you with a balanced exposure. Although from time to time this isn’t always true and you’ll find that an image exposed just under or just over the middle ‘zero’ will give you a better exposure. Especially in tricky lighting situations where you have bright highlights & dark shadows, sometimes your camera gets confused as to what it’s metering for.

There’s a tool on your camera that can help you get a balanced exposure. It’s called Auto Exposure Bracketing. Many advanced point and shoot cameras will have this option as every dSLR has. In or on the camera it is referred to as AEB. What it does, when you have it set, is to shoot 3 shots in quick succession, each with a slightly different exposure compensation setting. The amount of the compensation can be manually set by you, but usually it’s -1/2, 0, +1/2 as the auto setting in some cameras. This means that the camera will shoot ½ stop under, a shot at the “correct” exposure, and a shot ½ stop over. Sometimes you might need more compensation and set the AEB to shoot -1, 0, +1 (a full stop up or down).

Most cameras will let you bracket as subtly as 1/3 a stop in either direction and as much as 2 stops over or under. Every scene is different and your settings will most likely fall between the two extremes.

AEB can be used to “test” for correct exposure. Evaluate which of the three shots is the desired outcome you would like for the scene, then you can set your camera to the correct settings and continue shooting without AEB.

You can use aperture or shutter priority modes to give you more control over the AEB. If you wish to maintain a specific aperture then you’d choose the AV mode setting on your camera and the AEB would compensate the shutter speed as it’s bracketing tool.
AEB is great at teaching beginners the differing effects and compound relationship of your aperture & shutter speed. It is a great way to experiment and see which combinations of apertures & shutter speeds work well together.

The first image in this series is -1 stop under EV 0 (or under exposed 1 stop), the middle image is EV 0 (or what is termed as normal exposure) and the bottom image is EV +1 (or over exposed 1 stop).

As you can see the bottom image is more correctly exposed than the other two. The setting was extreme sunlight, plus shade which makes for a tricky combination when metering for light.

AEB can also be used not only to get a well balanced exposure, but also in a new form of photography processing called HDR (high dynamic range). The range of color, light and luminosity is greater because it composites several photos of varying exposures. Special software is needed to achieve this result.

photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Four images at bracketed exposures combined to create a dramatic and visually stunning photo.

Here’s my own attempt at HDR photography. This is of the Pines Theatre downtown which is in the process of being renovated and restored to be a working theatre again.

For more examples of how AEB can be used to created HDR images check out these examples.

Article by: Sarah Harbuck for

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A very useful tool in digital photography is called the histogram. A histogram is a graphical representation of visual data. Pretty much all dSLR cameras have this feature (check your camera manual for details.)

So how does one use it? A histogram is a great way to determine how your image is exposed. Many camera newbies, and sometimes even those more experienced, use their LCD screens as an indicator of how well their image exposed after it was taken. And while there’s nothing wrong with this, after all, the LCD screen is there to give you a look at your image, it isn’t always the most accurate representation of the exposure.
I’ve heard histograms described as sophisticated light meters. It helps the photographer understand if the image is over or underexposed, whether the image is flat or too contrast-y.

A histogram looks like this:

Image courtesy of: The Luminous Landscape Blog/Website.

As you can see the majority of the data falls in the middle of the histogram. This means the image is more accurately exposed with some shadows & highlights, but neither dominate the image. You get the beautiful blue & richness of the sky, while also keeping the details of the foreground & foliage. Everything is in balance.
Think of a histogram in these terms, when reading & evaluating it:

Image courtesy of: The Luminous Landscape Blog/Website.

See the dynamic range? From very dark, with 3 tones in between, to very light. In most circumstances, you want the range to fall mostly in the middle. So how do you use a histogram to take better photos? When shooting and composing a shot, you can use the histogram to see if you’re over or under exposing the image. If you saw a histogram that looked like this:

Image courtesy of: The Luminous Landscape Blog/Website.

You can see that the tonal range falls either mostly in the very dark, or very light categories, but not in the middle. This means the image will have extreme shadows & extreme highlights with little in between. If you’re trying to achieve a silhouetted image, then this is the ideal histogram. However, if you’re wanting more of a balanced exposure, this is an example of a “bad” histogram or in better terms, less than ideal.
When you’re “out in the field” shooting, use the histogram as a way to judge how the images are exposing and then adjust your settings (aperture, shutter speed, etc.) accordingly to compensate.

Here are a few more examples of histograms:

Image courtesy of: The Luminous Landscape Blog/Website.

As you can see the tonal range for this photo falls more in the shadows & midtones.

Image courtesy of: The Luminous Landscape Blog/Website.

In this photo the tonal range falls mostly in the highlights, with a bit of midtone range as well. In the first example the scene is dark and shadowy, you get great sky detail but the foreground has lost almost all detail. In the second example the scene is blown out and you have a loss of detail in the sky but more detail in the foreground.

Depending on the scene & the type of image you’re wanting to capture, sometimes you’ll want more of the shadow tones, other times you’ll want more of the highlights. For the example images though, both are in the extremes.

Something more like this gives this photo a more accurate range.

Image courtesy of: The Luminous Landscape Blog/Website.

You can also use histograms in Photoshop to get a look at the tonal range of your photos. They are helpful in getting a balanced image. Histograms aren’t utilized enough when it comes to beginner photography and really they hold a wealth of information that helps the user get better images.

So there you have it, a very brief, beginner look at histograms and their function. For a more detailed assessment of histograms read this blog post.

Try utilizing your histogram next time you go shoot and see how it helps you evaluate the tonal range of your photos for more accurate exposure.

Questions? Comments? Join the discussion about this article in our forum right here.

Happy Snapping!

Article by: Sarah Harbuck for

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