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Reuters to halt use of RAW files
Doug Strickland, Photographer
Chattanooga | TN | USA | Posted: 1:22 PM on 11.18.15

I think this is a great opportunity to talk about shooting RAW in the SportsShooter community. I'm curious to know who here shoots RAW, JPEG, or both, what kind of business you are in, and what your reasons are.

Working for a newspaper, we shoot almost exclusively JPEG because of the convenience and quick turnaround time, though I will sometimes switch to RAW while in tricky lighting conditions. We are allowed to do so little toning anyway that the advantage to RAW for us is mostly just in helping with white balance correction, and we always store images in JPEG no matter how they were shot.
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Chris Peterson, Photographer, Photo Editor
Columbia Falls | MT | USA | Posted: 2:00 PM on 11.18.15
->> For wildlife, etc. I shoot RAW. For most sports, jpeg. But like you, in weird or really bad light, I shoot RAW. With the D810, you can really clean up noise easily in the RAW file. Tougher to do with a jpeg.
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Frank Niemeir, Photographer
Woodstock | GA | usa | Posted: 3:32 PM on 11.18.15
->> I thought that was from The Onion. Really, what do you want to shoot in -- 16,000,000 colors or 256 colors?
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 3:39 PM on 11.18.15
->> I used to shoot only JPEG because at the time I didn't know any better and that was the thing to do. Now I shoot only RAW and get much better results and faster than some who shoot JPEG. Unless you are dead on with your exposure and color balance (like when shooting Kodachrome 25), you'll lose a lot of detail letting the camera do the image cooking.

As to time consumption, yes it can take longer with RAW versus a perfectly done in-camera JPEG. However, if you know what you're doing, you can shoot RAW and output better quality images faster than a JPEG shooter who has to color correct and tone every picture.

For example, when doing basketball, night football or any venue with constant lighting I'll arrive early, calibrate my cameras using a X-Rite Colorchecker Passport for that light, shoot a couple test shots and create a profile for corrected color and tonal ranges (including highlight recovery). Then when I shoot the event all I have to do is load the edited images into CameraRAW and apply the premade profile preset with one click making the images instantly corrected. They are then opened in Photoshop and dodged/burned here/there if necessary and done. You might be surprised how much post-work can be eliminated if pre-work is done first.

I've used this workflow many times and have processed and transmitted more photos in less time than JPEG shooters sitting next to me. It all comes down to discipline and workflow management. And with the ability to retain highlight and shadow detail from RAW files that in-camera JPEG processing throws away, shooting RAW provides a more accurate recording of the scene.

The Reuters spokesperson says shooting RAW is to increase both ethics and speed. Since speed is not really a factor if done right, there must be a problem with ethics somewhere such as cloning out stuff. While there is software that can detect image manipulation, I don't know if it can detect any cloning done within CameraRAW -- which could be a way around the detection. If that's the case, then the bigger problem may be in who is being hired in the first place. Do the freelancers have a professional/ethics background?

What would be interesting to know is what happened (with examples) to garner the policy change. Something had to trigger it.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 4:00 PM on 11.18.15
->> FYI, you only have to create a corrected profile for your cameras at a particular venue just once unless the lighting changes or you use different cameras. After your preset is saved you reuse it over and over again with future games/events for near perfect results which is where the time saving really kicks in big time.
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Travis Haughton, Photographer
Oak Park | IL | USA | Posted: 5:21 PM on 11.18.15
->> This is interesting. I wish they'd have announced why they were making the change. My guess is with RAW files that can be pushed so hard (D750 and Sony) and bring back shadow detail from the dead, they figured that it's going to be a problem at some point.
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Simon Wheeler, Photographer, Photo Editor
Ithaca | NY | USA | Posted: 7:05 PM on 11.18.15
->> I'm with Doug Pizac on this. I shoot a lot of crummy venues with flicker and I can get them through ACR so quickly on a decent computer there is very little time lost. I never open them after the raw conversion to do anything else to them in full Photoshop.

I do wonder sometimes about the ethics of how much I can open up the shadows on a dark uniforms. Usually I try to just get the wrinkles to show. Not having any coworkers there's no one I can show them to for an intelligent discussion.
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Simon Wheeler, Photographer, Photo Editor
Ithaca | NY | USA | Posted: 7:16 PM on 11.18.15
->> Most of the time I'm also shooting .jpgs to a second card so I can transfer to the phone for quick transmission if needed.

My big issue with .jpgs is when you get a football game with broken cloud cover giving rapidly changing lighting conditions. Add to that a mixture of background ranging from open sky to dark rocks like there is at my local DIII school and exposure become a huge challenge. In general I like to shoot everything on manual to avoid getting fooled by the white uniforms, or open sky background, or dark rocks, but on a day when the light changes super quickly, manual exposure is probably not the way to go. But even the best auto exposure system is going to be a little or more under or overexposed. Shooting raw allows all those exposure errors to be corrected very quickly. I wouldn't want to have to do that to .jpgs. That being said the ability to use ACR on .jpgs could probably speed that up. I just wish I could figure out how to get .jpgs from PhotoMechanic to ACR without having to put a crop box on each photo.
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Ron Holman, Photographer
Visalia | CA | USA | Posted: 8:50 PM on 11.18.15
->> I shoot RAW because I can. The high school venues where I shoot most often have lights that flicker at the higher shutter speeds so one color temperature setting is only a good starting point at best. Superior color correction and retaining highlight info on the tops of white uniforms and other shiny stuff is often helpful. It does take an extra step and a bit of time to download bigger files and later to convert most of them to jpgs for archival purposes. But it's worth it to me and so far I have the time and resources to support it.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 9:01 PM on 11.18.15
->> Regarding Simon's ethics of how much to open shadows, all of us from the prehistoric "film days" did that through zone system exposure/developing methods. Using CameraRAW's highlight and shadow sliders are the same thing but digitally.

And if you want more in-camera control -- versus post -- then for Nikon users shoot a RAW test shot, load them into Nikon's software, color balance and tone/curve the image, save what you did as a profile and then load that profile into the camera itself as a saved preset. Then whenever you shoot at that venue just load the preset and you can shoot JPEG photos that have already been balanced and toned with opened up shadows and lowered highlight details.

What I found interesting in Reuters' Photographer's Handbook are two sets of post-work protocols. For photographers they can use Levels for toning, minor use of Levels and Curves to fix color balance, and cropping. For editors at the various global desks, they can do the same plus Curves, Burn tool, Shadow/Highlights tool, Eye Dropper to set color, Saturation tool and other means because they are working in controlled conditions on calibrated, high quality screens. The problem with editors having more controls at their fingertips is that they may not know what to use the Eye Dropper on for correct color, what degree of color saturation is right (muted or brilliant depending on the local population's color preference), and so on. Plus, some photographers like myself have/use calibrated high quality screens that are the same or better than what Reuters has. (I know mine is better than what some other agencies use.) This is similar to newspaper chains having regional desks that edit stories and do layouts for papers in different states.

So who can realistically portray a scene correctly? The photographer on scene or an editor half way around the world? Which brings us back to the question of why the change in policy. What happened?
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Mark Loundy, Photo Editor, Photographer
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 9:38 PM on 11.18.15
->> Reuters is trying to compensate for staff shortages by enacting policies.

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Chuck Liddy, Photographer, Photo Editor
PLANET | EARTH | | Posted: 12:00 AM on 11.19.15
->> "Do the freelancers have a professional/ethics background?" This was the first thing I thought when I saw this on FB. A majority of sports photographers now shoot for free and give their stuff away. Why would they have a problem of moving things like balls, pucks or people around if they could to make their photo better? This is most probably an ethics thing and I don't see how their new "policy" will change it.
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Doug Strickland, Photographer
Chattanooga | TN | USA | Posted: 12:58 AM on 11.19.15
->> I agree that it seems to mostly be an ethics thing. The best reasoning I've heard for the change is that it is harder to push/pull a JPEG past its limits than it is a RAW file without leaving obvious signs, though even that may be a stretch. It certainly wouldn't stop cloning or similar things, as Chuck pointed out. I am appreciating hearing about the workflows other pros use, though.
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Curtis Clegg, Photographer
Sycamore | IL | USA | Posted: 8:22 AM on 11.19.15
->> Even with pulling shadows "back from the dead" you're still only revealing details that the RAW file actually captured, and that the photographer and spectators could easily see with their naked eyes.

A story on The Verge this morning says that
"World Press Photo disqualified 20 percent of entries in the penultimate round of its 2015 awards, for instance, after comparing submissions to the unmodified RAW files."

So from an ethics standpoint the move doesn't make sense to me either.
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Frank Niemeir, Photographer
Woodstock | GA | usa | Posted: 11:32 AM on 11.19.15
->> Next we'll hear that they have told their photographers that everything must be shot with 50mm lenses at ISO 400.
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David A. Cantor, Photographer, Photo Editor
Toledo | OH | USA | Posted: 12:32 PM on 11.19.15
->> and all cell phone video must be shot in a vertical orientation...!
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Kevin Krows, Photographer
Forsyth | IL | USA | Posted: 5:17 PM on 11.19.15
->> Let's just go back to shooting film and stop worrying about it.
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Wally Nell, Photographer
SAN DIEGO | CA | USA | Posted: 7:33 PM on 11.19.15
->> But which film? Velvia with it's rich colors? Ilford HP5?
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 9:08 PM on 11.19.15
->> FYI, since Reuters has outsourced is sports coverage to USATSI, I contacted some of its freelancers around the nation to see if they heard of any JPEG only edict to comply with the wire service's new policy. Nada. Reuters will continue being supplied with sports pix that were shot originally as JPEG or RAW depending upon the photographers' preference.
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Kevin Krows, Photographer
Forsyth | IL | USA | Posted: 6:34 AM on 11.20.15
->> Wally .... what ever you are drinking make mine a double. Too funny.
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Jim Colburn, Photographer
Omaha | NE | USA | Posted: 1:39 PM on 11.20.15
->> Wally, Wally, Wally...
It has to be Tri-X.
Nothing else will do.
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Bryan Woolston, Photographer
Baltimore | MD | USA | Posted: 5:33 PM on 11.20.15
->> As a Reuters freelancer, shooting mostly news, I see this request no differently than I would a request from any other client. Provided they understand the limitations as they have requested, I'll shoot the JPG. I'm not sure why everyone is so disturbed by the policy. Ive had lots of clients make some crazy requests, this doesn't even make the list. As long as it doesn't effect the direct deposit, Im good...
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Jeff Lewis, Photographer
Los Angeles | CA | USA | Posted: 5:41 PM on 11.20.15
->> Interesting conversation. I shoot everything RAW regardless of what my client says or who I'm shooting for. I'd also shoot jpeg if needed but sports, portraits, landscapes, kids, etc., all of it is RAW.

Every NFL game I shoot has been RAW for the past 6 years and clients have noticed a difference. Colors are more vibrant, shadow detail is better, and if I'm off on my exposure, I can correct it easily with the RAW file. Image looks sharper as well.

I understand where Reuters is going with this but personally, I'd still shoot everything RAW and if my clients needed a jpeg right away, I'll just shoot both formats.

... For those wondering, I never give anybody the .cr2 file and always convert it to a .jpg. Once you start doing it, you can fine tune your workflow to where it's not that much of a noticeable difference regarding time.... Storage space is really the only thing affected.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 4:23 PM on 11.21.15
->> What would be interesting to see is what the IRS and Dept. of Labor feels about the new policy. Based on if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck and walks like a duck then it must be a duck, the same reasoning pertains to freelancers being re-categorized as employees because of the amount of control over how the independent contractor does his/her job.

This is why work is paid by the job. If a shoot takes a freelancer two minutes or two hours it doesn't matter. But what does matter to the feds is doing work by the hour because that can be considered an hourly wage just like staffers.

A couple decades ago AP, the LA Times, and others had to hire many of their freelancers as staff employees because the companies crossed the line in telling them not just when to work, but how to do their work, were given access to pool gear, put on posted schedules alongside staffers, etc. I as a guild rep back then and did some of the leg work to get the stringers on staff.

As Jeff says, he shoots everything RAW regardless of what the client wants. When you are an independent contractor, the client is licensing the delivered product; that's all. As long as you deliver the goods, it doesn't matter how you did the work; that's what makes the work independent. But when you start dictating HOW to do the job process, then you're bordering on an employee/employer relationship. And that then becomes interesting to the two feds as it increases their income (the state's too) in terms of social security taxes, workers comp coverage, etc.

How many of you know that if you sign a Work For Hire agreement in California that the state considers the work as an employee/employer relationship with the associated benefits and payroll responsibilities?
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Alan Look, Photographer
Bloomington - Normal | IL | United States | Posted: 5:23 PM on 11.21.15
->> Didn't even know my camera would shoot .jpg until I pressed the wrong button the other night.
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Frank Niemeir, Photographer
Woodstock | GA | usa | Posted: 9:29 AM on 11.22.15
->> Good observation and insights by Doug.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 2:17 PM on 11.26.15
->> World Press Photo has introduced its new ethics rules for its 2016 contest. Here's the NY Times story:

WPP has also produce four videos showing/explaining what counts as manipulation and what doesn't. Here's the link:

The second video deals with color and toning that changes the context of the scene. What is interesting is the last example showing the stark side of a two-tone ship (black and white). The "acceptable" rendition is having full subtle tones in the whites with delicate high-key detail of rivets. The "unacceptable" rendition is where the high-key detail is blown out.

So how does this apply to Reuter's new no-RAW policy? Recording/keeping the high-key detail is a piece of cake when shooting RAW, but to do so in original JPG can range from harder to difficult to impossible depending on the photographer's expertise and knowledge of his/her camera's ability, etc. So in this particular instance, shooting JPG could very well violate the intent of Reuter's policy which dictates that the scene must be recorded true to life. But it won't be the photographer who is guilty; it will the camera that threw away those delicate details in order to reduce the file size to JPG standards.

So this brings us to a classic Catch-22 situation. Does the photographer obey by shooting JPG which means violating the full tonal range reality of the scene, or does the photographer violate the JPG requirement by capturing the full range of tone/detail by shooting RAW?

To do both, you have to shoot only on slightly cloudy days where the ambient tonal range falls within a digital camera's dynamic range and make a perfectly exposed image where nobody is wearing very dark or white clothing that can go black or be blown out.
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Matthew Hinton, Photographer
New Orleans | LA | USA | Posted: 4:09 AM on 11.27.15
->> I agree with Loundy that is more an ECONOMIC issue than a question of ethics.

Who needs a picture editor to raise questions about the ethics of an image when Reuters can say there is some "true" original image that the camera / computer takes? It's a way of saying a computer can take the job of an editor and justify a reduction in staffing.

The emphasis on speed and minimal changes I think comes down to the workflow on Reuters end. Likely they don't want to have editors necessarily look at images as they come in anymore. And since they aren't looking at all the images they can say to clients that this new policy helps maintain "ethics."

They probably want speed and quantity over quality toning. Nevermind that readers can identify and want quality.

Who made this "world wide policy?"
"I’d like to pass on a note of request to our freelance contributors due to a worldwide policy change."
From whom is the editor passing on the note? Someone above the picture editor obviously.

I wouldn't be surprised if there is or soon will be an indemnity clause that freelancers will have to sign that will hold Reuters harmless for anything in the new "handbook" including things that have nothing to do with toning at all. Also they'll probably put something about the waiver of a jury trial preventing any class action and that all disputes will be settled by arbitration or mediation at Reuters headquarters or some place a photographer cannot afford to travel to mount a defense or dispute.

Then Reuters can reduce costs by not paying for lawyers and use mediation instead.
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Simon Wheeler, Photographer, Photo Editor
Ithaca | NY | USA | Posted: 8:00 AM on 11.27.15
->> The debate over the tonal accuracy of a .jpg made in camera is meaningless. In current cameras there are many in camera options that control the final appearance of a .jpg made in camera. I suspect many raw only shooters pay little attention to these settings. Is Reuters going to come out with a specification for how each model of camera as to how it should be set when it creates the .jpg? If so Doug Pizac's point about telling freelancers how to do their work comes even more into play
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 11:59 AM on 11.27.15
->> Simon, et al...

JPG tonal accuracy IS meaningful because the color preset options play a big role in what is emphasized and what is thrown away by the camera. As to RAW shooters paying little attention to them that is true because with RAW those presets do not exist since every bit of information is captured and it is up to the photographer to use that information -- not the camera.

So what color mode is real? Standard, vivid, landscape, portrait, neutral, etc.? If you're shooting portraits or covering football where the sideline officials are wearing atomic orange vests the worst setting you could use is vivid. But on an overcast day vivid could be preferable for a field of wildflowers. However, if you need something in-between a preset or you're not sure which one to use then that is when RAW is the preferred setting choice because YOU'RE doing the thinking and not the camera. To me, that is what is important and can be crucial in portraying reality -- who is making the decision; the photographer who knows what the scene should look like or a technician in Japan who created the preset algorithms.

The best way I have found to explain the difference between JPG and RAW to my students is to use the alphabet. RAW uses all the letters and all the punctuation characters. JPEG however uses less. The fine setting may use 20 letters while medium/normal uses 15 and small 10. Instead of getting complete sentences you've reduced your image to phone text jargon. Then when it comes to JPG color presets, neutral uses most of the punctuation marks equally while vivid is heavy on !!!!!!! with no option to go back and reduce that atomic orange to make it look real.

When AP first came out with its staff policy years ago everyone was told to set their cameras on standard as the lowest common denominator even though neutral retains more tonal information but needs tweaking. With the Nikon D810 a new preset called flat was created primarily for video where the final tonal range is set in the post color grading process for greatest flexibility.

While all these technicalities are good for discussion and may make some rethink their process to produce better imagery, let's not lose site of the bigger picture. What is the reasoning for Reuters' policy change and what will be the result? Are photographers creators/artists who have a personal vision/style, or are they being turned into content makers through automation that is turning our photos into a commodity where more that is delivered faster is better than thought out quality?

What is healthier for the mind? The equivalent of fast food burgers or a balanced diet of a good steak, chicken, veggies, etc. that takes time to prepare with proper seasonings? What provides a clear depiction of the story? A dozen separate tweets, or a blended interconnection of a dozen well-written sentences? And who is behind the changes in our beloved industry? Seasoned editors who can make the right choices for the intellectual enlightenment of the readers, or commercial giants like Google and Yahoo along with digital media who build revenue through clicks and may not care about lasting quality because their viewers have the attention span of a gnat?

Think back to the great lasting images of the past that were made using 4x5 film sheet holders, 35mm photos that were made with a thumb crank of the film advance, the first motor drives that moved along at a whopping three FPS, etc. to today where a single second on the shutter release can capture ten photos -- 15 when the new Nikon D5 comes out next year. Instead of using our minds to determine what the moment is it is our mindless finger. Instead of "editing" a Super Bowl down to a couple dozen game-telling images, over a thousand photos were transmitted by one wire agency from the last game where finding the important ones was like finding a needle in a haystack. After looking through just the first quarter everything becomes a blur.

The more automated we become the more of ourselves we lose and the less informed those who we want to communicate to through our photography become.
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Simon Wheeler, Photographer, Photo Editor
Ithaca | NY | USA | Posted: 9:46 PM on 11.27.15
->> Doug did a much better job of expressing what I hoped to get at. Of course it's important how the .jpgs are set up. I never paid much attention to it until about 18 months ago when I started having to transmit files directly from the camera on deadline. I also discovered that the Canon 1d Mark II I was using until 14 months ago made slightly green .jpgs. Ugh.

Thank you for that description of how to explain the difference between raws and .jpgs.

I think if news organizations are going to convince readers to pay for content, then they must present a tightly edited, coherent narrative that brings understanding of events. Anyone can dump hundreds of photos from an event, but that doesn't tell the audience anything useful unless they want to do the work to wade through it all.

What brings value to a news product is the presentation of what Doug refers to as the "couple dozen game-telling images," so the viewer can learn and enjoy without having to do the work for themselves.

I sometimes find the most satisfying picture taking experiences I have are when I'm on vacation using an older point and shoot that processes raw files very slowly. It forces me to really think before I press the button. It's a small camera and I can carry it all day without hassle.

This sort of discussion is why I'm still a dues paying member here and helps me refocus my work.
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Brad Barr, Photographer
Port St. Lucie | FL | USA | Posted: 5:36 PM on 12.04.15
->> tbh, when i read that story re no more raws...the first thing that came to mind was that whomever made this decision has absolutely no clue what the difference in capabilities is between a jpg done in camera and one done from a raw file. Therein lies the issue. What is the difference? Certainly nothing ethics related. Certainly its not a speed issue (given the photog in question has a clue...or at least Lightroom). Certainly they dont realize that you can adjust the in camera parameters to render increased contrast, sharpness, saturation, highlight/shadow recovery (Dlighting) and a host of other adjustments. So what's left? Nada...there really is no justifiable reasoning here. It's a knee jerk reaction to a perceived problem that in reality does not exist. The reality is, its much more "possible" to make the image look more like the eye sees it, by shooting raw and taking advantage of all that data, and the inverse of that is also true. So if the intent is to render the image more "realistic" then you are handicapping that very ability by demanding only jpg output.
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Simon Wheeler, Photographer, Photo Editor
Ithaca | NY | USA | Posted: 9:21 PM on 12.18.15
->> How many of you know what Canon's "Auto Lighting Optimzer" setting is doing? On Nikon's if the web site I'm reading is correct it's called "Adaptive D-Lighting".

Having just started shooting video with my Canon DSLR's I wanted to make sure I understood how the presets were going to affect the images as it's just like shooting .jpgs. How the camera is set can make quite a difference to the final product.

Basically it's like these two functions are just like using Photoshop after the fact to pull all the details out of the wide tonal range the sensor is capable of.

I wonder how many photographers think they are really great when it's just the camera fixing it all behind them? As an almost all raw shooter I had ignored this setting and am astounded that I never bothered to look at it.

It certainly doesn't anything to the argument that an in camera .jpg is always going to be a more accurate reproduction of the scene.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 11:40 PM on 12.18.15
->> Nikon's adaptive D-lighting pulls down the highlight detail and opens the shadows to bring in out of boundary tones -- the same as the highlight and shadow sliders in Camera Raw. The difference/problem is that you don't have control over the D-Lighting like you do in CR. So it could overdo what you want. It also only works on JPG images. It has no effect if you shoot RAW.
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