28 Nov Get More Dynamic Range From Your Canon Camera
So I just wrapped up a product shoot and accidentally discovered something I sure have never read somewhere else. Not saying it’s not known, but it was news to me! For those of us with recent Canon bodies (this may apply to Nikon/Sony-sensored bodies as well but I don’t have one to test), we have the ability to shoot at multiple RAW resolution levels. There are plenty of times when it’s a good idea to use those lower-res settings, such as when shooting for web-only use, or something you know will never be printed big or cropped. It saves a ton of space and time!
I do a lot of regular product work and also do a lot of standard cigar shots for my other business, reviewing cigars. Every day I take the exact same shots of cigars for the website, and they are only used in videos and on the web so I always use small raw, using my settings in one of my custom slots. Which BTW I LOVE and use the crap out of!
I was setting up my lighting for these products tonight, and like many clients they needed transparent backgrounds. I shoot tethered to Lightroom, and set my background light to bring the levels just to highlight clipping for easy masking and removal in Photoshop. The first shot I did was right where I needed to be (I’ve done it enough that I could probably do it blindfolded at this point), showing data right at the clipping edge, a nice even red masked background. I then realized I shot it on my C1 setting which is for my cigar video shots, the only big difference being it was set on Small Raw, and I always work at Full size for commercial deliverables. I switched back to manual and retook the exact same shot on a tripod, exact same exposure settings, nothing special. When the shot appeared on screen, I knew something was up – the background was no longer clipped.
I did more experimental shots and found that using Full Raw gave just under a stop more of dynamic range than Small Raw, with Medium somewhere in the middle. Most of it was highlights, with a touch expanded (or reduced I should say) in the shadows, mostly in the red channel.
So long story short, when you need the most dynamic range, especially in your highlights, like a wedding gown – do NOT use anything less than Full Raw.