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Batch Conversion of RAW images

by Wren McMains
(7/21/2008)

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(This is one of many pages of tips on Organizing Your Images.)

  • I shoot RAW 99.4% of the time, but like having JPG images because they're quicker to review and for a lot of website work are all I need. I highly recommend shooting in RAW, its sure nice to have the RAW version when you need it.
  • Many cameras that shoot RAW will also save JPG versions at the same time, but I never use this feature because it slows down the write process and fills the memory card faster. Update:  Starting in about 2009 semi-professional cameras could write fast enough to high-speed cards that I started shooting both RAW and JPG and have ever since.
  • Instead I initially download images to a folder containing only images I need be process from RAW to JPG. (Saves selecting a subset of images to convert later, and some batch conversion programs like to convert all the images in a folder. It also has the advantage that on a day I've shot 5-10 GB or more I can batch convert all the images at once and later break them into folders of 4+ GB each.) I've always called this folder "film", because just like film it contains the latent images prior to any conversion. Be sure this folder is on the same drive where you'll keep the raw files, then when you move the RAW files into the 4+ GB folders the move will be instant (unlike a move across drives which can take many minutes).
  • The theory behind RAW is that you select all the images taken under the same condition, open the first in RAW converter and decide on all the proper conversion settings for that image and the let it convert the entire group of similar images. See Batch Conversion using Bridge CS3.
  • What I do instead is batch convert ALL the images I take as soon as I download them. Instead of choosing appropriate setting for one image, I decide on the auto settings that work fairly well for all images (depends on the batch conversion program) and then save these settings to a file.
  • Having done this once, I can then open the batch conversion program. It defaults to my choosen settings and remembers where I put my un-converted RAW images. It also remembers the folder where I want my output to go, only when I've started a new Original folder do I need to change this.
  • Push the start button and let it go ... might take a few minutes, or even an hour or more depending on how many images there are to convert. See Batch Conversion using Capture NX.
  • Programs I've used to batch convert RAW images: Bibble, Adobe Bridge, Nikon Capture, and FastStone. (There are others, I plan to try Lightroom soon.) My first choice use to be Bibble, but Nikon Capture NX came with my D300 and on average I now tend to like what it does with my NEF files best. (I did experiments with using all four programs on a couple thousand files. For each image, I often liked the output of one of the programs better than the others, but it wasn't always the same program. There is no program that always does the best auto processing, that's why it's important to do the RAW conversion yourself for any image you really care about.)
  • Once I've batch converted my RAW files I move them into the appropriate "Original" folder. (The JPG has been processed into a folder with a corresponding name. When my Original folder reaches the size limit I've set, I manually move the JPGs so the contents of the RAW and JPG folders match. If you have multiple hard drives I recommend keeping the RAW files on one and the JPGs on another ... provides some level of protection in case you loose a drive before you backup.) Note that if you auto process all the files with Adobe Bridge (and I assume Lightroom), it will create corresponding XMP files. Assuming you haven't added keywords with Bridge, you can loose these files.
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Explain again why you do this?

Check back, sometime I'll add screen shots showing batch RAW conversion in both Bridge and Capture NX.

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