Batch Conversion of RAW images
by Wren McMains
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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.
Explain again why you do this?
- Sorry I must not have made it clear. Let me try it this way.
- Think of my JPGs as high-res thumbnails of all my images. Very high resolution, since I don't resize at all, only compress them. In other words, review copies of the images.
- Because they are so much smaller than the original RAW files, I can keep them ALL on-line even when starting to run out of disk storage for my originals. (Depending on the amount compression used, they are just 10-20% the size of the RAW files.)
- Since they're JPGs, one can flip through them quickly, even viewing them full-screen which is the way I like to view images. In fact the full-screen view mode is one FastStone's best features.
- And since the folder structure of these JPGs exactly matches that of the RAW files, if I find an image for which I need the RAW file, I know exactly which DVD to retrieve it from.
- Six or seven years ago, I use to also resize these on-line review copies of my images so they took even less space, but my screens keep getting bigger (even my laptop screens) so they were no longer full-screen. Finally I just gave up and left the review copies the original resolution. Now even my full-size old images don't fill my 2560x1600 screen.
Check back, sometime I'll add screen shots showing batch RAW conversion in both Bridge and Capture NX.
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