Getting it Right in Camera Doesn’t Really Exist

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I’ve heard of folks who don’t edit. At least, I’ve heard of folks who claim they don’t. They say they get it right in camera. I’ve often said that I try to get it right in camera. It’s important to couch that statement with try because getting it right in camera isn’t really a thing. If it were a thing, it would mean RAW files that need no post-production. If you spend just a couple of minutes pushing sliders in Lightroom, it’s because your camera didn’t get it completely right.

The camera can’t make stylistic choices. It can make technical choices that are stylistic approximations. Any image the camera produces is a draft, to be revisited and reworked either immediately after or a while later. Drafts in any medium need revisions. Photographs need edits. If you shoot in RAW + JPEG, you’ll see differences between the two. A jpeg is a cleaned up raw file.

If you’ve ever tried printing, then you know you need to fine-tune the image because different papers and different finishes necessitate certain tweaks. Take a look at the marked up prints from darkroom days. An immense amount of editing that could not have been captured in camera went into some iconic prints.

How you construct an image through the lens is just one part of the final thing. The stylistic choices you make after the fact, big and small depending on the type of photography you do, are the other part. A camera can be stylish, but it can’t determine your style. You do. The camera gets you halfway there. You have to take it all the way.