In Your Hands

Tuba portrait.
Tuba portrait.

Your pictures. Your hands. Eyes. Brain. Heart.

That’s the thing about trying to teach you what I do. We all see differently. We all have different interests. Some of us make fully fleshed out pictures using most of the tools available to us. Others work in jpg and never move away from auto everything. Others use smartphones and post directly from there.

Most of the techniques I can share with you are really only for working from RAW files or lossless .jpg files. Even when I use my smart phone often I run the files through post production tools that I discussed in the past few days. Sometimes I keep the files on my phone and just use Snapseed. But, that’s usually for testing or if I’m in a real big hurry.


Here’s a few technical things you can do.

Make a slightly over-exposed image. More exposure equals more data. To a point. I wouldn’t suggest overexposing by more than 2/3 of a stop. And, that’s in fairly even and low contrast light. Anything more and you run the risk of blown out highlights. You can open up underexposed shadows, but you can not recover badly overexposed highlights. If you try, typically the highlights end up looking gray.

When you are developing your images do not use auto settings. Just like the old days when everything was calibrated to 18% gray, perfect histograms tend to flatten highlights and shadows in a way that is technically perfect, but doesn’t look very good to the eye. On the other hand, don’t go crazy. Use non-destructive programs, work on a copy of the original and work in tiny increments. Use the “Save As” button rather than the “Save” button to preserve a copy of your original image.

Filters. The only filters I use are neutral density filters to allow me to work with slow shutter speeds in bright light, a polarizer to clean up light and sometimes in bad weather I use a clear filter to protect the lens. My immediate goal when I’m working in the field and processing the original image is to make the cleanest, purest image that I can. I do the rest of the fine tuning in post production. That includes adding color filtration and cleaning out odd colored light.

Downloading images. Best industry practices says to back up at least twice and keep one complete set of RAW images and one complete set of finished master images off site. I do something like that. I download a working set of RAW images to my desktop which means my computer’s hard drive. I download a second set of RAW images to my external hard drive. I download a third set to cloud storage. There are all sorts of ways to do that. Some photographers use Drop Box. Others use Adobe. Some use storage provided by their website host. Some use storage right here on WordPress. Some use Google storage.

After a lot of thought and research, I decided to use Amazon. For those who aren’t aware, mass storage is how Amazon really makes their profits. In fact, many of the smaller mass storage providers lease their space from Amazon and mark the rates up slightly. Often we think that a smaller  mom and pop operation is better for whatever we do. This time, I think bigger is better because they really know what they are doing. And, they back up my back ups.


If you are an Amazon Prime member mass storage is unlimited. And, it’s free. In this house we use Amazon Prime for every kind of thing — goods, books, music, films, television — so why not use it for storage of images? Originally, I was under the impression the pictures could only be stored if they were small files. Nope. I checked. Any picture file is fair game. Video too. And, you can sync your Amazon archive to all of your devices including other family members or business associates. I’m syncing in the background as I write.

Once I’ve developed and finished my RAW files, I convert them to .tiff files. Those are my master images. I save those in all the places I’ve mentioned. I remove all of the files from my desktop and put them in the trash. I empty the trash every two weeks. I store very little on my computer’s hard drive. A empty hard drive makes the computer happy.

When I read somebody say their computer had a major crash and they can’t reboot it, losing all of their files, the first thing that comes to mind is what are you thinking. Get your precious files off the computer’s hard drive and store them some place else.

One point. External hard drives break too. That’s the reason for RAID systems which are a redundant storage. That’s also the reason you should check the integrity of your external hard drives every six months or so. And, why you should use cloud storage.

If you are wondering, CD and DVD storage are yesterday’s technology. I’ve long downloaded images I stored on discs to clouds and external hard drives. Unless you are spending a lot of money on gold discs, which supposedly last about 100 years without degradation, you should move your files too.


I’ve spent a lot of time on downloading, back-up and storage. That’s because our archives are about all we have. Even if you are a hobbyist taking pictures of your family, your pictures are worth something to you. You don’t want them going up in a puff digital smoke because you never stored them properly.

Yes. The files can be recovered. There are companies who do that. It’s very expensive. Just like most things, the cost of maintenance is far less than the cost of repair.

That said, the best way to look at pictures, and maybe store them, is on paper. I’ll discuss that tomorrow.

The picture. I made this portrait on site and helped it in post production. In this case, I used a glow filter that is used in higher end portraiture to help the picture sort of — well, glow.



  1. Thanks Ray – Wonderful Portrait and Valuable Information. I backup my stuff on one or sometimes 2 external drives. I am pretty computer literate, however, I’ve never used Cloud, b/c I tend not to trust storage that’s “out there” and who knows if that system gets hacked and I can no longer access my stuff. I also assume that no matter what they say about Security and Privacy … Mister Cloud could access whatever it pleases to use however it chooses. Of course the same goes for anything posted anywhere. But your love of Cloud is causing me to re-consider and check out Amazon. How do you find the download times? Thanks.


    1. That’s why I use Amazon. Since that is their main business they are very secure. Google too. I suppose anything can be hacked, but that’s why I use externals as well.As far as Aamzon using it, they won’t. Doing that and being caught is a business killer. If you are talking about downloading back from Amazon, very fast. Uploading is slower, but I drag and drop a file and the software starts synching and runs in the background so I really never pay attention to it. Yesterday, I uploaded 48 files. Each file was uncompressed. So very large. Took about two hours.


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