All of today’s professional and semi-professional cameras allow you to shoot in RAW. I am not going to list all the advantages you get from RAW files, but the increased dynamic range and the ability to recover extreme highlight and shadow detail alone should be sufficient reason to switch to RAW. The photo I took in Singapore (Image 1) is good example of what would not have been possible with a simple JPEG snapshot.
One drawback of shooting in RAW is that you need to process your shots on a computer, instead of simply downloading the JPEGs from the camera. This post processing should be as quick and painless as possible while having all the control you get over RAW files at your fingertips.
Over the last decade Adobe Lightroom has become the de facto standard software for the professional and most amateur photographers. As we have seen in the last edition, Adobe’s Photography Bundle with its monthly cost of NZ$16 can get quite heavy on your wallet. In this article I am comparing the RAW capabilities of Affinity Photo with those of Lightroom. Affinity Photo is an excellent all-round photo editor which costs you NZ$90 one-off.
Opening a RAW File
Image 1 shows you a screenshot of Affinity Photo Affinity in the dedicated Raw development workspace. The five buttons on the top left, circled in red, represent the five operating modes, called Personas. The third button activates the Raw Developing module. It gives you a selection of most common tools on the left, including masking tools for working on specific areas of your image.
The Basic Tab
This tab opens up several groups of sliders and that’s usually all you need to tweak and optimise your image to perfection. Image 2 gives you a clearer picture of the controls.
Image 2 – The Basic Tab (Affinity Photo)
Image 3 – The Basic Tab in Adobe Camera Raw
The first slider, Exposure, is basically a linear exposure adjustment. Use this slider when your image is under- or overexposed. Next, I recommend that you adjust the Brightness slider which corresponds to the middle slider of the Levels command. Then you might want to optimise both ends of the spectrum with the Shadows and Highlights sliders.
There is no fixed recommended sequence when going through the controls. As a long-term Photoshop user I am used to start with the White Balance, but this is entirely up to you. The Contrast slider controls the overall contrast of the image, whereas the Clarity slider gives you a local contrast enhancement. It makes the image look sharper, but it is important not to overdo it. The same applies to Saturation and Vibrance adjustments.
How does Affinity Photo’s RAW converter compare with Adobe’s Lightroom? Image 3 shows you the equivalent Basic tab for Adobe Camera Raw (which shares the same RAW converter engine with Lightroom). You can see that you get equivalent commands under slightly different names.
And There Is More
Next to the Basic tab Affinity Photo offers you four more tabs: Lens (Image 4), Details (Image 5), Tones and Overlays. The Details tab has all the controls for sharpening and noise reduction. The Black & White conversion (Image 6) and Split Toning interfaces allow to pull all the stops of your creativity.
Finally, the Develop button on the top left turn your RAW file into an image file which you can further process and save.
Image 4 – The Lens Tab
Image 5 – The Details Tab
Image 6 – Black & White Conversion
Image 7 – Split Toning
How Does Affinity Photo Compare with Adobe Lightroom?
This is the million-dollar question. Well, if you just started shooting in RAW, you can be assured that you won’t find any drawbacks when you work in Affinity Photo. If you are coming from Lightroom, there might be a few controls which you’ll miss in Affinity Photo. However, having used the latest Adobe products for well over two decades I can assure you that, in the end, Lightroom won’t give you any better-looking images.