I wanted to share a few points on why I choose to shoot raw for 95% of my workflow. I still encounter many users who are afraid to make the switch to raw, so I offer these considerations to help you decide what’s right for you.
The image on the left is how the camera captured a JPEG. Making adjustments to the image is possible, but will lead to more degradation in image quality. The image on the right is a properly developed raw file. Working with raw files gives you access to greater control over an image.
- The image on the left is how the camera captured a JPEG. Making adjustments to the image is possible, but will lead to more degradation in image quality. The image on the right is a properly developed raw file. Working with raw files gives you access to greater control over an image.
- Memory cards used to be expensive. Photographers could not afford multiple or high-capacity cards, so they wanted more images to fit on a single, smaller card. This is not the case any more for almost all users. Cards have gotten dirt cheap.
- JPEGS are small. Internet connections can be slow… that’s why JPEG files were popularized. JPEGs are meant to post to websites and send via email. Make a JPEG after you develop your high-quality file.
- Small is not best. A distribution format like JPEG (one that’s easy to email) doesn’t mean it’s a good authoring format to capture your photographic vision. A JPEG file looks for areas where pixel detail is repeated, such as the color white on every key of your computer keyboard. The file then discards repeated information and tells the computer to repeat certain color values or data to re-create the image. The drawback is that a JPEG file is lossy, so every time you modify it and re-save, additional compression is applied to the image
- More info means more options. Raw (or native) formats have several benefits over shooting to JPEG. The images are usually captured at a higher bit depth, which means that the pixels contain more information about the color values in the image. Most raw files have a depth of 10, 12, or even 16-bits per channel instead of the 8 used by JPEG. This raw format also has a greater tonal range, resulting in better exposure for shadows and highlights.
- Almost everything works with raw. Whether you use iPhoto, Aperture, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, Photoshop, Photomatix, Nik, or more… they all support raw files. Most cameras work with most software tools. You already own the tool set, why not use them?
- Get better exposure, sharpening and contrast. While your camera may contain settings for sharpness, exposure, or lighting conditions, the raw file stores that info as modifiable information and captures the original (unmodified) data that came through your camera’s sensors.
- Advanced photography works better. Want to shoot HDR or Panoramic images? The use of raw makes it easier to blend images together. You’ll get better looking results by feeding in more information to start.
Be sure to get the most from your camera. If it shoots raw, use it. If you really want JPEGs out of camera, you can shoot Raw+JPEG and simply write both to the card.
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While most of you know what JPEGS are all about, remember that every day someone new joins the digital photo revolution so today, I’m answering a question I get all the time believe it or not – “What is a JPEG?”
JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) is a file compression scheme that stores digital photographs using a lossy compression routine.
Most photographers deal with JPEGS either coming out of a digital camera or in iPhoto/Photoshop/Aperture/Lightroom, etc., when making images web or computer ready. Unfortunately, as described above, JPEGS are a lossy form of compression. This means that the heavier the compression, the more the image is degraded. If you compress detailed images, you get more loss than if you compress soft images. Remember that once you have saved an image as a JPEG, you have compressed it. You are compounding the degradation to the image if you open it, modify it in any way, and save it again. This can create poor results, so the best practice is to make changes to an image while it is in a lossless state such as a PSD or TIF file, and only save an image as a JPEG once.
Most labs and online solutions use JPEGS. While they are a lossy compression method, they still produce outstanding results. JPEGs can be larger and render more color than other file formats – such as GIFs (limited to 256 colors.)
A JPEG’S strong point is its ability to save continuous tone better than GIF files, while significantly reducing file size, which is why most Web photo renderings are saved as JPEGS.
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Sometimes less complicated is good. A reader sent me this quote and inspired this post.
ECONOMY IN ART IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN OF EFFORT AND EFFECT.
I recently purchased a Panasonic LX3 digicam. It shoots in JPEG or RAW mode, but while waiting for the RAW converter in Aperture, I have been shooting JPEGS. As someone who’s spent the last several years shooting exclusively in RAW, this was a shock to my system.
But then, I realized, it was also a bit freeing. It meant images would not have to be decoded by Aperture. It meant that images would pop up on the screen more quickly and be easier to work with. It meant that even if I worked in the highest quality JPEG mode, I’d no longer worry about spending time waiting for complicated changes to take effect. Continue Reading
Photo by Scott Bourne
Most photographers deal with JPEGS either coming out of a digital camera or in Photoshop/Aperture/Lightroom when making images web ready. Unfortunately, JPEGS are a lossy form of compression. This means that the heavier the compression, the more the image is degraded. If you compress detailed images, you get more loss than if you compress soft images. Remember that once you have saved an image as a JPEG, you have compressed it. You are compounding the degradation to the image if you open it, modify it in any way, and save it again. This creates poor results, so only save an image as a JPEG once.
A JPEG’S strong point is its ability to save continuous tone better than GIF files, which is why most Web photo renderings should be saved as JPEGS.