EDITOR’S NOTE: My pal Joe Farace writes his counterpoint here to my post Here’s Why I Shoot RAW
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One of digital photographys seven deadly sins is shooting in JPEG format, when everybody know that if youre a serious photographer ya gotta shoot RAW. So now its time for me to raise my hand and admit, My name is Joe and Im a JPEG shooter.
Its not that I never shoot in RAW format, sometimes I do, but mostly its JPEG so let me tell you a true story. I had an assignment from a car magazine to shoot one of my favorite cars, a Nissan Skyline GTR. I asked the editor what kind of files he wanted and he told me that because the camera I shoot produces big files JPEG would be OK but to shoot RAW if the photo would make a nice two-page spread. OK, you can see this coming, right? I did exactly what he asked but for the two-page spread he chose one of the JPEG files but there are other reasons I shoot JPEG.
One of the best times to shoot JPEG is when theres limited space on your memory card. I think that its better to get an image instead of missing it because your card is full. Its happened to me and it can happen to you. A few years ago I was teaching a workshop in Miami that included a studio lighting session with a model at the end of the day. It was at the end of the day and I saved a memory card specifically for this session but then one of my students asked me if I had a spare card because all of his were full. How could I say no, so I loaned him the card for the shoot. All I had left after a days shooting was room for one shot on my camera so I dialed in the largest amount of compression JPEG file that was possible for the Olympus SLR I was using which gave me room for six small, low resolution files, one of which is shown above.
The portrait of Carolina made using studio lighting and an Olympus E-30 in manual mode. Exposure was 1/125 sec at f/8 and was captured at the cameras next-to-lowest resolution (1024 x 768) with its maximum (1/12) compression producing a 293K file. If this image was only a tiny 293K why does it look so good? Simple, I used what is now called Perfect Resize (www.ononesosftware.com) software to res-up or increase the size of the file to make it acceptable to my upcoming books, Studio Photography Anywhere designers and printers.
Another reason to shoot JPEG files is when you need more speed. JPEG allows you to shoot more images faster because it won’t fill the in-camera buffer as fast. If your subject is moving quickly, as in motor or horse racing, or you frequently hold down the shutter for a continuous burst of photos, you may want to consider JPEG-only shooting to shoot those images faster and longer without any pause. If all your work is going out onto the Internet with nothing being printed then you could just shoot JPEG but be aware that somebody could see your shot and want a 4×6-foot print for their boardroom, which brings me to back to shooting RAW.
When to Shoot RAW? The number one reason is when you want to extract the maximum quality from your image files. This is especially important if you have an older camera with fewer megapixels and want to get the most from the camera. Wedding and event photographers often shoot RAW because they will process and edit a large percentage of the images they take before showing the client. They only want to show the client the better photos and won’t bother with any of the less-than-perfect ones. And there are also times when I like to shoot RAW+JPEG, a subject for a forthcoming post.
Like almost everything in digital photography, the choice of RAW vs. JPEG boils down to the kind of images you make. For me, JPEG works most of the time. For you, it might be RAW. There is no one-size-fits-all approach in digital photography or as Seor Wences once famously said, Is easy for you, is difficult for me.
Joe is the author of Joe Farace’s Glamour Photography: The Digital Photographer’s Guide to Getting Great Results with Minimal Equipment a new book published by Amherst Media.