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Why Shoot RAW? Cause You Don’t Own Nightvision Goggles

I had a great time making portraits with some friends the other day, practicing some different techniques and honing some skills. My camera was set to shoot RAW+JPG so I could keep the camera’s terrific black and white jpegs and a color RAW version (here’s a little more about that idea).

The Argument to Use Camera JPEG Files

My new Panasonic GH4 makes a very good JPEG image, and lately I’ve been using the JPEGs for delivery and not touching the RAWs. This photograph is the JPEG version of the header, and it is straight out of the camera from the shutter, no changes made.

This is the jpeg version of the header image. Jpegs from the GH4 look very good. Their Red filter for monochrome is also exceptional.
This is the jpeg version of the header image. Jpegs from the GH4 look very good. Their Red filter for monochrome is also exceptional.

Where JPEG Fails

JPEGs have one overwhelming weakness: they simply record less information than a RAW file. And it’s not a little less info, it’s millions of times less information. Here’s what that means.

Levi_Sim_RAW-1-3
The original exposure on the left, the brightened JPG, then the brightened RAW. There’s really something valuable about RAW files.

I made this picture of these two sisters, but the flash didn’t fire this time, leaving me with a very dark picture. If you’ve ever photographed babies, then you know they change expression constantly, so I just wanted to see what I missed.

That JPEG looks like a bad copy of a bad scan of tiny newspaper image. I can’t show that to anyone. The RAW image, however, could probably be salvaged if necessary. Following are the settings I applied to both the jpeg and the RAW versions in Lightroom (plus black and white for the RAW file).

If I did this same process in PhotoshopCC, I could use CameraRAW as a filter to apply these same settings again on a new layer and really get a usable image from the RAW. And this was a black exposure! It’s better not to have equipment failure, but when I do it’s nice to have a little security in the form of a RAW file.

Levi_Sim_RAW-1-5
Panasonic GH4, Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens, f/2.8, 1/30s, ISO 100.
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