Sunday, June 5, 2011

RAW vs JPGs: My Take


I want to preface this post with the fact that I am not a professional photographer, nor do I intend to become a professional photographer.  If you have been following my blog and looking at my posted images you already know this.  ;-)   I love photography, but I do it for my pleasure only, and most of my photos are snapshots of our life.  So this post is directed to hobby photographers like me.

Now, confession time.  After years of taking only RAWs (and feeling special because of this), I now shoot jpgs 99% of the time.

I wanted to list a few reasons
why I made this decision (and please read this article from Ken Rockwell):

1.  Jpgs are edited in-camera, so if I set my camera properly many of my images don't need any editing other than a bit of sharpening.  Even ones that need some editing usually just need a tweak on the exposure and color.  RAWs ALWAYS need to be edited.  No one can print or post a RAW file directly, it must be processed in some sort of editing program and then converted to a jpg or other common file to be printed or uploaded. 

2.  Jpgs can be read anywhere.  I like being able to see all of my photos in Window's Photo Viewer and have the ability to open my images in any editing program.  I can stick my Canon's memory card in my grandmother's computer and see my photos.  I can't do that with RAWs. 

3.  Jpgs are smaller.  RAWs are huge (especially with my new beloved Canon Rebel T2i).  I am uploading all of my photos from 2004 until present with Carbonite and even though I have 4G Wireless it is going to take months to get them all up there, mostly because I have so many RAW files. 

4.  I value my time and don't want to spend hours editing images.  I would rather spend more time taking pictures. 

5.  Almost all of my photos are posted on the web or printed 4x6 for my personal photo album or no bigger than 11x14 for my wall.  I don't need RAWs to get great resolution at those sizes, my  jpgs are perfectly adequate.   I can't foresee needing billboard-sized images of my dog  or muddy kid anytime soon.

6.  As a test I have taken jpgs and RAWs at the same time and didn't see any major differences between the two final edited images at the sizes I view on the web or usually print.

Here are some reasons why I would shoot RAWS:

1.  If I am doing a photo-shoot for a friend I will capture both RAWs and jpgs and keep the decent jpgs and toss all of the RAWs except for the ones that I plan on editing.  White balance is easier to correct in RAWs than jpgs, so I have the RAW   "just in case ".  


2.  If I am shooting with questionable lighting I might shoot RAW (if I remember), again because of white balance.

3.  If I am doing a serious photo-shoot of my own family I might shoot RAWs because old habits die hard and I want to have a "negative" of that special shoot. 

I use Lightroom 3 for all of my basic photo-editing (and use Photoshop or PSE for any "arty" enhancements).  Many people will tell you that LR3 is really only for editing RAWs, but that is not true.  The beauty of a properly exposed jpg is it doesn't need much editing, and for any color/contrast correction needed, LR3 works beautifully whether you are editing RAWs or jpgs.  However, most presets are written for RAWs (unedited photos) so if you use them on jpgs you might get harsh and sometimes really ugly results, but they can be toned down in many cases. 

The main reason I started shooting RAWs years ago was because I read somewhere that shooting jpgs instead of RAWs is like having your film negatives printed and throwing the negatives away and keeping the prints.  I don't know about you, but I shot film for years, and once I closed down my darkroom my negatives have not seen the light of day and I am perfectly happy to look at my prints. 

Shooting RAWs or jpgs is a personal choice, but I personally believe shooting jpgs does not keep you from being a "real" photographer.  Don't let the cool kids make you feel guilty. However, I suggest spending the time to learn to use your camera so your images are properly exposed and don't need much post-processing editing.  If you take the time to learn how to capture great SOOC (straight-out-of-the-camera) images, then you might get jpgs you can print right off your camera card.  You will never be able to do that with a RAW.

I hope this helps some of you out there that feel guilty that you are not shooting RAWs!

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32 comments:

  1. I shoot in Jpeg/fine on my Nikon D300s mostly for reasons 3 & 4. I like to shoot photos. I tried shooting in RAW but I found it very time consuming. Thanks for posting this. It's a personal choice for every photographer and can sometimes be a touchy subject.

    Trina

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  2. I have recently stopped shooting in RAW for my day to day shots for the same reasons.. for clients I am even finding I very rarely use RAW images.. thanks for putting it out there and making me not feel so bad!!

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  3. I shoot in RAW+JPEG almost all the time. The only time I don't is when I'm doing snapshots (like Christmas) and I'm just shooting on full auto. I do it for all of the reasons you stated: JPEG is perfectly adequate most of the time, so I want to have that JPEG if I don't feel like editing a lot. But I like to have the RAW file there too, because then if I do want to do some drastic editing (or if I get my settings really wrong in-camera), I can. I go through every so often and delete my unused RAW files to save space on my hard drive.

    I feel like if you know your camera well, and you consistently get your settings right in-camera, and you're not making billboards, JPEG is the way to go. But I've had far too many shots lost due to wrong settings to shoot only JPEG. I can't risk losing great shots due to my flighty brain.

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  4. I just started doing RAW and I was using RAW+JPG. I didn't see much difference except that I couldn't open my RAW in my normal program. I has to use photoshop to open them. I think the idea of having an additional way to edit white balance is nice, but not always necessary. I might do it for clients only. I get fantastic photos with JPG. Thanks for this post. Very informative and loved hearing your opinion. And you look as pro as most of the self-proclaimed pros to me.

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  5. Thank you so much for this post! When I first got my DSLR I shot several pics in RAW but then decided that I didn't like not being able 'see'them and began shooting in large formate jpg. I keep hearing from professionals that I should be shooting in RAW and so was feeling guilty, like you said, for not doing so! Thanks for clearing this up and now I don't feel guilty at all!

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  6. Thank you for this post. When I first got my camera, I shot in jpg and liked my pictures. As I do have white balance issues time and again, I tend to shooot in RAW. But it takes so much time, and there are ways to deal with WB for simple jpg shots. Since I just mainly do shots for my blog, I think you've just given me the confidence to switch back to jpg and try it out again. It would certainly make life simpler.

    Thank you!

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  7. Im glad you posted this. I am a goor photographer friend's "official second shooter" she has me shoot in RAW for weddings, which she does the official editing on, but it makes me crazy having to open everything in the reader before I can even open it in PSE. I always do a wedding blog post with some of my own photos and it takes 3 times as long because of the RAW shots.

    day to day, I shoot jpeg. saves SO MUCH TIME. and even ones that are a bit under or over exposed are fairly easily corrected. Sure if you really flub, you cant recover, but so far it hasnt been a deal breaker on my day to day pics of the heathens.

    so I switch back and forth. eh. it works for me! Im glad im not the only one :)

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  8. Very interesting, thanks for posting! I'm a newbie to "real" cameras, have had my T2i for just a few months and have so much to learn. I've never taken it off the jpg setting because I figured RAW would require time to learn - sounds like that instinct was right, but your post has also given me a good push to try it.

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  9. This is great, Rita! As a matter of fact, I was just thinking about this subject a couple of hours ago :~)

    I'm not a pro either and I dont' even have a DSLR! I have Canon G11, which, I am told, many Pros use as their "everyday" camera. I like it because I don't have to deal with a lot of different lenses. Limiting, I know, but it works for me :~)

    And learning about aperture, shutter speed and ISO is daunting enough for me without having to think about which lens to use. I really envy everyone who understands all that :~) Photoshop is so much easier for me!!!

    So I'm on my way to change the setting on my camera, as soon as I finish my online rounds :~)

    Thanks!
    Elaine

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  10. AMEN! I am Jpeg all the way. I need a life : )

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  11. What a great article. Thanks for your insights. I'm also a hobbyist, and never shot in RAW before I got my new Nikon D5100 a month ago, because it was time-consuming and difficult to edit the images. However, my new camera has a built-in RAW editor in the camera itself which allows me to do the basic white balance touch-ups etc, and I find that quite useful, although also time-consuming. So I also stick to shooting in jpeg fine now unless I'm doing a shoot for a friend, or shooting in variable light conditions and can't be sure of the white balance.

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  12. This is the second time this week that I read about this - perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something..? (like, it's about time I learned how to get the settings on my camera right so I won't have to 'fix' so much in post processing!) Thanks for sharing your wisdom! :-)

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  13. I definitely shoot RAW for my clients (it's a safety net, ya know? They're paying me to get it right so I like having RAWs just in case) but in my personal life, I shoot JPEG 99% of the time. I love my kids, but I don't have time to edit every single image I take of them! Holy crow! I'd never sleep. Thanks for the tips!

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  14. Your reasons for both sides of the story are all great! It's awesome to hear your perspective :)

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  15. You are the BEST Rita! OK yes, I have previously scowered the internet to ease my guilt that I shoot in jpeg and then, you came right to me (I have you on my Google Reader) I like all your advice, and it made a lot of sense (even when I may need to shoot RAW) I do have one question, how big could I get my jpeg enlargement? You mentioned 11x14, is that the largest you would go and still have clarity?

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  16. Selina, you could print much larger than 11x14 with my camera. I have printed 30 x 30 (jpg) image before and it looked great.

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  17. Thank you! I feel so validated - I agree with you 100%, but have been afraid to turn off the RAW - what if I might need one of those huge files that I haven't touched in the last 6 months??? :) Crazy hoarder mentality has got to go.

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  18. This post is perfect timing for me! I just read a book on PS CS5, and most of it touts how wonderful RAW is. I felt so guilty for not using it. I took a whole card full of RAW+JPG, and I ended up deleting all my RAW files, because it said my camera was not compatible with CS5 (which it says it is according to the Adobe site...). Maybe someday I'll do some RAW...maybe...but for now, I'm going to be happy with jpgs for the many reasons you listed! Thanks! :)

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  19. Love your view point on this subject. I don't know much about RAW....tried to shoot with it a few times and it just seemed like a pain. I feel my JPEG shots turn out wonderful, for me and for the few others I take pics of. And, most of the time they look the same.

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  20. I shoot clients in RAW, personal in JPEG... I love how easy you can change the properties of a RAW file but they do take up soo much space and the converting takes more time than I can spare for personal pics!

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  21. Amen! I'm a Jpeg shooter! I love trying to get it right in the camera and saving myself editing time. Like everyone else on the comments, I just don't have the time to shoot RAW. However, if doing a paid shoot for clients I would probably shoot Jpeg+RAW for my own state of mind!

    Thanks for your opinion it definitely did alleviate some of the guilt!

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  22. For those that shoot in RAW and want to see photos on the computer without having to open lightroom or photoshop, I was pleased to see that Picasa can open (and edit!) RAW files. I do shoot in RAW, but I trash the images I don't want pretty quickly.

    I understand why others don't want to bother with RAW, but I edit every photo at least a little bit before printing, so it doesn't take any extra time for me and I often shoot in low light and RAW photos seem to edit better for me.

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  23. Great discussion! I've been shooting in RAW for a couple of years now and would never go back to jpeg. I hate the idea that some information is lost before I even have a chance to review the file, and that each time you open and close a jpeg file you lose a little more. The real reason I love RAW, though, is because it offers such flexibility -- up to 3 stops of exposure, for starters, which is wonderful when you forget to turn down your ISO after moving from indoors to bright sunshine.

    Just a quick tip for anyone using Lightroom, you can set it to import your files as RAW and immediately convert them to digital negatives (DNG) which makes them more universally readable, without losing any of the great flexibility that RAW files have.

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  24. DaniGirl, you can open and close a jpgs as many times as you want and it stays exactly the same. It is only if you make changes to it and then save it that you lose some resolution. But I have read that you can open, edit and save at high resolution 4 to 5 times and you won't lose noticeable resolution. :-)

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  25. I saw that you mostly edit in lightroom 3. Can you tell me what you have your image sizing set at when you export a photo? or what your final settings are when exporting a photo. I am finding that my image looks better and sharper when I zoom in or open the photo big but if its small, like posting on my blog it doesn't look sharp and crisp?? maybe email me beanlee_2@hotmail.com if you can. Thanks so much just wasn't sure who else I could ask. Just trying to get it right for my blog and for prints. thank you

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  26. Thanks for thIs ! I don't shoOt in raw either and have always felt a little uncool... But I don't need to at this point so I don't. Shrugs :)

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  27. As a former pro photographer and photo editor for a magazine (now stay at home mom) I NEVER used RAW files. Always JPG. Food for thought!

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  28. I almost always shoot RAW. I understand though why someone would want to shoot JPEG over RAW. I actually had this conversation with my husband about RAW vs JPEG shooters and the different types of photographers that shoot either type. I'm not knocking JPEG shooters but for me I like RAW because I feel I have more control over my processing.

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  29. There are definitely pros & cons to both file formats. I personally use adobe lightroom to do a majority of my editing which means i have to use RAW format if I want to use presets. On the other hand loading raw files onto my computer (especially now w/ my new Nikon which is 16MP) takes fooooorrrreeevvveer and I'm talking about 1-2 hours to load a couple hundred photos & when editing each individual photo it can take my pc 2-3 times as long to process a raw file vs. jpeg. My PC is probably about mid of the line so for those who can afford lightening speed computers it really wouldn't be an issue. Processing speeds are probably the only reason I consider going back to shooting JPEG.

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  30. I started shooting RAW last year and while it is definitely time consuming, I like feeling that I have the negative of my photos. I can tell you that they are eating up storage space and I'm driving my IT-hubby crazy! I fill everything up so quickly. I was momentarily considered switching back to JPEG when I read that Audrey Woulard shoots JPEG!

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  31. Rita, THANK YOU for thi spost! This is an issue I have been going back and forth with for the past few weeks. I DO think I will be going back to JPEG except for those very few special sessions and weddings. Thanks so much!! xoxo

    PS...still LOVE my blog! ;)

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