TALKING IMAGES 56 – THOUGHTS FOR THOSE NEW TO PHOTOGRAPHY: 2 – RAW VS JPEG

 

(Click onto any of these images to open a larger version in a separate window)

Some years ago, I put out some posts specifically aimed at those just getting interested in photography, just starting out.  I tried to think of things that might be useful to them – and not just in terms of technique, but also in ways of thinking about photography, attitudes, questions that might arise, etc.  I most certainly do not know all there is to know about photography, but I’d like to try something similar again and – as always – I’m happy to take questions >>> with the caveat that, as already mentioned, my knowledge is not exhaustive.

But always remember, these are only my views and opinions: others may well think differently, and equally validly.

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EARLIER POSTS IN THIS SERIES

POST 1: The Main Mantra: there are no rights or wrongs in photography, only individual photographers’ differing opinions.

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RAW CAPTURE VERSUS JPEG – THE PROS AND CONS

Many cameras can capture both raw and jpeg image files, even simultaneously, and the debate about their relative merits has rumbled on for years, with die hard supporters on both sides.  However there is a very simple distinction between the two, which really centres on how the resulting images are going to be processed – or not processed –  post-capture.
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Jpegs contain only the information from your camera’s sensor that relates to the actual image at the point of capture.  And so they can provide excellent images of the scenes that you have photographed as the camera saw them at the point of capture, but they cannot be used to significantly alter those images after capture – they simply do not contain the necessary data.  So you might use the jpeg format if you do not want to subject your photos to significant post-capture processing but are happy with the photos your camera produces – which you can then post straight onto the web, or get printed, etc.  And my advice would be to opt for top quality jpegs, to get best quality images.

So jpegs are useful in various situations where:

  • you don’t want to put in a lot of time on post-capture processing of your pictures;
  • or you want to shoot large numbers of images in a short time, including using motorised shooting;
  • or your photos are only going to be used on the internet;
  • or you plan to make only smallish prints, if any.

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In the past, raw files were capable of producing much better quality images than jpegs, but this is no longer the case – many cameras can now produce very good jpeg images, Olympus and Fujifilm in particular being notable for this. 

But raw files contain BOTH the information necessary to create a top quality image of the scene being photographed, AND a lot of OTHER information too – everything that the camera has recorded in fact.  And the point here is that this OTHER information can be used, if desired, to produce a version of the image that differs substantially from what the camera has recorded, and maybe from reality too.  So raw files are really of more use to those who regularly subject their images to post-capture processing, those who are NOT looking for “something nice straight out of the camera” – and the point should be made that raw files, however well captured, can often look dreadful straight out of the camera, they often require some adjustment to make them even look presentable, let alone the work needed to transform their images into “something new”.   

I never shoot any format except raw, simply because I always want to have the maximum possible, post-capture processing flexibility, in case I need it.  Raw is also useful in various situations where:

  • low light levels necessitate the use of high ISOs but image noise needs to be kept to a minimum;
  • or images have particularly high tonal range, i.e. between very dark and very light areas;
  • or adjustments to colour temperature (i.e. white balance) may be made after capture;
  • or high quality black and white conversions are planned;
  • or large, high quality prints are planned.

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About Adrian Lewis
Photographer - using mono, colour and combinations of the two - many types of subject, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous, trying new ideas, working in multiple genres. And I've a weakness of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

6 Responses to TALKING IMAGES 56 – THOUGHTS FOR THOSE NEW TO PHOTOGRAPHY: 2 – RAW VS JPEG

  1. bluebrightly says:

    A good, thorough review of RAW vs. jpeg. Sometimes I wish I could go back and turn the RAW files that aren’t that great into jpegs so they’d take up less room. There are things I want to save for their documentary value but will likely never be made into images I would show others. I’m not going to switch back and forth while shooting because you never know when a photo will be one that you work wonders with. I’m thinking out loud here…maybe I should just go back and make jpeg copies of images I know are only there for documentation and delete the RAW file. Maybe that’s too much work. Any thoughts?

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Its probably possible to compress the files on your hard drive to save disk space; its not something I do; and possibly it will make your files slower to open.

      I totally agree about not switching back and fore between raw and jpeg while shooting. Esp for quick shots, that would make it very easy to use an unintended format.

      If space is an issue, I think I’d go back and start converting raws to jpegs; you could set a target of 5-10/day for example, or do monster sessions. 🙂

      Like

  2. I do both…but do little printing…so I plan when I will be printing or blogging 🤓 appreciate what your saying…and I’m a fuji fan ☺️~ smiles Hedy

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      That’s a good approach, Hedy. Yes, Fuji are good, their cameras (I have an X-T2) are excellent, and so easy and pleasant to use. Good to hear from you. Adrian 🙂

      Like

  3. Sonali Dalal says:

    I prefer to shoot in RAW too. Though in initial stages of photography, I used to shoot only JPEg. Now I am re-editing all those photos and realise how difficult it is to get result exactly as I want it.

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      I agree – even if you don’t edit a shot extensively, its still better having it in Raw to have the extra processing potential there in case you need it – for example, in making a second version which differs substantially from the first one. 🙂

      Like

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