Jpeg or Raw?

Jpeg or Raw?

by Rob Sloane

Jpeg or RAW?

OK this is not a debate as to whether you should be shooting in Jpeg or RAW, it’s basically the info on each; you make up your own mind based on what you are doing with your images.

There are exceptional photos shot on Phones, I Pads, Point and Shoots, Pinhole Cameras, SLRs and just about every image grabbing device you can imagine.

Most will be shot in Jpeg, some in RAW.

A couple of facts to start with.

Jpeg is a world standard. (Joint Photographers Expert Group) came up with it.

All Jpeg files are pretty much the same, regardless of what device they are created on.

Just about everything can open a Jpeg file, PCs, Macs, Kiosk at the Photo store, Printers will print them etc. etc.

Jpeg does apply a degree of compression, so some loss of detail is inevitable.

In other words a Jpeg file will be smaller than the original.

Generally, for most general applications, there is no real perceivable loss of quality.

RAW on the other hand:-

Is not a standard, RAW files are peculiar to the model and brand of camera.

You will need special software to open the file.

There is no compression, so little or no loss of detail.

The files will be big.

So where does this leave us?

All computers are pretty much the same in basic form.

They have input devices like keyboards, switches, buttons, USB ports etc.

They have an input interface to the main processor (CPU).

They have a main processor with memory etc.

They have an output interface to the output devices.

They have output devices like the Screen, USB ports, the Printer etc.
Your Camera is pretty much the same, just not as powerful as your computer. (maybe).
Input devices like buttons, dials, etc, and of course the sensor.

A main processor with memory etc.

Output device like your SD card.

It’s a bit like this:

diagram

You can see that the sensor data goes to the image processor where it undergoes some changes; it is converted to Jpeg, compressed, and has whatever adjustments you have dialled in to your camera, made to it including whatever “Picture Style” you have chosen. It then sends a copy onto the screen and the main processor.

The main processor buffers (temp stores) it, and sends it to the Memory card.

All good.

In the case of RAW, the sensor data still goes to the image processor and then onto the screen, but an unmodified copy of the data is sent to the main processor for buffering and then onto the Memory card.

Still all good.

I hope all this sort of makes sense; I have left bits out in the interest of simplicity.

Remember, most cameras are sold to people who push the button, fill up the card, and take it to somewhere like Officeworks and print them off, or simply download them onto their PC, delete the duds, and store the rest. (Probably never to be seen again).
You certainly can create some great shots, some prize winners, maybe even a Pulitzer Prize winner, shooting in Jpeg.

You can have perfectly acceptable images straight out of the camera with some enhancement done without any post production.

You can enhance, modify, and be creative with your Jpegs in Photoshop, Lightroom, and Elements etc if you want.

The file size will be smaller, so your memory card will hold more and your PC will operate faster.

You will loose some detail and control but most will probably not notice.
So why bother with RAW. Well if you are shooting where you want as good as it gets, the best quality is what you are after, then maybe RAW is for you, on this occasion.

RAW records all the data, not a compressed version.

Raw is usually in 12bit or 16 bit format, Jpeg is 8bit. This means that a single dot in 12 bit RAW can have 4096 levels of brightness compared to in Jpeg just 256. This will affect the amount of shades of colour possible. This is not important for men; men cannot see colours, like parchment, puce, torp, etc.

RAW it is easier to correct blown highlights and clipped shadows.

RAW is easier to correct white balance.

RAW is non destructive, the RAW remains and changes are recorded in TIFF, Jpeg or whatever.

RAW should have a finer graduation in tones, so better prints, but don’t expect to see this in cheap printing.

RAW allows you to export in different colour space like sRGB, AdobeRGB, ProPhotoRGB
But if you shoot in RAW you definitely will need to, Photoshop, Edit, Post Process or whatever you want to call it, otherwise your images will look pretty crappy.

RAW images will be likely 2-3 times larger than Jpeg images.

RAW files will be proprietary ie. Peculiar to your camera manufacturer, eg. CR2, NEF or whatever.

You could convert to an open source file format (free to anyone) like Adobe DNG (Digital Negative). At the moment Mr. Canon and Nikon haven’t embraced it, Leica are giving it a shot.

There is no absolute answer to the question which should I shoot in.

Depends what you want to do.

RAW will give you the most options, but there are trade offs, especially the one that means you are going to have to spend more time in front of your computer.

What I should do:

if I was going on a trip, not especially a photographic tour, where I am going to take a few hundred memory photos, pick maybe 50 and get them printed for 10 cents each and put them in an album, I would probably shoot in Jpeg and tweek the 50 or so for printing. While on the trip, if I saw something that I thought may be a really good shot, maybe to have enlarged, maybe enter in a comp, I would shoot a few RAWs as well.

If I was going to shoot a wedding or some other important event, I would shoot RAW.
What I actually do:

My camera takes two cards, I set the camera to record Jpeg on one card and a RAW on the other. This uses up cards pretty quick, but cards are pretty cheap now. It would also slow down the camera but I rarely want to shoot 3+ frames per sec in a prolonged burst, so it doesn’t matter.

I download both the Jpeg files and the RAW files onto my PC. This also takes up excessive disc space but that’s even cheaper these days.

I go through the Jpegs, pick out the possible prize winners, (this usually takes less than 1 second), those that I will print, I edit with Adobe Elements from the RAW file. The Jpegs are just left, they are OK, maybe not perfect, but OK, the RAW files are also just left, maybe for another day.
Its more fun taking the pictures than processing them.

Rob


Jpeg or Raw?

By Noel Butcher

Most photographers have an opinion whether they should shoot jpeg or raw (or both).
I shoot both, simultaneously.

I do this because my camera produces better quality jpegs for image review than if I just shoot raw. For checking sharpness and detail, for me, this is the way to go.

I sometimes use the jpeg files but more often that not I convert from raw using Adobe Lightroom.

Why? Simple.

If I muck up an overall exposure, or a portion of an image is either over or under compared to the rest of the image then it is easier to restore detail from those poorly exposed areas in a raw file than a jpeg file.

Yes, raw files are bigger files and you have to process them. From my perspective it is definitely worth the extra effort. Lightroom and other image processing programs make the process very easy. Yes it does take extra time but being able to rescue an image is, to my mind, extremely valuable.

Hands up those of us who has under or overexposed an image by accident. (my hand is in the air as I awkwardly type this with one hand).

In the gallery of images below there are representations of three different exposures.

Each picture was recorded as raw and jpeg.

One frame was given the ‘correct’ exposure (as indicated by the camera, in this case a Fuji X-T1 with centre-weighted metering).

Another frame was given 3 stops additional exposure via the exposure correction dial.

The other frame was given 3 stops less exposure via the exposure correction dial.

3 stops different exposure means that, if we use 3 stops overexposure as an example, that the ‘correct exposure was doubled (1 stop) then doubled again (2 stops) and then doubled yet again (3 stops).

If you take a look at the images in the gallery, you will see, at the bottom left of the screen, the exposures and the steps taken to correct them.

For example, one of the images has a caption that says Jpeg +3 stops with Lightroom –3 stops. This means that the image was recorded in camera as a jpeg with 3 stops of overexposure and then had the exposure reduced 3 stops in Lightroom. No other adjustments have been made.

A couple of the images with the word “Rescue’ in the title indicate that some other adjustments have been made in Lightroom in an attempt to rescue the image.

When you look through, I think the answer to jpeg or raw is obvious.

Raw is the way to go unless you never make mistakes or never photograph subjects with difficult exposure ranges.

I deliberately chose this scene as it contained deep shadows and a brightly lit screen.

Also, I didn’t have to move from my desk.

I think the pictures speak for themselves. Unless you are infallible, raw is best.

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