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2012.09.14

While the JPEG versus RAW war rages on and there may never be a winner, photographers have to pick a side. The first thing to acknowledge is that there are reasons to shoot RAW, just like there are reasons to not shoot RAW.

It comes down to personal preference. JPEG are images which have been produced in the camera. Development, to use a term from the film days, has already happened. A RAW file needs to be developed by computer or using in-camera conversion which is possible on select models.

The first point of decision is whether you are willing to do the development yourself. JPEG images produced in-camera are really good if you select parameters to your liking. Most novices complain their RAW files look awful. For the most part, they are right because you have to work at making a better image out of a RAW file. An easy way to void the advantage of RAW is to shoot thousands of images and then batch-convert them using the defaults of your camera’s RAW-Converter. You will waste space, time and get pretty much the same JPEG images as the camera would.

The second point of decision is the type of manipulation you expect to do. RAW files have more bit-depth and dynamic-range than JPEG images, this makes them more resilient to heavy manipulation such as large changes in exposure and color-balance. JPEG images will handle changes too but not with so much latitude. If you shoot without much thought on what makes a photo great (composition, exposure, point-of-interest, leading lines, etc) then your images have bigger problems than the kinds which can be corrected by manipulation.

If you shoot and forget then RAW is mostly a waste of your time and resources. If you work really hard at getting superb images in-camera, you won’t see much benefit either. However, if you think about processing images and making them look dramatically different than what your camera produces, consider RAW as a tool.

The final option which some people take is to shoot RAW+JPEG. This is best approached by trying to produce well-taken JPEG images and then use the accompanying RAW file as the safety net. If a JPEG didn’t turn out has well because of exposure (within RAW limits) or completely wrong WB, then you have something better to work from.

Eventually JPEG will be superseded by another image format, possibly a newer version of itself, when relatively common display and print technology start to significantly exceed its limits.

Neocamera Blog Neocamera.com © Cybernium


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