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View Full Version : The RAW vs. JPEG Debate


SrisonS
05-28-2011, 09:51 PM
Well, I don't think it's too much of a debate; most people say RAW, due to its flexibility is post-processing (RAW files carry much more color information than JPEG). But since newcomers always wonder about the benefits, I found an example to post. Feel free to add any tidbits or examples you may have as well.

I'll try not to get too technical here; but just post some before and after shots, and point out some quick differences. Also, I used Lightroom 3 for this.

I know this isn't best exposure. But hey, it's great for example reasons. :thumbsup2 And as you'll see, I was still able to get the look I was going for. Just to let you know; to get the Jpeg version, I just took the absolute original and converted it to Jpeg. After that, I made all of the other adjustments.


The Untouched Original....

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3223/5769476849_26a8094a73_b.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottrsmith/5769476849/)
4028Original (http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottrsmith/5769476849/) by Scott Smith (SRisonS) (http://www.flickr.com/people/scottrsmith/), on Flickr


The first thing I wanted to show is how a dark picture can still retain quite a bit of detail. The main thing to look at here, is the fence in the bottom left. You can only partially see it, before it goes completely black.

By lighting up the picture A LOT (mainly with Fill Light, but other settings as well), you can easily tell the advantage of RAW.


RAW image. Bottom left gate is completely seen.
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2672/5769477297_2c0d2bfab1_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottrsmith/5769477297/)
4028RAWdarkrecover (http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottrsmith/5769477297/) by Scott Smith (SRisonS) (http://www.flickr.com/people/scottrsmith/), on Flickr


JPEG image. A lot of the gate is seen, but quite a bit of detail is still gone.
http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5145/5769477791_542e3cce50_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottrsmith/5769477791/)
4028Jpegdarkrecover (http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottrsmith/5769477791/) by Scott Smith (SRisonS) (http://www.flickr.com/people/scottrsmith/), on Flickr



Without getting into all of the settings I did; I attempted to process the pictures to get each version to look pretty much the same. But because the jpeg version contains less color information, I could only get them so close.

Ultimately, for the look I wanted, I really didn't need the gate having too much detail; but for other dark shots, maybe you'll need that recovery. And the jpeg version doesn't look all too bad. But to me, I really couldn't get it to the point I wanted it to; and it took more work to get its final look than the RAW did. I will say that I like the reddish look to the column in the Jpeg version. But this was just a some "quick" work; so I'm not fretting over it.

For these final versions, one thing to look for is the area under the warthog's chin. In the original, it appears to be completely blown out. In the JPEG image, it remains blown out. But in the RAW version, I was able to pull out that hidden detail.


RAW Image Final
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2352/5770017304_a6b3cb7c48_b.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottrsmith/5770017304/)
4028RawProcess (http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottrsmith/5770017304/) by Scott Smith (SRisonS) (http://www.flickr.com/people/scottrsmith/), on Flickr


JPEG Image Final
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2685/5769478359_a76daca192_b.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottrsmith/5769478359/)
4028JpegProcess (http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottrsmith/5769478359/) by Scott Smith (SRisonS) (http://www.flickr.com/people/scottrsmith/), on Flickr

I hope this helps to show the difference of RAW vs. JPEG. You might think that RAW requires a lot more work all the time, but it really doesn't. The advantage is that you CAN work on those important images a lot, to REALLY get the look you're going for. With JPEG, it can SOMETIMES be a struggle. I want to emphasize "sometimes", because a lot of JPEG shots are just fine. So don't let me scare you into thinking you NEED to shoot RAW. Just know that in some circumstances, there's a great benefit in doing so. :thumbsup2

Marlton Mom
05-28-2011, 10:19 PM
Nice one Scott!

I'd like to add that memory cards are really coming down in price so it's more affordable now to shoot in both jpeg and Raw files and save your images on a memory card.

You might not realize it now, but further down the road, when you have more experience and you want to start using photography software, your raw images will be the ones that you'll be able to do the most with.....
AND
Those Disney pictures that you took on your last vacation, with all the colors and the "big something Disney deliciousness" in them will be the ones that you'll want to "play" with when using the software.

The family reunion pictures with Uncle "fester" never seem to be candidate for post processing.... :idea:

Thanks for the graphic example of the differences between Raw and Jpeg Scott!

Marlton Mom

My2Girls66
05-29-2011, 11:45 AM
Thanks. I have been trying to convince myself to start using RAW. I just have no patience for anything photoshop besides the basics. I did take a few inside Pirates in RAW figuring those are the conditions to try it. I have only messed with one so far. I did buy Lightroom3 because after buying Photoshop 9, I got an email deal from Adobe to buy it for $99. Using it is another story:rolleyes1 Though one of the things that made me buy it besides the price was I now have an ultrawide and it says you can fix lens distortion with it.

ssanders79
05-29-2011, 11:51 AM
Great points Scott. IMHO it is worth shooting in RAW for the flexibility down the road. You can always batch convert them to jpegs, but you have the ability to go back 3 years down the road and get creative.

kshark
05-29-2011, 01:58 PM
Put me in the RAW column for sure. I enjoy post-processing so the added flexibility really does help. I find I shoot almost everything in RAW and if it's just some family snapshots or something I just convert the files to full size JPEG using a Lightroom preset and delete the RAWs. This has saved me on a few occasions if my white balance was set wrong or the the exposure was way off on accident.

I accidentally took a shot a -3 EC during our last trip to Disney that I was able to save with no problem because it was RAW. The processed shot looks great and you would have no idea it was so far off.

About the only thing I don't shoot in RAW is sports because I take way too many images to worry about memory card and hard drive size...

mikegood2
05-29-2011, 02:36 PM
Add me to the RAW camp also. I have found that if you compare a RAW file to a negative, people new to shooting RAW or have shot film in the past have a better understanding of the benefits of it.

I had a shot from a vacation a few years ago, where my flash didn't go off, that I was able to save because I shot RAW. While it was noisier that I would have preferred, the ability to have captured that moment was well worth it. I would have never been able to save it if I shoot it in jpeg.

I think that shooting in RAW can just be too intimidating to a lot of people, also, because the jpeg applies all the settings for you (especially sharpening) they can look better when you first look at them. Just compare how your RAW files, pre adjusting, look on a computer screen compared to the back of you camera (jpeg preview). It's not until you start processing your shots that you see the true benifits of shooting RAW.

Unless you shoot sports, need the extra buffering speeds, need the space on the card, on a tight deadline, or just refuse to spend any time adjusting photos than RAW is definitely the way to shoot.

mom2rtk
05-29-2011, 02:48 PM
I really wish I had all of our old Disney trips captured in RAW. Heck, I wish I had all the kids baby pics in RAW. OK, heck, I wish I had all the kids baby pictures in digital! :lmao: I've been working on some scrapbook pages with older pictures, some just scans of prints, some digital JPEGs. What I wouldn't give to be able to have the flexibility RAW offers to improve them. Some of them I had a terrible time just lightening a bit.

To the PP, install LR3 and go for it. I started toying with it just over a year ago and learn something new every time I work with a photo. And the beauty of it is I can go back to my early tries and make them better with little or no effort.

zackiedawg
05-29-2011, 05:00 PM
All good advice, examples, etc and reasons for shooting RAW are all valid and well stated. I just wanted to add, for the sake of some JPG shooters who might feel like they are in the wrong because of all the RAW support going on here, that while RAW has more latitude, shooting JPG isn't wrong, nor is it just for beginners or people who don't know any better or have no experience. I personally shoot about 90% JPG - and that pretty much includes all of my shooting for pleasure, vacation, birding, sharing, sale, and publication. I do so as a decades-long experienced photographer with 14 years of digital, and 8 years of photoshop experience, and as a semi-pro who earns side income from hired shoots, photo sales, and publishing (freelance). I DO shoot RAW sometimes - when I'm doing hired shoots - where the extra processing latitude gives me the insurance I need for one-time 'get it right' type events that can't be replicated, when it isn't just me relying on the photos, but a paying client.

Otherwise, I always take time when buying a new camera to set up all of the parameters custom to suit my taste and style, adjusting color, saturation, contrast, sharpness, etc to my output, then working the white balance and exposure to make sure I get the shots right so they don't need to be recovered or processed. I thoroughly enjoy getting my photos from the camera with no post processing, which I rarely do any of.

Again - I'm not stating JPG is equal, better, etc compared to RAW, or that one should do it my way...the RAW points above are very good and true, and no question there's much more latitude for correction and adjustment in a RAW file...but shooting JPG isn't wrong either and I felt it would be a good idea to let any JPGers know they're not alone and they aren't somehow inferior or less of a photographer because they haven't joined the RAW ranks...the main thing is to enjoy photography, and get the results that make you happy, however you can do that!

d3mckinl
05-29-2011, 06:43 PM
As a newbie to D-SLR I've been toiling with this question for my personal use. I have no prior experience in post processing and only have the software that came with my camera. As I've been playing around with learning how to shoot with manual controls I've blown a few exposures and have been able to correct some blown out exposures when I shot in RAW. So I can totally see the benefit of shooting raw and "saving" those shots, especially in a once in a lifetime type of setting.

My dilemma though is this. I'm going on an Alaskan cruise in August, do I shoot in RAW for the post editing latitude or shoot in JPEG for the smaller file size?:confused3 It seems that in JPEG I can get 4-5 times as many pictures on the same card as I could if shooting RAW.

Thanks!

ssanders79
05-29-2011, 06:46 PM
My dilemma though is this. I'm going on an Alaskan cruise in August, do I shoot in RAW for the post editing latitude or shoot in JPEG for the smaller file size?:confused3 It seems that in JPEG I can get 4-5 times as many pictures on the same card as I could if shooting RAW.

Thanks!

5 years ago I would have said to go with jpeg, but memory is so darn cheap now that this is an easy decision.... Buy more memory cards or take a laptop/netbook/iPad if possible to offload.

photo_chick
05-29-2011, 07:10 PM
If you know how there's not anything you can do with RAW that can't be done with a jpeg. In the end it's all pixels and you can make them whatever you want. But it's much, much, much easier to make the changes with a RAW file. You can bring in values in a blown out or under exposed area of a jpeg, but it's difficult to do it well and sometimes it means going in and working in very small areas at a time rather than globally and that takes forever. Neither format is a substitute for nailing it in camera and both will often need at least a little post processing to really polish the shot.

My photoshop skills blow and I don't have time to go into the little details, so I shoot RAW.

mikegood2
05-29-2011, 10:20 PM
My dilemma though is this. I'm going on an Alaskan cruise in August, do I shoot in RAW for the post editing latitude or shoot in JPEG for the smaller file size?:confused3 It seems that in JPEG I can get 4-5 times as many pictures on the same card as I could if shooting RAW.

Thanks!

5 years ago I would have said to go with jpeg, but memory is so darn cheap now that this is an easy decision.... Buy more memory cards or take a laptop/netbook/iPad if possible to offload.

I would second what ssanders79 said, but if you are limited to the amount of memory you are bringing jpeg is fine.

If you are able to bring additional memory and a laptop/netbook and portable drives I would suggest shooting RAW/jpeg and get the best of both worlds. Continue editing how you have in the past, but you still have you RAW (digital negative) to go back to at a latter date.

d3mckinl
05-30-2011, 08:18 AM
My photoshop skills blow and I don't have time to go into the little details, so I shoot RAW.

This is the same line of thought that I was thinking. Post processing is labor intensive and my little laptop doesn't like working hard these days. (maybe soon time for an upgrade :rolleyes1 )
I see that card prices are not bad now but as for speed when shooting on a D90 and not doing video do I really need the class 10 cards that salespeople are pushing or are class 4 fast enough to keep up with the burst rate?
One final opinion question.... I can easily shoot 200 shots in a day walking around WDW, can I expect to do the same numbers on an Alaskan cruise? or more or less? trying to figure how much memory I want to take for a week.

Theosus
05-30-2011, 09:07 PM
This is the same line of thought that I was thinking. Post processing is labor intensive and my little laptop doesn't like working hard these days. (maybe soon time for an upgrade :rolleyes1 )
I see that card prices are not bad now but as for speed when shooting on a D90 and not doing video do I really need the class 10 cards that salespeople are pushing or are class 4 fast enough to keep up with the burst rate?
One final opinion question.... I can easily shoot 200 shots in a day walking around WDW, can I expect to do the same numbers on an Alaskan cruise? or more or less? trying to figure how much memory I want to take for a week.

The only way to really tell is to buy or borrow a memory card and test it. I have a canon 500d (t1i). They recommend class 6 or higher, especially for video. I can't see a difference in class 4 and 6, so I buy class 4 as it is cheaper. Plus when I do video I'm only shooting 640x480 - because I can't burn HD to anything, and I'm not a big video fan anyway.
I'm not sure what nikon comes with as far as post software. I have Photoshop CS2, but rarely use it for post on photos. My canon came with "digital photo pro", which I use for the raw files. It is quick and easy to fix white balance, brightness, saturation, etc. Etc. A LOT faster than opening Photoshop. Plus, once you have it all the way you want it, DPP will batch convert to jpg, and even resize it all, if you are wanting to upload small files to facebook or flickr...
I just take a lot of memory cards. I hate dragging laptops on vacation. My iPad yes, but laptops suck.

Anewman
05-31-2011, 12:09 AM
... as for speed when shooting on a D90 and not doing video do I really need the class 10 cards that salespeople are pushing or are class 4 fast enough to keep up with the burst rate? ...


Card speed will not come into play until the cameras buffer is full.

On the D90, buffer holds 23jpegs or 6 Raw files. Once buffer is full, the faster cards will clear buffer faster and allow you to start shooting again.

Pea-n-Me
05-31-2011, 08:31 AM
I am in the camp of going back to shooting primarily JPEG after a couple of years of shooting RAW exclusively. And I'm happy to report I feel like a huge weight's been lifted off my shoulders! :worship: I can finally use my pictures right away without the dreaded post processing piece.

With that said, I will say that RAW absolutely helped me learn HOW to get my pictures right in camera (which admittedly was a huge challenge). But lately I realized I was happy with my pics the way they were and I wasn't doing anything in RAW pp so it was a complete waste of my time to convert everything. Not to mention the fact that I have literally thousands of pictures I haven't converted yet at all, so obviously those pics aren't doing me much good. I also have just about zero interest in going back to old pictures to make them better. Once they're done, they're done, and I'm moving on.

Above is where I am right now. It could change as I continue to grow. I'm sure if there is an important event that I want to be sure to get right, I will use RAW. But for the vast majority of my everyday pictures, JPEG will suit me just fine and be a heck of a lot easier for me. (I should probably mention that my upgraded camera was noted for good JPEGs, so that could be a factor - hard to tell if it's my skills improvement, a better camera, or both. Probably both.)

I think that everyone needs to examine their own goals and likes/dislikes and go from there. Admittedly a little hard to know when it's all new. Some people really enjoy pp and that's great. And some people don't and that's ok, too. It doesn't make you less of a photographer to shoot primarily JPEGs - there's a heck of a lot more that goes into being a good photographer than that. Post processing is just one aspect; there are many others.

mom2rtk
05-31-2011, 08:54 AM
I am in the camp of going back to shooting primarily JPEG after a couple of years of shooting RAW exclusively. And I'm happy to report I feel like a huge weight's been lifted off my shoulders! :worship: I can finally use my pictures right away without the dreaded post processing piece.

With that said, I will say that RAW absolutely helped me learn HOW to get my pictures right in camera (which admittedly was a huge challenge). But lately I realized I was happy with my pics the way they were and I wasn't doing anything in RAW pp so it was a complete waste of my time to convert everything. Not to mention the fact that I have literally thousands of pictures I haven't converted yet at all, so obviously those pics aren't doing me much good. I also have just about zero interest in going back to old pictures to make them better. Once they're done, they're done, and I'm moving on.

Above is where I am right now. It could change as I continue to grow. I'm sure if there is an important event that I want to be sure to get right, I will use RAW. But for the vast majority of my everyday pictures, JPEG will suit me just fine and be a heck of a lot easier for me. (I should probably mention that my upgraded camera was noted for good JPEGs, so that could be a factor - hard to tell if it's my skills improvement, a better camera, or both. Probably both.)

I think that everyone needs to examine their own goals and likes/dislikes and go from there. Admittedly a little hard to know when it's all new. Some people really enjoy pp and that's great. And some people don't and that's ok, too. It doesn't make you less of a photographer to shoot primarily JPEGs - there's a heck of a lot more that goes into being a good photographer than that. Post processing is just one aspect; there are many others.



I totally get this. When I shot just JPEG, I thought all the good photographers shot RAW. Now that I'm shooting RAW, I want to get good enough I can shoot JPEG again! :rotfl: I know what I DON'T want is to be shooting JPEG the way I used to without the latitude of RAW to fix it. I need to be where I don't feel the need to "fix" so much!

But I AM learning a lot from this process, so at least I understand why I feel that way!

Anewman
05-31-2011, 04:33 PM
I do NOT see a correlation between skill level and file format.

Everyone shoots RAW, PERIOD.
Some convert to jpeg in camera and allow the camera to throw the negative(raw file) away, some keep the negative and convert to needed file formats later.

MikeandReneePlus5
07-21-2011, 03:26 PM
I do NOT see a correlation between skill level and file format.

Everyone shoots RAW, PERIOD.
Some convert to jpeg in camera and allow the camera to throw the negative(raw file) away, some keep the negative and convert to needed file formats later.

Now THAT is the best explanation of RAW vs JPEG I have heard. :)