JPEG vs RAW

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by VirtualRain, Jan 19, 2010.

  1. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #1
    It seems one question leads to another these days.

    After seeing that the regular contributors here shoot almost exclusively RAW, I decided to play around with RAW tonight on my T1i.

    I took the picture below (RAW+JPEG) on all Auto settings ("P" mode) and imported them both into iPhoto. Naturally, the JPEG looked a bit better out of the camera but both had over exposed the white paper on the counter so that the type on it was essentially gone (1st pic). The white balance was off on both with a strong yellowish hue.

    I was able to recover the highlights and fix the white balance using the sliders in iPhoto nearly equally as well whether working on the JPEG (2nd pic) or the RAW (3rd pic). Note that I wasn't trying to get saturation and white balance identical... just in the same neighbourhood.

    Again, I was able to fix the capture equally as well with either JPEG or RAW as the source!? :confused: I wasn't expecting the JPEG to have much to work with at all. Was I just misinformed?

    To see if I could do any better in Aperture, I fired up a trial and edited the RAW file there (4th pic). It turned out to recover more of the blown out type on the white page slightly better than iPhoto, but it wasn't night-and-day better than what I could do with the JPEG in iPhoto?!?!. (see the improvement in the text under the box on the fourth pic)

    After this short experiment, I was surprised that editing JPEG's in iPhoto can recover a lot of stuff that might be lost due to a bad exposure. I thought this was exclusively the domain of RAW editing?!

    What am I missing here besides an obvious lack of experience? :)

    Attached photos below are: Original JPEG, iPhoto JPEG PP, iPhoto RAW PP, Aperture RAW PP
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Jaro65 macrumors 68040

    Jaro65

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    #2
    I know what you mean, as I tried to play with this as well! The bottom line is that the RAW image will capture more info, as it is a direct uncompressed image of what your sensor captured. As such, you should be able to recover more blown highlights or shadows from the RAW image as compared to JPEG.
     
  3. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #3
    I like your approach: do an experiment and see which one works better for you. Learn what you can and cannot do with RAW and jpg files. Personally, I think using RAW files in conjunction with iPhoto is not very useful as you will not be able to leverage the extra power that you theoretically have.

    You can do a lot with a properly exposed jpg (the words `properly exposed' are crucial). Even though RAW files undoubtedly allow for more leeway, the crucial question is: do you need it? jpgs are smaller and easier to handle. You don't need a special RAW developer tool to even get an image which you can send to friends. Most cameras are also faster (in terms of fps and buffer) if you use jpg.

    If you expose properly, the difference between a jpg and a RAW is rather minimal. Just try an experiment: randomize the last three images and see if people can guess which one is the jpg. Or even which one looks best.
     
  4. JeepGuy macrumors regular

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    #4
  5. carlgo macrumors 68000

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    #5
    Most of the time RAW is unnecessary and you can just do a simple JPEG tweak or two in iPhoto or other easy program. A good JPEG is indeed identical to a RAW. There is no magic.

    But, now and then I get a keeper photo with more serious exposure problems and it is nice to be able to deal with it in RAW.

    The point is that JPEGs are just fine most of the time, but it is nice to have a little insurance.
     
  6. Maxxamillian macrumors 6502

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    #6
    :eek:
    :eek:
    RAW is "unnecessary?" RAW is not just about salvageability--it is about getting a more true representation of what you are shooting. The compressed nature of JPEG automatically distorts this.

    RAW is quite necessary IMHO.
     
  7. designguy79 macrumors 6502

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    #7
  8. toxic macrumors 68000

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    #8
    RAW extends beyond "saving" an image. not all scenes will fit in the limited DR of a Jpeg or have a nice consistent color temperature, or you may want to make large changes in exposure or brightness or color in post to suit your vision.

    Jpeg processing is also limited to how good or bad the manufacturer's software is. Jpegs rarely yield the same amount of detail as a RAW, and it is impossible to completely eliminate noise reduction in most cameras sold today (RAWs are mostly immune to this).

    and then there's lossless vs lossy formats.

    Jpeg is good when you can't edit a photo to look better yourself or you don't have time to edit. in either case, it still might be a good idea to keep the RAW, since you can always come back to it later.
     
  9. VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #9
    I think that's clear to everyone, based on file sizes alone. The debate here is whether you have as much, or nearly as much, flexibility with recovery and tweaking with JPEG's as you do with RAW images.

    Sure, I suppose if you completely obliterate the exposure, RAW will provide more salvagability, but I'm talking about typical or common camera misses on exposure and white balance... It seems you can salvage a bad JPEG shot almost as well as a RAW... see my example in the OP! Based on my limited experiment, it seems that unless your camera completely sucks at exposure and white balance, I'm not convinced RAW is necessary... but I'd like to understand more.

    Based on my experiment, in which the original photo was a mess in terms of blown out highlights and terrible white balance, it seems the JPEG is perfectly suitable for correcting these kinds of issues. Based on this, I fail to see the benefit that RAW can provide over JPEG unless the picture is a complete disaster (and wouldn't that be evident just by looking at the LCD allowing you to retake it?). I was honestly shocked at what could be done with a JPEG. What am I missing?
     
  10. Maxxamillian macrumors 6502

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    #10

    What you are missing is the very nature of JPEG and RAW file formats. RAW not only provides a truer representation of your subject, but also retains information required to manipulate the photo in broader depth and scale.

    Take your photo and look at what adjustment options you have for JPG vs RAW in Aperture. Not only do you have more options, but the range within adjustments available to both RAW and JPG files differs as well.

    Just because you are able to make adjustments to your photos "equally well" doesn't invalidate the benefits of RAW vs JPEG. ;)

    BTW--a bad photo is a bad photo regardless the format you are shooting in. The camera simply did the job you told it to do--automatically figure out everything. It is the photographer that overexposed on the whites and missed the white balance. You will do yourself a huge favor by learning to shoot manually, including setting your own white balance.

    Oh, and shoot RAW. Lots of folks with lots of experience will tell you the same thing.
     
  11. toxic macrumors 68000

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    #11
    I don't know how far out the highlights were, but very little of the text (a couple characters) was blown out, and the white balance was far from "terrible". Jpegs can be edited, but still nowhere to the same degree as a RAW.

    try posting the exact changes you made?
     
  12. designguy79 macrumors 6502

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    #12
    I was quoting another poster who said that they were identical, which is not true.

    Whether or not you need it is completely based on your expectations and needs. Personally, I like to know that each file has the maximum about of detail available in case I want/need to do something out of the ordinary with it.

    One example that comes to mind is a photo I took at a courthouse. A lawyer who is good friends with the judge who was retiring called me and asked if he could buy a LARGE print (which I was happy to oblige) of a specifically cropped area. Knowing that it was going to be blown up very big made me glad to know there was no JPG artifacts because I shot in RAW, made all my edits in Lightroom, and exported to TIFF to send to the printer.

    Also, every time you make a change to a JPG and save it again you are introducing the possibility of more JPG artifacts. Yes, probably not noticeable for "real world" stuff.

    http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000629.html

    Good luck!
     
  13. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #13
    Try experimenting with photos that ideally would have a great dynamic range and lots of gradations (landscape photo with clouds in the sky and shadows in the trees, for example). Then you'll really see the difference. Try using the "fill light" or "shadows" slider (or whatever it's called in the application of your choice). Also, note the damage being done to your histogram when you manipulate a JPEG--lots of lost data there. White balance is another biggie, especially in combination with exposure problems. You have much greater latitude for perfecting a photo when you're using raw.

    In short: a raw file contains everything your sensor is capable of capturing. A JPEG is a mere subset of that potential.
     
  14. JeepGuy macrumors regular

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    #14
    I don't know, the Idea of throwing away a large chunk of data, is like throwing away all your negatives. Space shouldn't be the issue with storage costing next to nothing.

    from http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/understanding-series/u-raw-files.shtml
    PS most modern Cameras let you have both, my Nikon can save a JPG along with the Raw.
     
  15. vrillusions macrumors regular

    vrillusions

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    #15
    The reason I went with RAW is the losslessness of the format and also how you can change the image without actually modifing things. You can instruct the raw file to have a different white balance or adjust levels and then with the click of a couple buttons go back to how it was like when you shot it. You could do the same with jpg but requires saving multiple copies and with each copy the jpg degrades because it's a lossy format. Another thing I like is with Canon's Digital Photo Professional program that comes with the camera I can click a couple buttons and correct for barrel distortion, peripheral illumination, and chromatic aberration. It has a database of all canon lenses and it know what lens you took the picture with and at what focal length from the exif info. It then knows how to correct for that lens. I use the barrel distortion on pretty much every picture I take because the less expensive lenses can show it more than the higher quality lenses. Granted you should be able to do those modifications with jpg's but the program only works with raw files.
     
  16. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #16
    This is entirely false: RAW does not provide a `truer' representation, it is merely the RAW data from the sensor (well, almost) that needs to be interpreted by a RAW converter. The advantage of RAW converters on computers is that (i) you can make adjustments tailored to that particular image and (ii) your computer has a lot more cpu power so that it can use more complex algorithms.

    A RAW file `does not look better' or is `more accurate,' that all depends on the RAW conversion that you do.
    That's not very good advice at all. Instead, you should experiment with it like the OP did and see in what situations you actually gain something when using RAW. There are cases when using RAW is not worth the extra effort.
    That's incorrect: if you use software such as Aperture or Lightroom, there is no degradation, because versions (I don't know what they are called in Lightroom) are just small files that contain the instructions for all adjustments. They are applied each time you open the picture and hence, there is no loss of image quality. Aperture does not distinguish between formats here, it works the same for all pics. Ditto for things such as lens correction tools.
     
  17. carlgo macrumors 68000

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    #17
    Yikes! All my JPEG shots are distorted and, my God, untrue?

    Oh, well, it is too late now for those shots. I used to like some of them, but now...? Sigh...

    Good thing I went to RAW awhile back. My future is assured, but ...

    Seriously, beginners, just concentrate on proper photographic techniques to start with. JPEGs can be wonderful, RAWs can be horrible. RAW, though, doesn't have any real downfall, and while it isn't worthy of the religious devotion so many forum people have for it, do use it if you feel comfortable with the computerized part of photography.
     
  18. Maxxamillian macrumors 6502

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    #18
    If the data from the sensor is not a truer representation of your subject vs JPEG then what is it?
    Given that this information is available...why then would I not use it? Am I to understand then, that lots of folks with lots of experience is NOT saying to shoot RAW? Or is it the folks who are extolling the virtues of shooting RAW giving bad advice?

    Entirely false then? Not at all.
    Bad advice? Think of it this way (with an exception for extreme examples): If you are shooting JPEG next to someone who is shooting RAW then you are at a competitive disadvantage.
     
  19. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #19
    A good way of putting it. It's like anything else with the technological side of photography: one man's "good enough" is another man's failure. If image quality is paramount, you'll shoot in raw.
     
  20. Maxxamillian macrumors 6502

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    #20
    I know. End of the world :(
    My JPEGs are rowing the same boat.
    You do bring up a valid downfall for RAW--there is a steeper learning curve associated with the file format than JPEG.
     
  21. THX1139 macrumors 68000

    THX1139

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    #21
    Deciding to shoot RAW or JPEG depends on what your goal is. If you are a professional or serious amateur and want/need more control over your images, then RAW is the way to go. Think of RAW as creating a digital negative that you can go back to and reuse as needed. You have more control with no lossy issues.

    If you are an amateur who is shooting snapshots, then JPEGS is probably good enough. By the fact that you are using iPhoto and shooting on "P" mode... and having a hard time discerning the subtle differences between RAW and JPEG, tells me that you probably don't need to worry about shooting in RAW. However, if you are serious about photography then you should learn how to do proper exposure and start using a better application to work with your images. If you do that, then you'll begin to see the value of the RAW format.

    I shoot RAW all of the time. But if I'm at a social event taking snapshots that will wind up on Facebook or just grabbing some quick reference shots for a design, I often switch to JPEG. It's faster to work with because I can use it as-is.
     
  22. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #22
    The data from the sensor is useless by itself. Have a look at these images: first up, the data taken straight from the sensor:
    [​IMG]
    This is the image after RAW conversion:
    [​IMG]
    I don't know about you, but the data `straight from the camera' looks nothing like what I see with my own eyes.

    The reason is that RAW data needs to be interpreted. How to do that is a form of art and very often, different people prefer different RAW converters simply because they convert this RAW data differently.
    Because very often, it's not necessary.
    I'm not saying shooting RAW is unnecessary. Personally, I only shoot RAW! But many people thing it's a miracle cure against bad pictures. Of course, I know it can recover details in the shadows (modern cameras can easily do that during RAW conversion as well).
    I think the people that caution against using RAW just because `it feels safer' are not denying any of the advantages of shooting RAW. As I said, I shoot only RAWs these days, except if the situation warrants for jpgs so that I can fit more pictures into the camera's buffer, for instance.
    That doesn't make any sense: it's the photographer that makes or breaks the picture, not the file format or camera.
     
  23. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #23
    QFT.
     
  24. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #24
    So you're just arguing here for the sake of arguing?

    A camera set to do anything automatically can most certainly "break" a picture. If you want photos that capture your vision unfailingly, then don't let the camera make any decisions for you.
     
  25. VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #25
    This is the spell I was under before I did this experiment... but I realize now that letting the camera make some decisions and saving those to a JPEG is NOT the end of the world as many RAW advocates would have you believe... I was able to salvage a pretty good representation of what was on my kitchen counter from the JPEG in iPhoto despite the fact that the camera botched the shot.

    I'm seeing that there's situations that really benefit from shooting RAW but I think it's misleading to imply that shooting JPEG leaves you completely at the mercy of the camera. That's simply not true. And while you may not be saying that explicitly... everyone arguing in favor of RAW is implying that. It would be nice to hear some RAW advocates admit that you can actually salvage a bad shot from a JPEG.
     

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