RAW vs JPEG

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by kallisti, Aug 8, 2014.

  1. kallisti macrumors 65816

    kallisti

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    #1
    My brother-in-law asked me today if he should shoot JPEG or RAW. He bought a larger memory card for his camera and felt that RAW might be an option for an upcoming trip. I also noticed in a thread today posted by a non-photographer asking for advice on a point-and-shoot with one of the comments in the OP being "I don't need RAW."

    Both of these got me thinking. I understand the theoretical advantages of shooting RAW and it's what I only shoot after being burned in the past shooting JPEG. But I hadn't really shot examples of both before to see objective data. Maybe the party line of only shooting RAW is wrong. Made up? People spouting about theory and pixel peeping but perhaps it doesn't matter for real photography. So I decided to put my money where my mouth is before I responded to my brother-in-law and see if I could provide some examples.

    I shot a series of several different subjects in different lighting. Had an outdoor series in daylight, an indoor series in mixed light, and an indoor series in incandescent light. Varied the set white balance, though won't post those images in this post (one of the arguments in favor of RAW is that you can ignore white balance when you shoot and just fix it later).

    For each of the series I shot 5 images using exposure bracketing of +/- 1 stop and +/- 2 stops. Shot RAW + JPEG on my Nikon D800. For each image in the series I corrected the exposure in LR by the same amount as it was adjusted at the time the image was shot, in the opposite direction obviously.

    Here are two examples from the series that I shared with my brother-in-law and felt like posting here too.

    [​IMG]
    Cat 2 stops overexposed at the time of capture and then corrected by 2 stops in LR. RAW file.

    [​IMG]
    Same camera settings, but a fine JPEG file. There is zero detail present in the parts of the cat hit by the window light in the JPEG.

    [​IMG]
    Guest room in low light overexposed by 2 stops at capture and corrected in LR. RAW file. There is a little bit of artifact around the light in the center, but it isn't crazy.

    [​IMG]
    Same shot but as a fine JPEG. The artifacts are much nastier.

    These are somewhat extreme examples. For many images the differences would be more subtle. But shooting RAW gives you some wiggle room if you don't nail the exposure or have a high dynamic range subject for which there isn't a perfect exposure.

    People frequently talk about why RAW is better, but thought it might be fun to show visually how this can actually matter in real images. Feel free to post your own examples (either pro or con) of why you shoot in RAW or JPEG.
     
  2. The Bad Guy macrumors 6502a

    The Bad Guy

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    #2
    Wiggle room is about it really. Being able to change WB easily is nice too.
     
  3. themumu macrumors 6502a

    themumu

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    #3
    I think while the advantages of raw are there, it's one of those things that if you have to ask, you probably don't need it.
     
  4. Meister Suspended

    Meister

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    Oct 10, 2013
    #4
    Thats a good comparison! Very impressive.

    I shoot raw.
    I would recommend anyone to shoot raw. Even the guy in the other thread with the P&S.

    Certain protogs shoot jpeg because they work in bulk, dont have time for editing and get it right in the camera.

    But for any quality work and especially if you are an enthusiast shooting raw is the only thing that makes any sense.

    You will load the image onto your computer anyway and there you might as well make it better.
    Its like working in a darkroom.

    I used to shoot raw on one and jpeg on the other card and I recently stopped.
    In 99% of all cases I only used the raw file so I ditched all the jpeg copies.
     
  5. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #5
    I only shoot RAW. If you need to make adjustments this is the only way to go. If you don't need to make any adjustments to your pictures you are either a photography god, or your images are crap.
    As well as being able to recover your images if they are not quite right with the WB or exposure, the other big advantage is you can make non invasive edits without having to keep multiple copies of the same file.

    Back in the early days when memory was expensive, I get why some people shot jpeg. Ken Rockwell still advises you do (because you can fit more images on a card!).
    When I go out with my D7100 I have 2 x 32gb cards and can shoot over 1000 images in RAW. That's more than enough for me, and I always have a couple of spare cards in my bag anyhow.
     
  6. Meister Suspended

    Meister

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    #6
    Ken is a very talented businessman.
    He gets money from the traffic to his page, he gets the traffic because his page is linked so many times.
    He established his page over the course of 1 1/2 half decades.
    To keep the traffic flowing he keeps his old posts on, including the ones where he advises to shoot jpeg.
    He also gets traffic from people complaining and talking about him.

    This is why he still has the jpeg over raw on his page.
     
  7. bhtwo macrumors 6502a

    bhtwo

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    #7
    Ken is my Dad... I listened to him until I thought I'd go it alone.

    All those wasted jpeg years!... I'll never get them back.

    I'm not bitter.
     
  8. Ray2 macrumors 6502a

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    #8
    Not shooting jpeg because you can't get it right in the camera seems like putting the cart before the horse. Get the composition and the shots right and then focus on PP. A good way to do this is turn off raw and just shoot jpeg. Otherwise you've consigned yourself to doing post on practically 100% of your shots.
     
  9. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #9
    100% disagree with this. Sometimes you want to edit a photo in a different way, with a RAW file all that information you originally captured is still there.

    Yes get your composition and exposure right in camera, but don't shoot jpeg unless your camera has no other option.
     
  10. Meister Suspended

    Meister

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    #10
    i disagree with this, too.
    Because, there is things you can not get right in camera.
    How are you going to recover detail from highlights or shadows?
     
  11. Ray2 macrumors 6502a

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    #11
    I believe you misinterpreted what I'm saying. To learn composition and exposure, shooting jpeg only forces you to learn rather than simply adopting the attitude you can do it later in post.

    I shoot r+j. For the very reason you pointed out, I know I tend to do further post on the some of the better keepers. However, for more than half of my keepers I run with Fuji's jpeg's and perhaps do a crop or a slight exposure change. To shoot raw only means I'm substantially increasing my workload as a lot more than a crop or exposure tweak is necessary to turn a typical flat raw file into an immersing photo.

    I'd rather be out taking pictures than kidding myself into believing all my shots are worthy of spending a ton of time behind a computer. If I have a bad shot, its far more often missed composition, not a jpeg that lacks enough latitude to edit significant changes. Depends on how you want to spend your time for the same end result.
     
  12. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #12
    I don't believe I did. One of the first setting I changed when I bought my DSLR was to set RAW only. I would advise every photographer to do the same.

    Yes I still had (and have) a lot to learn about composition and exposure, but keeping it in jpeg won't help you to learn either of those things.
    Instead I read books, watched videos, looked at others work and asked for feedback. Most importantly I went out and experimented. I now shoot mostly in manual mode and have learnt you can't always get exposure right for every scene due to the scene etc. only shooting RAW and PP will make your photos stand out from the snappers.
     
  13. Ray2 macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    I don't disagree with you as people need to adopt an approach that fits them. Until recently, I shot film. You quickly learn how to nail the triangle or its gets quite expensive. Shooting jpeg is similar as you learn to shoot within the limitations of the available headroom. I find learning photography a lot more fun than learning post.
     
  14. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #14
    On that we can defiantly agree! But PP is just as important. That's something I think I've learned. For a great image, its virtually impossible to get it 100% right in camera. The trick is to get it as close as you can. Not cropping half you image or changing the exposure by 4 stops. You learn what you can and can't do. Also as you progress, you get more software. This helps a lot. The noise reduction in DXO Optics 9, and Silver Efex Pro 2 being two of my favourites as well as LR of course.
     
  15. seadragon Contributor

    seadragon

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    #15
    I shoot RAW and process ALL of my photos in post and find it just as much fun as taking the photo in the first place. I'd much rather develop my photos in a digital darkroom using a 24 inch screen and add my own touch to them instead of letting the camera do it for me. Especially for things like shadows and highlights and noise reduction which are not possible to get right in camera IMO.

    I'd say that one can learn a lot about photography by shooting RAW and being exposed to the digital developing process because you can see in real time how different settings affect a photo as you drag sliders.
     
  16. acearchie macrumors 68040

    acearchie

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    #16
    But even film photographers would spend hours in post.

    You can't just do the shooting part of photography and think that you can just not think about post. Even if you set the camera to JPEG the camera is applying post presets to the image which can be controlled and altered by the user.

    If you are happy with a JPEG in a JPEG+raw situation it would literally take a cmd+c and cmd+v to copy a quick raw preset to all the other raw shots giving you the same base preset that the JPEGs would have.

    Equally in LR the same preset that your camera is applying to the raw shot before converting to JPEG can be done on raw files on your computer.
     
  17. Oracle1729 macrumors 6502a

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    #17
    So let's say you nail the shot perfectly at capture. Then you decide it would look better with more contrast or pumping the saturation. Raw also gives you more information for the channel mixer if you decide it would look better in black and white. Then you might decide that while you got perfect white balance in camera that particular scene would look better with a warmer or cooler cast.

    RAW captures more dynamic range. Even Ansel Adams used dodging and burning all over his pictures. RAW gives you the data you need to do local mapping, JPEG doesn't.

    So even if you can get exposure perfectly in camera, once you pass a certain level that is still just the first step of "creating" the picture. I do it right in camera and I'd never go back to shooting JPEG. Except maybe for quick and dirty snapshots to post online.

    *ONE* use of RAW is correcting slightly off pictures. The real power is so much more.

    ----------

    jpeg is just a crippled way to shoot. It's like saying sticking with a bike will teach you to drive better because you get into an accident you'll probably die so you'll be forced to learn better.
     
  18. Dagless Suspended

    Dagless

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    #18
    I'm not a professional by any stretch of the imagination. I just have a nice camera, some nice lenses and I really enjoy taking photos. A couple of years ago I switched to RAW after running tests on WB adjusting and some of the neater post-processing options like adjusting the exposure.

    Editing them is quite easy too. I use Adobe Camera Raw. Highlight all images and change the colour mode to Neutral, play with the shadows a bit and then go through them one by one adjusting the contrast and exposure, removing bad photos as I go. I get through 100 in half an hour which is probably slow! But it keeps my library trim too. With JPEG I'd just drag them into iPhoto and never look at them again. At least this way my overall amount of added photos is down.
     
  19. handsome pete macrumors 68000

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    #19
    I usually shoot RAW or RAW + JPEG, but that's BS. Learning proper exposure isn't exactly rocket surgery.


    That's a terrible analogy.
     
  20. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #20
    Proper exposure for which part of the picture? Sometimes there isn't a correct exposure for each part of the picture.
    But yes exposure isn't that difficult, but its not always a one exposure fits all (which is where RAW comes into its own).
     
  21. Meister Suspended

    Meister

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    #21
    I am not sure what this thread is about now.

    There isn't any sane reason to not shoot raw except the rare one I mentioned above.

    acearchie and afb explained it nicely. the raw file is like the negative in film days.
    why would anyone not like a negative?
     
  22. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #22
    Can I get a hallelujah!
     
  23. Meister Suspended

    Meister

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    #23
    hallelujah! :D

    I moved my original post to the other thread because I got threads mixed up.
     
  24. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #24
    Lol I thought I'd gone nuts! But you get the point!
     
  25. Small White Car, Aug 10, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2014

    Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

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    #25
    Almost.

    I recommend anyone who is going to edit their photos shoot RAW.

    For the people who are going to shoot and immediately print and upload to Facebook with no adjustments, I suggest shooting JPEG.

    Obviously that's not as good as shooting RAW, but if they're not going to edit I'd rather the camera at least make some attempt at the contrast and saturation.

    You can spend all day saying "what if this goes wrong?" and the simple answer is that those people will throw that photo away before ever attempting to fix it, even if it's perfectly fixable. So, JPEG is not the best answer in general but it's the best answer for them.

    - - - - - - - -
    EDIT
    Second thought: My attitude is a recent phenomenon brought on by lower-priced cameras that shoot RAW. In the old days if you had a camera that shot RAW and didn't want to edit I'd just call you a dope that overspent on your camera. But these days some pretty cheap cameras shoot RAW and I don't fault a non-editor for buying one.

    If, as I soon suspect, we end up being able to take RAW photos on iPhones this will become even more relevant. Will I suggest everyone I know switch their iPhone camera to RAW mode? Absolutely not. It will be the same advice: "Only if you've bought some kind of editor from the app store."


    - - - - - - - -
    But that's a minor quibble over the use of the word "anyone." Anyone? No. Anyone who is interested enough to ask if they should shoot RAW? The answer is almost certainly YES.

    In the spirit of the OP's original question, here's an awesome use of RAW to fix those self-portraits when you hand your camera to someone else who knows nothing about what they're doing.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    No way that's happening with JPEG.
     

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