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Friday, 13 June 2008


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Mike J. wrote:

"Finally, I am (or was, before the advent of digital) a printmaker. And as such, I've always had more faith in my future self than my past self. In the darkroom (I used to do custom printing for a living), I stopped keeping printing records because I was always convinced I could print any given negative better the next time than I did the last time. Maybe that's mostly psychological, but that's always been my feeling. I always want to re-interpret, start fresh, think and judge anew. So to me, having the raw file is simply like keeping the negative. And even with black-and-white film, the print, bad or good, is always just provisional: the neg's the source."


Man, that's insightful, you must have read my mind!

Are you channeling Deepak Chopra today?


I shot some bluebells a couple of years ago with the camera set to jpeg because I had it set that way for something else and forgot to change it back.

For those shots that lacked punch, I copied the base layer in Photoshop and changed the blending to multiply. And bingo - nice results.

Apart from my dSLR, I also use a compact, and that only shoots jpeg. When I get flat jpegs, I copy the base layer Photoshop CS3; change blending to multiply; and move the slider from 100% 'to taste'.

I forgot to mention - nice shot of Timmy.

I totally agree with you on RAW. I also have some early JPEG shots and now wish I hadn't thrown my negatives (i.e. the RAW data) away.

I once posted this controversial statement in a forum :
"Every time you press the shutter and record only the JPEG you are wasting a photo."

Although I clearly said that it was meant to be controversial I got flaming replies.
Next time I will refer them to your post - as your opinion seems to carry greater authority :-)

I found that your article "More Thoughts on Raw and JPEG" was cogent, well-balanced and should encourage people to experiment a little more in order to expand their photographic skill sets.

Actually, one can have his/her cake and eat it too! One can shoot RAW and JPEG files with a number of DSLRs. Only the question of why remains.

I have also been a "RAW" guy until just last month when I decided that I would present myself with an exercise and shoot both. I thought the discipline of trying to "nail" the exposure, the experience of understanding my new DSLRs abilities to a greater extent and learning first hand more about the strengths and weakness of each format would be good for me. I learned right away, however, that until this exercise ends, my hard disk space is going to take a hit and my cataloguing time is going up. It is early days yet, but already I have been surprised and pleased with what can be accomplished with JPEGs.

(PS-I have become an almost daily visitor to your blog and appreciate the work you put into it. Thanks.)

Like you, I used to shoot JPEGS. UNLIKE you, it was out of ignorance with several of my cameras. And, like you, I have beautiful shots in JPEG I'll never be able to recover as I'd like to! *SIGH!* Long live RAW!

Nothing to add except, I agree, I agree, I agree.

This comment struck me as interesting: "Is it any wonder that a lot of newspaper photojournalists shoot JPEG?"

You may recall the case of photographer Patrick Schneider, who got in trouble for "manipulating" digital photos when he worked for the Charlotte Observer (here's an article about the original incident: http://www.zonezero.com/editorial/octubre03/october.html)

I had the good fortune to hear him speak just a few days after the incident in question came to light and, without getting into the specifics of what happened, I did learn something interesting: That the Charlotte Observer *requires* its photographers to shoot raw, so that there is an "original" with which to compare the final published images (if their authenticity is ever called into question).

Perhaps you, or your readers, can provide more insight into how common this requirement is for photojournalists. Which publications require their staff photographers to shoot raw? And which don't?

Being in academics rather than photojournalism, I have no idea what the answer is, but I'd be interested to learn what standards various publications have. Or don't have.

Raw files are essential to my process of visualization of a photograph. The camera is only the first step in the process, much like the old "wet" days.

Unlike the old darkroom, the digital tools we use give what I feel is greater precision and predictability, although maybe I was never a very good darkroom craftsman.

After looking at that shot of your son for just a couple of seconds I feel like I cannot hold my breath any longer and I'm going to end up inhaling water through my nose.

It is interesting to me that he must have come up out of the water a fraction of a second later, but that since the image freezes that brief moment in time I get the feeling that he's been under for too long and I need to pull him out.

Mike J. wrote:

"So shooting JPEG gives me the same feeling I'd get when I had the wrong film loaded in the camera back in the old film days...it made me antsy, because I was always afraid I'd get a chance to make a "real" picture and miss it because I had the wrong film clogging up the camera."

I go out shooting every morning before work as much to align my head before the day begins as to address the possibility that
the IMAGE of a lifetime is waiting right across the street for me today! I have missed enough shots with "the wrong film clogging up the camera",i.e. digital settings left over from the last picture of yesterday which wont work today, that when I pick up
my camera, a mantra begins chanting through my consciousness with the clarity of divine enlightenment....."CHECK YOUR SETTINGS, CHECK YOUR SETTINGS, CHECK YOUR SETTINGS".
It helps, but I am a long way from perfect.

Great post, Mike, I am again impressed at your skill in lobbing a dart into the exact center of an undulating target and nailing it to the wall.

Best wishes

Raw has to be the way as we all get better at post processing, change our style, emphasis, convert to B&W or go vivid colour..... raw leaves us with that flexiblilty.
I don't keep any tiffs or psds etc they are either raw or dngs, images are made for my site at a max 800pts wide at 180 dpi and knocked down to 72dpi most are discarded. Sure I have some presets on LR and other RAW convertors but thats about it.
Prints are one offs worked at a higher dpi and then the file is wiped after I am happy with the print.
If I lose stuff so be it. I can always take another photograph whatever it may be of and if I am reeeaaalllly lucky I might get my hands on one of those Leica M9's, take pictures of my cat and dead mutilated bodies in some far off land.............or just hang out with some film

I have a lot more pictures recorded on film that I wish were digital than I do jpegs that I wish were raw files ;)

The only time I've ever shot jpg professionally is when the editor wanted the material from the event to be wired immediately. Apart from that its been RAW all the way.

I'd really like a compact that shoots RAW at other than glacial speeds so those once in a lifetime shots that come my way when I've not got my DSLR can get the proper treatment they deserve.

My first camera which shot RAW was the Canon 300D. With that camera, there was a very real trade-off with RAW. Everything was significantly slower, from writing out to the card to viewing shots on the screen. Shooting JPEG we could go from image to image in sub-second times, making reviewing pictures a breeze. With RAW, that shot up to 3-4 seconds just to move to the next picture (and if you accidentally hit the "next" button, another 3-4 seconds to move back). Still, even with these in-the-field penalties, the ability to push determinations of white balance and precise exposure to the comfort of my home kept me shooting RAW all the time.

With the 40D, that penalty is gone, and RAW is a no-brainer. I just can't imagine why someone would want to make those kinds of decisions in the field when they can make them at their leisure (or accept the camera's in-the-field determination if you don't want to fiddle).

One thing that I have not seen noted here (and please forgive me if it was and I missed it) is batch processing. Yes, I shoot RAW, but I never find the conversion into .tif or .jpeg time consuming. I download my shoot, select the ones I think are worthy, create a settings file for how I want the files processed and saved, start the batch process, and then go do something else for a while. It seems no more time consuming than developing a roll in the darkroom.

When i shoot digital, i shoot raw. Period. One time the guy who sold me my all my Nikon stuff lectured me, and in general talked down to me as if i was an ignorant child that i should shoot only jpeg and stop wasting my time with raw, that shooting jpeg was like shooting slides and you have to nail your exposure but hey, that's what knowing what you're doing is all about. So i shot jpeg's for an entire evening at a bar where an incredible black French Canadian jazz singer was performing. I was sitting so close i could see the chipped nail polish on her toe nails and i shot----and shot----and shot. Much to my horror, the white balance was horribly off and her color was, well, that of acute jaundice. And try as i might i couldn't remedy the situation because all the data was gone. I even bought a color management software program to try and help me out. nada. The Canadian Embassy was banging down my door for some great shots for their web page and all i could give 'em were converted b&w. Nice but not as nice. But we live and learn. For me jpeg's are what i shoot of, say a house i might be interested in buying or my neighbor's hideous ceramic bowl that she made in some craft class or something. If it's serious, for me it's got to be raw.

I never thought of the Polaroid tack, I just tell people that jpegs are like getting a print from a one hour photo shop. I like your idea better.

There is still a lot of resistance to using raw instead of jpeg from some people. One local photographer insists that raw is just a vast conspiracy to sell more memory cards and disk space.

Well, now -- I can say that newspapers operating their own presses can indeed have reasonably precise color management. Depends on who's doing the toning. It's the registration that occasionally goes haywire.

Perhaps the audience is more forgiving...

Thank you! "So to me, having the raw file is simply like keeping the negative. " That line was a wake-up call!

I didn't mean to diss newspaper printers. I'm sure they work very hard at color management. Still, it's not like they're going to be seeing small subtleties of color.

I recently shot some local ads. Just the three samples I saw were way apart from each other! Ballpark is therefore good enough....

Mike J.

If you are a photographer who had his prints made at the local drugstore and threw away the negatives after the prints came back, then shooting JPG only is the logical way to go.

For me, it's all about workflow. I always preferred the JPEGs my Olympus E-1 produced to what any raw converter produced, other than the clunky Olympus Studio software.

Then, I discovered Raw Shooter Premium, along with the "OlyColy" profiles made by a user that circulated the online forums. Finally, I had an easy to use system producing amazing results.

I'm reluctant to "upgrade" to the E-3 now, because my dear RSP has been abandoned and will never have new versions to support new cameras. Lightroom just isn't the same.

One final note - I always shoot raw + JPG with the JPGs set to 1024x768. That gives me a quick first review, and they take up so little space that I'm getting only one or two fewer raw files per card.

I find that the people who don't edit their photos stick with JPEG too long. Because if you do no editing, there's no apparent difference between JPEG and RAW. It's only when you try to push the color further or draw out the shadows in a JPEG vs. a RAW file that you see how much detail your losing (in the places you wouldn't normally see). Then you switch and start post-processing your work, but you can't do it with your old stuff because you lost the data right from the start by using JPEG.

I had the same experience as you; I was an avid photographer pushing the limits of a 7MP JPEG-only camera, so when I got a Canon Rebel XTi last year, I switched to RAW immediately. I'll never go back again.

I agree with you 100%. At the beginning with my first digital SLR I shot JPEG not RAW, and I regretted it. I got a couple of really wonderful shots, and I've always wished I had them in RAW. Like you, I only convert the shots I really like. It's so wonderful with RAW to always have that original "negative" to play with some more whenever I learn a new technique.

I find the statement that "having the raw file is simply like keeping the negative" actually underplays the situation. Having RAW is so much better than that.
As you alluded to in the article, when shooting film there are choices that you've already made when you load the film aspects of the final print are determined before you trip the shutter. However sooting RAW only ISO is set in stone - everything else can be changed later and this is the magic of digital photography.

Getting back to Mike's 'laziness' comment, I own the same model of DSLR (K-M 7D) and have primarily shot JPEG. Why? Because in my limited experimentation, I was finding it difficult getting processed files that looked as good as the in-camera JPEGs and was wasting a lot of time doing so. Up until recently I was still using Photoshop Elements 2 which didn't have any sort of raw support (direct or through plug-ins) and so had to use either the utility provided by K-M or GraphicConverter to handle the raw files.

I couldn't seem to get good results directly out of either one, and so I ended up with a two-step process -- use one of the afore mentioned programs to pick the color balance and create a tiff file, which I'd then pull into PE2 for further tweaking. Even so, I found it difficult to end up with a finished product that looked as good as the in-camera JPEG, much less better. After a while I realized I was shooting less because I was spending so much time futzing with the raw processing, at which point I decided to concentrate on shooting and let the camera worry about the processing.

I probably should revisit RAW now, as there's a lot of information on processing RAW files easily available and I have access to better tools. But as an amateur who doesn't make huge prints and has no pretensions of selling any of his work, I'm not particularly eager to invest the time. Yes, I do end up with some "lost shots" as JPEGs that might have been salvageable if I had the RAW file. And I would shoot RAW+JPEG except that the 7D only provides a "medium quality" JPEG when on that setting.

So, long story short, JPEG is good enough for me often enough that I'm willing to live with its limitations. I suspect that photography occupies a lower place on my personal priority list than for most of the other folks who frequent this site. Just wanted to add a perspective from someone who has chosen to shoot JPEGs for the most part.

The trouble that I have with RAW is the time it takes to write to the card, until the camera is ready to take a picture again.

I'm using an Olympus C-8080, and while I'll admit that it is older technology, it still does a very good job for what I want from it.

But the big flaw is the RAW write time - it locks up the camera for something around 10 seconds. I've never bothered to time it - I just know it's too long for how I use it. Compare that to the Super-HQ JPG, which writes in around 1-2seconds.

Then there is the problem of the file size. Generally, I go away for a week and take a couple GB XD/CF cards, and some smaller ones from other cameras as additions, and I won't need to take a laptop, and can still get all the pictures I want. With RAW, I would either need a massive XD/CF card collection, or a laptop.

At the end of the day, I am not a professional photographer - just an interested amateur - and RAW simply isn't a practical option for me, regardless of the benefits that it may have.

It's funny reading a lot of the comments about raw.

It seems that they basically fall into two categories: A) too hard, to time consuming, to post-process: RSE and RSP fixed that already 3-4 years ago. Now with Lightroom and Aperture on the scene it's a whole different ballgame. Unless you're a pj on a serious deadline where file sizes might be an issue, I just don't see it. B) the camera doesn't handle raw or handles it poorly: this is a case of laziness on the part of the camera makers. The Minolta Dimage A1 had excellent raw handling capability back in the fall of 2003. It can operate as intelligently as any modern dSLR: keeping the camera functioning and ready to shoot while writing files to the card, albeit more slowly. There's really no excuse for advanced P&S cameras let alone dSLRs not to handle raw gracefully.

There's one problem for RAW enthusiasts that one or two posters have touched on, and that's casual shooting with "shirt-pocket" compact cameras. Manufacturers seem to have decided that RAW doesn't belong in small compacts. Indeed, if you search the DPReview database for ultra-compacts that offer RAW files, it returns a blank page. I'm still carrying around my (relatively) bulky and heavy Powershot s70 as my "pocket" camera, because it saves RAW. I can't be the only person who wants a truly pocketable camera that shoots RAW, surely?

Does anyone really care what each other shoots in? I don't.

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