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Thursday, 15 March 2012


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Mike, toilet paper should always be oriented so that one must pull from the bottom. If one makes sure there is no excess paper hanging loosely, it makes it much harder for pets and infants to unroll the roll.

There are people for whom the loo roll comes out from the bottom?! Oh the shame!

After reading all these JPEG vs RAW columns, I am now motivated to put in my own 2-cents. I shoot JPEG + RAW. Each may have it's advantages, and storage space is not really a problem anymore.I shoot RAW for all the reasons already mentioned and I shoot JPEG because there are rare occasions where the camera does a better RAW conversion than I seem to be able to do (especially when considering time restraints). I also want to know how the camera would have processed the image before I try myself to improve on it.

I see no reason not to shoot both.

I shoot RAW+JPEG. Then I delete the RAW files for all but the very few I care to work on later, or think that I might really value.

Does this mean that sometimes years later I might think: huh, I like that one after all; wish I'd saved the RAW file? Yeah maybe sometimes, but life too short to be hauling around all that digital baggage just in case.

Once I discovered (most) RAW files included a full sized jpeg embedded in the metadata - which can be easily extracted - I don't understand why this is still a debate


It would be nice if the JPEG standard could change a little. Perhaps JPEG2000 was a step too far ten years ago, but perhaps it wouldn't be now, and how about iJPEG®, something revolutionary now. Of course we have another widely disregarded standardized offering, NEF, so I guess there's little hope.

So here's a column that I 100% agree with! That's no fun... :-(

In one area I'm your opposite -- my primary photographic mode is going into an event filled with people and trying to take shots documenting it. I work for As, but more often get Bs and Cs and the ones nobody sees.

But RAW is vital for that for me. I'm working in a dynamic environment not under my control, so my ability to nail every exposure absolutely is...well, let's politely call it "less than perfect". JPEG is much less forgiving than color negative film was, and I need the extra leeway. People who think they never need the leeway -- some of them are no doubt just that much better than me, but I'm pretty sure some of them miss shots I'll get while they're taking more care over their exposures. (I've done bounce flash with manual equipment, and event shots with cameras without meters; I know about memorizing exposures and adjusting as I move rather than when I see a photo, and all the usual tricks to minimze lost shots while futzing with exposures. But still.)

Top of the roll!!! *g*

"I can't speak for him, but I would guess that at least part of Ken's motive in writing his column was simply to help break the tyranny of majority opinion for those who would rather shoot JPEG."
Yes, Mike, as I noted in the piece, my goal was to encourage people to (a) take note that today's cameras have some remarkable facilities, and (b) to consider at least modulating their time investments in photography with more emphasis on photography and less on slider-play.

Personally, with small cameras (35mm or smaller) I shoot Jpeg-only 50% and Jpeg+RAW 50%. Of course it's pure sushi with medium format.

Glad to see that this piece has at least raised a dust cloud with so many people!

Personally, I shoot Raw+JPG. I just returned from a trip with about 1100 photos in both Raw and JPG. I'll probably keep and work with at most a couple of hundred of the Raw files (including some pano and HDR stuff), but I'll like having all those other JPGs (well, some of them) as vacation snapshots.

Seems to me that if you can get away with shooting both in terms of storage, it's the way to go.

"there's no right and wrong in personal photographic decisions, and no one should feel tyrannized by anyone else's choice..."

I totally agree with this statement, but why are there 3 blog entries on the subject if it comes down to "just do what's right for you?"

I'd rather take a bunch of C pictures (and some D's and F's) in return for the occasional serendipitous precious A. That is, I shoot for the hits: those occasional wonderful accidents when the mystery happens and a picture somehow works for me.


"why are there 3 blog entries on the subject if it comes down to 'just do what's right for you?'"

Why are there 4,308,932 Canon vs. Nikon posts on the Internet? It's because the considerations that go into people "doing what's right for them" are still interesting. I mean, if you were discussing "should I go to college or not?", it's true that everyone should do what's right for them, but determining what that is might still involve a lot of discussion, eh?

(That's my story and I'll stick with it. [grin, duck, and run])


I have never done this but I have seen it mentioned that one can use Adobe Camera Raw to process Jpegs. Couldn't you get your highlight back that way? It may only work in Lightroom but I have seen it mentioned.

Thanks for the A and B. I'd never thought of it that way, and now I will, forever. Like you, I'm not a wedding pro who has to have at least two hundred B photos, preferably in a range that can be batch processed. All I'm really interested in (other than when I'm shooting birthday parties or the grandkids) is the A shots, and I want them in Raw so that I can give them a tweak or two and perhaps they may approach A-Plusness.

But there's another reason to shoot Raw that hasn't been mentioned. I use Lightroom as my database. When I stick the memory card into the Mac Air, the photos load into LR with a single click, and then come up in thumbnails. This is true whether I'm shooting .jpgs or Raw (I put everything I shoot into the same database.) If I want to email a photo somewhere, and need a jpg, it's one or two more clicks through my preset jpg.-maker to do that. In other words, to go from Raw to jpg (using my presets) requires almost no effort on my part, if I don't want to make any effort. So, why not shoot in Raw?

And for those "other" shots, the birthday parties and the grandchildren, those are the ones that I "better have," in my daughter's words. I shoot Raw there because Raw can bail me out of trouble, and you can get in a lot of trouble when you're shooting fast and gabbing with other people and you have a beer or three and the sun is going down and people are turning lights on and off.

So I shoot nothing but Raw. And deep in my heart, think that people who shoot jpgs are heretics, and should suffer the fate of all heretics.

"And deep in my heart, think that people who shoot jpgs are heretics, and should suffer the fate of all heretics."

...Made me laugh.


Hypothetical question: what if you had a camera that invariably set spot-on WB and had more leeway in highlight rendition? It's not as though JPEGs aren't editable just that they fall apart in editing earlier. It all comes down to how great a departure from the image as recorded you're after. Hence the varying views on the subject.

That said, a good case for RAW is David duChemin's Vision & Voice, Refining your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, a worthwhile book on the subject.

what about the non sovereign humans? D:

I shoot RAW almost exclusively; Lightroom has made it very easy to get a jpeg with a good import preset and a corresponding jpeg export preset. Couple of mouse clicks and *poof* a custom jpeg. I have to admit though, I have at times set up a shooting bank jpeg, full auto (I know, another heresy), and snapped away. For me it's just another choice to be made depending upon the final use of the photograph.

I remember that photo. (The Winter Shot) You had just gotten the D700. I bought that print from you.

JPEG or not, it is a fine photo in available light.

"and I forgot to change it back to regular shooting mode"

Yeah that's why I never change my camera from shooting raw (well very rarely I use raw + jpeg). I learned that lesson early on with my S30. On a trip I changed it to jpeg to shoot a sign (compact flash cards were expensive back then (2003 probably), I had 2 128MB cards) but forgot to change it back. I don't think I've ever made that mistake again.

Even for snapshots I want to be able to adjust the white balance or maybe a little bit of exposure. Pretty easy to do when batch converting.

It's still way slower than just uploading all the jpegs to Facebook, but that's just the way I work.

Peter Morgan says "It would be nice if the JPEG standard could change a little. Perhaps JPEG2000 was a step too far ten years ago, but perhaps it wouldn't be now"

The original JPEG standard was more flexible than is widely implemented in it's 8 bit form. There was a 12 bit profile too that no one implements. Even in the 8 bit version it has an 11 stop dynamic range due to perceptural coding of the 8 bits (they're not linear intensities) though suffers from large steps sizes in the shadows especially after post-processing. One thing people don't realize is one can losslessly crop JPEGs but I know of no GUI software that supports finding block edges (every 8 pixels) in the UI.

As someone pointed out recently Adobe as added "lossy compression' to the DNG standard in LR4 and this could add a third contendor into the "JPEG or RAW" fight if any camera makers actually adopt it for in camera use.

Lossy DNG is a bit like version of JPEG that does both more and less than JPEG.

The Raw image is demosoaiced (like JPEG. The image is encoded in with a perceptual tone curve (like JPEG) that is adaptive (unlike JPEG) that makes best use of the 8 bits so the full range of 8 bit values are used in all images.Dithering is added to reduce blockiness in the shadows (unlike JPEG).

The lossy DNGs retains scene referred color and so make no color space transformation i.e. the sensor's RGB values are used not a specified color space like sRGB or Adobe RGB as JPEG does. There is a color matrix for the sensor in the DNG but the color space rotation is deferred to post-processing.

The encoded image is then discrete cosine transformation compressed just the same as the JPEG spec. I presume they stick with DCT compression because it works well enough and the code and/or hardware already exists making adoption rather easier.

This gives lossy DNG images that are quarter the size of the original DNG/Raw but can withstand typical post processing (especially white balance changes) better than a similar JPEG. And have all the other attributes of a DNG (XMP changes in the same file, etc, etc).

Although it only exists as an option in Lightroom 4 now (and I can't see many people converting their Raws to lossy DNGs for a small storage space saving) I suspect camera makers are the real target market. Not just "regular cameras" but cameras in smartphones. That would be a step up from JPEGs for this market. It would also help with the problem of moving a big lossless DNG or poor JPEGs to the cloud then post-processing them there. I'm sure this is an important business consideration for Adobe.

There is a good outline here: http://chromasoft.blogspot.com/2012/01/lightrooms-new-lossy-dng-compression.html

More in a Q and A here: http://forums.adobe.com/message/4132283

And some other comments:


So perhaps in a couple of years this will be an even more complicated argument!

Hmmm. Setting color balance before taking the shot -- are you sure you could decide whether or not you were shooting tungsten or daylight film AFTER the fact? It seems to me that JPEGs are exactly like film in at least that respect, except that with JPEG, the camera can apply automatic white balance.

Dear Mike,

with this comment I’d like to offer another point of view about this JPEG vs. Raw thread. Whenever possible, I shoot Raw. Raw, for me, is both creative freedom and merciful recovery from my errors. But I discovered at least one case when JPEG gave me better photos than Raw: underwater photography with a point and shoot camera.

A year ago I took a OWD certification for scuba diving. After my very first dives, I took a camera with me to shoot at the enormous variety of strange lifeforms you can find well below the surface. Since scuba diving isn’t exactly a cheap sport, as a beginner I decided to go with a Canon Powershot D10, a point and shoot camera guaranteed waterproof up to a depth of 10 meters. Small, unobtrusive, very easy to use when you are still adapting to an utterly alien environment and your priority is to control buoyancy and life-support system. This camera shoots JPEG only. When you have good light conditions this camera takes nice pictures.

Then I tried a replacement firmware from the CHDK project. CHDK for D10 offers, among lots of interesting features, DNG output straight out of the camera: food for Camera Raw. Very nice.

Alas, reality is much more complex. When I opened the DNG files with ACR, I was served noisy images. Very noisy. In addition to the usual high ISO noise I observed another form of luma noise, patches of adjacent pixels with an apparent diameter of about 8 pixels. I tried all my best to remove noise with ACR without noticeable results. ACR gladly removes high ISO noise but was unable to remove the larger noise patches. But Canon’s in camera processor did exactly that.

In my opinion, this is a remarkable example of the high quality reached from the in camera process leading to a JPEG. With good lighting, and for this camera, JPEG is better than Raw.

Let me resume the facts:
- Low ambient daylight, blue dominant corrected with in camera WB for underwater photography.
- The camera is a waterproof point and shoot camera. Should not be compared with a DSLR or bridge camera enclosed in its underwater housing.
- The camera offers only JPEG. Raw was obtained through a firmware hack.
- The pictures depicted above where taken shooting Raw + JPEG. I have both files.
- DNGs are sharper and have better colors than JPEGs. At least ACR let me correct colors very well.
- DNGs show unrecoverable noise, JPEGs are cleaner.

Definitely you get what you pay for, so to say :-) or, if you prefer, the choice between Raw and JPEG may depend on the equipment used to take the photo. A tip of my hat to the engineers who are so capable of designing pretty magical noise filters.

Let me know if you like to see some examples by yourself.

Thank you for reading.


Gabriele Falcioni (Ancona, Italy) - Loyal TOP reader since 2010.

Well said, Mike.

I shoot RAW and JPEG simultaneously; after all, it's zero bother with most decent cameras. It might use a little more file space, but who's counting in these days of cheap large memory storage. Mostly, I use the RAW files, but sometimes those jpegs come alarmingly close!

It's rather amusing reading the battles which occur on some photo sites, notably dpreview. Posters hurl furious insults at one another, nobly claiming they are protecting "newbies" (they love that term)as if 0.0001% of new camera purchasers would give a toss about them or dpreview, and use it as an opportunity to knock well-known advocates (such as Ken Rockwell) about whom they seem to be rather envious.

Dear Richard,

Along with the good reasons Mike gave (and they are good despite his 'grin'), there are an amazing number of people who insist on prescribing. Just read thru the comments.

pax / Ctein

How old is digital photography? Not very old and yet I have gone back to an early raw file of just a few years ago and been amazed at how much better I can make an image, that was already better than a jpeg, with today's tools and my improved skill level. I sort of think of jpegs like the shoebox of old machine prints and the raw files like the little back pocket of the print envelope with the negatives inside. Ooooh. Gold.

RAW vs JPG discussion? Whatever happened to film vs digital?

i shoot a lot of sports. For sports, I only shoot JPEG because it writes faster and lets me get a better chance of nailing that point/time that really matters. For anything else, I have much more time to get the shot i want and for that, I always shoot RAW.

Raw all the way. Except when the kids are on the trampoline. Then I change two settings that I otherwise never use - machine gun mode for a zillion frames a second, and jpeg cos I might need a million raw files, but a zillion is one too many :)

One example why I like to have a RAW file on hand:

Last Thanksgiving, I photographed a Pumpkin carving contest -- just walking around snapping away with the camera on Aperture Priority.

One group asked for a print.

Here is what the JPEG looked like. A huge dynamic range, and part of the newspaper is totally washed out:


I set a brutal curve on the JEPG file to see if there were any detail to recover -- none:


Using the brighness slider on the RAW file reveals detail:


And the final result:


Much of the time, the JPEGs suffice, but I have the RAW file in case something went amiss in the exposure.



Like Matthew above, I always shoot both, because you never know what you're going to get. Or what you might screw up. But once they're on the computer the vast majority of the raws get deleted.

Overall, it seems like one of those discussions that are so heated because the stakes are so small.

Note to Ctein: snake pictures do the same thing to me that pictures of people hanging by their fingernails from a cliff do to Mike. Please stop.

To show that nothing is too trivial for people to care about, here is Wikipedia to the rescue:


I mean absolutely no disrespect but as a person who I assume (based on reading your work) likes to be technically correct where applicable, Can I please assert that Sushi doesn't mean Raw.

It's something that I hear all too often abd it's become a bit of a pet peeve of mine.

The word sushi actually means "Vinegar cured rice" whatever you garnish it with is up to you, it may be raw or cooked fish or some other food such as vegetables.

Raw meat (commonly fish) that is very fresh and very thinly sliced is referred to as "Sashimi"

Just thought I'd point that out.



My preference is JPEG+RAW (or whatever the best my camera will do). I have a DSLR but most of my shots are on my compact, as that one I tend to always carry. Every time I press the shutter button I am not expecting to print the shot, or someone to hand me money for it. It's just a photo and most of the time has no other merit than its recording a moment. Sometimes I take my time, make adjustments, choose the composition, wait for right moment to press the shutter. There are enough things to think about, but knowing whatever photo I take its being stored in the best possible condition. This gives me the flexibility later on, if I need, to be able to spend time processing a RAW file if I feel the JPEG is not quite what I wanted. The JPEGs are also much easier and quicker to flick through when maintaining the images.

Years later I still find myself going back to some older photos and reprocessing them as my digital skills improve. I have no idea what my needs will be in years from now. But by making sure my cameras all save to the best formats they can do I'll always have the best flexibility for processing in the future and when I take shots I can spend more time about the actual shot and never have to think about what format to save to.

I'm with Dave, who posted above. RAW+JPEG. When I get home, I keep RAW for any shots that might be "portfolio" shots (maybe 5%). I dump the RAWS for all the other 95% and keep the OOC jpeg for these.

Mike, One way to avoid the problem on that night shot (when you shot jpeg) is to use the Custom settings or Presets (on oly gear) with all your default settings. When I start shooting with my Oly, I go to Preset #1 and I know I'll have all my default settings. I use the Custom Setting #1 on my GH2.

Peter F.

Also in relation to this discussion, I shoot colour negative or black and white film, the "RealRaw"

Bottom. Word.

Add me to the RAW+JPEG camp. I toy with editing RAW files, but really 90% of my work is just fine with a few tweaks of the JPEG.

I've discovered with the Fuji X100 (and probably other new camera models), I can shoot RAW and then, later on, take advantage of the in-camera JPEG engine after the fact! I can even ask it to generate JPEGs using different settings. As Ken says, "that's where the money went", but I'm not constrained to make the choice at exposure time.

This kind of post just tells me that Ken Rockwell has the right idea -- just use the in-camera jpg engine, especially since they are so good these days. Don't you Raw guys realize that you can change the white balance with a slider on the most rudimentary post-processing system? I suggest iPhoto. You can always shoot with daylight WB, and adjust WB later if that's what floats your boat.

In the 1950s, amateurs used to waste their time over tiny differences in film developing, trying to squeeze some tiny increment of improvement or anyway difference out of their mediocre negatives. The masters just kept their development as standardized as possible, used larger format if they wanted more technical firepower, and took pictures. Raw fiddling is no different than the developer bidding of fifty years ago -- mostly a waste of time.

For me, processing Raw doesn't feel like work. I enjoy it.

I have shot nothing but RAW since 2006 (when I discovered Raw Shooter Essentials... now avatar'd into Lightroom, which I love as much as I love my Nikons).

Heck I even shot only RAW in my S90.

I have just bought into Oly m4/3 and for the first time I am shooting JPEGs- JPEG+RAW to be be exact. I can't imagine getting an "A" image and not having it in RAW. Try ETTR with JPEG, it's hard enough with RAW.

As for JPEG being "easier", I have used nothing but Auto WB for 6 years. I actually think RAW + LR = easier.

But I am fussy about which way the toilet roll is oriented too, so maybe I am nuts after all. You do know your readership, Mike.

I'd always been a Raw-only guy, till I bought my first Olympus and was astonished at the quality of the jpegs. So I started shooting Raw+jpeg to get the best of both worlds.

Eventually I gave up on it, for two reasons. First, and I know this is pathetic, I'm just not organized enough to keep track of two different file types through all the stages of editing and archiving. Second and more importantly, the two files types generally require different exposures. Expose for an optimal Raw file and your jpegs will tend to look overexposed. Expose for the best jpeg and you're usually throwing away dynamic range in the Raw file.

So these days I'm back to Raw only. But the experience had one real benefit: learning to massage a Raw file into something as close as possible to the Olympus jpeg really improved my Raw development skills. It's a technique I'd recommend to anyone learning Raw.

I was in a photo trip 2 years ago. It wasn't a workshop, but a trip organised for photogrpahers, or at least, serious photographers who would not mind getting up at 4 in the morning to prepare for the sunrise shot. At one of the dinners, I asked the stupid question of how many were shooting Jpegs, presuming that there would be none. To my surprise, I was the only one -- shooting RAW.
Then there was this guy who was telling me that right after this trip, he would be heading to the local airport, taking a flight to a far-away place, trying to re-shoot a series of pictures. Reason? He had his Canon 5D MkII set at the wrong white balance, so he had to redo the shooting!
Hope he had his white balance set properly this time or he started shooting RAW (which I didn't think so...). The trip was an eye-opener for me!!

I, too, like so many others, shoot both RAW + JPEG, but I almost always delete the latter very soon after. The only purpose for the JPEGs is just pure light hearted internet fun, quickly emailing some images off to friends about another long hike in the mountains. The RAWs do take their time to sort & develop but I always start on at least one right away. I prefer to let them "sit" a day or so before deciding on my "keepers" to process (I don't actually discard many RAWs until years later). The JPEGs are gone in a few days!

    "...I shoot for the hits: those occasional wonderful accidents when the mystery happens and a picture somehow works for me."

Yes. That, for me, is the joy of photography. It's good to pre-visualise - so as not be disappointed by your results - but if I feel that the results are a foregone conclusion, I tend to lose interest. Many of my better shots are a result of going out in search of a pre-conceived image, finding out that the preconception was a bit wishful, and then driven by disappointment working hard to find a plan B while still out in the field that *does* work and inspire me as a strong image. In other words, the original vision and impetus may not have worked out, but at least it got me out of the house with camera in hand which is sometimes half the battle.

If I was a working photog, that's a luxury I wouldn't have. But I suspect that doing it for a living, and having to be "on" all the time would kill a lot of the joy for me.

Mike - you're way off....

When I type Canon vs. Nikon into the mighty Google I get

"About 35,400,000 results (0.24 seconds)"

Dear Mike,

Y'kow, I just realized I *do* have something to bring to this party. That column I wrote a coupla years back about processing ISO 6400 photos from the Olympus Pen?


That bizarre technique doesn't much matter here, but it was predicated on the discovery that the in-camera JPEG algorithms did a MUCH better job of suppressing camera noise than any external tools I had available (and I have quite an arsenal). That includes Olympus' own on-computer RAW software.

Hits the argument that you can always do as good a job of image processing as the camera can. No, not always.

And this doesn't even get into the latest twists that involve the camera processing different parts of the image differently depending on luminance and color values.

Just food for further thought.

pax / Ctein

Eh, what ever you do......don't use the RAW as a permantent picture file, they are not future proof since they are cameradependent, and in 50 years no program will be able to read nowadays RAW....therefore store in .tiff uncompressed (yeps these files are HUGE) so only for the best shots or else in .jpg but only if you are 100% happy with the end result. Of course you can save raw (as I do but I'm a photographer nurtured on film so I do not shoot 4000 shots in a single day as I saw a National Geographic "photographer" boast about on TV), but save a .tiff as well for the best shots. Just to be safe.

Greetings, Ed

Matthew Miller: I also tried such approaches, but came to the conclusion that it doesn't work, or bears its perils:
No way you can decide today what you will like tomorrow. Perception changes, everything changes, panta rhei.
Storage is a non-issue. I remember when I was concerned not to keep all jpegs from the Oly C2020Z. Now there are two 1.5 TByte Drives on my desk, and those tiny files may occupy much less then 1 % of that space.
When I learned computer programming, the teachers told us of times when programmers cared about every bit in those bytes, and therefore stored data in some weird compressed ways.
The concerns of yesteryear are almost ridiculous today. So I don't throw away data, I just count on bigger future storage.

And Mike: I get the impression that your writing gets better year by year. Or does the warmth do some good to your word-flow?
However, I very second that A, B, ... F view of things, and also hate to shoot professionally, churning out a stream of indifferent, all-the-same, nice and neat images (yes, yes, I know some pros are lucky to sell really cool stuff, just not me, except my last Croatia-Selection in that artsy travel guide - is there more such work out there, please!?).
Sorry for digressing. When I edit my Mallorca series of 2006, I realize that back then I had many As, today there are only a few left. But, big but, there are a few former Fs which became As now. Regarding my last comment, I am lucky to have the negs of those. And hard disk space is much more compressed then shelve space for folders. Well, the longer you are in the business, the more secure your judgement may become, but still... panta rhei. Do yourself a favour and shoot raw.
Of course, everyone to their own taste, no doubt. But I get the impression that people care about meaningless details of the present too much, like storage, processing speed, or small money savings, which they could regret some years from now, when Exa-Bytes are normal, or they realise that a nice print of a nice memory is worth more than 20 bucks saved on an extra battery or memory card (no offense to people who don't have 20 bucks spare, which I know there are, but it is just an example).
And one more thing: I remember when Lightroom turned my K20D defacto into a new camera. The same could (mind you: could) happen again.
I am well aware that I am talking about facts here, not art. But some seriously blown highlights could destroy potential art, which could have been recovered from raw. Been there, seen that. So why mess?

I'm guessing my comment will be buried amongst all the raw v jpeg, raw & jpeg, toilet roll and sushi comments.... anyway....

Jeff Schewe has a new book out in August 2012 called "The Digital Negative: Raw Image Processing in Camera Raw, Lightroom, and Photoshop".... looks interesting.

Over the top. Come on... it's what separates us from the animals...

"Mike - you're way off....

When I type Canon vs. Nikon into the mighty Google I get

'About 35,400,000 results (0.24 seconds)'"

I don't know why. I already solved that question for all time:



I never really thought about it but it's clear to me now why I had such a problem using my first digital camera. I shot everything in JPEG, thinking it was the equivalent of shooting Kodachrome. But it never looked as good as Kodachrome or any chrome. Then I started shooting in Raw, treating it like Kodacolor and making adjustments to color and exposure later. Everything came together at that point.

I had come to think of JPEG as being second-rate due to that early experience. When I converted a Raw file, I saved it as a TIFF. Before long, I had to do some serious editing to prevent clogging up the hard drive. After a lot of comparisons, I decided I couldn't really tell any difference on screen or in a normal print between a huge TIFF file and a high quality, but small, JPEG.

Thanks Ctein … for posting the link to your earlier article. I read it back then and it articulated a huge point for me. Each camera's JPEG files are unique and endowed with whatever the manufacturer chose to “bless” (or curse) that particular model with. Sometimes Adobe's RAW processing via ACR is right on the money and sometimes not in a whole variety of ways. If you only shoot one brand of camera, then you can test both RAW and JPEG files using your own selection of software and the one provided by the manufacturer and come to some conclusions (for your particular camera and taste in files).

However, if like most of us that read this blog, you have the friend or relative that wants advice on which to shoot …it really does require some important qualifying. Which camera? Which software suite? Have you actually compared workflows? It is pretty daunting to an amateur photographer that just got a cool DSLR after owning a compact that only shoots JPEG’s. The safest is to suggest RAW + JPEG until they have time to make their own tests and assess what works for them. The caveat to this is shooting sports. If their primary interest is in shooting soccer or some other fast action with the kids …RAW slows them down. At a recent dinner, I spent the better part of an hour trying to explain some of this to a persistent father wanting to know more.

For my own work outside of sports, RAW + JPEG provides the best approach. Memory cards are huge and pretty cheap these days. I always want a RAW file when high speed shooting is not the priority. For those that suggest pulling the JPEG from the RAW …it doesn’t take that much extra space to add the JPEG and the result is usually better. Many JPEG’s pulled from RAW are not at the highest quality setting. There is often a “secret sauce” that the manufacturer has endowed in the JPEG files that are written in the camera that are only visible using those files at highest quality settings. As always, test for yourself to see what differences, if any, are important to you. I have found that in-camera JPEG differences among various cameras are greater than film choices such as Velvia and Ektachrome (not that we have that choice anymore).

RAW ! JPEG ! LATTE with Soy ! If you got them, enjoy them all, too much discussion, not enough Hot Coffee and New Images !

Mike wrote:
Saying someone else should shoot Raw or JPEG is like trying to say they should [...] put their toilet paper in the holder so that it comes off the top of the roll or the bottom

I was with you up to here, then I just had to bang my fist on the table and shout no! There are so many reasons why the paper should roll off the top that you'd need to start a new blog to publish them. Perfume, RAW/JPEG, car brand, full-fat vs skimmed milk... All those are non-debates. How the toilet paper rolls? There is only one correct way: From the top! I shall not rest until the World has come together and realised this. I'm sure global peace will follow shortly after.

Please Mike, do your part.

Top or bottom? Don't you mean front or back?

Well, I'll go RAW. I've heard that some folks like to shoot jpeg apparently because since less date is involved, you have to be EXACTLY RIGHT in your exposure, etc, to get a perfect photo out of it. In other words, it's all about showing off your technical expertise.

Frankly, that reminds me of John Lennon's knock against modern jazz: "Bullsh**ting itself off into excellentness." Since I often shoot on the fly, in situations where things happen quick and there's no time for seeking technical perfection, I'll take RAW and get all the data I can, so I can make the Perfect Picture later. I'm OK with not being the Technical Expert, so long as I get the shot. My ego can take the hits.

I suspect if you ask 100 photographers about workflow you'll get at least 150 answers.

Mine (film capture, scan, send out for print) has been a constant evolution in just about every way.

Upon getting my scanner I would scan every frame at 2400dpi then make edits and delete the non-keepers. I scanned at various times in JPEG and TIFF-16. I even converted TIFF-16 to DNG.

Later, I would scan everything at 1200dpi JPEG, make selects and deletes from those and re-scan the keepers at 2400dpi TIFF-16-in-a-DNG. That later got upped to 4800dpi TIFF-16 which I would process as necessary for the exact output. That got to taking up a lot of space awfully fast.

Then I discovered it was much quicker to individually proof scan the negatives while still in their sleeves, which in turn evolved to proof scanning the whole sheet into one file, my nearest approach yet to an actual wet contact sheet.

Now my selects are scanned in TIFF-16 4800dpi, worked on to make the final result at the largest resolution I'm reasonably likely to print (about 50-60% of the original somewhat fuzzy scan), and saved as (gasp!) JPEG level 10. The TIFF goes away once I'm satisfied with my end result. A tenth of the size on disk, and no discernable difference. I do have the option of returning to the original negative, too, which I guess is my "raw file".

I keep changing my mind... raw, raw+jpg, jpg...

This is one of the reasons I love the K-5: it lets me save the raw after I've seen the jpg!

More importantly, having been a stalwart `from the top' guy for years, the comments here have convinced me to switch! (We have cats).

Top or bottom versus front or back? I thought it was clockwise or counter-clockwise?

"Raw fits the way I shoot..." just about says it all for me. I find it simpler and easier to shoot and work rendering later. I've done lots of work using only JPEG originals too, but I have more rendering latitude and better tools with raw files.

"I probably only get a dozen good shots a year"

I'd say that is a very output.

And I wish everyone on Flickr would understand that.

"I probably only get a dozen good shots a year"

Yeah. If that. The rest is snapshots, or kind of interesting, or just scata, and not worth even the now-small cost of disk space.

Nonetheless, thanks to andreas for reminding me about panta rhei.

I have no qualms at all with people choosing to shoot in RAW or JPEG or both, but I don't shoot JPEGs on DSLRs for anything that I consider important or commercial. I do shoot jpegs on the iPhone of course, I have no choice in that matter and since about 50% of all I shoot is on that compelling little device I am quite adept at post editing jpegs, but.....

I do not for one second believe that jpegs will give me superior results to what I can achieve via good raw capture and if folks believe that their jpegs are as good or better than their converted RAW files then one of three things is likely the cause.

1) The shooter have not developed a processing method sufficiently sophisticated enough to maximise the raw files potential. No worries you don't have to go, there but photographers should be aware that there are some really fascinating high end possibilities available to those with the desire and need.

2) The raw files are being shot as if they were jpegs thus the sensors capability has not been fully exploited. Generally a correctly exposed jPEG is a poorly exposed RAW unless you have taken the time to tweak the JPEGs processing parameters to game the histograms readout.

3) The RAW file convertor is not ideally suited to the files that the camera is producing or at this point the cameras JPEG engine has not yet been exceeded by the current RAW convertor options.
I think is what happens with many newly released models, it often takes some time for software developers to really nail the characteristics of some camera files and by the time they do many folk have decided the RAW option had nothing to offer and that believe has been supported by accepted internet wisdom from early adopters of the camera in question.

Having tested many many cameras and raw convertors, it is extremely rare to find camera jpegs which cannot be bested by careful application of RAW processes applied to the alternative RAW capture.

Some RAW convertors can extract far more detail than perhaps most users are used to seeing, in fact so much more that you could be forgiven for thinking the file was shot with an entirely different camera and lens. Don't believe it, anyone with an A900 for example should try processing the RAW files with the Sony Raw Convertor and then do the same thing in RAW Developer, trust me you won't need to be keen eyed to see just have vastly more detailed the Raw Developer versions look. And this is the same with many many cameras I have tested, although it should be said that most Sony models dramatically benefit from the raw approach.

And there are many other Raw options. Raw Photo Processor
(RPP) renders "long tonal range film like files" with lowish contrast which are amazingly easy to post edit, most jpeg engines could only dream about obtaining the RPP look.

Aperture converted files have their own signature, rendering subtle colours in a way that seems to elude most other convertors and the effect easily seen in high quality prints.

I notice many people seem to be referring to Lightroom as if it were the standard, and whilst Lightroom is a fine convertor it is only one flavour of many RAW possibilities.

There are other aspects however some of which have been mentioned by posters. Raw in a way "future proofs" you in that, (providing your files don't become unsupported "digital orphans") you have the opportunity to process them in the state of the art raw convertors of 2020 or 2030 and probably render them out a whole new quality level.

More of immediate significance is that to actually shoot jpegs really well you need far more dedication at the time of shooting. We need to know how the jpeg engine renders in different colour settings, match the contrast range, dial the saturation correctly, nail the exposure perfectly etc. Frankly this is just too much effort for most people, including me, and in any case seeing the full effect in the bright light of day is near impossible with current LCD screens.

I still encourage my students to try and get the jpeg file viewing screen version close to right when shooting RAW as it makes conversions a bit quicker as you have a good starting point, but I have to say it is vary rare indeed I have come across anyone who has fully tested all the colour options of their jpeg engine and know how to really make the baby sing!

Another factor I have some contention with is the claim that the jpegs not suffer as a result of the compression process, I could name on one hand the number of cameras I have come across where jpeg files do not show compression artefacts at 100% on screen. Does it matter, of course not, (to most people) but the difference is there and real and if you are cropping significantly or enlarging to big sizes it will make your editing job harder, to deny the artefacts exist is just incorrect.

Finally jpegs to my eye at least, render highlight tones quite differently to really well processed RAWs, in short they lack subtlety and give a more "digital" look. Once again this is visible in print but may not be obvious for on screen views.

So from my position JPEG is fine and suits lots of needs but Raw does offer more, pretty much more of everything for me anyway. People can and should shoot whatever they want but that decision needs to be made from an honest evaluation of what factors really are at play. The point is that RAW does provide a pathway to superior and more flexible results, that doesn't mean everyone has to use it and granted many are not interested in that last degree of photographers to make blanket claims that JPEG is ultimately as good or better than RAW, it is adequate and sufficient as said and suits a good many uses but it is not better.

Of course in the end what matters is the image content and approach, RAW won't help an image bereft of inspiration but it is sad to see peoples great artistic efforts and talents hamstrung by poor technical choices which can be easily resolved.

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