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Thread: "I always shoot Raw"

  1. #1
    MrB's Avatar
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    "I always shoot Raw"

    As a novice I read articles about digital photography that I can find (for free!) on the Web. The general consensus of experienced photographers appears to be “Always shoot Raw”. I am not qualified to challenge this, but I have a few observations that prompt questions for you here.

    The technology for digital photography has moved forward in leaps and bounds, and will continue to do so. An old, high quality DSLR might have recorded 6 megapixel images with limited in-camera control, and some photographers still use them to create great images. But now cameras with 16 or more MP sensors and a wide range of adjustments are becoming common.

    Similarly software, both for in-camera firmware and for post-processing, improves continuously. The latest computer photo editors seem to be capable of performing miraculous adjustments for all the parameters of any image in any common file format.

    Obviously the quantity of data recorded in the Raw files of a modern camera is more than in their Jpeg images but, if file size is any indication, it would seem that the high quality Jpeg images of some modern cameras appear to contain as much data for editing as the Raw images of older DSLRs.

    At 100% a 16MP Jpeg image would have been enlarged to about 4 feet wide and it would probably still look good. However, most monitors are much smaller than 4 feet, so evidence of image quality is usually presented on the Web as 100% crops from full size images.

    In those from 16MP images in current DSLR camera test reports, the differences between an ACR processed Jpeg from Raw image crop and an out-of-camera Jpeg image crop seem insignificant to me. So at A3 - the biggest I can print - the differences in the original images must be imperceptible.

    So I ask the following question to continue the teaching/thinking/learning process -

    Have we already reached, or are we approaching, or is it not possible to attain, the stage where the differences that arise between images processed from Raw files and high quality Jpeg files no longer really matter? (Excepting perhaps the case of a photo needing recovery from being terribly shot, and providing that Jpegs are not repeatedly saved with compression during PP.)

    Philip
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 4th November 2011 at 10:21 PM.

  2. #2
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    Quote Originally Posted by MrB View Post
    So I ask the following question to continue the teaching/thinking/learning process -

    Have we already reached, or are we approaching, or is it not possible to attain, the stage where the differences that arise between images processed from Raw files and high quality Jpeg files no longer really matter? (Excepting perhaps the case of a photo needing recovery from being terribly shot, and providing that Jpegs are not repeatedly saved with compression during PP.)
    No ... to put it in a word.

    I believe the debate has nothing to do with file sizes or megapixels etc.

    What it is solely about is the extent to which the photographer wishes to have control of the whole process of image-making or whether he/she wishes to assign some of that decision-making activity to the camera.

    If you call for JPEGS out of your camera, then you are asking the camera to make processing decisions for you. With a RAW processed wholly under the hand of the photographer in software out of the camera, the photographer retains sole responsibility for the final creation.

    As far as I'm concerned that's all it's about. And that being so, there is no debate to be had in my mind. Shoot RAW - always, ....... unless you're a photo-journalist needing to feed finished images down the line immediately, or a photographer who is deliberately engaged on a project of making JPEGs (though I don't know why you'd want to).

  3. #3
    rob marshall

    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    Quote Originally Posted by MrB View Post
    Obviously the quantity of data recorded in the Raw files of a modern camera is more than in their Jpeg images but, if file size is any indication, it would seem that the high quality Jpeg images of some modern cameras appear to contain as much data for editing as the Raw images of older DSLRs.
    Philip

    All camera images are shot in RAW. If the camera is set to JPEG capture the processing (the settings you applied in the camera) is applied to the data, and the rest of the data is junked. That's why editing a JPEG too much distresses the image - it just has less data to work on.

    JPEGS are 8 bit to aid compression - it's just the way it was designed. So editing a file in RAW at 16bit gives you far more scope in the editing process, especially as RAW edit is virtually non-destructive. Of course, you can save the final output in JPEG for printing (and convert it to 8 bit). The image below was recently printed at A2 size (that's big) and framed. I processed the RAW, and converted it. When I showed it to the framer (who knows a thing or two about image quality) he pronounced it spot-on. And it certainly looks the business. I somehow doubt that it would look as good had it been shot as, and processed as a JPEG - even though it was taken with a high-quality 5D Mk2.

    "I always shoot Raw"

  4. #4

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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    There are a number of issues here, Philip, and this is just my personal opinion.

    Yes, for the 'average snapper' there is little point in having a 16 mp camera as more than half those pixels are going to be wasted. Even more for those who just print at 6 x 4 ins or send their photos to the internet.

    And yes again, the 'average snapper' is perfectly happy with simple Jpeg's and won't gain anything substantial by shooting Raw.

    But, I suspect, most photographers on a site like this will be a bit above 'average' and require the best possible results from their shots.

    Shooting Raw isn't just about higher definition or larger prints. It's more about having the ability to make finer adjustments or being able to save a photo which was shot at the wrong settings.

    I have personally encountered this effect after shooting half of an event in Raw then, when I realised I was going to run out of CF card space, switched to Jpeg.

    Due to a number of reasons, including personal incompetence, I struggled to fully capture the scenes correctly. The Raw shots were edited to a reasonable standard fairly quickly, however, I really struggled to save acceptable results from Jpegs at the same shooting settings.

    And yes once more, larger file sizes do take longer to download, they also take up more space on my camera card.

    But, for many people, computers have become more powerful and CF cards, etc, are also much larger in capacity; also relatively cheaper.

    Newer versions of Raw will download faster. For example, when shooting with my old Canon 10D which uses CRW format the download speed is painfully slow, even with a reasonably powerful computer. But my 40D using CR2 downloads in a fraction of the time.

    So there isn't really a simple 'do it this way' answer. Some people will be happy with easy Jpeg shots while others, who want to do that little bit extra in the way of good quality editing will prefer Raw.

    Just do what suits you, is my best advice.

    ps. There are a number of articles on why Raw is best on this site, which goes into technical details in a much better way than I could manage. http://www.ronbigelow.com/articles/raw/raw.htm
    Last edited by Geoff F; 4th November 2011 at 12:07 AM. Reason: link added

  5. #5
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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    I'm actually going to one-up Rob here and provide a nice comparison set of photos.

    I've recently made the switch to shooting RAW, and I'll never go back. However, for convenience sake for now (and because I have the space on my memory cards) I actually shoot RAW+JPG. So I have an exact comparison to provide.

    This works a lot better if I could use mouseover code, but alas, I can't figure out how to do so, so you'll just have to scroll... If anyone knows how I could use some mouseover javascript code in my post, please PM me and I'll change the post.

    JPG SOOC:
    "I always shoot Raw"

    RAW SOOC (with only Temp->6700, Exposure->+0.15, Blacks->12, Contrast->+38 in ACR, and nothing in PS):
    "I always shoot Raw"

    I don't know about you, but the difference there is like night and day to me now. The only unfortunate thing is that I wasn't shooting RAW for my dive trip to Indonesia... I kick myself on a regular basis for that.

    I know a lot of people will say that you could probably get similar results by processing the JPG in PS, but really... if you're going to do that, why not start with the RAW and give yourself the headstart? And also, I think most people shoot JPG because it is convenient, and if that is the case, you're likely to just accept what is given to you and go with it because that is the convenient option as well.

    In the end, the choice is yours - I'm not going to push anyone in one direction or the other, but I know for me I am glad I made my choice to try RAW, and I'm never going back.

    - Bill

  6. #6
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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    Hi Philip, when you compare the PC’s processing power, memory, and your ability to control exactly how the RAW to JPEG conversion and capture sharpening takes place to the in-camera capability, there is a world of difference in the results.

    Not only does the best camera have very limited conversion software, it must make the conversion and capture sharpening of the image at the fastest possible speed with minimal processing memory and little or no input from you as to what conversion options are best for the image being processed.

    As I have discovered, you can’t undo the inappropriate choices the in-camera JPG conversion makes on the fly. More than one of my images has been rendered less than acceptable my inappropriate in-camera sharpening and you can’t turn it off.

  7. #7
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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    I can see shooting JPEG in only one situation, if I were are shooting sports and needed to FTP everything to a newspaper editor using a program like Photo Mechanic for immediate publication...

    Otherwise, I shoot everything in RAW simply because I have more control over the images than if I were shooting in JPEG.

    IMO, there is no real downside to shooting RAW. It consumes more memory but, camera memory is relatively inexpensive and I have plenty. JPEG takes less memory on my computer but with one desktop external hard drive of 500GB and another at 1 TB (plus some physically smaller but large capacity external drives) the size of RAW files doesn't bother me a bit.

    It doesnt't take me any longer to PP my images using RAW. In fact, it is quite a bit easier for me and I have lossless editing capability.

    My camera buffer will allow a longer burst when shooting JPEG than when shooting RAW but, I have never exceeded the camera's RAW burst capacity.

    I was originally hesitant to shoot RAW and then shot RAW + JPEG for a long while. Now I shoot RAW only!

  8. #8
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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    Tomorrow my camera will shoot its very first JPEGS ever. Probably have to re-RTFM to remember how!

    I'm going to shoot everything in my house (again) for updating insurance purposes! I'd do it with my pocket popper P&S but I'm actually going to use OCF and a small softbox! Two birds with one stone so to speak! A little practice!

    No worries! I'll definitely refrain from posting these future Prize Winning shots here!

    Man, what a crapfest this house has become over the years! Well, until you have to go and replace it!

    DVD will be available upon request!

  9. #9
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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    I only shot jpeg once - the first day I had my 30D, and didn't know how to set the camera.

    I'm not making fun of people that swear by jpeg, it's just that I don't see the point of paying big $$$ for gear and not utilize it's full potential. For me, it's that simple.

    I use my RGB histogram carefully to ETTR (expose to the right). Sometimes I push too far and have to recover highlights - there's no question that RAW is better for this.

    However (there's always a however), and Richard makes a very valid comment about sports photogs using jpeg when the results must be ready to publish instantly (sports events - who wants last weeks pics?). I attended a BMX competition a couple of years ago, and the photogs simply HAD to shoot jpeg to get their pics up where people attending could buy them in between sessons. If they had shot RAW, they'd never make it in the business.

    For a wedding (where the photog has some time) it's a whole different ball game. He must shoot RAW to get the best results (a white gown by a black tux is going to blow out more than once - and with RAW, recovering highlights is not only easier, it's possible).

    Both have their uses.

    Glenn

  10. #10
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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    Terry...

    Regarding your insurance documentation...

    Here is one of my Insurance Images. The numbers on each object in the image correspond to the database in which I record all facets of the object, such as specific model number and manufacturer, date and where purchased, price, any warranties in effect etc., etc. I have a database page for each room. In this case DN-xxx stands for Dining Nook...

    "I always shoot Raw"

    I also scan my receipts from purchase or remodel or upgrade and keep these scans with the documentation. I upgrade the coverage whenever I acquire a new item of significant value or if I make any significant remodels of my home. I keep the documentation on two memory sticks: one in my home safe and the other in the safe in my daughter's home which is about twenty miles from my home.

    This can of course be shot in RAW or JPEG. Since my workflow is normally with RAW imagery, this is the way I shoot the documentation images.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 4th November 2011 at 02:56 AM.

  11. #11
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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    A couple of thoughts:

    Shooting RAW allows the photographer total control over their work flow (which is a good thing) but how many photographers have the skills to ensure their work flow is getting the best from the files? Not that many if we're honest so a great deal of the time the camera will likely do a better job.

    JPEGs are good enough for all but the most demanding photographer and I'll bet that if most of the "I only ever shoot RAW" crowd were to switch to JPEGs they wouldn't be able to tell the difference in the quality of their final shot....they wouldn't admit that but thats a different matter all together.

  12. #12
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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    As I wrote in the first post -
    "As a novice I read articles about digital photography that I can find (for free!) on the Web. The general consensus of experienced photographers appears to be “Always shoot Raw”."
    - so I do understand the reasons why some photographers choose Raw, and I am not seeking to argue with them. I thank all of you for your replies, which generally support this view.

    However, the second part of Robin's reply comes closer to my question:
    Quote Originally Posted by black pearl View Post
    ...I'll bet that if most of the "I only ever shoot RAW" crowd were to switch to JPEGs they wouldn't be able to tell the difference in the quality of their final shot...
    So to repeat -
    "Have we already reached, or are we approaching, or is it not possible to attain, the stage where the differences that arise between images processed from Raw files and high quality Jpeg files no longer really matter?"
    - because the differences will no longer be seen, in normal viewing conditions.

    If this stage is (ever) reached, photographers who choose to do so can concentrate on their skills of recording their desired image in the camera, knowing that a few extra tweaks of the Jpeg in PP will not harm the discernible quality of the final product.

    Philip
    Last edited by MrB; 4th November 2011 at 11:17 AM.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    Philip

    I think your return to the original question invites a, "well, that all depends" response (and I'm not a Liberal Democrat!).

    If your goal, like mine on most occasions, is to produce a good quality B & W image, then I'd say there would never be any circumstances in which the final product would not be discernibly harmed by relying on a JPEG out of the camera (I don't think the grammar is very good on that, but hopefully you know what I mean).

    If, on the other hand, the photographer's objective is to record good quality family/holiday type shots and the person concerned has not developed post-processing skills beyond basic level, then I absolutely agree - what the camera can produce is likely to be as good as what the photographer might produce.

    However, I do think that your premise is setting thinking off in a wrong direction. Your proposal infers that if people are going to rely on getting good quality final products out of the camera then they are going to pay much more attention to 'getting it right' in camera. This, by implication, suggests a line of thought that presumes the person who knows he/she is going to process a RAW file doesn't pay as much attention to the picture capture phase of image making, in the knowledge that they can 'fix it' during post-processing.

    There may be some that come into this category, but I know that in my own case and that of many, many others, nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, I would argue that we put more effort into 'getting it right' at capture stage than many who might be just capturing JPEGs.
    Last edited by Donald; 4th November 2011 at 02:44 PM.

  14. #14
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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    Photography is about creative art, at least thats what i think. Every image i capture i want to look as special as i can make it, no camera can do that for me, each image is unique and the post processing need to be unique also, sure i have lightroom set up to make standard corrections, just like a camera does but these are all reversible and dont degrade the image information in any way.

    I suppose that if you shoot the same sort of image under the same lighting conditions and want the same look for everything you produce then jpeg is fine, personally i dont so its RAW for me. It would be easy for me to say that anyone that shoots jpeg just doesnt care about their work looking its best, but i wont because that would be unfair i just think that they may be a little misinformed and maybe unable to or to lazy to give their work the attention it deserves.

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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    Unfortunately large buffers aren't a feature on my side of camera budget, so I have to resolve to jpg when shooting long high-fps series of action-shots.
    It's very hard to time shots of running and jumping dogs. I've got quite a collection of dogs looking like they hanging on a washing-line (high-jump like catching a frisbee or ball) or with their backside floating around in the air (running) So the only way to get your shot is a long (>5seconds) sustained burst.
    Would be nice though if my camera had a dedicated button for switching between raw and jpg. I'd probably shoot raw more often for some nice portret-shots in-between moments action.

  16. #16
    MrB's Avatar
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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    However, I do think that your premise is setting thinking off in a wrong direction. Your proposal infers that if people are going to rely on getting good quality final products out of the camera then they are going to pay much more attention to 'getting it right' in camera. This, by implication, suggests a line of thought that presumes the person who knows he/she is going to process a RAW file doesn't pay as much attention to the picture capture phase of image making, in the knowledge that they can 'fix it' during post-processing.

    Donald - thank you for your reply. The question was with regard to the evolution of the technology for photography, not about photographers. Apologies if it came across in the wrong way - that was not intentional. In fact it seems to me that the derogation can be in the opposite direction - as Mark implies, Raw shooters do sometimes convey the attitude that you don't care about your images if you shoot Jpegs (excepting a few professionals such as the sports journalist), making one feel like an idiot for daring to pose any questions about Raw!

    Philip

  17. #17
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    Quote Originally Posted by MrB View Post
    Donald - thank you for your reply. The question was with regard to the evolution of the technology for photography, not about photographers. Apologies if it came across in the wrong way -
    Philip

    Please be assured - no offence/concern was raised by what you wrote. In fact, I think you have brought out a fascinating subject and a good healthy debate is very stimulating.

  18. #18

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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    Personally, I always think of it as being one of those "horses for courses" type things; RAW undoubtedly has bigger safety margins, but if you don't need those safety margins then there's no problem shooting JPEG. From a technical point of view, adjustments to a RAW image will always be less "damaging" to an image, but in the real world - providing that those adjustments are small - they probably won't make any visible difference to a JPEG, so so long as the photographer is prepared to take the risk (and gets good exposures in-camera) then it's probably not going to make much difference most of the time.

  19. #19
    Black Pearl's Avatar
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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    What he "I always shoot Raw" said.

  20. #20

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    Re: “I always shoot Raw”

    Hello Philip, You pose an interesting question – or rather set of questions.

    I'm sure that since camera manufactures have a vested interest in evolving their products, in-camera processing of images will continue to evolve – and hopefully “improve”.

    However, as long as the processed file is jpeg – that option will always leave image quality on the table. The Jpeg standard has the following characteristics that will always result in data loss – compared to RAW.
    1)The rendering of Raw data into a jpeg file imposes an sRGB colour space. That colour space has a guamet that is considerably smaller than that of a lot of high quality display devices – e.g. monitor screens and printed output.
    2)The rendering of Raw data into a jpeg file – as done by most cameras – results in lossy compression of data. That means data is lost. Further – by design – the jpeg standard is intended as a final output format. Later re-saving of the file – using most jpeg output settings will always result in data loss.

    Some notes:-
    On a lot (most) DSLR cameras you can select a option to save both jpeg and Raw files – albeit with some impact on buffer performance.
    Most cameras that output Raw files will have a jpeg file embedded in each Raw file. This jpeg is used by the camera to show you what you just shot – on the screen on the back of your camera.
    Because of the above, in-camera processing settings for jpegs does drive the characteristics of the post capture review image you see on the back of the camera.

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