The 'RAW vs JPEG' Depot

Lawrence A.

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I come from a film background, black and white mostly, but the principles apply to raw files too. You want to get the best exposure for the situation and your vision of the photograph that will eventually be. But for my money letting the camera do the processing is a bit like taking your photos to a mini-lab, where raw development allows one to get the absolute best out of the information available. To suggest that raw shooters are somehow sloughing off all responsibility for precise shooting to the software is simply inaccurate. An exposure provides "information"; you can either take that information and work it yourself, or you can settle for what the "software" in the jpeg engines give you. Either way you are making decisions about information that the sensor will capture. Nobody is settling for anything, particularly not raw shooters, who end up doing the digital equivalent of custom darkroom work rather than letting the lab do it for them.

You pays your money and you takes your chances. No method is foolproof, but I LIKE darkroom work; it's how I made my living for over 30 years. And I LIKE the digital darkroom too. And I assure you my shooting is not careless, unconscious, or otherwise outside the photographic moment because I've decide to do my own processing. I never let anyone touch my black and white film or negatives; there's no reason to turn over my photographic decisions now.
 

tanngrisnir3

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I have a GX1 with PL 25/1.4 and I started out shooting both RAW and JPEG but I have now abandoned RAW for JPEG only. The reason is that no matter how much I adjusted the pictures in lightroom I could not get it to be better than the OOC JPEGs.

I'd be happy to shoot RAW only but I don't want to spend time adjusting all pictures individually and still get worse result than the JPEG. I challenge anyone to show me a Lightroom 4 preset that will give me better result than the JPEG every time.

My settings on GX1 is Photo style Standard with Contrast +1, Sharpness +2, Saturation 0, Noise reduction -2, IResolution High and IDynamic High.
Perhaps if you were more familiar with what's possible in LR and RAW, you'd have a different opinion, and the best results from LR (or any other RAW processing software, for that matter) don't come from presets; they come from knowing what one is doing when one gets far, far more deep into the various controls and sliders.

Anything that is shot in .jpeg can be made better in RAW, if the user knows what he/she is doing. Anything.
 

~tc~

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I'm sure I've said this already up thread...

Whats the difference in making a preset in LR and applying universal changes across pictures and tuning the JPG engine in camera?

If you are batch processing RAW, I don't see the difference unless you claim "when it doesn't work, I can go back" and then we're back to the mistake/lazy recovery argument.

If you are fine tuning the RAW developing image by image, I can see the benefit, but jeez, you got way too much time on your hands!
 

~tc~

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Perhaps if you were more familiar with what's possible in LR and RAW, you'd have a different opinion, and the best results from LR (or any other RAW processing software, for that matter) don't come from presets; they come from knowing what one is doing when one gets far, far more deep into the various controls and sliders.

Anything that is shot in .jpeg can be made better in RAW, if the user knows what he/she is doing. Anything.
I would argue this exact argument can be made the other way for those who have not got "far, far more deep into the various" (in camera) JPG "controls and sliders"
 

Promit

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~tc~ said:
I'm sure I've said this already up thread...

Whats the difference in making a preset in LR and applying universal changes across pictures and tuning the JPG engine in camera?
Personally I feel the LR engine is much more capable at a technical level and more tweakable than any in-camera option. You also have the option to go back and do more extensive edits on the image, and potentially generate higher quality output files (TIFF or gently compressed JPEG).
 

tanngrisnir3

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I would argue this exact argument can be made the other way for those who have not got "far, far more deep into the various" JPG "controls and sliders"
There are no 'JPEG controls and sliders' in LR. There are only sliders.

The point is there is a learning curve, yes, but it will pay off in that one can always achieve better results with more data and how to properly use more data, i.e., RAW.
 

Reactions

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PHP:
I'm sure I've said this already up thread...

Whats the difference in making a preset in LR and applying universal changes across pictures and tuning the JPG engine in camera?

If you are batch processing RAW, I don't see the difference unless you claim "when it doesn't work, I can go back" and then we're back to the mistake/lazy recovery argument.

If you are fine tuning the RAW developing image by image, I can see the benefit, but jeez, you got way too much time on your hands!
That's a pretty generic statement about fine tuning raw

You must take perfect photos 100% of the time lol
 

GaryAyala

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~tc~ said:
I'm sure I've said this already up thread...

Whats the difference in making a preset in LR and applying universal changes across pictures and tuning the JPG engine in camera?

If you are batch processing RAW, I don't see the difference unless you claim "when it doesn't work, I can go back" and then we're back to the mistake/lazy recovery argument.

If you are fine tuning the RAW developing image by image, I can see the benefit, but jeez, you got way too much time on your hands!
Many of us choose to process one image at a time. It is a matter of pride and personal excellence which is important to us and time is a secondary concern. It is insulting for you to generalize and insinuate that if you don't batch process you are wasting time.

I'll even venture a wild guess that photogs who process images one at a time, have significantly better images than those who batch process either in camera or on a computer.

Gary
 

DHart

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It's absurd to think one can make a few settings for JPG conversions in camera and have those settings be just right for every picture you would like to make. Unless you're just hammering away at the same scene, with the same lighting and nothing is changing... you will ideally tweak settings for every change of lighting, scene, etc... at least to some degree. One set of "settings" in camera certainly isn't going to be appropriate for the infinite variety of scenes and subject that will come before your camera. Why would anyone think that you can make a collection of settings to a camera and use that for most, or even a significant portion of the images you will want to make?

Alternatively, it would consume a ridiculous amount of time "in session" to go into camera menu settings and make appropriate changes for every different setting one would photograph in... you'd be spending all your photography time fiddling around with the camera, adjusting relatively crude settings, and missing all the great images that are right before you to be captured!

The level and degree of control in the tools one has available in LR4 and PS are almost infinitely greater than the crude sliders for just a handful of image parameters available in-camera. And even if the in-camera adjustments offered even greater controls, one would spend the whole time adjusting sliders, setting by setting, when they should be attending to capturing great images. I view it a total waste of time to even try to "get it right" in camera. Why? First of all, there is no "right" to get and to try to do so WHILE you are capturing images is folly. Secondly, the in-camera tools are too crude and laborious to make changes to while trying to capture images. That's like trying to make careful darkroom adjustments to a print at the same time you are attempting to capture "the moment". Absurd. How can you dodge and burn in camera? How efficient and effective is it to apply precise gradients with filters on camera, when the digital tools for such allow so much more flexibility and variation... and reversal, if desired?

It all comes down to what's "good enough" for the individual. Some people will be content with limiting their image development potential to what can be done, in camera, applied to pretty much most of what they shoot. These are the "happy with JPG" shooters, for the most part. Others, who are serious about carrying their images to greater heights of development potential will see things differently and choose to capture in RAW when the images are important to them.

Whether capturing JPG or RAW, the prudent photographer who is engaged in creating images which are relatively "important" to him or herself, will attempt to make the best exposure that can be made, with relatively neutral settings which will allow maximum refinement and quality when processing. Capturing RAW doesn't mean that one can or should be lax in how they expose images. For anyone to suggest that RAW is the chosen method of capture so that the photographer can be "lazy" or incompetent in making an exposure is absurd. RAW is the chosen method of capture for discerning photographers who wish to maximize image quality and image development potential.

Do your job well at the time of exposure; capture in RAW; and fine tune as much or as little as needed when you're back home and have the luxury of fine tuning your images to perfection in leisure. This is how you achieve the most polished, well crafted images. Don't waste time "in session" fiddling with crude camera controls when you should be busy capturing wonderful exposures of the fleeting scenes that are before you!

All of the above can be ignored by those who are not particularly interested in crafting their images to a very high level of quality. If you just want to capture some nice images for casual use, family snapshots, vacation snapshots, etc. and you aren't terribly concerned about fine tuning to achieve the best quality, don't bother with what I said... capture in JPG and call it "good".
 

Iconindustries

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^very well written Don. A person with an open mind will get alot out of what you just wrote. When I first started taking photos I didnt realize that the camera actually rendered the image to what the manufacture Programmed into it. I'm wondering many people know that this happens each time a image is shot using jpeg. For the majority they wouldnt care but as a person who likes to take pride In each and every Photo, I like it to look the best I can. That is why I chose raw.

( if I have typos it because I typed on my phone)
 

GaryAyala

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^very well written Don. A person with an open mind will get alot out of what you just wrote. When I first started taking photos I didnt realize that the camera actually rendered the image to what the manufacture Programmed into it. I'm wondering many people know that this happens each time a image is shot using jpeg. For the majority they wouldnt care but as a person who likes to take pride In each and every Photo, I like it to look the best I can. That is why I chose raw.

( if I have typos it because I typed on my phone)
For me this isn't an argument between RAW and JPEG, but Batch Processing versus Individual Processing. I cannot fathom how one can expect a batch processing methodology to render each image up to or even near its potential.

Yeah, you can get a lot done in a very short time, but you've turned a craft into an assembly line, passion into mass production.

I respect those who only shoot JPEG. If that's what you're happy with, hey I'm not gonna argue personal tastes. I know many news photogs who are forced to shoot JPEG due to deadlines and their stuff is absolutely wonderful. I am offended when one generalizes that if you don't batch process you have too much time on your hands.

On the flip side, I can imagine people whose pictures are so mundane and boring that the image's fullest potential is attained through batch processing.

Gary
 

Jonathan F/2

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I know a guy who shoot tons of studio work with big name clients here in Hollywood and he shoots with a D700 and all in jpeg. His stuff gets printed in mags all the time.

I think shooting raw for everything is overkill. Special occasions and/or critical moments would justify raw shooting, but for everything else I think jpegs are fine. Less time spent on the computer and more time out in the field is what photography should be about.
 

GaryAyala

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I know a guy who shoot tons of studio work with big name clients here in Hollywood and he shoots with a D700 and all in jpeg. His stuff gets printed in mags all the time.

I think shooting raw for everything is overkill. Special occasions and/or critical moments would justify raw shooting, but for everything else I think jpegs are fine. Less time spent on the computer and more time out in the field is what photography should be about.
In a controlled environment JPEG is fine ... especially for a professional who understands lighting. Hell, cut out the middleman and save some time. Does he shoot RAW or JPEG in the great outdoors for his personal stuff?

Personally, RAW is just another tool in our photographic tool shed. If you care to use that tool or not is entirely up to you. Some find it a valuable tool and others find it a waste of time ... all a matter of personal taste and there is little point in arguing personal tastes. I even know of photographers who use an interchangeable lens camera but only shoot with a normal prime lens ... go figure.

Gary
 

DHart

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I think JPG capture is absolutely awesome for those who are happy with it! :smile: No reason why anyone should feel differently. I have no concern for how anyone else does what they do. But I much prefer RAW capture for most of what I do.

Gary - you're right, batch processing of RAW files in LR is similar in a way to batch processing out to JPGs in-camera, with the significant difference that with the RAW in LR you have a lot more control, more lattitude, more DR, ability of reversal, change of mind, and the ability to go in and tweak the batch settings for any images where it turns out that the batch process didn't result in the desired look.

If you batch process in-camera, dump a bunch of image data, and then output to JPG, you're much more restricted in the ability to change or tweak what was done by the camera - more intensive dodging, burning, highlight recovery, shadow recovery, and shifts in color temp, etc. are much more difficult, if not impossible to effect with the dumbed-down JPG file.

Of course if the camera-provided JPG meets one's needs and is perfectly satisfactory for the use at hand, well, there you go! Good enough.

I often start processing with a basic LR preset that I have developed and find looks good much of the time as a STARTING point, then adjust settings further, per image, however needed. Most of the images I shoot don't receive full development anyway... just the ones I select as the best for the purposes at hand.

Funny... for the most part I try to just skip over such debates... it's all so-been-done. I don't know how I allowed myself to get sucked in, yet again! :eek: :rolleyes:
 
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If everyone reads the first post you'll see that this particular thread was never meant to be a discussion thread, but...


One thing that seems to get forgotten in just about every "raw vs jpeg" debate is that the advice being given out about raw processing is free and virtually unbiased. Raw isn't a brand, and nor is jpeg. You don't have to choose a raw-only or jpeg-only camera. Shooting raw doesn't lock someone into a system that they will feel beholden to defend, and it makes little difference to "photographer A" if "photographer B" chooses one over the other. Given that shooting in raw involves someone spending time and effort in front of a computer processing every image a little or a lot different to the last in order to present it exactly how they want, it's amazing that anyone would actually go to the trouble of trying to explain the benefits of it on a forum like this one.

So rather than telling them that they're wasting their time, have too much time on their hands, or should of got it "right in the first place", etc, take the advice on board, consider it, maybe even try it for yourself. The thought that someone who is dedicated enough to spend the time post-processing wouldn't also spend the time to get their basic camera settings correct at the time of capture is laughable at best. Not only that, for some scenes there is no "right" combination of settings but require a compromise of settings. I've taken more than a few images that looked bad no matter what I did with them in the camera but I knew that I'd be able to make an image from them on the computer.

If you are trying raw processing for the first time, be aware that it doesn't just magically happen. Images don't import into Lightroom, etc positively gleaming with brilliance; all those sliders aren't there for decoration and aren't going to move themselves. Presets are a great place to start but I don't have one that works 100% of the time (but if you do have one that does, let me know!). It's a learned process where every success or mistake is going to make it a little bit easier the next time. If it doesn't give you what you want, there was no harm in trying it out; everybody's tastes are different after all.
 

tanngrisnir3

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For me this isn't an argument between RAW and JPEG, but Batch Processing versus Individual Processing. I cannot fathom how one can expect a batch processing methodology to render each image up to or even near its potential.

Yeah, you can get a lot done in a very short time, but you've turned a craft into an assembly line, passion into mass production.

I respect those who only shoot JPEG. If that's what you're happy with, hey I'm not gonna argue personal tastes. I know many news photogs who are forced to shoot JPEG due to deadlines and their stuff is absolutely wonderful. I am offended when one generalizes that if you don't batch process you have too much time on your hands.

On the flip side, I can imagine people whose pictures are so mundane and boring that the image's fullest potential is attained through batch processing.

Gary
Pretty much, yes.

To my experience, batch processing is great for studio work and wedding photographers, but that's about it.
 

mattia

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I know a guy who shoot tons of studio work with big name clients here in Hollywood and he shoots with a D700 and all in jpeg. His stuff gets printed in mags all the time.

I think shooting raw for everything is overkill. Special occasions and/or critical moments would justify raw shooting, but for everything else I think jpegs are fine. Less time spent on the computer and more time out in the field is what photography should be about.
Honestly, I'd say studio work is precisely where RAW is least important - you control the entire environment, down to light intensity and color temperature, so if you preset things right all you need to do in post is sharpen a little...
 

htc

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I think shooting raw for everything is overkill. Special occasions and/or critical moments would justify raw shooting, but for everything else I think jpegs are fine.
Personally I understand shooting and using RAW, but among jpegs for me. If I'm not satisfied of some jpeg then I will open the RAW file. There are always going to be critical shots you have to get right at the first time and there RAW is the way to go. But still I find major part of my lets say wedding pictures totally usable as jpegs. Less demanding customers I guess :redface:

If this is your only source of income then I will raise my hat if some will post process all of those 1000 wedding pictures as RAW. It's time consuming and away from your next gig. As a customer I would appreciate that kind of quality work a lot, BUT would one be ready to pay that all?

On the other hand as a hobbyist I totally understand spending a few hours or more with my daughters graduation portrait to get most out of it. Hey it's even fun!

Okay and again, different strokes for different folks :smile:
 
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