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Raw vs JPEG Is it worth the extra space and effort?

sptsman4 7 3 United States
18 Mar 2014 3:57PM
I have been shooting JPEG, fine, large for several years now and haven't really had any problems. I ran into a couple of semi-pro photographers recently at a shoot and they said that anybody that was serious about photography should be shooting RAW and using Lightroom. I bought the software and an instruction book but it seems way too technical, tedious and difficult to use and share, and the files take double the space. I just upgraded from a Nikon D300s to a D7100 and wonder if the double the megapixels, 12 vs 24, is sufficient to stay with JPEG and Photoshop rather than going to RAW and Lightroom. I rarely print larger that 11 x 14 and do not do this as a living, just a hobby. Even in RAW there are selections to be made, whether to shoot compressed RAW which says that it loses virtually nothing to "lossless" and whether to shoot 12 vs 14 bit. A realworld comparison of JPEG, large, fine vs RAW, compressed and lossless, and 12 bit vs 14 bit would be greatly appreciated. I shoot mostly wildlife and landscape with lenses from 16mm to 500mm. I have over 500,000 photos and just added 2 more 4tb external drives to support the increase to RAW but I don't think that will last very long! At some point I may want to start selling photos but just from a website not as a gallery or pro photographer. Thanks for any insight you may offer.

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TanyaH Plus
14 1.3k 392 United Kingdom
18 Mar 2014 5:01PM
I think it depends on what you want to do as a photographer - RAW files retain all the unprocessed capture information, whereas a JPEG compresses it and processes the image in-camera, so it automatically chucks a lot of useful info (like tonal values) away in order to produce the JPEG. So although RAW files take up much more space, it gives you more leeway with post processing shadow and highlight information (among many things), which could well become a consideration for you in the future if you want to start selling your work. Also, you can alter white balance from a RAW image, which you can't do from a JPEG in post processing.

Shooting in RAW format will enable you to take your photography to the next level in terms of quality - and you could always choose a 'small' Raw file size in your camera (I think the Nikon allows you do that - I'm a Canon user, so it's a different option).

Even though you say you do it currently as a hobby, you also say that you print your images - RAW will give you far more options in that arena than JPEG will. Also, editing a RAW file is non-destructive, whereas each time you open/edit/save a JPEG, it can reduce the quality.

Yeah, getting your head round shooting in RAW, converting the file in a compatible software environment and all the associated kerfuffle is a huge learning curve, but once you've got your head round it, I don't think you'd regret it. Smile

Also, although Lightroom is a wonderful piece of cataloging and editing software, don't forget that Adobe Camera Raw that comes with Photoshop (CS/CC/Elements) is a powerful tool in its own right.

I'm only just getting into RAW files myself, and often shoot a small JPEG at the same time, so that I've got an instant folder thumbnail for references purposes when looking through stuff. Okay, my post processing skills are still being worked on, but that's all part of the fun! And I also don't shoot enough images in one go (at the moment) to worry about filling up my compact flash card Grin I also just do it as a hobby, but even as a hobbyist I want to try and produce the best that I can.

So that's my two-pence worth ... personally, I don't think you'd look back once you'd gotten to grips with it. Hope that helps a bit.
ade_mcfade 13 15.2k 216 England
18 Mar 2014 5:36PM
yes it is
Dave_Canon 11 1.3k United Kingdom
18 Mar 2014 5:39PM
I moved from film to a DSLR a decade ago and initially set my DSLR to capture Raw and JPEG. After the first two months, I set to Raw only as I never processed any of the JPEG's. I even use a Bridge camera as well now but this has also only ever been set to Raw. The issue is nothing to do with how many pixels but the tonal range. My DSLR can capture 11.9 stops of dynamic range and presents me this data with Raw files. However for JPEG's it pre-processes and presents an image limited to 6-7 stops. Given that the camera does not have the intelligence (yet!) to selectively adjust tonal range globally and locally to suit the image, the JPEG version can be a poor compromise in many cases but not all. I use my images for competitions and my rivals will use their skills and any technical edge they can so I will be competing with those using Raw so I would have to do so even if I were not convinced it was worth the effort.

The time and skills required is largely down to practice. A few days ago I took 250 Raw frames at the Cheltenham Races. I processed in Lightroom and immediately deleted about 40% of them and of the rest I processed 24 of the best which all took only a couple of hours. I had to get on with it as these were offered to the local press who will publish some. I will be entering a couple of them in competitions. I am sure some of the shots would have been OK in JPEG but why take the chance.

So I am not saying what you should do but it may help to understand why some photographers find the small extra effort worth it.

mikehit 8 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
18 Mar 2014 6:06PM
In my opinion, 'Yes' but that is based on using a 2006 model (30D) where a 8MP raw image gave 3MB jpeg. Nowadays the jpeg images themselves are 8MB so they obviously hold far more information.
With wildlife things like and feathers can have small highlights that burn out so and it was things like that had me decided to move to raw as because it was easier to recover detail from blown highlights. Plus I am a control freak - a lazy control freak because what I should have been doing was work out how the camera saw the scene Tongue

The old considerations in the early days were the larger file size of raw and the memory space needed (nowadays memory is so cheap that this is not really an issue); processing time (all programs now have 'batch processing' where once you have imported the image you can work out what processing you need, apply it to everything and leave the computer to do its thing) and the accuracy of the in-camera metering to get it right (now it is very hard to fool it). Importing raw is not as quick as importing a jpeg but no great inconvenience (for me).
To be perfectly honest I would be happy 98% of the time with out-of-camera jpegs but it is that 2% that would drive me up the wall so I shoot raw+jpeg.
18 Mar 2014 8:27PM
Hi mate,
I also have a D7100, i always shoot in raw, have a look at my images and compare them with your own and make up your own mind. I am only a hobby shooter and still learning. Go online and watch some tutorial videos to learn lightroom its worth the effort

19 Mar 2014 1:02AM
RAW is worth extra space on the disk on one condition only - if you are ready to take a lot of camera's work in developing the image onto yourself. Yes, the final image has a potential to be considerably (but in most cases not dramatically) better than straight out of camera JPG, but that depends on photographer's skill in developing it.

As for me - I don't bother with RAW in everyday family photos, but everything that I photograph to satisfy my needs for creativity comes In RAW ( or JPG+RAW).

779HOB 5 1.2k United Kingdom
19 Mar 2014 12:11PM
Depends on the output - Press I shoot jepg, it's quicker to get from camera to laptop to uploading without needing to process. Magazines, businesses or for myself I use RAW because I generally have the time, not that in reality it takes that long to process a RAW file - 5 minutes at most.
Paul Morgan 16 18.9k 6 England
19 Mar 2014 12:39PM

Quote:not that in reality it takes that long to process a RAW file - 5 minutes at most

You could then use that setting and apply it to several hundred other images while you made a cup of coffee Smile

I should imagine on the whole you find the Jpegs produced by your fuji are pretty good.
ade_mcfade 13 15.2k 216 England
19 Mar 2014 12:41PM
the last time I shot JPG I regretted it and have never done so since
779HOB 5 1.2k United Kingdom
19 Mar 2014 12:47PM

Quote:You could then use that setting and apply it to several hundred other images while you made a cup of coffee

I use actions for saving which saves a lot of time and batch caption in another program.

Quote:I should imagine on the whole you find the Jpegs produced by your fuji are pretty good.

I lost the Fuji to my daughter who's off to Brighton next year to study photography, not seen it for a few months now!
Evertonian 4 729 England
19 Mar 2014 12:51PM
Well as in general wedding photography is carried out by professionals, RAW is an essential tool in their armoury.
In order, on a sunny day, to ensure the correct balance between the dark black of the groom's suit and the brilliant white of the bride's dress RAW is essential. The other way of course is to take the B&G's pictures in the shade of the church or building where the wedding is to take place in order to reduce the contrast that way.
However for me, RAW is the tool that makes the job easier and remember, if the pro is selling extra pics, which in my film days was an integral part of the income. it is best to take the pics that others cannot. Two ways, in the sun using RAW or in confined spaces with an ultra wide angle lens. Of course thee days, the latter probably does not apply as every man and his dog has a camera with wide angle lens built in. That only leaves RAW. Thereby is your answer.
Paul Morgan 16 18.9k 6 England
19 Mar 2014 12:51PM
Once upon a time Jpegs from most camera`s were always pretty crap.

I mostly shoot raw these days but this is mostly because I use custom profiles that can not be applied to jpegs.

If you have 60 or 70 quid going spare Ade, one of these would be money well spent.

Gruditch 3 16 England
19 Mar 2014 12:52PM
Life is too short for RAW, I shoot in JPEG, and I'm pretty happy with the results. Smile
konu 9 31 United Kingdom
19 Mar 2014 12:57PM
Even a RAW shot image at last needs to be converted into JPEG so why not perfect the shot and spend less time on computers?

RAW have advantages, but the file format differs from manufacturer to manufacturer and they may not support it deep into the future.

So if you are more of a photo enthusiast than a computer and do not earn your living from large billboards, JPEG is perfect. Wink


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