I’ve started shooting in RAW mode a while ago, until I came back from my friend’s wedding in France and realised I had about a hundred RAW files to convert into JPG. Doing this one by one was a total ball-ache, so I soon switched back to shooting in JPG mode. I know that RAW is better – it gives you more control and ultimately can give you a better result. But it’s a more complicated, long-winded way of getting good photos.
A Raw file is…
- not an image file per se (it will require special software to view, though this software is easy to get)
- typically a proprietary format (with the exception of Adobe’s DNG format that isn’t widely used yet).
- at least 8 bits per color – red, green, and blue (12-bits per X,Y location), though most DSLRs record 12-bit color (36-bits per location).
- uncompressed (an 8 megapixel camera will produce a 8 MB Raw file).
- the complete (lossless) data from the camera’s sensor.
- higher in dynamic range (ability to display highlights and shadows).
- lower in contrast (flatter, washed out looking).
- not as sharp.
- not suitable for printing directly from the camera or without post processing.
- read only (all changes are saved in an XMP “sidecar” file or to a JPEG or other image format).
- sometimes admissable in a court as evidence (as opposed to a changeable image format).
- waiting to be processed by your computer.
In comparison a JPEG is…
- a standard format readable by any image program on the market or available open source.
- exactly 8-bits per color (12-bits per location).
- compressed (by looking for redundancy in the data like a ZIP file or stripping out what human can’t perceive like a MP3).
- fairly small in file size (an 8 megapixel camera will produce JPEG between 1 and 3 MB’s in size).
- lower in dynamic range.
- higher in contrast.
- immediately suitable for printing, sharing, or posting on the Web.
- not in need of correction most of the time (75% in my experience).
- able to be manipulated, though not without losing data each time an edit is made – even if it’s just to rotate the image (the opposite of lossless).
- processed by your camera.
Basically if storage isn’t an issue, they say that you should shoot in RAW+JPG, then you’ve got all your bases covered. I do have a 32gb storage card, so that’s fine for me.
To get a JPG you can either let your camera process the photo and output it into a JPG for you, or you can take the RAW file and convert this into a JPG on your computer… your computer is going to have more processing power than your camera, which is why the RAW shooting mode will ultimately give you more control and a higher quality end result. But it does take more time and effort.
However I have also learned that you can batch process RAW files in Photoshop for fast and easy processing. I’m not sure quite how yet, but that could be a good option. As doing them one by one is, as I said above, a total ball-ache!!
Do you shoot in RAW or JPG? What do you find is best for you? Let me know below….