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We are doing everything we can to get our australian landscape photography out there and guess what..... it's bloody hard work!! So please visit the gallery and if you like what see, share it with your friends.

Thanks, we really do appreciate your help. - Russell

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Rusty's Ramble #2: RAW v's JPEG

Photographing in the RAW

I am sure that the debate about RAW v’s JPEG is probably still raging in multiple locations around the web. Each have their uses, but for me (I repeat “for ME”) it’s RAW all the way.

Why RAW I hear you ask…… RAW is like film, it is all that your camera can capture, unlike JPEG that has thrown away image data in order to reduce the file size.

Reduced files sizes have their advantage of course…. Your camera can move images faster and clear the buffer more quickly, your memory card can fit more images, as can your computer or archive media. The biggest advantage is that your camera can process your images and they are ready to go with no need for further processing (assuming that your camera doesn’t make a motza of it!).

Reduced file sizes are not all roses though, as the “bits” that have been chucked away in the reduction process, are bits that can’t be called on later in post processing if needed… once they are gone, they are gone!

So if you are happy to accept the JPEG files that your camera offers, then that is just fine and I wish you all the best. But I hate the thought of not having everything available to me when I process my images. Having every bit of data that my camera captured offers me the chance to produce the best image that I could possibly make.

Plus image processing applications are getting better all the time, what if there is some wiz-bang new RAW converter in the future that can produce the most amazing quality yet? I know that I would be somewhat ticked-off if I couldn’t make use of the new wizzes and bangs!

But RAW takes soooooo long to process! ….Does it? In comparison to accepting JPEGs out of the cam it does, but what if you are like me and not one to accept out of cam images?

In my early days of digital I was shooting JPEG and I would come home from a sporting weekend with 500+ images. I would then spend the next day and a half opening each and every JPEG, making adjustments so that I was happy with them and then resaving them. This was VERY time consuming, but then I switched to RAW and cut my image processing time for 500+ images down to just a few hours.

This reduction in time was possible simply because of the way the RAW converter (Capture One being my weapon of choice) handles the images. At no time does it “open” the full image, it simply presents me with a screen resolution image on which I can base my processing choices. Once I am happy with the screen image, I send the image to convert, either immediately or in a queue for later.

Processing of each of my images to high quality TIFF takes around a minute (I use a 16.7mp camera so the images take some crunching)…. So 500 images takes a number of hours…. OK so you did the math and that’s a bit longer than I claimed earlier.

Let me explain….. the processing happens in the background and I don’t need to be sitting there watching it. So I can be happily snoring away, or spending time with the family, or be out taking more pix. I can also cut down this time if I want, by outputting to JPEG.

“HANG ON!! JPEG?? ….Make your mind up Russell!!!”

OK, let me explain again…. One of the truly fantastic features of Capture One (and other RAW converters) is that you can save your conversion settings. This means that there is no need for me to output huge TIFF files that take up truckloads of space on my hard disk. I can simply output to a medium quality JPEG at a much smaller file size and this is perfectly good enough for web display or cateloging in my image database.

Once a client picks an image to use, I can then go back to the RAW file, use the previously saved conversion settings and output a high resolution TIFF that is suitable for publishing or large print display. This saves GIGABYTES of space, removes a huge burden off the archive media and it perfectly matches the original output that the client has viewed!

Starting to make sense? I hope so, because I am the world’s worst typist and it has taken me ages to get this far. ;-)

So to wrap it up, I am a RAW user for a couple of main reasons…. The first and most important to me is the image quality. Many people will argue that you can’t tell the difference in the final print, but all I can say is that maybe they have never produced a 40+ inch wide print. Yes it’s a tossup in the smaller sizes, but print big and there is a difference.

The second reason is workflow. I find RAW so much quicker, but only because I am not one to accept an out of camera JPEG. As I said earlier, if you like the JPEGs that your cam produces, that’s fine! ;-)


Australian Digital Photo Of The Day:

Photography help for beginners - Film & Digital Camera Techniques - Post Processing - Photography tips and tricks - RAW v's JPEG


  1. I'm surprised you haven't started another debate yet...

    Up until recently I shot jpg's 90% of the time. Mainly because I have had limited memory card and PC hard drive limitations. Recent upgrades have encouraged me to shoot RAW more often.

    I do find RAW much more flexible but I still find the processing takes longer at this stage.

  2. your Raw V Jpeg
    was very interesting , i like the way you broke it all down ,i understand more about it now thanks
    i shoot in both modes , photography is a hobby for me not my bread and butter and i agree about the difference of quality as you print bigger
    the biggest thing i have found with Raw is that you can adjust the photo with out degrading it where as adjusting Jpeg seems to reduce the quality

  3. Yes smarti77, "flexible" is a very good description of RAW, as it does allow the photographer more room for adjustment, before you see the image degradation seen with JPEG adjustments as Louise mentioned.

  4. This is a lovely article. I liked your blog:-)

  5. Great blog Russell.
    RAW has been my capture choice for a long time now, for the very reason's you mentioned. I've appreciated shooting RAW even more after doing a few wedding shoot's, I couldn't imagine processing 800 or so jpeg files, using Capture One makes it a breaze and as you said, once the corrections have been made and the files sent through for processing at my chosen resolution (6x4 proofs) I can leave my computer and do other things, it's great. As a side, I finally got through to another wedding photog mate that shot jpeg to change his ways and shoot RAW, he used to get me to process his jpegs, let me just say that since he's changed to shooting RAW it has cut 'days' off the processing time....literally.
    All the best.

  6. UPDATE: In the above I said "Processing of each of my images to high quality TIFF takes around a minute".....

    Well computers have come a long way since then, I am still using my 16.7mp camera, but these days my Mac takes about 6 seconds to process each image..... and that's a whole lot better than a minute! :-)