PetaPixel

Going From Exclusively Shooting RAW to Adding JPEGs to the Mix

rawjpeg

I have been shooting photographs regularly for over 7 years now. I spent the first year shooting with a 2-megapixel phone camera. Since then, however, I’ve almost always had RAW capable cameras and shot RAW compulsively. And why not? I get 16x or 64x more colour depth than JPEGs. I don’t have to bother about setting the right white balance, contrast or sharpness. I don’t have to choose between monochrome and colour at the time of shooting. I can figure all of that out on the computer during RAW conversion and even try out different settings for the same picture at my leisure. Why would I give up all this and shoot JPEG?

The Switch

watchThe reason, unsurprisingly, is that I find a lot less time these days to spend in front of a computer processing photos, which means that I could either shoot fewer shots, or save time on post processing.

Some time last year, I started shooting in RAW + JPEG mode quite regularly. It allowed me to quickly share the obligatory pictures I took at social events with the participants who would be quite impatient to upload them to Facebook, etc.

What I found was that often the JPEGs were great even for pictures that I cared about personally. After several months of this exercise — and due to quite some friction with handling Sony ARWs in my Nikon-centric workflow — I decided to give JPEG-only shooting a try. My Sony RX100 turned into a JPEG-shooter.

I still prefer to shoot RAW in all conditions. However, forcing myself to shoot JPEGs on my backup camera has helped me get over the fear of not shooting RAW. The practice I get from shooting JPEGs has helped me gain more confidence with the way I shoot RAW and not keeping my friends and family waiting for weeks to see the “finished” photos has been a bit endearing as well.

What does it take to shoot satisfying JPEGs?

The Shooting Discipline

Since JPEG files have very little latitude for post-processing, it is important that the photograph be finished to as much of an extent as possible in the camera. This requires a bit of extra consideration while shooting. However, I found the change to be less drastic than expected.

I have always been particular about using the right colour mode (Landscape, Portrait, Vivid, etc.) while shooting RAW even though it’s inconsequential because it helps me visualise the end result while looking at the preview in camera. This setting alone can nail contrast, sharpness, saturation and the overall “look and feel” of the photo. It is very important to get this right since the colour mode dictates the tone curve that would be used to down-sample from 12 or 14 bit sensor output to 8 bit JPEGs. The 4-6 bits discarded per channel better not be the ones that you need the most for your end result or you’ll have a tough time trying to work without the lost data in post processing.

whitebalanceThe next most important thing for JPEG shots is white-balance. The white-balance setting for RAWs is totally inconsequential since it is just a multiplier applied to RAW channel data for Red:Blue ratio (warmth) and another for Green channel strength (tint) during conversion. However, extreme multipliers (e.g. in Tungsten, Fluorescent, Shade WB) tend to discard significant amounts of data from a channel (Red, Green, Blue, for the mentioned settings respectively). Having the wrong WB setting while shooting JPEGs makes it almost impossible to fix in post-processing. This is where a camera with better Auto-WB computation proves very helpful.

An exciting new development in recent cameras is the addition of “creative effects”, which you can use to add some more macro-customisation of the output as it is being recorded. This helps a lot in saving post-processing time by accomplishing more specialised results such has high/low-key shots, colour strength/weakness, dioramas, etc. right at the time of recording the photograph.

Finally, since we are shooting JPEGs to avoid post-processing time, it’s important to get the exposure, composition, horizon tilt and framing right, as much as possible. Having done all of these right would get you the holy grail of being able to use your photo “SooC“.

Examples

Following are a few JPEG samples that I am particularly satisfied with and feel that they match the results I could have extracted from post-processing RAW output.

photo1

The picture above is a great example of using the right colour mode. This flight landed just a few minutes ahead of sunset (see the long shadows) and I wanted to capture the late afternoon atmosphere so I used the “Sunset” colour mode on the RX100. That got me the exact look I wanted and allowed this picture to be uploaded as-is with zero post-processing.

photo2

The above picture is an example of why it’s important to get the WB nailed as far as possible. I wanted to highlight the blues and suppress the greens in this shot, so I chose “Fluorescent” WB setting to achieve that effect. It got me to the ballpark colours but was a bit too strong on the effect, so I shot it again with Auto WB. Later while adjusting the colours in post-processing, I found that it was much easier to get the desired look from the “Fluorescent” setting than from the Auto WB setting. The latter led to increased noise – the usual outcome of pushing a JPEG to its limits. This picture also happens to be an in-camera HDR done superbly well by the RX100.

photo3

The above picture is an example of how you can use some of the conveniences of a modern camera. This picture is shot hand-held in “HDR Auto” mode. In this mode the camera automatically decides how many bracketed shots to take and what their EV deviation should be, it fires all the shots in a single click of the shutter button, aligns the images and does the tone-mapping. All of this happens in accordance with the colour mode you select (Vivid, for the above picture). This picture too has been posted with zero post-processing adjustments.

photo4

This last example shows the usage of creative effect modes while shooting JPEGs. This shot is in the “Rich Tone B&W” mode that creates a monochrome HDR photograph with a single click of the shutter. This too has been uploaded with zero adjustments in post-processing.

Conclusion

Shooting photos in RAW format gives immense creative freedom in finishing the photograph and also simplifies the shooting process by requiring only that the photograph be framed and exposed reasonably well. However, this freedom comes at the price of time spent in post-processing on the computer.

If you already have an end-result in mind, you could save a lot of time and effort by trying to get the photograph as envisioned right in the camera itself. Contemporary cameras offer the JPEG shooter with a lot of creative options that make it even more quick and convenient to get the envisioned end result.


About the author: Tahir Hashmi is a photography enthusiast who enjoys landscape, urban, automotive, skyscape, architectural and object photography. Visit his website here and his Flickr account here. This article originally appeared here.


Image credits: * by Fabio Bruna, my new ck 2 by Idhren, White Balance by Blyzz


 
 
  • http://tech.t9i.in/ Tahir Hashmi

    You can install custom tone curves in Nikon as well. The limitation is that you can’t do localised editing (eg. Vibrance, Local Contrast enhancement).

  • http://tech.t9i.in/ Tahir Hashmi

    If you’ve ever shot through haze, you would be happy to have shadow issues. The entire scene ends up within 3 stops of DR, barring specular highlights. Try your luck with this hazy JPEG if you wish.

    You keep harping about the high DR challenge with JPEGs. It’s such a non-issue that I didn’t even deem it worthy of a mention in the article. If the sunset example can’t convince you of this, nothing else can.

  • http://tech.t9i.in/ Tahir Hashmi

    “Maybe if you had written and article about the virtues of shooting with the RX100 and the amazing quality of the JPEG output you would not have gotten such a reaction”

    There are some excellent camera review sources that talk about such things.

    “And of the examples you showed us, 3 out of 4 were shot JPEG not out of choice but because they were shot with in camera HDR – something that requires JPEG.”

    After careful reading of my fairly lengthy article and all the comments I made, you conclude that I shot JPEG so I could do HDRs?

    *slow clap*

    I can’t debate with you any further.

  • http://tech.t9i.in/ Tahir Hashmi

    There are a couple of advantages to using this feature even for RAW (Nikon). The histograms shown in camera are derived after applying Picture Control, so if you use the intended PC you can get a better idea of what’s going to happen to the highlights and shadows post-conversion. Secondly, Capture NX2 would auto-apply the selected Picture Control setting, but that’s a marginal convenience.

  • monteraz

    Okay

  • Goofball Jones

    Also, seems some other pro photographers have no problem shooting jpeg-only. David Hobby….aka the “Strobist”, has said that he only shoots jpeg with his new beloved X100s. Same goes for Zack Arias.

    But let’s see. How will this be spun by the pixel-peeping asses here. I know, they’ll say that Hobby and Arias are “bought and paid for” by Fujifilm. No no, they’ll say they’re not real photographers…or that their photography sucks. Or maybe you’ll exercise the only creativity you’ve ever possessed and come up with a totally new justification!

  • keewa

    This comment section is insane. The guy likes to shoot this way, let him! What’s your problem guys?

  • http://www.thomaslawn.net/ Thomas Lawn

    I’d say mostly because storage is cheap. I’m sure I’m not alone in shooting everything RAW and then converting unimportant stuff to JPEG (pictures of friends, etc) that won’t need to be edited after they’re imported.

  • http://profiles.google.com/ksuwildkat Rob S

    um…..no. The X100 has a unique sensor and until very recently the Adobe had not published a RAW converter for it. Even now the current version of ACR/Lightroom has issues with the X100 RAW output. Because of that utilizing the in camera JPEG conversion is the best way to go. If anything, they make the point of most of us here – shoot with the output being the best possible. The current situation with the X series sensor is also why shooting RAW+JPEG is an even better solution. JEPG output for today/right now but with the full RAW file for when the converters catch up. The most current RAW converters do a better job that the first ones. One can assume the future ones will be better than current too. By shooting RAW I can take advantage of that future tech but with JPEG I am locked into what ever was best 6 months to 2 years BEFORE my camera was made. I still shoot with my older Pentax K200D. The JPEG processor in there dates to sometime in 2007. 5 years is a life time in tech and I am very glad Pentax give me the option to not only shoot RAW but to shoot DNG RAW so I can take advantage of Adobe’s very best conversion technology.

  • http://profiles.google.com/ksuwildkat Rob S

    @richardlurie:disqus – absolutely not! But then I would rather shoot conflict than wedding :)

    I was trying to make a point to the OP that yes, people actually do “share” RAW files. he is under the impression that only JPEGs go from one person to another. You make my point far better.

  • http://profiles.google.com/ksuwildkat Rob S

    Clearly you didnt understand that I was being absolutely serious about writing an article featuring the Sony. Yeah there are a ton of reviews but I would MUCH rather hear about a camera/lens/accessory from an actual user like you. If someone who uses equipment sits down and takes time to write about it with no profit motive, I think I can trust that they are not a sock puppet. Same goes for in camera HDR.

    There are some excellent reasons for using JPEG. Burst speed, file size and ease of sharing come to mind. If you talked about those in context with comparison pictures, I think you would get a very positive reaction. And if you talked about them solely in the context of the Sony it would be very relevant.

  • Crabby Umbo

    Apparently Paul, you have no idea what it is to be a commercial or advertising professional in the US. Not unusual to shoot upwards of 500+ shots on a fashion day, and have to deliver a wide selection of each situation, within a day or two of the end of the shoot, already post processed for the ad agency or catalog house to select and immediately go to reproduction. YOU, don’t make the selects and give them a “few”. Sports photojournalism, if that’s what you are doing, is a very small end of the pro business, and your experience of “self-selection” has nothing to do with the rest of the industry. And, if you’re not shooting for Sports Illustrated or the like, and just pumping it out for the local “fish-wrap”, then you’re not really working on the same level. Metering and lighting correctly, and then shooting TIFF, so that each picture is available immediately for reproduction, is the saviour of the working ad pro, and why a lot of the $50,000+ “120″ sized digital cameras shoot TIFF as well, because a lot of pros use those, and that’s what they demand. I love it when the someone “thinks” they know about every aspect of professional photography. It’s apparent from most of the comments on here that very few actually are IN the business, and are reliant on their total income from it….if you were, you wouldn’t want to spend hours post-processing RAW files, which the client won’t pay you to do!

  • Goofball Jones

    Your reason and logic and actual helpful information is so alien to me on sites like this. My whole world is upside down now!

    Quick, call me a moron or something!

  • Goofball Jones

    Actually, I checked with both Hobby and Arias and the reason they shoot jpeg only with the X100s has nothing to do with their RAW workflows. They shoot that way EXACTLY for the same reason the author of this article does: because they like the output of the camera’s jpegs and it reduces post processing time.

    David Hobby said that he shoots SO much (thousands) of pictures already with his X100s that there’s no way he could sit down and process all those images in a timely manner. Now, some of you Lightroom wizzes may be able to with no problems, but he’d rather be out shooting and doing other things instead of sitting in front of his computer. It’s just his preference. He is MORE than satisfied with the results he’s getting.

    Again, it has nothing to do with how the X100s work in RAW converters. Also, Zack said that he also shot jpeg only with his original X100, which didn’t have the X-Trans sensor in it, but a conventional Bayer Array.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=771700542 Dan Howard

    Sensor size is meaningless if you are allowing the cameras processor to compress the data to an 8-bit image using “default” settings. I would rather have a 10mp sensor capable of capturing 32bit depth with the option for RGB or sRGB than a 20mp sensor which is only capable of giving me compressed jpgs.

    Photography is an artform and it’s not always about the technical stuff. But don’t try and convince yourself that shooting jpg has any quality benefits over RAW.

    Shooting jpg is all about convenience… it’s not at all about image quality.

  • http://tech.t9i.in/ Tahir Hashmi

    Sensor size is not measured in MP.

    Indeed RAW would give you the best possible quality, but it’s foolhardy to think that a tiny sensor P&S can outdo a big sensor camera even if both shoot JPEG.

  • http://tech.t9i.in/ Tahir Hashmi

    Where did you get the idea that I am suggesting shooting at “default” settings? I wrote an entire section on why not to stick with defaults. Comment first, read later?

  • chphotovideo

    hey Samuel. I appreciate the ‘got my back’ comment. thats exactly what I was saying. Its about situation and circumstances. Killed me seeing comments of people ragging on and on about only idiots shoot jpg.

  • https://twitter.com/adamhowardcross Adam Cross

    the results from the RX100 continue to impress me

  • Jack T.

    It’s hilarious reading these forums. I do it for entertainment one day a week, while the other days I don’t have the time since I’m out shooting with a couple cameras. Nikon and a Sony. Haahaa. And I sold my Hasselblad 500CM, since the rx100 is easier to carry around and gives much better results (and faster results, too in both raw and jpg!) Hahaha! And it has the nice little red T* on the Zeiss lens! Ha!

    And what’s really funny is finding out Hasselblad is now selling the rx100 with an “H” and a fancy wood handle for a few thousand dollars more! Hahaha! Now that is REALLY funny!

    And what is the most funny is using a 5cent piece of duct tape where the fancy upgrade grip goes, to keep the camera from slipping when holding in portrait mode, since i don’t give a rat’s asss what the camera looks like to others who spend thousands of dollars to look cool while out shooting the couple days of the year they do that! Tee hee hee!

  • Jim

    It’s not about gear, it’s not about jpeg vs raw, it’s about the human eye and whether you have talent or not. Having the most expensive camera, shooting RAW means nothing. A good professional photographer can take a compelling photo with a polaroid. I love reading these comments and then looking at the portfolio of that person. Yikes, gear or RAW is not going to help you. It’s the least of your worries. If you want to shoot RAW, do it. If you want to shoot jpeg, do it. But if you’re on your high horse about which is better, your clueless.

  • James

    All of you guys make great points, from the author, to the commenters. But I’d still like to plug my two cents in, in my career as a photographer i have shot raw, almost since the start, but for the first few months I owned my D600 I shot Jpeg, It has it’s merits as the man said it’s quick to share, and that’s great. But in those first few months i took one of the best shots of my life, and would do anything to go back and take it in RAW.