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RAW Vs. Jpeg Trade-Offs  
User currently offlineRiley From United States of America, joined Mar 2003, 173 posts, RR: 44
Posted (11 years 3 months 9 hours ago) and read 3759 times:

Hi all.. I was reviewing my images last night from my pre-RAW days and wanted to share some of my thoughts with you. I converted to RAW in January and am currently still using that mode in both my 10D and 1D2.

Looking at the higher quality JPEG's compared to some of my more recent RAW's, I'm beginning to believe that with the correct camera settings, I can trust my cameras ability to capture JPEG's that are almost A.Net ready. Just a quick level and resize, maybe tinker with the levels, brightness, and contrast just a smidge, throw in a couple passes of light USM and I'm done. No fuss, no stepping away from the monitor to rest my eyes, no checking for clipped highlights and shadows and all the other drudgery of editing RAW's.

With RAW's you have much work to do. I can edit and upload a JPEG in 5-10 minutes max. RAW = at least 20-30 minutes per capture.

Yes, you may argue that you have total control over your files with RAW, but how accurate is your interpretation of what you thought you saw through the viewfinder?

Take these two images for example (WARNING - self plug alert!!!):

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Ryan C. Umphrey

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Ryan C. Umphrey

The top image is straight out of the camera with a slight levels adjustment to add brightness and contrast, plus USM applied. Camera settings are +2 saturation, +1 tone and zero on both sharpening and contrast. 5 minutes tops spent on this image.

The bottom capture was imaged in RAW. The original file looked pretty dark and dull. I first added about 1/3 stop of exposure and then warmed up the white balance considerably. The original had a cooler bluish hue/tint that was not attractive. I added color saturation to the warm image to give it a nice appearance. Since it was already a high contrast situation, I didn't really have to do much else other than add my standard sharpening. I think I worked on the file about 25 minutes.

Here's my point: I think RAW has its advantages, however, with today's high-tech digital cameras, you should at least give JPEG a chance before you rush out and capture everything in RAW. I would recommend to everyone who owns a camera with RAW capability to at least to do some in-depth experimenting with your camera settings and give JPEG a chance first. When you get comfortable with that you can move on to shooting RAW, but be prepared to spend much more time in front of the monitor to get it right.

I've got the next 2 days off here in DFW and then I'm off to ATL for three days (hurricane pending). I'm going to give JPEG another shot, mainly because I've had decent success with it in the past, not because I don't like the flexibility that RAW offers. I think RAW is an excellent mode of capturing data, but YOU have to be the "digital darkroom".


12 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineSpacecadet From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 3964 posts, RR: 10
Reply 1, posted (11 years 3 months 8 hours ago) and read 3713 times:

Hate to say it but to me the bottom image looks noticeably better. And I thought that before I even read your description of which was RAW and which was jpg.

Except for cases where you've got to get a long run of continuous shots (like Daniel was explaining he had to do for his JAL 747 a week or so back), I don't understand why any photographer wouldn't use RAW. It's like saying you don't need negatives if you're shooting film; all you need are prints. The RAW file is your digital negative - it's the straight data without any unnecessary processing applied to it and probably most importantly, without any compression. (Some cameras will let you shoot as tif, but if you're going to shoot as tif, you may as well just shoot RAW because the file size and speed is not much different and tifs don't give you any exposure advantages like RAW does.)

To me, the top image in your above examples is slightly underexposed, probably because your camera was trying to average the bright part of the ground into the shot. Now, you could play with the levels in Photoshop and brighten up the whole thing, but if you'd had a RAW version of it you could open up the shadows and bump up the contrast and sharpness a bit without changing the underlying data or adding any oversharpening artifacts or excess noise.

I don't mind the extra work of RAW files. I mean these are your photographs - they're not worth a little work?

I'm tired of being a wanna-be league bowler. I wanna be a league bowler!
User currently offlineClickhappy From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 9790 posts, RR: 65
Reply 2, posted (11 years 3 months 8 hours ago) and read 3711 times:

RAW = at least 20-30 minutes per capture.

You Cannon guys crack me up Big grin 30 minutes!?!?! Wow.

User currently offlineJeffM From United States of America, joined May 2005, 3267 posts, RR: 50
Reply 3, posted (11 years 3 months 8 hours ago) and read 3700 times:

You are correct. FINE/Large/jpg is definitely o.k. for shooting airplanes. I only shoot RAW if I have any doubt at all as to the proper exposure, which is not often if you do your homework prior to the shoot. Many people use RAW as a 'crutch' to compensate for poor exposure and or technique, and spend the extra time after the shot instead of before it. White balance is not as big an issue with my Canon as it is with my Nikon, so I don't use white balance as an excuse to shoot RAW as some people do.

When I shoot people, which in my opinion are worth the extra work (and they pay WAY better) compared to an airplane, I might shoot RAW, but most likely not.

Have fun in ATL, and watch out for that hurricane!


User currently offlineRiley From United States of America, joined Mar 2003, 173 posts, RR: 44
Reply 4, posted (11 years 3 months 8 hours ago) and read 3690 times:

Spacecadet, we both agree that the RAW capture is much more attractive, but I think you miss my point. Let me say it another way:

Today's high-tech digital cameras do a decent job of producing A.net ready captures with the correct camera settings applied to the in-camera JPEG's. Very few adjustments are required to these files to pass screening. The RAW's are not A.net ready. They require much editing and post-processing. I'm pointing out that JPEG is still a viable option. I feel it's important for new A.net photographers to understand this before they rush right into RAW...

Royal, I knew that would get a rise out of you...  Smile/happy/getting dizzy


User currently offlineCkw From UK - England, joined Aug 2010, 813 posts, RR: 14
Reply 5, posted (11 years 3 months 7 hours ago) and read 3668 times:

I look at it this way - with RAW I have a negative I can return to again and again and reprocess from scratch if I want to. Having been shooting RAW for 2.5 years, I've noticed how the processing software has improved - images I might have written off 2 years ago can be rescued today.

Of course there is no an excuse for sloppy work, but, there is every reason to believe that in the next year or so, RAW conversion software may well be capable of better file interpolation, sharpening or noise reduction.

Besides, you CAN have your cake and eat it - with the RAW file, you can have a jpg. which uses the camera settings. If you're in a hurry, just use the .jpg and save the RAWS for a rainy day.

I just believe in preserving as much data as possible and keeping my options open. 90% of the time, I'm sure .jpg will serve the purpose - the problem is I can't predict which will be the 10% of my shots where I wish I'd shot RAW.

Finally, RAW may be a pain to process, but it makes shooting so much easier - I don't have to think of color spaces, saturation, sharpening or any of the other myriad options when I'm in the field. I can just concentrate on the picture - the rest can wait til later.



Colin K. Work, Pixstel
User currently offlineAndyhunt From Singapore, joined Jan 2001, 1311 posts, RR: 47
Reply 6, posted (11 years 3 months 6 hours ago) and read 3631 times:

For me, with the D70, I shoot only in RAW, I do not like the output from jpeg, and regarding processing time, I can take a RAW image and get it processed in about 5 mins MAXIMUM.....(maybe I don't know what I'm doing eh Big grin )


Full frame always beats post processing
User currently offlineDB777 From United States of America, joined Apr 2001, 885 posts, RR: 39
Reply 7, posted (11 years 3 months ago) and read 3588 times:
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I think you're missing one aspect that influences a lot of photogs to shoot in RAW format, besides the other advantages of RAW over JPG. What do you do when a client wants a huge TIF file for printing? You are stuck with a compressed JPG that is lower in quality than a TIF converted from a RAW file. I've had clients tell me not to even think about sending them a JPG image which I would never do, but evidently they've run into photogs who only have JPG's to send. Yes, you can convert it in Photoshop to a TIF but it will not be the same quality as the RAW to TIF method and I think experienced photo editors can probably tell the difference.

If you are only shooting to display your shots on airliners.net and other sites, and have no intentions of selling your photos or printing in large sizes, then shoot in JPG if you don't have the time or inclination to produce the best possible photo. A lot of wedding photogs shoot in JPG to eliminate all the workflow of the RAW-TIF-JPG method, saving a considerable amount of time when processing hundreds of images taken at the wedding, reception, etc.

Photographing aircraft since the Earth was flat and on Airliners.net since #338
User currently offlineBronko From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 810 posts, RR: 10
Reply 8, posted (11 years 2 months 4 weeks 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 3586 times:

Royal, those AirTran shots I sent you last night were RAW, and took maybe 5 minutes of processing each. I think they turned out great, and did not take a ton of editing despite being RAW.

If you have your camera settings set properly, you don't need to do much with the RAW file anyway. Unless there are some tweakniques I don't know about, which is entirely possible...  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

Jet City Aviation Photography
User currently offlineAKau From France, joined Aug 2004, 50 posts, RR: 2
Reply 9, posted (11 years 2 months 4 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 3555 times:

Mr Work wrote: "Of course there is no an excuse for sloppy work"
I'm a beginner in airplane and digital photography and i like the possibility i have with RAW files to correct my lack of experience when i am in the field.


User currently offlineCkw From UK - England, joined Aug 2010, 813 posts, RR: 14
Reply 10, posted (11 years 2 months 4 weeks 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 3548 times:

and i like the possibility i have with RAW files to correct my lack of experience when i am in the field

Shooting RAW certainly does offer a useful safety net - we all get it wrong from time to time! However, I would caution against coming to rely on RAW to save your pics ... while it can give you a stop or so leeway on under and over exposure and still produce a useable image, accurate exposure will produce superior results.



Colin K. Work, Pixstel
User currently offlineJamotcx From United Kingdom, joined May 2004, 1037 posts, RR: 23
Reply 11, posted (11 years 2 months 4 weeks 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 3471 times:

There is a big problem with RAW.

It takes up too much space  Sad


User currently offlineFutterman From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 1301 posts, RR: 40
Reply 12, posted (11 years 2 months 4 weeks 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 3445 times:

There is a big problem with RAW.

It takes up too much space

Right. You can't get something for nothing.

How much time it takes to process a JPG over RAW image is irrelevant unless you're more concerned about quantity over quality (not that there's anything wrong with that).

The thing is, though, that even with a 1GB CF in the camera, you can only shoot 150+/- RAW/Med JPG on the 10D and a measley 90+/- on the new 20D. The difference between shooting RAW coupled with meduim JPG and simply a large JPG is easily a massive 5MB.

And storage on the CF is not the only problem--after saving JPG edits, you're looking at almost 15MB dedicated to each photo (keep in mind that if your camera can shoot RAW, your camera WILL shoot tens of thousands of photos). DVDs or not, that's still an insane amount.

I think what Colin said about RAW was great: "I can just concentrate on the picture - the rest can wait til later." Nobody said shooting JPG made life hard, but it's somewhat like shooting film in that you have that much less control over some variables.

I think I'll save RAW for when I know I'd need it.


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