Monday, September 23, 2013

RAW vs JPG: Round #2

Several years ago, at the request of moderator Sue Chastain,  I published an article on ABOUT.COM that spoke about using RAW vs JPG. The article elicited a lot of discussion when it was published. As expected, many of the comments were simply stupid, to wit:

From Guest Seth: "Part of photography was always darkroom work or lab processing. Now RAW files are replacing physical negatives and darkrooms. Shooting in JPG is like Ansel Adams letting the teenage boy in the One Hour Photo process his images. Are you a photographer or not?"
It is NOTHING like Ansel Adams letting 1 Hour Photo process his're an idiot, Seth.

From Guest Kate: What's seen on the camera's LCD is a camera-generated JPEG "thumbnail" of approx. how your image will look when it's opened, and even that depends on factors such as color spaces, settings, compression level which--contrary to some opinions here--does matter because when JPEGs are compressed, data is tossed. Data=pixels and the camera decides which pixels to toss, not you (if you shoot JPEG). Lost pixels=lost resolution. While it's true that med. vs. high Q JPEGs printed at the same size are almost indistinguishable, what IS lost in higher-compressed JPEGs are all those precious pixels you'll wish you still had if you heavily crop an image. Why have a 12mp camera if you're only going to use 6? Regardless of mode, capture all the data you can, using best exposure practices.
Kate, you are wrong. Lost pixels do NOT equal lost resolution. The JPG image comes off the same sensor as the RAW file, and if you use medium compression, you are actually OVERSAMPLING the image...not throwing data away as you state. The statement underlined above is ludicrous! You do not cut resolution in half by using JPG compression! And dear: images photographed at medium quality and printed are not "almost indistinguishable"...they ARE indistinguishable!

But my favorite was from Guest Gordon: This concerns anyone holding a camera and says that shooting RAW is a waste of time and storage. First of all, storage is cheap. Second, you have no clue about pixels and how to get the very best out of them. Clearly you are not a professional photographer and need to be saving your money on a P&S. Enroll is some type photography class and learn the technical side of photography because you sure as hell don't know it now.
Gordo--you are a total douche. I have forgotten more about photography than you will ever know. I hold both degrees from the Professional Photographers of America, and hold several Court of Honor Awards for my photographs. And I beg to differ, but I have ALL the clues on pixels and how to get the very best out of them. So maybe you might want to pick up that photography class...

It is one thing to disagree with a working professional is another thing entirely to insult him, especially when you probably wouldn't know the difference between a RAW file and a JPG file if one of them bit you on the a$$! The whole RAW vs JPG thing has kind of become an elitist battle cry, and I really don't play that game.

I reprinted the article here on Photography for Income last year, and all of the comments were positive. Most of them went similar to this: "Thanks for clearing that up for me...I was working my butt off trying to post-process these RAW files and it was taking me forever. I read your article and it makes sense...THANKS!"

So I am not trying to change any one's mind. If you like shooting RAW files, and have all kinds of time, by all means, stick with it. But don't lie to me and tell me you get better images when you shoot RAW, because you don't. And don't give me this line of crap where you tell me, "It doesn't take me that long to process my RAW images." Really? Take a look at this letter sent to Shutterbug Ads in December of 2012 by John Frederick:

    "I have been shooting RAW format for many years, but I have an issue. I have yet to find a quick, easy, reliable way to process the images. I spend an average of an hour or more of post-processing time per image before I have something worth printing. That's just not acceptable and it has gone a long way toward frustrating (disgusting) me with digital photography.
    What I really would like is as piece of software that will take my RAW image and show me a quick "best guess" as to how the image should appear, then allow me to either accept it or tweak it slightly. I fully agree with the advantages of shooting RAW for serious work, but I cannot spend my life post-processing the images. Any recommendations and suggestions will be very much appreciated, probably by a huge number of "Shutterbug" readers."

Now, either John here is an incompetent idiot (which I totally do NOT believe), or these people who say they can process a RAW image to perfection in 3 minutes are outright liars...which I definitely DO tend to believe! If you take 25 images for a senior portrait, that is 3 full workdays just to make ready images to show the customer...ONE customer! And the last wedding I did was 300 images!! At one hour per image that is SEVEN AND ONE HALF WORK WEEKS to simply process the images. Gut Gott in Lieben!

Editor David B. Brooks' answer was for John to check out a service called Organic Imaging. You do not purchase software, you pay per image. As this is written, the price is approximately 15 cents per image. David wrote a short blog about Organic Imaging that you might want to check out.

I never cared for the time it took for post-processing even in JPG. I think I'd kill myself if I had to post- process 300 RAW files from a wedding, but hey, whatever turns your crank. In any case, do what works for you, but remember: the image is no sharper off the sensor, and all of that post-processing time puts no $$ in your pockets, and that's important when you are doing Photography for Income!  Till next time, may all your highlights read 245 and all your shadows read 10!

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