Why I shoot in JPEG
Professionals, semi pros and just about everyone eles involved with digital photography will tell us that we should be taking our images in RAW. This quite a sweeping statement. Ive sat with pros and semi pros in wildlife hides, some of these people having written books on the subject, and yet, on the day they were shooting jpeg!!!
Some people that Im involved with who shoot at professional football matches and sell their stuff to newspapers and magazine, shoot jpeg. So whats all the fuss about this RAW thing? Is there as much benefit, for wild life photography as what some people woull have us believe...I shoot only in jpeg format for all my work, and I always have, and probably always will. This suits my requirements as a wildlife photographer..why? read on.
Firstly, I am a photographer, not a computer post processing expert. My workflow dosnt allow for vast amounts of time sitting at a computer..yes I make adjustments, but I try to keep this down to a small amount of changes, to enhance my images.
My method when taking a jpeg digital image is to get it as right as I can in the camera, modern digital cameras, especially the high end models are very very capable of producing the goods. With my current D700 and my D3, the settings I put into these cameras are not guess work, they are the results of thousands of test shots in varying conditions.
I use very few pre sets, or auto settings, although again, on these high end Nikons some auto setting such as white balance, can give excellent results.
Wildlife photographs need to be sharp, probably more than any other photographic genre..on my D700 I set this at 5 in camera, this gives me scope to do a touch more in photoshop afterwards. On my D3, I set to no sharpening, as I have found if set at 5 as the D700, further sharpening in photoshop will end up with images that are TOO SHARP. The D3 jpeg images with sharpen set at 5, for me are the finsihed product, sharpening wise, ready to print or send on to others intersted in purchasing them.
In JPEG mode. First, you can not "unsharpen" an overly sharpened image. So I make sure in-camera sharpening settings are low as previously mentioned..
Another in camera setting that I avoid when shooting jpeg is "high ISO noise reduction" feature, because that too is irreversible. Better to leave that turned off, or to low, you can reduce noise later in Photoshop.
What are RAW and jpeg formats?
RAW is a data file, and jpeg is an image file.
To print a RAW file you have to first convert the data to an image file, jpeg, tiff etc. Although I say I only shoot jepg, I have in the past shot in RAW for comparison purposes, and I can catagorically say that I have not seen a jpeg that Ive done from a RAW file to be any better than the same jpeg direct from the camera. The D3 has two slots for memory cards, so this makes the comparison tests that much easier, shooting the same image on one card as RAW, and the other as jpeg
So WHY, do I want to sit on the computer for long periods of time working on RAW files, to get a jpeg that is no better than what I can get direct from the camera?
My main use fo my images are for web use and competitions, the latter in both prints and DPI. Yes we are aware that jpeg is a lossy file, and constant svaing will reduce the quality, but WHY do people want to save and resave the image anyway? Use the save as function, or make a copy to work on...
Some claim that RAW is superior because it is your “digital negative.” Yes it is. But so is your original JPEG image. If you make any adjustments to a copy of it, and never re-save the original, you’ll always have an original to return to. When I work on my image, I "save as" making two adjusted images, one high res for printing, and one low res for web use, or PDI competitions, usually 1400px x 1050px.and thats it.
Even though jpeg is an image file, it is still made up of digital data, data that can be adjusted in photoshop for final enhancement, and if you have done a good job in camera, minimal adjustments. RAW for me seems to be more for people as a post process corrective tool, and if that suits some folk, thats fine.
I have heard people saying yes, "but you can pull the whites back if you have blown them out", but why blow them out in the first place, set your camera up better, a good photographer should rarely blow whites out.. But does it bring the blown out details back?, yes it will darken or greyen the whites down, but does it bring the fine feather or fur detail back????
There’s another myth about JPEG – being that it doesn’t provide enough adjustment latitude for correction for professional work. Bunkum pure bunkum. A JPEG file will give you at least one full F-stop above and below proper exposure for correction purposes. Nowerdays RAW files can offer 6 full stops either way for exposure correction, and while this is truely amazing you'd have to be a really poor photographer to even need 2 stops, let alone 6,. Dont forget, we have that little rectangular thing on the back of the camera that sort of looks like a television screen, this lets us actually review our image AT THE TIME YOU TAKE IT to see if your exposure is correct.
Yes we can all understand that there are thousands of more channels, colours etc etc etc in RAW, but do you need them in wildlife photography? JPEG also has many of these channels, usually more than enough to get the image right...beyhond these your image is probaly poorly shot and poorly exposed.
So while theoretically, a RAW file is superior to a JPEG file most of the time because it holds much more data, the question to ask is whether or not that extra information is necessary for our intended results. In other words, if you can't see the difference in a print, is shooting RAW really any advantage?
As a wildlife photographer I rarely take a single image, I have cameras that have frame rates of 8 and 9 fps respectively. and by christ I use them, especially with birds in flight shots. Shooting in RAW reduces the number of shots as the cameras buffer up with downloading the larger files. People believe that larger files mean more quality, and this is not necessarily the case.
The question is, what are your intended uses for the image? If you are into making "photo art" with a huge amount of photo manipulation, then perhaps RAW is the way to go, as a wildlife photographer, I do very littler manipulation in my images.
There are some who are not going to agree with my ideas, but it is not up for debate. I am not about to change, I am a comfortable shooter of jpeg images and in five years time I will still be a jpeg shooter. Camera developement will focus on futher improvements on jpeg or direct results straight from the camera. So at the moment my post process adjustments will remain,...cropping, levels, contast and shapening
I am Nikon, I am a jpeg shooter