Top 5 reasons I shoot JPEG over RAW

I have been a RAW shooter since the format was available to digital cameras years ago. Back then a RAW file would give me quite an advantage over a JPEG since the in-camera processing of early digital cameras lacked the power of a desktop computer running Photoshop. Today’s intelligent hybrid cameras have more processing power then my laptop I purchased two years go. Hybrid cameras such as the Lumix G5, Olympus OM-D and Fuji X Pro 1 have advanced hardware and software that transforms the data from the image sensor into a beautiful photo instantly.

At the very moment you push the button these intelligent hybrid cameras recognize faces, optimize for shadow/highlight detail and smooth out skin tones. This same process can take hours when shooting RAW. Frankly, I’m tired of the long days behind the computer editing RAWs in Lightroom only to see the beautiful color I captured get turned to mush before my eyes (see below).

Shooting with hybrid cameras made photography fun again for me which meant I was shooting more then ever. The flip side is that since I was shooting loads and loads of RAW files I was spending more time then ever behind the computer which is not fun.

While I currently shoot RAW for paid assignments I’m exploring the possibility of replacing RAWs with JPEGs. So far I have shot a handful of jobs with JPEG + RAW but I’m hoping that in the near future I’ll be shooting jobs with JPEG only.

For me shooting JPEG is fun, easy and the quality is very high. Below are my top five reasons why I like to shoot JPEG.

Easy Backup - With most cameras RAW files are often at least 5 times the size of a JPEG yet the quality of a RAW file is not 5 times that of a JPEG. This means when you’re shooting RAW you have to find a place to store all the photos. If you store them all at home and you’r hard drive crashes or if your home is burglarized you just lost all your photos. The option to back up your RAW files online can become costly and takes a tremendous amount of time to upload because the file size of RAW is 5 times that of JPEGS.

 

Wireless Connectivity -  Because shooting JPEG means smaller file sizes I can easily and quickly backup the photos to my Dropbox and G+ accounts. What’s even cooler is that you can set up your Android or iOS device to capture and backup your JPEGS while the device is in your pocket or bag. Wireless cards are available from Eye-Fi, Toshiba and Transcend.

 

Works well with video – Hybrid cameras like the Lumix G5 or Olympus OM-D make shooting video easier then ever and the quality is amazing. Editing video on the other hand can be a real pain, however, online options like ProShow Web means you just upload your videos & photos and it does the rest for you. If you shoot RAW you have to edit and process all your files first, then upload them to ProShow Web or import them into your editing program. These extra steps can take hours. Like to shoot video and have a life? Shoot JPEG.

Here’s an example of combining video and stills together. I use Final Cut Pro X but you can do the same with ProShow Web or iMovie.

 

Photos look great in camera - Shooting JPEG with a mirrorless hybrid camera means I can see what the photo will look like before I shoot so if I don’t like the way something looks I can quickly change a setting and get it right in camera. With most cameras the JPEGS will always keep that great color you see on your screen while the RAWs will not. Here’s an example of a JPEG besides RAW from a Fuji X Pro 1 in Lightroom 4. After looking at the thousands of photos I shot in Italy I was left wondering why I shot RAW in the first place. So let me get this straight: I have to spend hours in post to make the RAWs look like JPEGs when the camera would do that for me in a instant?!? No thanks, I’ll be shooting JPEG on vacation from now on.

JPEG on the left, RAW on the Right. Why am I shooting RAW again?

 

 

No Photoshop or RAW processor needed - Just shoot, backup to your favorite online service and share. That’s it!

So what do you prefer? Are you a RAW shooter or JPEG? If you could shoot JPEG and make it look as good or better then shooting and processing RAW files would you?

Article originally posted at DiscoverMirrorless.com

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About Giulio Sciorio

Since 2009, Hybrid Photography pioneer Giulio Sciorio has been blending still + motion & sound with his photography. Giulio is a Lumix Luminary, commercial photographer and founder of SmallCameraBigPicture.com - the resource for everything Hybrid. A portfolio of Giulio’s hybrid work can be found at GiulioSciorio.com.

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10 Responses to Top 5 reasons I shoot JPEG over RAW

  1. Cris Mitchell November 14, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    Giulio I’ll tell you the biggest reason i DON’T shoot JPG only… Sensor Noise.
    This is just my opinion and while the small camera’s are great they still exhibit sensor noise and Raw Processors like Capture One Pro 7 seem to do a much better job of cleaning up noise than does the OMD in camera jpg processor. With that said i do enjoy shooting RAW + JPG of which i can send over the jpgs to my iPad via an eyefi card for preview and quick upload to facebook etc… Anything that I’m going to print and sell I still like having the RAW file to process from. I don’t mind the extra step in my workflow it’s what i’m use to and I prefer the flexibility.

    • Giulio Sciorio November 14, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

      That’s a good reason Chris and one of the reasons I still shoot RAW for work. C1Pro is awesome and so simple for RAW as is Lightroom. That said its been a blast to see how much info I can squeeze from a JPEG processed in-camera. When I was shooting with the Fuji X Pro 1 in Italy I could have keep everything at JPEG and would have been quite happy with the results.

      Maybe its a fantasy for now but I’m looking forward to shooting from my camera to a tablet then delivering to the client.

      • Cris Mitchell November 14, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

        A guy can dream ;-)

        I’ve just gone back to C1 after many years of Lightroom. C1 Pro Version 7 is just amazing for processing RAW Files. Olympus does make a fine jpg file i’m jut not ready to make that commitment but like i said do shoot raw + because the jpgs are great for getting online quick and in a lot of cases they are good enough.

  2. James November 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Sounds like C1 Pro 7 has a lot to offer, but at a big price. I use Aperture on an iMac and it’s not perfect but does a good job. I also have LR3 from an offer when Panasonic gave it away with my G3 I got last year, so another £200+ for a third option is too rich for me. Can anyone say how C1 Express 6 handles raw files from Olympus and Panasonic (OM-D and G3)? Thanks, James

    • Cris Mitchell November 14, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

      James,
      download the C1v7 60 day trial, I think after about 30 minutes you’ll spend the next 59 days saving your pennies ;-)

      There particular workflow isn’t the most straight forward but once you get your head around it (Good videos on their site to get you going) I think you’ll be hard pressed to want to go back to Aperture or LR.

      Just my 2 cents.
      Cris…

  3. Bill Burkholder November 16, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    I come from a portrait and social lab environment. The lab accepted only JPEG files in sRGB color space for printing. We had some very specific instructions for our employee photographers (and our customers who would listen) that enabled them to get perfectly acceptable professional portraits from JPEGs.

    Shooting JPEG does require a little thought and a lot of discipline. It isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t for every situation. But if and when you can do it, and trust you’re doing it well, it is the most cost efficient and time efficient way to work. That means there is a *significant* opportunity cost attached to working with RAW files if you are a busy pro.

    My own preference is to shoot RAW + JPEG in those few instances where I am completely uncertain of the light, and need a little more latitude. Yet I still *attempt* to nail my exposure and white balance, so I can use the JPEG if possible.

    As good as the new exposure automation systems are, I still believe in custom white balance, manual exposure control in controlled lighting situations, and the use of a target to set both exposure and white balance every time the lighting changes from one constant scene to another constant scene.

    Giulio makes a great point about blending video and JPEGs in presentations. No way will most folks be able to match the color and brightness values of the stills to the video if they shoot RAW stills… Video and still image color grading/color correction tools are just quite different. It is best to work in JPEG mode when also recording video.

    • Giulio Sciorio November 21, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

      Hi Bill,

      You make some solid points here. Shooting JPEG does take more discipline and effort at first but I find that the more I shoot JPEG the better I become. Nice thing about getting it right in camera is that it makes my skills sharper. At first I had to slow down when I shoot but not I’m able to shoot faster then before.

      The nice thing is that when I do shoot RAW my exposures are sold pretty much all the time.

      So many photographers think that RAW files will allow them to shoot sloppy and its just not true. If I make a RAW capture and my exposure is way off fixing it in Lightroom is still going to degrade the image, just not as much as JPEG.

      thanks for reading and commenting

  4. Some Guy January 18, 2013 at 12:55 am #

    In your bulldozer image, I could tell immediately, without looking at the captions which one was JPG and which was RAW, and I was right. The photo on the right is much more natural looking (if maybe a bit on the cool side in the WB because the camera tried to interpret its own WB for the JPG), whereas on the JPG the yellow is sort of harsh too saturated, kind of sickly. And the clouds look washed out and blue. The tones on the bulldozer’s blade contain much more detail. To me, RAW wins in this example.

    When you shoot JPG you are letting the camera process the RAW file for you, so the point in shooting RAW is not to get the image to look like the JPG your camera spits out, but to go beyond that. Try getting the most out of the sky contrast in the JPG and you will get nasty banding. In the RAW you can push it as far as you want no banding. That’s just one example.

    I even snapshoot in RAW. I captured a really sweet moment between my wife and her grandfather but it was extremely low light and my camera biffed it. I completely recovered the image in WB and exposure in ways that would have not been possible with the JPG. Just some thoughts. I prefer to not let my camera try to think for me.

  5. Spanky July 22, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    NO BOY CARES ABOUT MY OPINION

    Yet, if you shoot just Raw, you can pull the embedded JPEG(with settings) out of just the Raw(all of them), without having to shoot Raw+JPEG, or JPEG. Some cameras handle this very well; but each is different. Try it. My “lowly” D40, shoots its max drive speed(with AF-C; phase detect predictive); set to Raw only. Some cams are faster, with JPEG, so you would do JPEG only then, as needed), and the “thumbnails” embedded, are still a great (but slightly smaller) resolution. See, so it depends on your end goals(output). If I’m downsizing anyway, the thumbnail is still arguably still to big. I use the “dcraw -e ” utility, and syntax, (free); on multiple, selected Raw’s, in my set file browser, and to instantly pull (not develop) the embedding JPEG’s, in groups. Conversely, if I want landscape detail (full res), and/or max custom control of local contrasts (D-Lighting, DR, HDR like, shadows/highlights, and fine grain NR types (blur, red, luminance green), then my Raw is the unchangeable master, that’s ALWAYS our option! [Hard drive space is relatively cheap.] It’s the best of both worlds, you see? I still optimize “JPEG” settings before shoots (like a grey card); but if it’s not perfect (like to to time), I also have the Raw sensor originals.

    Also, forget the training wheels of Adobe products, like Lightroom. Not more Lr “catalog” hell-poo for me. Get the spartan “ufraw” (free any platform); because if you read its web sight, about what all its sliders do, and you load up your cameras color profile (for ufraw), or make your own, or tweak its BASE LINE ourput, then when you pull up Raw files with ufraw (by just clicking on them), there are done (like your JEPG’s, and just like you want, or like any other camera does with it’s JPEG’s, or look too. You can make a Panasonic Raw file output like NIkon, for example! You can, of course, have profiles for each Raw capable camera you use.

    So with Raw only, now you’d selectively, only do Raw a tiny percentage of the time (where they can beat your JPEG’s). With Raw, you will also need to check any lens distortion (optional, and rare), any CA (for lesser times), and do your own, better, computer advancing NR; that your JPEG (even embedded) may already instantly do for you. But remember, you decide, when you’ll just take that JPEG, in *rare* shots/times, where the distortion, CA, or noise is needed(excessive?), and you prefer the instant JPEG’s work/settings, over yours (or not). Point here, is you don’t (best) use the tools in ufraw, for the CA, distortion, or NR; because you 16-bit works is already done by ufraw. You do those (very rarely, as needed, when you really need the Raw instead after your Raw file gets smoothy transferred to the Gimp! Gimp has outstanding CA, fine custom NR, and distortion correction, along with everything else. Like better sharpening. [Don't forget your select Gimp plug-ins installed with Gimp too]. Gimp is free, and cross platform too! It would be stupid not to also have these free tools; even if you paid for others. All you need to do, is wade through the plethora of choices, in Gimp, so you know how to do, what you want. That’s not a bad thing, people. It does more. Gimp(with ufraw, for it’s 16-bit Raw) does all.

    I have tried practically ALL photo related programs, and so trust my review here. There is no look, or “treatment”, (not with Nikon software, for Nikon sensors; for example), that you can’t get with ufraw+Gimp. Just don’t try ufraw, for two second; without setting your cameras (most supported) color profile, file, it’s entering two required values, that goes with each down-loadable (or custom) ufraw camera color profile, and the rest of the sliders are at simple default/unused 90% of the time), and assume it’s less advanced, do only to lack of initial baby sitting. The auto recognizing of other Raw developers do not produce better, or more custom (soon as loaded base) end results.

    Assuming your Raw, ufraw, set up properly (BTW: saved settings once, on ufraw save/transition, and/or when you change your base Raw look,) and that’s your done(full res), developed, quickly loaded-up, artistically optimized, camera base line (and there are Raw batch options; when a group would take all the same development), that’s when (even more rare) you may vary from you base-line, for further per shot enhancements, and these can be many loaded, D-Lighing-like(and other stuff), customized profile presets, to your whim. Just as far as you want to go. It’s limitless, comparatively.

    You should be aware, that curve “wiggling”, offers far more comprehensive, custom, per shot control, than sliders, and while ufraw has sliders, you should know to prefer curves, at this ufraw, serious raw developing level. Curve wrangling is a skill; that takes practice, and you can only vary from the linear curve, by tiny amounts, determined solely by how good your sensor is, with its dynamic range, and color(so light) sensitivity. usually related to its size, and pixel density, and design (and processor). Just start over, if your curve adjustments fail. For example, serious Raw developers who sadly use Lr, use its curves. The ufraw site will tell you what two curves in ufraw do. If yo bare with the simple site, and simple ufraw interface, it provides the greatest rewards, of anything. Don’t be tricked by marketing lies, and so called, “expert/pro” opinions. You simply have to get used, to ufraw, first.

    There’s a millions ways to skin a cat; but I use this way, for the best reasons. It’s the least of all “evils”. Just try it. It’s free, and it’s better.

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