At the heart of the digital camera revolution a few years ago was a question that would surface whenever two or more photographers got together – Do you shoot raw or jpg? Raw VS Jpg was only surpassed by Canon VS Nikon. The guys that shot jpg would say that shooting raw files was a crutch and a huge waste of time. I had one photographer that said he could shoot absolute “prefect exposure” and did not need raw for anything. Raw shooters would say that shooting jpg was only for amateurs and if you wanted quality images that you had to shoot raw.
My reference on the Raw VS Jpg thing is to shoot what works for you. My preference is raw. I do so for a number of reasons. First and foremost is the capture. No matter what the “I only shoot jpg” guys have to say, the reality is jpg is 8 bit, raw is 12 or 16 bit. Shooting a raw 12/16 bit image in Adobe colorspace gives you a ton of additional information in the file. More exposure latitude, more processing power, and more colors gives you the ability to create a better jpg. Another reason is flexibility. Once a jpg is made in the camera, thats it, no changes without damage to the file. Shooting raw gives me the flexibility of processing that image in a variety of ways without degrading the image.
One of the biggest problems with jpg is contrast. You shoot a jpg that is too contrasty, you are hosed! It is next to impossible to reduce contrast without destroying the image. With raw I get more contrast latitude at capture, and I can control the amount of contrast in post. Another important reason is that I prefer the color that Capture One gives me. It is a part of the look and brand of my images. Adobe products have a different look and feel to the image when processing raw files, as does Nikon or Canon. Shooting raw gives me the choice of what my finished file looks like.
So if you must shoot jpg…
Today much has changed in the Raw VS Jpg debate, we understand the limitations of shooting jpg better. Recent developments with camera technology have addressed a lot of the limitations, giving jpg shooters more latitude and better quality. That said there are still a lot of things that you can do to help produce a better jpg file out of the camera.
First is to reduce the contrast of the jpg file in camera. Use a “Natural” or “Portrait” setting for your jpg. “Normal”, “Vivid” is going to give you way to much saturation and contrast in your jpg image.
Second is to use the largest file that you can with the best quality. Shooting “Large” “Fine” will provide you with the most information and the least compression in your file. This will help in post if cropping is required, or color/exposure adjustments are needed.
Third is to reduce the contrast by adding fill flash, or reflector fill in high contrast lighting situations. Shooting in full sun, sun to shade, or shade to sun, can all be too much contrast for a jpg file to capture. Adding fill flash or reflector fill can reduce the contrast so that it can be captured accurately in a jpg file.
So you may be asking – Why does it even matter to me? Over the years I have found that no matter what you do as a photographer, the look and feel of your images matters. Shooting raw gave me the most control over the look and feel of my images. Yes, it took more time, but in the end my style was distinct and set me apart from others in may area.