RAW vs. JPEG Question - Newb to DSLR

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by habsfan93, Nov 19, 2008.

  1. habsfan93

    habsfan93 TPF Noob!

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    Ok, just got a Rebel XS, have been playing around with it and having lots of fun after outgrowing my P&S.

    I've been reading a lot about the RAW vs. JPEG debate, and which to shoot in, etc. I understand that RAW saves more information - in fact, I shot a bunch of RAW+JPEG, and I can see the difference between the two files. But if I want to upload a photo to Flickr or print a photo say, I have to save the RAW file as a JPEG. Once I save to JPEG, and compare to the original JPEG - the photos look identical. I can't see any difference between the two - compression is compression right? So, since JPG is the universally accepted photo file standard, in the end you have to compress your RAW files to JPEG regardless.

    So other than people wanting to manipulate the look of the photo - I understand this is obviously the big draw for people who want to do lots of post-processing - is there any other use for RAW? Why all the hoopla about photo quality if the photos have to be converted to JPG in the end for printing/publishing?

    I don't think I'll ever be a big post-processing guy. I'd much rather spend an hour outside trying to take the best photo possible on the camera itself then spend an hour at my computer trying to make a crappy photo look nice. Is there any point for me to shoot RAW?
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the forum (even if you are a Habs fan ;) )

    You seam to have a good idea of the reasons why people would shoot RAW or JPEG. RAW files do have more information and give you a lot more freedom when editing images, but if you don't plan on doing that editing, then saving directly as JPEG might be a better option for you.

    To me, part if it is the 'what if' factor. What if you take a shot at the perfect moment but the exposure or white balance isn't perfect? In RAW, that's much easier to fix than if you had shot JPEG.

    As you mentioned, you can very easily get a JPEG file from a RAW file...but you can't go the other way. So if you don't want to deal with a lot of editing, you could still shoot RAW and then just convert them to JPEGs in a batch, you don't even have to be at your computer while you run it.

    Lastly, I found it much easier to work with RAW files, once I got the right software. Something like Lightroom really makes it easier.
     
  3. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    RAW lets you adjust the white balance and the exposure of a shot - those are 2 things that JPEG cannot do. Though you can sometimes creat a similar effect with a JPEG is more complicated and at fullsize it can look worse (for websize a lot of editing gets a lot easier).
    Aside from that aspects such as noise removal and sharpening can (as you get more into the post processing) be things that you want more control over in a shot - with JPEG the camera applies its own coding to the whole of the photo - it might be that you only want noise reduction on one area (say background) and sharpening also only in one area. Further the codes in a computer are better than those in a camera (generally) since computers have more processing power and also time to process these codes.
    Is there any point? Well at the end of the day if you don't think there is then there isn't one ;) RAW can be a good safty net with exposure and white balance adjustments, but nothing beats getting those right in camera first time.

    However saying that a RAW file will never degrade over time, whilst a JPEG saved several times will start to lose data (JPEG is Lossy compression) which is why a lot of people prefer to shoot RAW as it is Lossless (no loss) and then convert not to JPEG but to TIFF instead (which is larger files than JPEG but also lossless compression). Also as a RAW can never be edited (any changes made in RAW conversion are saved in a separate file and applied to the RAW each time you open it, but the original file remains unchanged) it acts as a good photo negative store - a way to return back to the original output of a camera - sometimes its very easy to accidentaly save over a JPEG original and then you can't go back
     
  4. bigtwinky

    bigtwinky No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I think one of your statements is a bit off

    ""who want to do lots of post-processing""

    Its not an issue of wanting to do LOTS of post-processing. You don't need to be big on post-processing, shooting RAW allows you to do very minor tweaks to the picture that make a huge difference. Things that if done in JPEG would screw with the image quality.

    Its not an issue of taking an hour to make a crappy pic look good. You are 100% right in that making the picture the best possible in the lens is key. But doing some minor white balance or exposure tweaks are key to really making an image pop.

    Besides, when you view something in your 3.5" LCD after taking it, you only get a really compressed non realistic version of what the image is. A few times I shot something that looked good in the LCD but when viewed on my computer monitor, it didn't look as great as I thought. 2 mins of fixing exposure, white balance, and a small tweak in saturation on the RAW image and it was good to go.

    Film cameras require a dark room to develop
    The new dark room is Photoshop for digital cameras. So giving yourself the flexibility in shooting RAW is a good idea.

    But to each their own. If you are doing a photoshoot for friends so you can post up the images on facebook or send them via email, then shooting in jpeg might be totally fine. However, if you get an awesome capture in a once in a lifetime moment that just needs some tweaking, you might be a tad annoyed that you didn't shoot in RAW

    :)
     
  5. habsfan93

    habsfan93 TPF Noob!

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    Wow, thanks for the quick answers!

    Glad to be here - I've been looking for a good photography forum, and this seems like the best one I've found to date.

    Seems like I might have to do some learning on post-processing. I'd like to get the best quality possible from my photos (one of the main reasons I decided to upgrade to DSLR), but I'm not sure I see myself doing a lot of post-processing - mind you that's probably because I don't really know how. :lol:

    So do you guys shoot in exclusively in RAW and then only convert your photos to JPG if you need to do something with them (i.e. put them on the web, etc.)?

    Also, any good resources you can recommend for learning the fundamentals of post-processing?
     
  6. Jeff Canes

    Jeff Canes No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    JPEG degrade with each save. But simple adjustments and few saves like will not do mush harm to the image, especially if you begin with a nice quality image.

    If you are going to be doing heavily editing of a JPG (or poor quality) you should first covert it to a TIFF because they do not degrade the file when saved, then you can edit & save the file all you like with out degrade it, when you finally finish your editing resave it as a new JPG for printing or the web
     
  7. ANDS!

    ANDS! No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Not neccesarily. Photoshop color correction can be used to correct color balance up to a certain point, as well as adjusting under/overexposure issues. JPEG's wont have the flexibility or "ease" of correction as a RAW file, but if a person has inadvertantly produced a file in JPEG that needs adjustment, all is not lost.

    As for the degredation "issue" of JPEGS; repeatedly saving a JPEG file will result in a "loss", but that loss is nearly imperceptible and I imagine statistically nonexistant if you're saving at a high quality. If you consistently save at the minimal level in Photoshop (or any other program), I have no doubt that you would start to see some issues.

    RAW and JPEG both had their advantages. If you are just out and about shooting photographs, perhaps at a party, or a walkabout downtown - shoot RAW+JPEG; doing so will allow you to work directly on the JPEG and reference the RAW file if you need to make any adjustments.

    If you are shooting a sporting event or something that requires you to be able to write to disc with LITTLE to no downtown, shoot JPEG.
     
  8. Dionysus

    Dionysus TPF Noob!

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    youll learn that taking the picture is only half of it...its very rare that you take a PERFECT picture very often. most need some sort of tweak or slight adjustment.
     
  9. habsfan93

    habsfan93 TPF Noob!

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    I think this might actually be the way for me to go, so that if and when I do get comfortable with image editing, I can go back and rework some of my shots.
     
  10. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    yep its a good choice to make - the only downside is it will fill up your memory cards quicker - but memory is very cheap these days (Get it online like at amazon since memory is often a pushed up sales price in some highstreet shops)
     
  11. bigtwinky

    bigtwinky No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    While photoshop and other softwares do allow you to do some massive work on images, keep in mind that they also permit quick fixes and adjustements too.

    As for learning, you can always buy a photoshop book or look around online for some photoshop tutorials. But I would recommend taking a few courses to learn the basics of what PS can do for photography.

    My wife took a photoshop for the web type of course at a local university and learned some neat things. However, the course I am taking next semester looks specifically at photoshop for pictures. One of the big things in there is the bridge application that you go through when your picture is in RAW and before it gets into photoshop. Something she didn't touch on
     
  12. ANDS!

    ANDS! No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    As someone said, it can certainly tax your memory card. However, there are some cheap alternatives to the "big name" memory card people. You can get a 16GB Transcend for about 40 bucks, and the only thing you are sacrificing is speed when shooting (and dumping) files in RAW mode. However, if these are single non-continuous shots, all that is kind of pointless as by the time you recompose, the file will have been written.

    Dumping the files would take some time, (maybe 4/5 minutes?) - but this assumes you somehow are able to shot a full 16gigs worth of photographs.

    The only thing I use BRIDGE for is importation of files. Otherwise, it is quite a bit sluggish and not as useful as the manufacturers own conversion software. If you wanted to streamline your workflow though, it is a good idea to use it.
     

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