If you aren't experienced with LR/PS, should you shoot in Jpeg?


No longer a newbie, moving up!
Dec 20, 2013
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As the title asks, should those (myself) that aren't experienced and/or skilled with post processing stick to Jpeg?
IMHO, no, it's like forking out $5k of gear then shooting in a mode that returns results that $2k worth
of gear can do. Lightroom basics are a 15 minute youtube video. No excuse not to do it.
LR is easy to use ... PS is a different story.
I use LR all the time, and I am a noob when it comes to post processing ... my wife prefers PS.
You have a Canon, which means you should have DPP (Digital Photo Proffesional). Not only is it a raw processor, but it has all of the camera presets, so if you just need to pump out some quick jpegs from the raws you can be sure to get exactly what the camera would have given you if you shot in jpeg. Meanwhile you'll still have the raw files to play and learn with.
IMHO, no, it's like forking out $5k of gear then shooting in a mode that returns results that $2k worth
of gear can do. Lightroom basics are a 15 minute youtube video. No excuse not to do it.

Post-processing is >50% of most pictures' impact. Mother Nature doesn't give a hoot what light or shadows you want, post-processing allows you to make up for Nature's inadequacy.
Lightroom is fairly easy to learn. You should give it a try.

If you get locked into the choices the camera makes when doing internal JPEG processing then you lose out on a lot of potential in your images.
Thanks all. I can and do use LR to process RAW pics with varying degrees of success. My assumption was that Jpeg would do the "heavy lifting" so to speak and then I could tune it up in LR.

Thanks again
As long as you can control the scene lighting then relying on the camera processed JPEG works pretty good. If all the work you're doing is in a studio and you have total lighting control then you can tailor the lighting to match the camera processing algorithms and generate consistent good quality JPEGs.

Lew however got it right when he noted that Mother Nature isn't real cooperative. If you want to leave the studio and continue to have the same level of success then you have to be very selective out in the natural world and don't try and photograph scenes and subjects in which the lighting isn't matching up with your camera's JPEG engine programming. The programming in your camera that generates that JPEG is pretty limited in scope and ability and when the lighting get's tricky it takes a dive. So the option in this case if you commit to shooting JPEGs is to either tolerate the camera's poorer performance or not take the photo. Not taking the photo time and again gets frustrating but it can be an appropriate compromise for people who don't want to invest more time and effort.

Let's look at an example. Went for a hike two weeks ago with my wife and I took this photo:


I really liked the way the sun was lighting up the trees along the side of the field. You get that because the scene is backlit -- the sun is shinning toward me from behind the subject.

So the bad news is that the software programming in your camera just can't take that photo under that lighting condition. Nothing you can do with the controls on the camera will coax the camera to give you anything that resembles the photo I took. Here's the photo the camera took:


That sucks. Now in defense of the camera I set the exposure that I wanted knowing full well what I intended. I couldn't care less what the camera software might do. I had the option to expose differently and help the camera software do better. The problem with that is that I would have to compromise my best exposure so the camera could do better and the camera still wouldn't come close to producing what I wanted. I'd get less and the camera wouldn't do a lot better -- nobody wins. So there was still the option of enjoying the day and my wife's company and forget the pictures.

Another option is to try and repair the camera JPEG -- some people call it editing the JPEG, but I call it repair. For example in the above photo the camera processing has clipped the highlights in the sky. I'd have to reduce exposure to get the camera not to do that. The forest on the left is really going to hurt if I reduce the exposure but it's really the only option if I want to stop the highlight clipping. The repair will be weak and in fact it's more difficult processing work. It takes more time and more skill to try and fix a broken JPEG than it does to process a raw file from the start.

Another advantage of learning to do the raw processing is that it will eventually inform what you do behind the camera. I was able to take that photo easily and get the best possible exposure because I knew what I was going do before I tripped the shutter.

Thanks all. I can and do use LR to process RAW pics with varying degrees of success. My assumption was that Jpeg would do the "heavy lifting" so to speak and then I could tune it up in LR.

Thanks again

It turns out that's not a safe assumption.

When the sensor records the image, the image is in memory as a RAW file. At that moment in the time the camera has all of the "information" associated with every single "pixel" on the sensor (color sensors don't really have "pixels" ... they have "photo-sites" which is just a single R, G, or B component that will eventually become a pixel once it is "De-Bayered".)

If you tell the camera to save in RAW format then ALL of that information is saved.

If you tell the camera to save to JPEG then a few good things and one very bad thing happen.

The good: The camera applies changes such as white balance, de-noising (if shot at high ISO), sharpening, saturation, etc. In other words it does a lot of the "heavy lifting" the needs to be done.

The bad: The camera also "compresses" the image to save space... but it's worse than that. If I have two adjacent pixels which have NEARLY but not EXACTLY the same hue or brightness then JPEG will decide it can save space by "normalizing" those two pixels so that they are, in fact, exactly the same color (not just close). If this were a RAW file, they would be stored as-is with no adjustment. Where this gets painful is if you had detail (typically this is worst either in highlight areas or shadow areas) and you need to adjust the exposure to recover that detail. If you shot RAW you'd find that the detail is still there. But since JPEG normalized all the pixels because it figured your eye would never notice the difference, then when you try to recover the detail you will discover that the detail is gone... and I mean forever (there's no way to get it back.)

While EVERY image in RAW needs at least a tiny bit of adjusting... it turns out programs like Lightroom automate that process for you by creating a "camera profile". They know, for example, roughly how much sharpening or saturation, etc. should just automatically get applied. That means when you import your images, they come in and are stored as RAW files on your computer, but then Lightroom generates a few automatic adjustments and applies them for you (without you even asking) to make them look roughly about the same as a default JPEG would look. Except that since Lightroom actually DID save the original RAW data, if you don't like it's default adjustment you CAN still still change. If you shot in JPEG your options become limited.

For this reason, I consider RAW to actually be EASIER than shooting in JPEG because the image processing software does the heavy lifting for you -- but doesn't destroy the original data from the file and THAT means that ultimately any adjustments you need to make are actually possible. You get substantially more latitude to adjust a RAW image and you don't have to fight to get the change to happen. Had you shot in JPEG... it fixing an image can be quite a struggle if you needed detail that the camera has long since discarded.
Many DSLRs have the option to record a 16-bit TIFF file.
Because JPEG is limited to an 8-bit color depth many JPEG images have little or no post process editing headroom.
JPEG - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Note that most of the compression of a JPEG file is accomplished by locking groups of pixels into Minimum Coded Units of 8x8, 8x16, or 16x16 pixel units according to the level of compression the camera is set to - Fine (1:4), Normal (1:8), or Basic (1:16).

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