No problem asking a sensible question IDL. You can make what they call a pseudo HDR from a single Raw file. This is good if it can cover the lighting situation and there is lots of movement in the scene like people, traffic, or trees blowing in the wind. Otherwise shooting 3, 5, 7 or 9 shots jpeg is the more acceptable way to do it. Tripod and no movement is preferred. But your dynamic range will pretty well be covered.
Smaller in file size, consequently you can save many more panos/images on a drive.
Can be opened/edited in just about any graphics program
Little or no learning curve
Anyone or almost any camera can shoot JPGs
8-bit files (only 256 color per channel)
Limited ability to color correct
Generally, you need to bracket in ONE f-stop increments.
Very limited in overall detail, but especially in highlight and shadow details
(in other words darks go black quickly and highlights go completely white quickly)
Better for shooting "journalistic" or fast moving/changing scenes, especially with people in them.
RAW files are:
Slower to shoot
Slower to save (More bits = bigger file size = more hard drive space needed = less images can be saved to a hard drive)
Larger in file size (14-bit RAWs are about 25% larger than 12-bit RAWs)
12-bit files have 4096 colors per channel and 14-bit files have 16,384!
Are "proprietary" per camera manufacturer and even within a single manufacturer
(i.e.: Canon) they have multiple RAW formats (i.e.: .CR2 and .CRW)
Generally, you need to bracket in TWO f-stop increments.
Much more exposure latitude, consequently fewer photos to cover a large exposure range. (i.e. 3 RAW files can cover a range that 5 or 6 jpegs would be needed to cover) - This also means less bracketing!
Much more ability to change color temperature after its been shot
Have to be "processed" in a digital darkroom (i.e.: Adobe Lightroom) and then saved as secondary file such as Tiff, JPG, EXR, etc.
Are Non-destructive! At this point, RAW files cannot be saved. Therefore you can always go back to the original and make additional corrections.
Are naturally a bit "soft" looking. RAW files are INTENDED to be sharpened, so some photographers have a hard time switching for that reason alone.
Raw captures more data and more of the dynamic range more information result's in a better image quality for HDR.
The catch is upon processing you still have to come back down to jpg for printing
and for posting on the web but you can still see the processing advantage the raw has over jpeg.
And last I will say this almost 95% of all HDR tutorial's out on the web talk about using Raw the the optimal method of choice.
Alright. Thanks for the info provo. That helped me out a ton. I will go try and HDR when i get home from school tonight. One more question though. If you take 3 shoots in raw and make an hdr out of them, do you lose the detail and color range if you change that into a jpg?
A RAW file. It is essentially unedited until you open it (and you can only open it in ACR, not directly in PS). The jpeg file has been edited in-camera according to whatever settings you have made in the camera menu, and it is not unusual that it may appear better than the RAW file before you have made any adjustments to the latter. So, as you suggest, the object is to make edits in ACR so that the image looks just as good (or perhaps better) than the jpeg. The advantage to the RAW file is that you have a great deal more lattitude for making the desired adjustments than you have with the jpeg file.
LOL for the sake of this thread already just use Raw