What do you shoot - RAW or JPEG - when traveling?

Started Jul 23, 2012 | Discussions thread
photowipe Forum Member • Posts: 84
Re: Arggg

Just when I though I was out, they drag me back in again.

There IS only one way to shoot and that's RAW. Your camera, regardless of how cheap or expensive, captures 12 or 14 bits of RAW data every time you push the button. In most better cameras you can then choose to hold onto that data and process it yourself (sort of like photographers used to do with film in the darkroom or working with a custom lab) or you can choose to let the camera process the sensor data into an 8 bit jpg itself using only the most rudimentary of options, with the only visual confirmation provided by a 3" low-res screen on the back of the camera powered by a relatively weak processor. In choosing the second option, we irrevocably discard almost everything the sensor originally captured. The closest analogy to that is shooting film, dropping it off at the drug store, and taking whatever comes back with diminished options for improvement. Shooting RAW surrenders convenience for control, shooting JPG surrenders control for convenience. Shooting RAW plus jpg misses the point- anyone who's ever processed a RAW file knows how useless the camera-generated jpg is in comparison. It only takes up space and confuses things unnecessarily.

Those who profess that they strive to "get it right in the camera" miss the point even more- a RAW file, whenever practical, can and should be exposed a little brighter than the desired final image ("shoot to the right") so that shadow values are raised and more data is available to play with in development. That's photography- that's what we've always done- we shoot to the right and develop to the left (referring to the histogram, of course). Ask anybody who's ever tried to make a good print from a crappy negative in the darkroom which they'd prefer, a "thin" negative (less exposure) or a dense negative (more exposure). We can't do this with every shot, but when we can, more exposure = better results, at least if we shoot a RAW file, it does.

With that said, there will always be "edge cases" (photojournalists on deadline, wedding shooters, Ken Rockwell with a new toy, etc). But any photographer who takes their work seriously (or who chooses to master the medium or at least learn more about what they're doing) shoots and archives RAW files, processes those data-rich files well, and then uses iterations in the jpg format as it was originally designed- web uploads, e-mail attachments, dpreview galleries, etc.

Basically, edge cases aside, you're either a photographer or a snapshooter. Photographers tend to shoot alot, but only process and show the keepers. Snapshooters like to shoot alot and often show too much of it (like your grandfather's slideshows), hence the attractiveness of losing the additional step of RAW development.

I know this debate will continue to simmer. But those of us who shoot for a living and a life don't need to be convinced of the merits of RAW any more than we needed to be convinced about the merits of controlling our own darkroom processing. As a matter of fact, we're thrilled that it's become so much easier to control the quality of our work that it used to be.

I'll step down from my soapbox now. I hope the OP is having a great time on vacation, shooting RAW files, which is what we should all be doing. Sounds like most of us here already agree.

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