RAW vs. JPEG

Started Feb 10, 2013 | Discussions thread
Carey Brown
Carey Brown Senior Member • Posts: 1,486
Re: RAW vs. JPEG

If you EVER want to post process a photo then shoot RAW. Most of the advantages of RAW are pointed out in the article and other posts.

The article mentions one of the disadvantage of RAW vs JPG being memory usage. Memory is so cheap these days I consider this a non-issue.

Today's tools (eg Lightroom) are so much friendlier than the early RAW converter tools that I almost forget that I'm working with RAW files.

I only convert (export) to JPG those images that I specifically want to post or print; this can be done as a batch process.

The two sticking points with RAW that I still see is the "side car" issue and the need for ALL RAW images to have some amount of post processing.

Because you can't edit RAW pixels you can only edit the instructions dictating how the pixels are to be processed, you need to record these instructions somewhere. Some software creates companion side-car files (aka XMP) that must travel (be copied) wherever the RAW image file goes. Lose the side-car and you've lost the instructions but you don't lose the actual pixel data. Lightroom takes a different approach, it stores the instructions in a database, which has a number of advantages but it has one big disadvantage, if your database gets lost of corrupted you've lost the instructions for hundreds or thousands of images (still, no loss of the actual pixel data). Adobe built some backup capability into Lightroom but it's up to you to use it.

The other issue is that ALL RAW images look bad compared to their JPG equivalents unless some amount of post processing is applied. JPG's have had some sharpening, de-noise, contrast enhancement, and saturation enhancement applied in the camera. With RAW it's up to you. This isn't quite as bad as it sound though. LR allows you to configure default processing instructions that will be applied to all of your RAW images as they're imported. This makes importing your day's shooting a no brainer. However, it takes some experimentation in the beginning to find what defaults are most pleasing to you. The defaults are just a starting point, at a later date you can edit any image's instructions to refine the look for a specific image.

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