Is it better for me to shoot JPEG as opposed to RAW if I dont do any PP?

Started May 8, 2013 | Discussions thread
Oilman Veteran Member • Posts: 3,375
The old Film method WAS to post process

Read Ansel Adam's book "The Negative". His processing techniques (i.e. ten zone system) are still being taught in college level photgraphy courses. All of the great film photographers were completely and totally anal about their processing.

Everyone tries to get it right the first time. Certainly Ansel Addams did! That is good photography. But no camera made today is as good as your eye. That was true in film days and it is true today. Here are two photographs of my backyard. I shot them when I first got into digital photography to test whether shooting RAW was worth it. I have not shot a JPG  using a DSLR since then.

The first shot is a JPG straight out of the camera. Note that the greenery is underexposed and the sky is blown out. I did not do anything wrong. The shot was perfectly exposed for the entire scene.The dynamic range was simply too great for the camera to see everything that I saw

This next shot was taken immedaitely after the first. I took a single RAW image and made two copies. On one copy, I correctly adjusted the exposure for the sky. On the second  I correctly adjusted the exposure for the ground. I then blended these two copies into a single image. Now both the sky and ground  are correctly exposed

I did not fix a screw-up. I did not do anything wrong on the first image. But it does not represent what I saw. The dynamic range of this image was simply too great for the camera to handle. The second image does represent what I saw. Your camera has a dynamic range of around 6.5 stops, However, your eye has a dynamic range of well over 20 stops. It is also attached to a supercomputer, your brain, that automatically adjusts "f stop" by expanding and contracting your iris.

Yes RAW can fix mistakes but that is not why I use it. I use it because I want the best photos I can get. That means worrying about exposure, WB etc before I push the button. But it also means processing to get around the limitations of the camera and accurately capturing what I actually saw.

And just as the darkroom was a part of photography for those of us "of a certain age", the computer is today.  In the film era, you could elect to have the local drugstore process your photos. Today you can ask your camera to do the same thing. But in both cases, the result is inferior, no matter how good a photographer you are. I understand that many would be satisifed with the first image. That's OK. But there is a clear difference between the two and the first image is not good enough for me.

I recomend Ron Bigelow's excellent essays on RAW for anyone that wants to pursue this matter further.

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