jpg? RAW?

1415 jpg edited

1415 jpg edited

1415 dng edited

1415 dng edited

When I got my first DSLR I couldn’t wait to shoot RAW because that was what all the pros were shooting and therefore it must be better than any other format.  I’ve been shooting RAW (converted to the dng format) for years now and it has been working out well for me, probably because I like to edit and the format was easy to work with in Lightroom, which seemed to be made for the RAW format.  I’ll even admit that I never shot a jpg with either the D80 or the D610 until recently. I’ve read several photo blogs by photographers I respect and they mentioned that they now shoot jpgs exclusively because the newer cameras have beautiful jpg renditions on their files and are very satisfied with the results.  I decided to see for myself if the D610 and Lightroom  could produce acceptable jpgs.  I set the camera to record a RAW and fine jpg for each shot.  I picked this shot to demonstrate because it had a a lot of white, some black and a few good colors to match.  While some might say that skin tones make the true test, I picked this one to show, although I did have a lot of skin tones from family portraits shot on a different day but with similar light conditions.

The two shots above show the RAW file and the jpg file edited in Lightroom 5.  The edits were very close to being the same for both files but my intention was to try to match each file without too much effort.  I first edited the RAW file as I normally would for this type of photo and then I tried to match the same look with the jpg.  Time spent: less than 2 minutes for the Raw file and then I synced the jpg file to have the same edits (lightly tweaked).

The two shots below are the unedited dng and jpg files:

1415 dng unedited

1415 dng unedited

jpg unedited

jpg unedited

The obvious question is “Why should a jpg file need to be edited?”  The answer is that it probably doesn’t need to be edited at all and it’s fine just as it comes from the camera.  I think some who look at the unedited file would be very satisfied with it.  But editing is a personal choice and I prefer the edited versions.  I’ve never published a photo that wasn’t somehow edited.  And I like to edit.  I wonder about those photographers that switched from RAW to jpg if they have reduced their edit time.

Another benefit to shooting jpg over RAW is file size.  The dng RAW file is 24.4 MB and the jpg is 7.8 MB, about one third the size of the RAW file.  I know storage is cheap these days but it’s not free.

I’ll throw in two more edited shots of the same files viewed at 1:1 as Lightroom perceives:

edited RAW 1:1

edited RAW 1:1

edoited jpg 1:1

ediited jpg 1:1

I made these files just to show how the detail has held up in the jpg.  They are both 25.067 x 16.733 inches and both at 240 ppi @ 16 bits.

Another benefit to shooting jpg is that, because of the smaller file size, the burst rate is much faster than shooting RAW.  That’s not too important for shots like this but if you shoot sports or any action photos, it could be the difference between getting the best shot and missing it.

I’d be interested in what other photographers have to say about this subject and what their own preferences are since this is based solely on the D610.

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23 thoughts on “jpg? RAW?

  1. Nelson

    I do like you when I shoot, low resolution JPEG and RAW even when I shoot fast sport event in burst mode. It does slow down the camera but since I edit all the photos that I post on the Internet, sometime just a little, sometime a little bit more, RAW is better.
    I find that RAW file give me much more flexibility and space for change. RAW can help me bring back a photo from the “dead world” where I made a very bad settings adjustments. JPEG does not give me that much flexibility. Also RAW gives me the possibility to make HDR with only one photo, I’ve tried HDR with multiple shots and it’s much easier with only one RAW file. Some will say this way is technically not real HDR, but I have better result with one RAW file.

    Reply
    1. oneowner Post author

      Yes, that’s a good point and it’s not really illustrated in this photo. This particular shot was fairly well exposed out of the camera (I under expose 1/3 stop by default) and I seldom use HDR. There is no question that there is a lot more information in the RAW file compared to the jpg and recovery of detail is much easier to reclaim in files that are severely under or over exposed. That could be part two of this in a later post.

      Reply
  2. Monte Stevens

    I’ve switched to jpeg because I find the quality to work for me and there is little need for me to work with raw files. I’m not making large gallery size prints so the jpeg fits. I also am able to set several parameters in camera to help in getting more from my jpeg image: saturation, highlight and shadow tones, sharpness, noise reduction. I also have one function button set to quickly change to raw plus jpeg if I feel the need.

    Reply
    1. oneowner Post author

      I like your idea of setting a function button like that. I may have to steal that idea. Even if you never have the need for RAW files it would be nice to have the option at a moments notice.

      Reply
      1. Monte Stevens

        One more comment. I have the capacity to bracket the film simulation used to process the jpeg files. I find this to be a great tool. When I select this the camera takes one image and processes three jpeg files using the film simulation I have chosen. It is done almost instantly so when editing I can quickly select the one I like best.

  3. disperser

    I’m not sure that copying the same settings from RAW to JPGs would make the same adjustments. I’ll have to play with it.

    I’ve been planning a comparison of both the RAW and JPG processing changes from the D100 to the D200 to the D7000. Perhaps I’ll push that up a bit.

    Regardless, like you I prefer making my own adjustments even if the JPG looks OK. I usually take both, just in case. However, I save the JPGs at a less-than-full resolution in case I want to use them for e-mails without processing anything. However, the standard operating procedure is that when i bring stuff into Lightroom I blow the JPGs away.

    Reply
    1. oneowner Post author

      I haven’t shot a jpg with my old D80 (which I still use) in years and I never did a real comparison. I can make jpgs from the RAW files anytime but not the other way around. It’s obvious that the dng file is a more archival file and that is the file type of choice of many museums around the country. I wish there was a cloud storage system I could use that was inexpensive and reliable, especially for the long term. I thought of CARBONITE, and I may still try to work something out with them but my backups are all on hard drives and we all know how reliable they are.

      Reply
  4. Paul

    I shot JPG for years and years and years and was totally happy with it. The only advantage that I can see with raw, and the reason that I shoot it now, is that I can change the color temperature after the fact. That is to say, daylight, tungsten, etc. Periodically, I think of going back to JPG because it takes, as you mentioned, 1/3 of the space. I always shot JPG fine, which was the highest quality, highest resolution available in the Nikon camera.

    For sports, no way was I going to diddle around with those huge, slow-to-write raw files. In those cases, especially where the picture was going to the web only, I shot JPG medium sized, best quality. The only problem was that sometimes, the lighting wasn’t quite right, sodium vapor lighting, for example, and it takes a little more tweaking to get things looking good if you hadn’t done a custom color setting before starting – but that was rare.

    I think that there’s a log of “dogma” associated with shooting raw, but that’s just my opinion. 🙂

    Reply
  5. oneowner Post author

    I’ve been shooting the jpg along side the RAW files for about 3 weeks now and I haven’t run into a case where the RAW file looked significantly better, especially considering how these files are used. I’ll continue this practice until I’m absolutely certain that the jpgs the best choice for me. There is another advantage to jpg that I failed to mention in that, due to the smaller file size, the edits seem to go a bit faster in LR5. My PC is 7 years old, though, and probably not the best for any Adobe product.

    Reply
  6. Melinda Green Harvey

    I agree with Nelson’s comment, that the RAW images have a lot more data to pull from during post-production. The benefit of RAW is particularly evident in b&w images, where I can almost always pull detail from the darkest parts of the image.

    Reply
    1. oneowner Post author

      That’s one reason I’m still shooting RAW. I don’t normally preconceive shots in black and white anymore as I did when shooting film, a talent that is wasted if not used for long periods. And perhaps this wasn’t the best shot to compare the two formats because of its flat, evenly lit subject. I should retest using a shot that is a bit more challenging.

      Reply
  7. Lichtbild

    There are many articles out there that cover the topic from the basics of size, details, and, and…
    but its quite easy to answer ¿what are your needs?… I know a lot of photographers who shot in Jpeg but its a matter of time is money… (mostly for newspapers or webs) and then I know some publicity photographers who need to dedicate more time on single shoots and they need to pull out everything from the raw file. But there a lot of more I could talk of… ;P nice article!!!

    Reply
    1. oneowner Post author

      I’ve read a few articles comparing the two formats but not specifically regarding the D610. And you’re right, the choice is most dependant one your needs. I suppose the safest way would be (for me) to continue to shoot both formats and just delete what I don’t need after downloading.

      Reply
  8. TomDills

    My opinion has always been that if you want to take the time to process your photos, RAW gives you the most flexibility. And I’ve had just enough cases where I did not shoot in RAW but wished I had that I still do. That said, the newer cameras do put out a nice JPEG file. I shot RAW + JPEG with the Fuji and Olympus cameras I tried, and they were very impressive.

    Now the question of using a 7-year old computer calls for another answer altogether!

    Reply
    1. oneowner Post author

      Thanks, Tom. That would be the big nagging question for me:if I switch to just the jpg format, will I regret it with some shots that require quite a lot of processing. The safest course for me would be to continue shooting both formats and deleting what I don’t need., at least until I have more confidence in the format.

      Reply
  9. Alexandra

    I shoot only jpg… just couldnt get the knack of the raw (blush)… at some point I would shoot in both jpg and raw… and the jpgs didnt need any processing and looked better than the raws… they are used for very large prints quite successfully and I’m no pro any ways lol :)))

    great post and interesting discussion!!

    Reply
    1. oneowner Post author

      You don’t have to be a pro to use the RAW format, Alexandra. And editing is just as much of the art as shooting, IMO. If you stick with it, you will be rewarded.

      Reply

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