RAW verses JPG

January 30, 2019  •  Leave a Comment
DSC_2915Raw Processed imageThis is the same image processed from a RAW file.
This is the RAW processed file
 
One of the biggest questions people have is, “What's better? Shooting in Raw or JPG?
There are lots of opinions regarding the merits of shooting RAW or JPG. I have been shooting for years and based on my experience, I’d like to present my thoughts.
 
What is JPG?.

JPG is a universal image format that uses a series of adjustments to create a viewable image file from the original data collected by the camera sensor.
The image data is compressed which directly effects the quality of the image. When you select JPG in the camera’s shoot menu it will prompt you to select basic, standard or fine to select the degree of compression. Depending on the selection, the files will range between 5Mb to 100Kb. 
Even the most basic image viewing programs support the JPG format and can be read directly from the camera’s memory card.
If you have selected JPG as your cameras recording mode you will also have to make some selections in the cameras shoot menus.
For example, the White Balance (WB) should be selected when shooting JPG's. The WB setting allows you to tell the camera the type of light you are shooting under. You can leave the camera on Automatic WB but it can sometimes misread the scene especially in mixed lighting. By making a selection based on the conditions you find yourself in, like cloudy or sunshine you make the camera select a specific WB to apply to the image. Once applied it cannot easily be changed without affecting the quality of the image.

So what happens when I shoot a JPG?

The camera will take the information recorded by the sensor and apply adjustments to several aspects of the image.  Colour space, white balance, contrast, picture control
colour saturation, sharpness and noise reduction are some of the changes that are applied. Put another way the camera will process the image based on values installed in the camera
during production. When you navigate the camera's menu you can make some selections in these categories but they are still pre-set values.
Colour information and dynamic range are usually some of the most affected data values which changes the quality of the image.
Detail is also lost during the compression of the data while creating the JPG file. As mentioned earlier a fine JPG created by a 20MP camera is usually about 5Mb compared to the 20+Mb collected by the sensor.
Keep in mind by fixing the values in camera during the creation of the JPG the White Balance, Colour Space, and Picture Control settings will affect the final look of the final image.
 
 
What is a RAW file?

RAW files are a recording of the data collected by the chipset. No compression or adjustments are done to the information collected by the sensor.
You don’t need to specify a file size or quality while shooting. A RAW file is not actually an image but just data and require a special conversion program such as Photoshop to be viewed.
Even the image you see on the back of the camera is a temporary JPG created by the camera to allow you to see the image. The RAW format file sizes
are quite large, typically between 20-25Mb in size compared to the 5Mb of a JPG.

So what do I do with the RAW file?

A RAW file as I mentioned earlier a RAW file is just the data collected by the sensor, not an image.  The data must be processed by a programme like ACR in Photoshop and Lightroom. There are other programmes as well but the Adobe programmes are the main ones used on the market. When you open the RAW file in these photoshop/Lightroom you will see the image on the screen in the processing window. Most people find the initial RAW data image flat and lacking contrast with lifeless colour. The first thing to do is adjust the White Balance. Because the WB data is not fixed you can adjust the value to emulate what you saw. For the images shown the RAW the WB settings I choose was 5700K with a -7 on the tint. The camera chose 6200K with +10 tint. I used a grey card to get the correct Colour Balance. I adjusted the brightness up by .65Ev and the contrast by +14. I dropped a little highlight and increased the shadows but not too much to create a halo effect. I didn’t change the saturation but did increase the Vibrance by +20. I added some clarity and saved the image as a Jpg which is what you see here. In all about 2 minutes of processing. This image is not overdone and looks more the way the scene did than the Jpg recorded by the camera. The image had more dynamic range and the colours are not clipped. Look at the white wave tops on the beach for what I am talking about.
 
 
Conclusions
As I said at the start this is my opinion and I will restate that there is no correct way to shoot and Process. It is all up to the Photographer.
Having said that I personally find that shooting in RAW gives me more ability to capture the image I want. I think most people who have followed
my work will find I try and keep as close to “reality” with my images. While I may try and catch the Ureal the image is still essentially the image as
the camera caught it. Looking at the 2 images I have attached I find the RAW image to have more depth colour, vibrance, Dynamic Range, and more
personal appeal.
 
 
This is the in-camera JPG.
DSC_2915In camera JPGThis is the in camera JPG shot in fine.

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