View Full Version : JPEG vs RAW...Which is better

07-12-2006, 07:17 AM
Before we start this: Which is better?

Canon or Nikon?
Mac or PC?
Film or Digital?
Ford or Chevy?

Jpg or Raw?
Close your eyes and decide. "Different Strokes for Different Folks". Does it really matter. A lot of these fall into a "users" particular preference mode. What has he read. How has he learned. What is he deciding. And so on and so forth. This controversy will rage on and on, but let's dispell some myths.

When "raw" first came about, it was crappy. Adobe's Guru, Thomas Knoll wrote Adobe Raw while on a vacation and raced back to the company and said here, Put this out. It was a plug-in for Photoshop 7.0 and if you wanted it as a part of your workflow, you had to buy the plug-in, and install it for $99.00 extra. Later on the Adobe folks had a change of heart and included it as a part of Version 8, CS. Canon had it's "raw". Nikon had it's own "raw" and so did every other manufacturer.

Now at this point, "raw" is being touted as the real Photographers format. If you don't shoot "raw". you don't shoot. Down with Jpeg. Jprg has gotten some bad press in the "media" but let me tell you Jpeg "aint" that bad.

Now it's true, I as a photographer do shoot "raw" (mainly weddings) and for some personal work, but for my government assignments I go "Jpeg". It's quick, easy, doesn't tie me to the computer all day and as I have "calibrated" my monitor and custom set my "white balance", I can get a beautiful print in short order. But you've got to understand "Jpeg" or it will bite you in the A**. JPEG compression makes your file sizes small. This is a compressed file format that loses quality each time the image is saved. Thats why it is called a "lossy" format. If and when I shoot "JPEG" and carry it to my hard drive, before I play with it (JPEG) that is, I convert it. Convert it to what? you say. I personally convert to either "PSD" or "TIFF" that's what. Now, I can play with it forever.....levels, color balance...curves...crop and sharpen. If I don't like what I see on screen..I can go to edit and undo it. or I can throw it away. Get another copy and start again.

Now, if you are working with images that are very critical and I mean critical. You should shoot "raw". Major exposures and color correction is easier to make. One of the secrets to shooting "jpeg" is to always set a good white balance and make a good exposure. You can "chimp" by looking at your "histogram". don't delete unless the shot is actually terrible. I mean God Awful.
As a matter of course, when I deal with a pro lab in this area of Washington, the lab won't take a "JPEG". They want "TIFFS". The only time I do use a pro lab is for anything 16 x 20 or larger. for anything under, I am a do- it yourselfer.

One of the "myths" surrounding Raw is that it is sharper than "JPEG". This is simply not true by any means. If you do shoot "JPEG". don't be lazy and shoot "AWB" because you may find your color is not consistent from one file to the next.

Finally let me say that only you can decide which way to go..."raw" or "JPEG". But if you haven't given "raw" a shot yet...give it a try and see. That's what growing is all about.


07-12-2006, 08:10 AM
Very good overivew Ted!

One way I look at it is this - compare it to film, I'll use slides here. JPEGs are the equivelant of what you get from the lab when you drop off a roll of slides - the processed product. You look at it and you're pretty much done with it. You botched something, you can't really correct it. RAWs on the other hand are the undeveloped roll of slides. You can push or pull process them if you want. But the beauty of RAW that you don't get with slides is if you don't like the processing choices you've made, you can do it again, and again, and again without damaging the original "film."

For me, since quite a bit of my work goes to magazines (and soon books) for publication consideration, I always shoot RAW. What has helped my workflow is the now defunct program Rawshooter Premium 2006. I can go through a few hundred RAW files in less than an hour. That's culling the crap, rotation & crop, color/white balance correction and processing to either JPEG or TIFF. JPEGs are for web use, and for emailing samples, and TIFFs are the ones that go out to the publications.

Anyways, to each their own - everyone's got their own method that works for them. Don't be afraid to try a new method, but don't do it just because the so-called "pros" are doing it. If it doesn't work for you, find another way. There's more than one way to skin a cat...


07-12-2006, 08:16 AM
I shoot quite a bit of high volume work, and the RAW workflow wouldn't work for me. We also generally print 8x10 and smaller. When I do shoot low volume assignments, I'll often use RAW if I think either the lighting is tricky, or I anticipate very large output.

07-12-2006, 09:16 AM
since you shoot "raw" for publication/books and have used Raw Shooter Premium, you might want to try "Digital Photo Pro" which you can get free by going to your Canon download files. Or you can go to:http://www.dpreview.com and find it but you may have scout around for it there. Sometimes in the Canon download files, downloads may not show up unless you turn off your firewall software, which I find to be terrible.

I see your point about not shooting "raw". For you it looks as if "raw" is a lot less convienant and "JPG" isa lot more applicable to your shooting situation.

07-12-2006, 09:23 AM

Yeah, I've tried 'em all. DPP is pretty good, but it's a bit slow. I started using DPP when I got the camera, and liked the results, until I got RSP. RSP is quite quick, and I like the QImage profiles I got for the 20D. Renders the colors nicely. Adobe Camera Raw is pretty good, but I like what I get out of RSP better. Again, it all comes down to personal preferences.