Raw vs Jpg

The folks who are against shooting raw say things like this:

  • Its just a way to sell bigger memory cards
  • It takes longer to get your pictures off the card
  • You need a more expensive computer or software to handle raw
  • There is no quality difference between raw and jpg (oh.. yeah there is, see below)
  • RAW is just a gimmick used to sell big expensive cameras and memory cards.

The folks (including me) who recommend shooting raw say this:

  • RAW allows you to fix mistakes later, such as color temp choices
  • RAW allows you to perform wide ranges of color changes, lighting changes, and even some image enhancements in post processing with little or not quality loss from the original image.
  • RAW allows you to protect your copyrighted work (after all, if you can present the original RAW file, thats fairly good evidence.  Its not a slam dunk, but its one more mark on your side of the argument)
  • RAW allows you to get cleaner compositing layers using chroma key software and backgrounds

The big one for me is the color correction, JPG data can start to fall apart when you go moving the color palette around, while RAW files simply adjust and lose nothing.

As for the arguments against raw files most of them are people who either have a purist mentality of “get it perfect in camera every time”.  There is nothing wrong with this mentality of course, perfection is a wonderful thing, but for me, I prefer to protect myself against mistakes at every opportunity.  Another mentality is simply a failure to grow with the times.  Yes, RAW files are very large.  They do force a need for larger memory cards.  And yes they do take longer to transfer than a jpg.  But the large cards now, lets say 32gig, costs less than the 8gig cards from the early days of digital, which is when those arguments against RAW formed in some heads and its been lodged there ever since.  So while yes, the transfer time can be a few minutes to get all the images transferred I generally start the process and go get a drink, unpack gear, pack gear, whatever, there is always something to do for those few minutes.

The only time I can think of shooting raw is if, for whatever reason, I were to take pics for someone that then wants me to just hand over the images, which I have no plans to do so, then yes, I would set it to jpg, and probably medium at that.  No need to reward cheap folks with pristine imagery.  But anything I plan to be proud of, RAW is the only option for me.

Just remember the end result justifies the means when it comes to art.  And photography is art.  Your goal is to create the very best image possible, and the best platform on which to begin is RAW, why set limits on the potential from step 1?