any advantages of shooting Portraits in Raw vs Jpg format

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by sun_p, May 25, 2009.

  1. Hi There!
    I am a beginner and have a nikon d40. I also have a set of 200 WS Dlites. I love portraits and mostly shoot indoors. Although now plan to go outside and do the same!
    As a beginner initially i was struggling quite a bit especially coming from a point and shoot sony where everything was automatic without any manual options. But after getting my DSLR and reasearching, reading and understanding about photgraphy, I do see a lot of improvements thankfully! However, the problem still lies with composition, overall technicalities like setting the ideal shutter, aperture, ISO etc, but I am learning and hopefully with time/ studies and experience with get a bit better. However, the current situation is that I do take a lot of snaps almost about 50-100 and from that try to figure out which ones I like and then "work" on them. Meaning take them in Photoshop and then correct, levels, brightness, etc!
    1. My question to all you experts is that in such situations is it better to shoot raw or jpg is enough since as I mentioned I do a lot of tinkering in photoshop. Not really changing the whole image, background etc, but the colors, levels. oh and Cropping is a big part. So yes, Composition is also something I am learning. So I generally take a snap and then crop in photoshop based on what I like.
    2. once everything is done, is there something I need to do while saving to ensure that the quality of the snap does not deteriote? especially for the web/print etc. are there something to keep in mind. I have seen some images look good in photoshotp (jpgs) but on the browser they looks slightly noisy.
  2. Sunil,
    1) I'm no expert. 2) there is a lot of good solid info on these questions on - I'd try a search and see what you come up with.
    Personally, I too, like to have the option to re-work / edit my images if desired; thus I shoot RAW as these files are much more conducive to manipulations / alterations. I shoot my files using the in camera colour space Adobe RGB which has a wider colour gamut and can be re-profiled at a later date for printer profile, internet use profile etc. There is a bit to learn about re-sizing images for uploading and the available reduction methods and thier specific uses in relation to retaining sharpness, colour gradient etc. I'm still on a steep learning curve myself. Use the search engine here on
  3. I have seen some images look good in photoshotp (jpgs) but on the browser they looks slightly noisy.​
    Are you viewing images that don't fit the screen? Browsers use quite crude interpolation and can make things look bad, especially when it's not even 25, 50%... size reduction.
    You should resize for the purpose for best results.
    When you know what you're doing JPG's are fine but for any kind of tinkering RAW is better. Difference may not be very big, non-existent sometimes, but it'll give you some wiggle room if something goes wrong and for heavy global edits it's definitely better.
  4. Ray House

    Ray House Ray House

    For images that will be post processed I shoot RAW. I would suggest you shoot RAW+JPEG to have comparison samples. You will soon know which to choose by working with both.
  5. Sunil - I am no beginner in digital processing but I am still learning (at least I hope so).
    Looking back at some processed files from a few years ago or even last year I often think I really have to go back to the original and give it a new try. Besides improvements in my own skill there are always improvements in RAW converters and in newer versions of post processing software like PS.
    So for all files that are keepers I would always keep an original NEF file for later use and as a backup.
    PS: current offers for a 2 terabyte hard disk here in Germany are 145 Euro. That should hold many NEF files :)
  6. Open the following two photos in separate browser windows (or tabs, if you use Firefox):
    1. Test photo, 12/12/08 lunar event, prepped from JPEG
    2. Test photo, 12/12/08 lunar event, prepped from NEF
    Both were maximum resolution photos taken simultaneously. Compare the skies. Notice the odd looking artifacts in the JPEG? That's a problem with large expanses of same or similar colors, including blue skies and red or yellow flowers. Compare the fine detail in the power lines just above the trees. Also compare the tiny highlight details in the lower right corner. Notice how the tiny highlights in the JPEG are less bright? That's why you should shoot raw for any important work where maximum quality is essential.
    That said, I do often shoot JPEG only. But only for candid photography of casual events, which I do either free for the participants or for my own pleasure. I don't plan to spend a lot of time editing hundreds of photos from these events and usually just burn the JPEGs directly to CD and give them away.
    But for portraiture or any critical projects where I do want the maximum possible quality I usually shoot NEFs and JPEGs simultaneously. The JPEGs take up only a little extra space on the card and I find them handy for reference when choosing editing decisions for the raw files.
  7. Sunil, I would recommend you avoid Adobe RGB colour space. Unless you're familiar with colour space & profiles, Adobe RGB will give you problems.
    As for RAW vs JPG - well you can see for yourself how much improvement you get for all that extra storage space and conversion steps. In my opinion it's a very small difference and even less when it comes to portraits. One thing is for sure, don't be under any impression that you cannot manipulate JPGs, you can and it works very well.
    My work flow is to shoot in JPG / SRGB colourspace. I then make a copy of the files I want to manipulate (keeping the original file in case I need to go back to it). After manipulation, I save as photoshop, TIFF or high res JPG (depending on what I plan to do with it).
  8. Thank you all, that was a lot of information!
    1. Paul, I dont have much idea about adobeRGB vs sRGB, is this a setting I can select in my Nikon D40. I searched the menu and did not see anything?
    2. Lex, i have the option of RAW+Basic JPG in my nikon D40, I really did not quite understand that.
    a. Does that create two image files (Forgive me if that sounded like a silly question). Or after I download it creates two versions?
    b. Can RAW files be manipulated like what we do in Photoshop with JPG's or do I need to buy a new software. I think the Nikon Capture NX2 is quite expensive.
    3. IS Raw also suggested for Portraits using artificail light or is it more suited for Lanscape/natural light etc? Or is it any as long as it needs to be postprocessed.?
    4. Just a basic question. In photoshop when we manipulate a JPG file, meaning to the extent of setting levels, brightness, contrast, channel mixer etc, does that "degrade" the quality of the snap. Would I lose details.?
    5. When I used channel mixer on photoshop on a jpg to convert o monochrome, it looked decent black and white on the browser, but when I got it printed, it was more of a greayish overall impact with not very contrasty black whites. So I am assuming this has something to do with the sRGB, AdobeRGB etc option?
    6. When I resize jpgs in Photoshop to show on the browser, I directly go to image size-> change the resolution, lets say from 3000*2000 to 400 *600 (Resolution 72) so that the image becomes smaller. Is this correct ? Can the same be done on Raw or something else needs to be done?
  9. Though shooting JPG seems easier at first when compared to learning how to adjust your RAW files properly, RAW does give you more latitude in post processing - especially if the exposure or white balance was set incorrectly. Out-of-camera JPG files are already "baked" as some describe it. Making adjustments to them later is certainly possible, but your results will be more limited. This is especially true with clipped (burned out) highlights - a common challenge for JPG in especially high contrast outdoor or flash examples. Over the past ten years I've seen improvements in the way digital cameras process JPG so that there is more dynamic range in JPG output now than earlier. Still, many advanced amateurs and pros are spending the time shooting RAW and making their own conversions to JPG. That fact seems to weigh on the side of shooting RAW. My experience was that it took a full year to master it to my satisfaction. You might be a faster learner than I.
  10. 1. It's there.
    Using Adobe RGB is fine but you have to remember to convert to sRGB when you post to the net or send out for printing unless the lab says they can handle aRGB. sRGB is safe and often all you need.
    2a. RAW+JPG does just that, two files. Camera settings are only applied to the JPG, RAW is... well, raw. It's not even a viewable file before you apply the settings you want in conversion.
    2b. ACR, Adobe Camera RAW works and comes with PS. Try opening a RAW file and you'll see.
    3. It's suited for everything. It guarantees as much post control as is possible, including bringing back lost highlight detail. Also, you can apply noise reduction and sharpening to your own taste very accurately - RAW files have neither so they look soft and high ISO images rather different from jpgs. You need to study some literature about RAW work.
    4. Depends, heavy edits can degrade jpgs. See Lex's example.
    5. Printing. Ah, that could be due to many factors.
    6. When I resize jpgs in Photoshop to show on the browser, I directly go to image size-> change the resolution, lets say from 3000*2000 to 400 *600 (Resolution 72)​
    Your resolution is 600x400 or whatever pixel count you set, dpi/ppi is meaningless in files. It's just a file header, metadata. You can type 3800 in the dpi field of a 600x400 file if you want and it changes nothing when you have interpolation unchecked. Actual file resolution, pixels, remain the same.
    It comes only handy when you have certain print size and resolution in mind. Let's say you want to make pretty large print and think that 200dpi would be fine. Then in the resize box change file dimensions from pixels to inches and set 200dpi (interpolation unchecked) and see how big print you can get *in inches on paper*.
    You don't do this kind of stuff directly to a RAW file, it's the original and is not really altered in any way when you edit. RAW conversion creates a file you can edit and handle like JPG and save in any format you like.
  11. 'b. Can RAW files be manipulated like what we do in Photoshop with JPG's or do I need to buy a new software. I think the Nikon Capture NX2 is quite expensive.'
    As noted above, Photoshop does this with the ACR plugin. But be aware that different raw converters give rather different results from the same file. It's worth getting hold of the free version of Nikon's raw converter, ViewNX, to give you the option of 'Nikon-style' conversions in case you have trouble getting the results you want in ACR (the ViewNX results should look very similar to the in-camera jpegs by default):
    ViewNX can export the conversion as a tiff (the best option - no compression artifacts and you don't lose any 'bit depth') or jpeg that Photoshop can open directly. If you have this, there'll probably be no need to shoot raw + jpeg (but it's worth experimenting all the same). It's less flexible than ACR or CaptureNX, but the latest version does have quite a few conversion options to play with.
  12. "My question to all you experts"
    Most people are not experts, I'm certainly not. Just decide for yourself: do you want the camera to give you the finished product, with no recourse if it's not right?
  13. Portraits are very skin tone sensitive and very sharpness sensitive, this is all i use RAW for anymore. The rest are fine jpg, portratis are RAW.
  14. Sunil,
    This issue has been debated time and time again. One guy nearly got distroyed here for posting his opinion :)
    My view on JPG vs RAW, is basic. If you know what your camera can do and happy with results that you can do then stick to jpgs.
    Good Luck
  15. 4. Depends, heavy edits can degrade jpgs. See Lex's example.​
    Kari, I just wanted to clarify one thing. The sample photos I linked to were not heavily edited. The JPEG was only resized to fit's maximum limit of 1500 pixels for our portfolio spaces. The NEF used the same in-camera settings embedded for the JPEG. While the resized JPEG shows slightly more degradation in the sky than the original, the differences are still very apparent when comparing the original, unretouched JPEG with the NEF.
    The point I'm trying to make is that it isn't necessary to edit JPEGs to see image degradation. Even a maximum quality JPEG, straight from the camera, will still show some image degradation compared with a raw or TIFF file. How much degradation depends on the scenario. In casual or candid photos of people and events, the effect is negligible, not even worth worrying about. But for any photography where we want the maximum possible quality, including portraits, it's best to shoot raw.
    Another reason, occasionally stated in these discussions but not emphasized enough: As we gain experience we may wish to revisit old photos and try to improve them. I've done this with my b&w negatives, reprinting old photos decades later and finding I was a better printer. And I've seen this with my digital files. I have never regretted having taken maximum quality raw or TIFF files (my earliest P&S digicam offered JPEG and TIFF only). But I have often regretted having taken only lower resolution JPEGs. I have many live theatre photos taken in 2002 in which I used less than the maximum resolution JPEG setting, because I wanted to squeeze more photos into a single 64MB media card. There is no way to recreate those moments now, and I have only JPEGs suitable for online display or a tiny print, at best.
  16. Sunil - if you look here on PN, there's a comprehensive discussion of colorspace, sRGB vs Adobe, etc. The general gist is that you may ultimately want to stick with Adobe as its a large color gamut, and therefore you won't be throwing away color information. By the same token, Thom Hogan says to stay with ProPhoto to maintain the largest color gamut. The takeaway is that whichever you choose, you need to make sure the devices in the chain agree as to the colorspace, so that if you print at home, the colors agree. Similarly, if you send it out to print commercially or post on the web, you need to convert back to sRGB, as the lowest common denominator. Keep in mind that with RAW files, they have no colorspace coming out of the camera - they are only assigned to jpgs in-camera, or when they are converted to TIFFs in post-processing by ACR or comparable software.
    As for RAW - I agree with the above - RAW gives you a lot more flexibility for post-processing, especially for exposure mistakes. If you're interested in portraits, this is a pretty big deal, the ability to post-process and bring up hair detail, fill light, manage highlights, etc. Frankly, I don't see why you wouldn't shoot in RAW. You can save otherwise screwed up shots that are otherwise irretrievable in jpg.
  17. Sunil - this is not a good way to learn!
    You've asked several questions on several different subjects and your going to get many people with many different opinions who will respond, only to confuse you further. You need to focus on one thing at a time. Let's start with RAW vs JPG. Google 'ken rockwell RAW vs JPG'. You can read pages and pages on the technical details but the truth is (as Ken puts it), if you need to ask then you should be shooting JPG.
    Colourspace. Again, if you need to ask, then you should be shooting in sRGB (which I'm certain is the default on your camera anyway).
  18. Sunil, JPEG files shot properly under ideal conditons make great snapshots if not more. But shooting Raw allow you to be very creative and make your images the way you want them to be without any significant degradation. It also allows you to fix some of the flaws and mistakes you might have made while shooting the images. (exposure problems, and white balance problems...)
    With RAW, you can make your portraits buttery smooth, your street shots dramatic and contrasty, and your landscape shots sharp and saturated...
    Of course, to make the most out of Raw files, they require post processing. So you can say that they're less convenient.
  19. Raw is the way to go for portraits. It allows you way more flexibility to get the image the way to want it to look. JPEG essentially pre-cooks the image, compressing information and making adjustments to color, sharpness, etc.
  20. Sorry Shuo but I have to step in when I read posts like this. Are you saying you can't make street shots 'dramatic and contrasty' unless you are shooting RAW? Or that landscapes can't be 'sharp and saturated' unless they are shot in RAW? Really, I can't believe some of the things people will claim RAW will do! RAW allows you some latitude in exposure (around 2, max 3 stops). It allows you to alter white balance after the shot has been taken. It is NOT the magic recipe for shooting a contrasty street image or a sharp landscape. Nor a 'buttery' portrait for that matter. Why can't you be 'very creative' shooting JPG?????
    Please remember that you are giving advice to someone who is not even sure what RAW is or does. To read your post, the uneducated would believe that switching to RAW will somehow make their images wonderfully fantastic and that simply is NOT the case. If someone tells me that their exposure is regularly off by 2 or 3 stops then I would advise them to work on their metering technique - rather than offering RAW as a way to 'fix' shots later.
    Please continue to support / cheer for RAW if thats how you feel but can you at least keep it factual?
  21. Paul, I'm not saying that you must shoot Raw to get those results. I'm just saying that RAW is a more flexible alternative to JPEG. I know it's not the magic recipe. Good results from RAW obviously require some work/skill...
  22. Sunil just in case you hear different, RAW will not help you win the lottery, cure cancer or improve your love life ;o)
  23. Hello Sunil! Are you confused yet? Everyone who has responded above is sincerely trying to help you. The technical details of this subject are dizzying and require a lot of time and reading to sort through and digest before they begin to sink in. My small bit of advice...
    1) There is no substitute for shooting an accurate shot, correctly exposed, correctly composed with correct white balance, DOF and focus from the very beginning. You can do post processing adjustments, but your best shots, even with adjustments, are the ones that start out excellent from the camera.
    2) Ask yourself if you want the camera's default algorithms to make the processing decisions(JPEG) or if you want to transfer ALL of the unprocessed data from your sensor to your RAW converter and do the processing yourself, with whatever program you have and like. There is no correct answer to this question. As Lex mentions above, it depends on your choice for the situation you are shooting. If you like your fine JPEG shots and you want to share them with others like snapshots, that's OK. Minimal work for you and acceptable photos for many people. If you want the option to adjust exposure, white balance and have the largest breadth of control with all of the other possible adjustments, then you really do want the most information that you can extract from the camera, and that is the RAW file. This usually requires more post processing work and time, but you can also set presets for your portrait shots and apply your favorite settings to all of them in batches.
    3) Don't get too concerned about right and wrong. Shoot a lot and shoot often. Keep track of what you are doing and your preferences will begin to unfold as you learn the subtle nuances that take a good shot to a great shot.
    4) Have fun with the can be frustrating and great fun at the same time.
  24. Hello, I am nobody from no where, I know nothing about all this as I am a film shooter, but, since your camera body allows you to shoot both RAW and JPEG at the same time, why not do that and then go where you want to go with your files ? Its not like its either one or the other, you can have both now and choose later . Peace brother.
  25. Thanks for posting those examples Les. The RAW is the clear winner.
    Bill has a good idea there. Funny, I thought I was nobody from nowhere. I learned a long time ago that it was much preferable to being somebody from somewhere. It's a wise man that says he knows nothing about something. The fool always has plenty to say.
  26. The sample photos I linked to were not heavily edited.​
    Yep, I know, bad wording on my part.
  27. Hello There!
    First of all I want to say a big "Thank You" to all the experts providing so much of information at one place that its so easy for beginners like me to understand things that we struggle with! OVer the last couple of months ever since I joined this forum, I definately see my knowledge increasing quite a bit considering where I was with the automatic Sony point and shoot to a DSLR. I also see a tremendous improvement (although no where close to what all of you would consider mediore also :) ) in my images. Things like perspective, aperture, shutter speed, ISO etc which used to be french to me are a lot clear. Hopefully over the next couple of years, I would be able to learn and grow thanks to all this good advice!
    Coming back to this topic. I remember, when I was first tinkering with my DSLR and I was setting up my camera in "P" mode, I had heard from some people that RAW gave better quality (Did not know why then :) ) So I set it to that and then when I took some snaps, it looked great on the Camera LCD, but for some reason when I downloaded the snaps on my windows computer and opened them , the colors where not great! I then tried with JPG and they were quite good. So I set the option to jpg fine and always shot jpg's But now with a little working knowledge and continuous learning, I was tryuing to play around and understand about RAW and now do get a fair idea based on what all of you have suggested! I have set this Friday/Saturday to take some sample pictures in that mode and have also got the Capture nikon nx2 software from a photographer friend so will try to play with that and see the difference between JPG and RAW!
    Offcourse, I might have questions thereafter, but I know I can always count on the expert advice of the experienced photographers on this forum!
    A very big "Thank You" to all of you!
  28. Sunil, remember that the image you are viewing on your camera's LCD is a JPEG thumbnail even if you have the camera set to RAW. I think you are understanding that when you shoot in JPEG, the camera will apply the settings(vibrancy, contrast, white balance, etc) to your image BEFORE you output the image to the computer. When you shoot RAW, the computer gets the unprocessed data from your camera's sensor. The RAW converter in your program reassembles the data into the do the processing.
    Have fun!
  29. Hello there!
    I was studying a little more on this site about Raw Vs JPG and noticed two important points so had two more questions!
    1. I read in another thread that if you open up a JPG and save it, everytime you do it there is loss of quality! - Is that correct? Also, in photoshop lets say if I open a jpg and resize it, set levels, contrast etc then add boundries (like black 1px stroke etc) and then save it, apart from the jpg compression which causes degradation, does correcting, levels, brighness contrast, layers etc "add" to the degrade?
    2. Was thinking it should be JPG, but just to confirm, Lets say I shoot RAW and then make edits to in in Capture NX2, there after what format do I finally save it as ? Raw or TIFF? or some other format suitable for web/printing/Pc? MEaning after all the correction etc, and then saving at jpg, would that lead to degradation or is it okay?
    I know its more about trying out which I will but just wanted some concrete information for my knowledge, although now with technology improving its very difficult for the eye to make out small differences especially in small images, but its always good to have the basics right so thought of asking all the experts based on there experience what they thought?
  30. Sunil, my comments to the above question will be limited to my experience with Apple's Aperture 2.1.3 program which I use for post processing. When you import an image into the Aperture library(JPEG or RAW), Aperture saves the original as a master image. You can then manipulate the image any way that you would like and export the manipulated image in whatever format you need, at the size that you want. However, the master image is always saved and you can always return to it. The master image is never degraded in any way. If you convert the RAW image to JPEG and re-size it for web posting(such as here on PN), you will lose some detail and the exported smaller image may appear "degraded" in some ways. But you always have your master image to return to if you need to print it or export it for printing to a commercial service, etc.
    I'm sorry that I can't comment specifically about photoshop, but I believe that Lightroom works in the same general way.
    I hope that helps,

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