Pros and Cons of Shooting in RAW as a beginner

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by deannaodom, Oct 21, 2020.

  1. I just began my photography journey with a class for college and I was wondering if it is worth it for me to shoot in RAW and what that actually means to me. All I basically know is to shoot in RAW for more editing freedom. Also, as a beginner, I am not edited my pictures much at this time. My thoughts are I might want to edit them in the future as I learn the ropes a little more. Are there any downsides to shooting in RAW opposed to JPEG?
    Thanks in advance to anyone who responds:)
  2. Yes, you should, and unless you have to process huge numbers of photographs at once (think, wedding photographer), not there aren't.

    Aren't you given any readings about this for your class? I don't mean to be harsh, but asking for quick answers online is not a substitute for serious reading on a topic. Many of us could steer you to readings, but you should ask your prof for ones that s/he recommends. Or ask him or her to discuss the topic. That's what s/he's paid for. I say that as someone who taught at a university for years. Part of my job was finding good readings for students, and part of the students' job was reading them. And there's no reason for folks here to re-create the wheel.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2020
  3. Thanks for the response! This post is actually for a project for the course, so we do have plenty of information in the readings, but are expected to post on here to get answers from experienced photographers.
  4. I learned to regret my decision to shoot JPEG only when I started with digital photography some 16 years ago to avoid the "hassle" of learning to use photoshop and having to spend time at the computer. At the very least, I should have shot RAW + JPEG which would have given me the instant gratification of having access to the "slide-film-equivalent" of JPEG while preserving the option to optimize the image using the RAW file later. Friends soon pushed me to shoot RAW and to enjoy being in full control of the image creation process from start to finish (something I never was when shooting negative film and only to an even more limited extent with slide film than shooting JPEG provides). Nowadays, I only shoot RAW - and so does my wife after she finally stopped using film some 5 or 6 years ago. Initially she was apprehensive of using photoshop - now she very much enjoys the process of developing her images.
    Which is why I am not listing the pros for shooting RAW. And the one con I could mention - spending time at the computer - really isn't one but turned out to be a pro (at least for me).
    mikemorrell likes this.
  5. IMO, you should always shoot RAW+JPEG in the highest resolution possible. It's just a matter of storage space, and that's cheap these days. You may find that with a newer camera, you'll have trouble doing better with RAW than the camera can do with JPEG, given the right settings. I know that's against common wisdom, but the camera makers know a lot about the noise characteristics of their sensors and 3rd party programs often can't do as well on higher ISO images. OTOH, if you start with a good RAW, and convert right to a larger color space, you can make better prints than you'll likely get from the JPEG. I like the option to go either way and revisit the image in the future, possible with better software.
  6. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    It is not "an either this or that" question, most cameras allow capture in raw + JPEG, if your camera allows that, then its a good idea to do that, as the JPEG allows for quick interpretation and interrogation allowing feedback on your skills and techniques and the raw file allows for more comprehensive Post Production.

    I know of situations where turn around speed and speed of publication is paramount and the JPEG file is used: some photographers may choose to capture JPEG only and they typically will have pre-programmed in camera Post Production, allowing a print, publication or send to client as the JPEG SOOC (straight out of camera). This absolute necessity is rare, it being used for quick turnaround Sports Images or News and Current Affairs. I know of two Wedding Photographers who shoot JPEG only for similar reasons. It should be implicit that if you expect quality imaging you will have to be accurate with Exposure and White Balance using this technique.

    As for a beginner: learning quality Image Post Production should be part of any course of learning and as such having raw file is important.

    I capture raw + JPEG(L) (i.e. maximum JPEG file) and I do have in camera Post Production Presets for the JPEG and more often than not, I use only the JPEG file, with a two stage preset sharpening in Photoshop for on line or screen publication and preview sessions. However, I always have the raw file for the particular images requiring more extensive Post Production.



    What Course?

    What College?

    What Teacher(s) set the assignment?

    Appreciate replies to these questions, thank you.

    mikemorrell likes this.
  7. Thank you for your feedback!
    I am a student at Stockton University in New Jersey. The course is Introduction into Photographic Medium. It was originally a film course but due to the college going all online, they switched it over to digital. This is why editing photographs is not as central in this course. My teacher is Prof. Tarsitano.

    Here is the assignment:
    Journal Assignment #2: Black & White Film Processing or Digital darkroom forums (including the lens, camera, and film) or digital darkroom forum Post a query to the black & white photography film processing forum. You can initiate a thread on an issue encountered or on a topic of interest. Use replies as a benchmark to continue your research and as a forum to engage in a dialogue about the topic with others. Report your takeaway back to the class in the form of a five-minute presentation and one-page paper (submitted via Turnitin) on your findings. Learning objective: To present a problem/solution/result to a technical challenge you experienced in class or one that you chose to explore. A successful outcome requires that you demonstrate an understanding of your chosen topic via your paper or presentation.
    William Michael likes this.
  8. I mostly use 2-card cameras, and for a while now have been doing RAW+JPEG split across two cards. I almost never touch the JPEGs, but they are there as an "Oh crap, I lost/formatted/etc the main card" or, far, far more often "I need this photo now and don't really want to work up the RAW."

    Aside from that, I can't imagine not shooting RAW. By and large, the big advantage for me is that it lets me shoot a scene in a way that's optimized for how the camera captures images AND have a lot of lattitude to make it look like how I see it. In particular, RAW files often have a lot of shadow detail that can be "pulled out" in post processing, but that detail is mostly gone in JPEGs. In addition, sensors are better than they use to be, but they are still far less tolerant of overexposure than they are underexposure. If there's a very bright part of the image in which you want to preserve detail, it can be advantageous to expose in such a way as to hold detail there(prevent "blowing out") and then fix the shadows later. In the early days of digital, again when sensors were not as good as now, this was often called "Expose to the right(ETTR), with that referring to looking at the histogram cameras are capable of displaying.

    BTW, a similar philosophy exists in print film, but something of the opposite. Print film, especially color print film, but also a lot of lower contrast B&W, can be somewhat tolerant of overexposure but is much less tolerant of overexposure. There's an axiom passed around that says "Expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights." That gets a little bit more into developing theory than you probably know, but there again as long as your shadows are properly exposed, you can PROBABLY find detail in both the shadows and the highlights that you can then print to your liking/preferred rendering. In this sense, slide film, where you directly see the final result, is more like a JPEG.
    mikemorrell likes this.
  9. Quite certain the first "overexposure" is meant to read "underexposure" :D
  10. Whoops, thanks, but really the second one should be "underexposure." Ideally you hit print film "correctly", but when in doubt it's usually easier to retain details in the highlights than the shadows. How much depends on the film-of current production, Portra, especially Portra 160, is pretty much "get it in the ballpark and that'll do." Ektar wants you to get it a bit closer.
  11. RAW+JPEG(or RAW alone) does require storage capacity you may presently lack. Still, storage media prices steadily drop, so there's no reason not to shoot and cache RAW files for later editing.
    rodeo_joe|1 likes this.
  12. Well, good thing I am not shooting film anymore :oops:
    Guess the coffee must have worn off and the wine hasn't kicked in yet ;)
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2020
    DavidTriplett likes this.
  13. I shoot exclusively in RAW, (various NEF formats depending on the body and firmware), but I always translate directly to DNG (digital negative) when downloading via Lightroom. I own the last stand-alone versions of LR and PS, spread across multiple platforms, which don't get much support, and I've experienced problems in reading some newer versions of proprietary RAW files. I can keep up by using a stand-alone RAW-to-DNG translator if I'm really caught out in left field. I've never been frustrated working with DNG files as both my source and archive. I find capturing the initial image is but a small part of the overall photographic experience. Working with RAW/DNG images in LR has made me even more cognizant of the impact my decisions have when making that latent image.
    mikemorrell likes this.
  14. Shooting jpgs is like using Polaroid® where you get just one copy, so to speak.

    RAW is having a negative that can be printed, manipulated, even much later. Ansel Adams was still printing negatives from the 30s.

    Ansel Adams did shoot Polaroid sometimes
    1) I'm pretty sure he was paid to do so
    2) a famous artist can benefit from s single copy as with a painting
  15. its all about the digital printing. Use RAW, and the printer can give such a better printing then they can with jpeg no matter if you go lossless or not.
  16. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Professional, articulate and timely response to my questions: if you dedicate a similar effort to your assignment you surely will score well.

    deannaodom and DavidTriplett like this.
  17. Modern digital cameras nearly all digitise their images to at least 12 bits precision, with higher-end cameras using 14 or even 16 bit analogue-to-digital converters. This gives them the ability to capture a subject brightness range of about 12 stops.

    The only way to make full use of that digital precision and 'dynamic range' is to shoot RAW. Otherwise you're just throwing away most of the capability of the camera, and the advantage of using digital capture over film. (Slide film will typically allow only a 7 stop subject brightness range - if you're lucky!)

    Here's an example.
    First, the straight out-of-camera JPEG (urghhh!)
    Now the result that could be got from manipulating the RAW file.
    This is much more like I saw the scene in front of me, and what I visualised as the final result.

    To put it simply: JPEG bad :eek:; RAW good :)!
    mikemorrell and DavidTriplett like this.
  18. There are also reasons for shooting JPEG. All the replies are biased towards, lets say, artistic photography where the images are processed to extract maximum dynamic range, adjust colours, deal with images which were exposed to the right, and whatever other benefits RAW processing can deliver.

    Not all photography is like that.

    I expect if you were covering a sports game, say, or a news event, you would want to get usable image files back to the office or wherever quickly. and without the need to spent time in post processing. Or if you were photographing hundreds of new students at college. In these cases I think JPEG would be my choice.

    It depends on the scope of the OP's course. Yes, if it's aimed towards art photography, RAW is correct. If it includes other areas such as those I suggested, then JPEG or RAW plus JPEG might be preferred.
    charles_escott_new likes this.
  19. Tony Parsons

    Tony Parsons Norfolk and Good

    One aspect not currently covered is the software being used to process / edit your images. Some software is reasonably easy to use, but with others there can be a steep learning curve. Is this something your tutor has mentioned yet ?
    mikemorrell and Ludmilla like this.
  20. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    I believe that when Ansel Adams used Polaroid he used Polaroid 55 which also generated a negative.

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