Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Thought Of The Day: RAW or JPEG?

After posting my NX200 review, and apparently upsetting some people's apple cart by saying that RAW is rarely necessary, let me further explain what I meant.

Saving in RAW is a waste of time almost every time. You can gain some minor improvements in image quality fiddling around in Photoshop by saving in RAW instead of JPEG. But those minutes (which add up to hours and eventually days) are time you are not doing something even more important.

So, what is more important than sitting in front of a computer post-processing photographs? Well, being out in the field actually capturing photographs, for starters. That's what photographers do: they photograph. Graphic designers sit for hours in front of their computers tweaking things (no offense to graphic designers intended).

Another thing more important than sitting in front of a computer adjusting images is marketing images. That's something photographers (and other artists) don't spend nearly enough time doing (myself included) because it's no fun. But if you want to earn a dollar that's what you have to do.

One last thing that is more important is spending time with family and friends. Every minute spent post-processing is a minute that you could have been with your spouse, children, best friend, etc. Expediting the photo editing process is essential to a balanced life.

The small gain one gets from saving in RAW is typically only noticeable under unusual circumstances, such as poster-sized prints (which most photographers never or rarely create), major crops (get closer to the subject, duh!), high ISO (which almost no photographer uses for serious work), and weddings (you don't want to screw up a white balance on such an important event and you may need all the dynamic range you can get). Beyond that, there is no advantage to saving in RAW format.

Let me put this a different way: for 98% of photographs by 98% of photographers, saving in RAW instead of JPEG gains nothing except wasted time.

With JPEG, before you open the shutter, you have to take a few seconds to make sure you have the settings just as you want them. That few seconds of extra effort in the field will save you several minutes later in front of a computer.

Saving in RAW is a great option to have under certain circumstances. But the vast majority of photographs have no need for it. By far, most photographs will be just as good saved as JPEG than saved as RAW.

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