Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Stop Putting Me Down For Shooting JPEGs

Mirrored Mountain - Mirror Lake, Utah
I captured this using JPEG format.
All of the time I hear people say that "serious" photographers shoot RAW and "novice" photographers shoot JPEG. Nonsense!

I rarely see JPEG shooters put down RAW shooters (although there is the occasional "you're wasting your time" comment). Almost always it is RAW shooters putting down the in-camera JPEG photographers.

People have told me that I'm an amateur because I shoot JPEGs. I don't always use camera-made JPEGs, but anymore I prefer JPEGs over RAW for most exposures. I've done my fair share of RAW editing, and I just don't want to do it anymore if I don't have to. It's not fun for me.

That doesn't matter to some. The gauge of whether someone is a serious photographer or not is what format they have their camera save the exposures. RAW equals professional, semi-pro or advanced hobbyist, while JPEG equals newbie, amateur or novice. Never mind that there is a long list of professional photographers who shoot JPEGs and rarely (if ever) shoot RAW. It's a condescending attitude that's based on myths.
Earth & Galaxy - Mirror Lake, Utah
Another out-of-camera JPEG.
Myth #1: JPEGs aren't good.

JPEGs can be quite good. Some camera manufacturers do a better job than others at in-camera JPEG processing, but most cameras are capable of make nice-looking photos. The caveat here is that you have to take care to make sure everything is set as you want it. It means taking an extra moment in the field to get the camera set just right. You can't be a lazy JPEG shooter, but that's good because laziness is an enemy of art. I think that some photographers choose RAW so that they can be more careless in the field. That's not a good reason to shoot RAW.

Myth #2: JPEGs can't be edited much.

You'd be surprised at just how much you can manipulate a JPEG file. Even though the camera threw out some data when it created the JPEG, there's still a lot hiding in there that can be brought out in post production. It's not quite as much as RAW, but it's a lot more than most RAW shooters realize.
Straight-out-of-camera JPEG on the left, that same file after editing on the right.
Myth #3: You get better results with RAW.

If you have the settings right, and depending on the camera, you can get the same dynamic range, noise, color, contrast, etc., etc., with JPEG that you'd get with RAW. But sometimes RAW is better. Sometimes you need to squeeze every bit of data out of the file. Often you don't, and your edited RAW files won't look any different than your JPEGs (if you took the care to make sure the JPEG settings were correct). You have to know when RAW is necessary and when it's not (or shoot RAW+JPEG).

My point in all of this is not to talk negatively about RAW format or those who use it. I've made a whole lot of RAW exposures, and I still occasionally do. But I'm tired of being put down because I prefer camera-made JPEGs nowadays. Just because someone chooses JPEG doesn't make them any less of a photographer. Art is art, whether it's RAW or JPEG or something else.
Mirror Lake Fisherman - Mirror Lake, Utah
This is a camera-made JPEG.
The fact is that viewers don't know or care if a photograph was RAW or JPEG. They only care if the image speaks to them. If they are moved, it was a good photograph. If not, then it wasn't. The format doesn't matter whatsoever.

I've made tens of thousands of RAW exposures. I've made tens of thousands of JPEG exposures. What have I learned? Use what works best for you, and don't worry what others are doing.

So stop putting me down for shooting JPEGs. It's pointless. If something works for me, then that's what I'm going to do. It's my art, and I'll do it my way.

No comments:

Post a Comment