The RAW Truth - Part 2

Interesting ...

I’ve just discovered a Flickr Group called “I Only Shoot In JPEG!!! 99% of the time Raw is Useless

They have this as their 'credo':

Raw is for amateurs! If you can't shoot the photo right the first time out of the camera, then your in the wrong game! ... AMEN!!! This group is for photographers that understand this. and only shoot In JPEG.” (sic)

Ah well ... each to their own I suppose. But would you buy a yacht and never raise the sails? Would you buy a sports car and never change into fifth gear? Would you buy a set of the finest sable paintbrushes for painting by numbers?

So why buy a camera that can shoot RAW images and not use the facility?

RAW files contain the data that has come straight from the sensor, without any processing at all – hence the name RAW. Something has to process, or 'develop' this RAW file into an image.

You can have your camera do this immediately. It will probably use the manufacturer's settings for things such as sharpening and noise reduction. These will have been incorporated into the camera software. Sometimes you can control them a bit, but not much. Then you will get a JPEG file. If you want to make any further changes back at home in front of your computer, such as exposure compensation, you'll have to do it to this already-altered file. A pretty destructive process.

Alternatively you can process the RAW file on your computer, using a conversion program. There you will have complete control over aspects such as sharpening, colour temperature, noise reduction, exposure compensation and so on. What's more, no matter what you do to the file - even if you save it in between - you can always go back to the original.

In the past the RAW-haters had a point. The files were not terribly user-friendly. For example, image viewing programs couldn’t handle them. As a result, most cameras had a setting so that a photo was saved as two different files, one RAW and the other JPEG. The JPEG files enabled you to sort and select the images with your image-viewing program, but the RAW file was the one you ‘developed’ to get the final image.

And ‘development’ is a good analogy. RAW files are digital ‘negatives’. You develop your final image from them ... but not in a darkroom. You do your development in front of a computer.

Back in the days of film I don’t recall anyone shouting, “Negatives are for amateurs! If you can't shoot the photo right the first time out of the camera, then you’re in the wrong game! This group is for photographers who understand this and only shoot Polaroids.”


tim said...


tim said...


tim said...

Very good point.

Steve said...

Great blog. My thoughts:

JPGs are for amateurs that don't know any better.

It is a nasty format. Sorry, I don't want my camera compressing an image and introducing artifacts, assigning final color values, and limiting my post-production options.

Alistair Scott said...

Thanks Steve. Your comment is spot-on. Summarizes my post perfectly.