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Photography Question 
Daniel  Lindquist
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/26/2007
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Advantage of Raw format


Can someone explain in "ol fogey" terms just what is the advantage of shooting in RAW format vs jpg?

Though I am experienced in film photography & darkroom procedures, and am able to operate many of the features of the new cameras, I am still new to some of the digital aspects, like RAW.

Is it mainly for editing purposes on the computer, or does it actually produce a better quality print?

Also-
Which is the better file format to save photos on the computer for printing?

Which is best for uploading to website contests, and maintaining the best possible image quality?


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7/10/2007 10:54:40 AM

 
Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  A RAW file is an "as is" recording from the sensor. It requires post-processing to adjust color/contrast/sharpness/etc. before saving as a JPG file for display or printing. Cameras are extremely limited in their programming and processing abilities compared to a typical computer and imaging software. Plus, the automated routines can only guess at what is the subject and how the photographer wants it rendered. So instead of just taking the compromised JPG as processed by the camera, you can instead work directly with the original uncompressed unprocessed image file.


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7/10/2007 11:43:03 AM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Better color grades. More bytes for color gradation in Raw. And Raw files handle anything you do with Photoshop much better. One quick way to see that is to do some over-sharpening with a converted Raw and JPEG of the same picture. Nutshell version.
If you wanted the best you can get out of your picture, shoot Raw, convert and print and upload as a TIFF. Would you notice in your prints? Maybe not, because your size of the print, low ISO, what you did to the file, and other stuff come into play.
Would you not get chosen because a particular picture came in as a JPEG? Maybe not for the same reasons. But raw is getting the most from your picture.


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7/10/2007 11:45:09 AM

 
Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  Oh, PS: The format of Raw files is proprietary to the camera makers, and they often update/change it with each new model. So the best format to submit images for printing, Web display, and contests is as JPEG.


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7/10/2007 11:46:03 AM

 
Paul D.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/25/2006
  Hi Daniel,
RAW is your unharmed "negative" with all of the image's information at the time of exposure, and with Photoshop or other editing tools, you can go back to the RAW file and rework and recreate and experiment as often as you want. The RAW file never gets changed. By all means, you want to shoot RAW. You can do RAW + JPEG simultaneously with many cameras which provides quick views to your images. I shoot both, and give the JPEGs to my wife to quickly view as proofs, and then I have the RAW files to work with for print or web.

To answer your last question, with RAW you can pick your colorspace each time you work on the image. For web, I use sRGB at 8 bit, 96 dpi (browsers can render sRGB easily). For print, I use Adobe1998 at 16 bit, 240-300 dpi, which provides a wider color gamut (range). There are great books on color management by Tim Grey and others. This will make all the difference in your output, and you'll want RAW as your source file. Lastly, for uploading images to BetterPhoto.com, they seem to look best when setting the short side of your image to 480 pixels.


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7/17/2007 5:20:14 AM

 
Erin  Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/16/2007
  Absolutely nothing to a professional who can make a perfect exposure.


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7/17/2007 6:24:06 AM

 
Al G. Del Degan
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/20/2007
  lol Erin, I suggest you read "Welcome to OZ" by Vincent Versace.

Daniel, the digital censor (the film) of your digital camera is made up of many tiny "pixels" with each one recording light that came through the lens. The RAW file contains the value that each pixel recorded. A JPG file contains the camera's interpretation of what that value means and how it can be represented by a color.

Ultimately the RAW file gives you more options if you want to do some post processing of the image file before you print. If the JPG images coming from your camera look great to you and print fine then I wouldn't worry about it unless you want to get more into digital photography.


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7/17/2007 6:57:06 AM

 
Erin  Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/16/2007
  As long as my clients pay top dollar, then I have no need to move to RAW. I understand the difference, but out of camera the shots are great. I've noticed that if I nail my exposures even at high ISO's there is no sign of bad quality.


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7/17/2007 7:50:08 AM

 
Steve Parrott
LightAnon.com
  As Erin said, RAW gains you little IF you have everything PERFECT in camera to begin with, but that is just not always possible. Sometimes you just can't get the exposure or white balance perfect when taking the initial photo. That is when RAW can be a great aid. I am a professional photographer, and can more often than not, get the initial shot correct, BUT there ARE times when it will not be right, and because I ALWAYS shoot in RAW, I have been able to "save" photos that would otherwise not be "keepers". I explain it this way to folks new to digital: Shooting JPEG is much like shooting film and having it developed and processed and prints made by an outside source. You are at the mercy of third party equipment and skill to deliver your results. However shooting RAW is similiar to shooting film BUT developing your negatives YOURSELF in your own darkroom. YOU have control of how the photo looks. Now RAW will NOT save a photo that is horribly incorrectly exposed, but it can sure do a lot more for you than shooting in JPEG. Bottom line, RAW is somewhat of a "safety valve" that can save what might be an otherwise unusuable photo. My two cents worth, the RAW vs. JPEG thing is a never ending argument amoung digital shooters.


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7/17/2007 7:56:36 AM

 
Paul D.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/25/2006
  Great reply Steve, you summed it up well. Perfect exposures aren't all that common. Even Ansel Adams had no problems spending necessary time in the darkroom!


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7/17/2007 8:01:52 AM

 
Erin  Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/16/2007
  If you are shooting on the fly or without experience then raw would be the way to go. I take my time and check my work on the laptop as I go. 95% of the time I can tell by looking at my LCD and histogram that I've got it right. I do a little bracketing if the lighting changes to quickly and I'm pressed for time. I've only shoot Raw + Jpeg a couple of times, but never even touched the RAW file.


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7/17/2007 8:48:30 AM

 
David A. Bliss   I am not going to get into the VS discussion, as I already have on a couple of threads on BP. I simply want to point out a couple of things that were said on this thread.

Jon, be careful about your phrasing. RAW in not uncompressed. It is a lossless compression.

Paul, does your printer actually print at 16 bit? Do you mean you convert to 16 bit for processing images that are going to be printed? My guess is that your printer only prints at 8 bit.


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7/17/2007 9:15:08 AM

 
Geraldine E. Lefoe
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/14/2006
  Hi Daniel, I'd recommend you enrol in one of the courses here at Betterphoto - I've learned so much from the ones I've done (I only started using digital a couple of years ago). If you are going to start using RAW it is really good to start off with a good workflow rather than working out yourself. I still refer back to the notes I have from the courses I've done .. and no I don't work here or have any vested interest :-)


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7/24/2007 6:17:26 PM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  The original question was; " Can someone explain in "ol fogey" terms just what is the advantage of shooting in RAW format vs jpg?"

There seems to be a pretty good consensus in the ideas here.

Simply: RAW allows you to manipulate exposure information rather than an automated camera function.

Not so simply: RAW is a proprietary format where captured information from the sensor is stored unaltered. JPEG images have been processed in the camera to convert from the RAW information to a common format that allows significant compression and reasonably easy handling. What you get with RAW images is the opportunity to make adjustments before the RAW capture is converted by the camera. This is an advantage for several reasons -- not the least of which being that the camera can't see.

As Erin says, if you take perfect exposures every time, RAW might not matter...as much. Sometimes even a perfect exposure is not the optimal image. Most cameras that collect information in RAW formats collect more than 8-bits of information, so there is more leeway in corrections (e.g., more information in the shadows may allow you to extract more shadow details that would otherwise be virtually invisible even in perfect exposure). JPEG files are 8-bit only and don't have this additional information. The sticking point on that 16-bit advantage may seem to be that printers use "only" 8-bits of color information (16.7 million color possibilities), so 16-bit information is converted to 8-bit in print anyway. However, it is not in print that 16-bit is an advantage, it is during correction.

I don't know that I've said much that hasn't already been noted in the thread, but perhaps a different perspective on saying it is helpful to some...

The other questions:
"Which is the better file format to save photos on the computer for printing?"

This may depend on what you are using for output. Usually it won't make a lot of difference if you print a TIFF or JPEG of the same image IF the image has not been badly treated by compression. The thing I would not do is store images as archive in JPEG format because each time you save they go through a lossy compression routine. They also will not save layered corrections...which PSD, TIFF, and PDF will store.

"Which is best for uploading to website contests, and maintaining the best possible image quality?"
Saving to JPEG for uploading to contests on the web is good. Use maximum QUALITY for compression (not maximum compression). It is probably best to size the images on your end before uploading, or a Java routine will take care of it for you.


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7/25/2007 1:49:11 PM

 
Michael A. Bielat
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/23/2007
  I shoot wedding photography and really market RAW. I like to educate my clients and let them know my workflow, backups and my technique to help them become acquainted with my style and how I look out for their investment.

Although being a large file and having to eventually convert them to JPEG or whatever other file extension is a bit tedious, the advantages are there IN CASE YOU NEED THEM.

I loved the comment above from Erin J; "Absolutely nothing to a professional who can make a perfect exposure."

But when you are on the line shooting a one time day where there are no retakes, then that comfort of having a RAW file to rely or count on really keeps my hair from falling out!

It is good but bad for beginners and amateurs because it teaches bad habits in some ways where it could have them get lazy in a sense and they have the whole "It's okay, I can touch it up in post processing" mentality.

For the working professional, a perfect shot from the second the photo gets stored to the memory card not only is what they "should" have, but they can save a boatload of time and money not having to retouch each and every one of the 1000+ photos they may take in one day on the field.

My last wedding job I did had over 900 images for me to sort and review. Now imagine having to retouch the exposure even just a hair for all three of these in time for the upcoming wedding next week or the next day! A poor photo from the start can really get the work piled on and backlog someone really quick.

JPEG is great but it is compressed. I personally feel better if my photo is in RAW so I can control what file format I will need the photo to be in as well as how large and how high of a quality.


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7/25/2007 7:16:34 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  To me the comment shows a narrow point of view to it's use and the scope of who uses it.


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7/25/2007 10:33:12 PM

 
Michael A. Bielat
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/23/2007
  True, True Greg!

I liked it because it was quirky but you know how those JPEG rebels are! haha.


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7/26/2007 7:11:22 AM

 
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