Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I shoot RAW -and so should you...

Once upon a time I use to be a die hard jpg shooter. I do very little post processing (the subject of a future post) so I thought that shooting RAW would just add one more step to getting my images from the camera to my gallery. But I kept hearing RAW shooters rant about how much better their images were now that they don't let the camera do the processing for them. So one day I changed my 20D to RAW file mode and took a few shots.

The RAW shooters were right.

Even though I spend all of sixty seconds editing any one image, shooting RAW has improved the quality of my photos -and I should have known better. I'm a geek, so I know that jpg is a "lossy" form of file compression: In order to compress an image a jpg converter tosses out data that is irrelevant.

Every time a file is saved as a jpg image data is lost.

Even though I don't do much editing, I do have to make a few changes and then save my image as a jpg. So the camera tosses out data when it compresses an image to make a jpg, and then I toss out data when I edit and save the image. It doesn't matter if the final file is larger than the original, detail is lost.

I was paying the compression penalty twice.

With macro photography the difference between shooting jpg and shooting RAW is huge, because with macro getting the most detail in an image is important. Details are lost when the camera creates a jpg, and even more are lost once edits are made on a computer and another jpg is cut. By shooting RAW I only risk losing fine details one time, and the jpg conversion in Photoshop Elements is better than the in camera jpg compression at preserving image data. In reality all of my images are sharper, even the scenic photos.

So now I only shoot RAW -and so should you...
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