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Why you should shoot raw instead of JPEG

From: Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography

Video: Why you should shoot raw instead of JPEG

By default, your camera comes configured to shoot JPEG images, but if you're working with a digital SLR or an advanced point-and-shoot, you probably also have the option to shoot in RAW format. While JPEG images can yield great quality, every bit as good as RAW, RAW has quite a few advantages when it comes to editing and adjustment. However, before we get to those advantages, let's talk about what RAW is not. Shooting in RAW will not yield images with more detail or better sharpness, nor will you see richer or brighter colors or an expansion of dynamic range.

Why you should shoot raw instead of JPEG

By default, your camera comes configured to shoot JPEG images, but if you're working with a digital SLR or an advanced point-and-shoot, you probably also have the option to shoot in RAW format. While JPEG images can yield great quality, every bit as good as RAW, RAW has quite a few advantages when it comes to editing and adjustment. However, before we get to those advantages, let's talk about what RAW is not. Shooting in RAW will not yield images with more detail or better sharpness, nor will you see richer or brighter colors or an expansion of dynamic range.

Shooting RAW simply gives you some different editing features, and the ability to push your edits farther without seeing certain types of image degradation. When you shoot in JPEG mode, the sensor in your camera records data that represents the various light levels in your scene. To turn that data into a final image, the camera's onboard computer has to do a lot of gnarly calculations, everything from interpolating color to calibrating the color of the image for the type of light you were shooting in to applying contrast, sharpening, and possibly saturation. Finally, to make maximum use of your storage card, the image is compressed using an algorithm that can leave visible artifacts in your final image.

When you shoot in RAW format, the data is read off of the sensor and stored on the card. That's it! The camera doesn't touch the data at all; instead, all of that processing that the camera performs when shooting in JPEG mode is skipped so that you can perform those steps yourself on your computer using RAW conversion software. Because you have controlled the conversion process, there are several advantages to RAW. First, your desktop RAW converter might very well do a better job of conversion, and yield better quality images than your camera. What's more, if a better RAW converter comes along later, you can simply reprocess your original RAW files.

That's the case with CS5. Adobe has dramatically improved the RAW converter, so it's exciting to go back to older images and try them with the new version. But most importantly, when you shoot in RAW, you gain access to editing functions that are not possible with JPEG images. For example, this image has a bit of a white balance problem. It's just a little bit too cool. There are some ways that I can warm that up with a JPEG image, but I don't have the flexibility with JPEG that I do with RAW to radically skew my white balance. What's more, radically skewing white balance in a JPEG image could leave a visibly degraded image.

With RAW, there is no price to pay for adjusting white balance. Here is another problem image. Look at these highlights up here in the sky. They've blown out to complete white. With a RAW file, I stand a good chance of recovering, and you're going to see that later. There are other advantages to RAW. RAW allows a greater bit depth for an image. That means there is more data in your file. That means you can perform more edits and push them farther than you can with a JPEG image. With the JPEG, you'll often see your image start to fall apart. You'll see bending and big flat areas of color.

That won't happen as quickly with a RAW file. If you're not sure if your camera has RAW, go to the menu on your camera where you pick JPEG quality. If there is a RAW option in there, activate it, and you're shooting RAW. That's it. Everything else works the same way. You can also consult your camera's manual. You may find that your camera has a RAW plus JPEG option. This means every time you take a picture, the camera saves a RAW file and a JPEG file. For landscape shooting, I can't really give you an advantage to shooting RAW plus JPEG.

It takes up more storage, and it slows your camera down. If you're an event shooter, and you're covering say a sporting event, and you need to very quickly turn pictures in at half time, say, then RAW plus JPEG can be very valuable, because you can quickly go through your JPEGs and turn those in. If there is an image that you can't easily correct in JPEG, you've got a RAW file there for you. So for landscape shooting, I don't really see a point to shooting RAW plus JPEG. If you're out in the field for a long time, you're already worrying about how you're going to manage your storage. Why make it worse by shooting extra data? RAW format is useful to landscape shooters for all of these reasons.

While white balance is not as critical as it can be for those shooting indoors, highlight recovery, and expanded dynamic range are fantastic advantages for shooting landscapes, which tend to have an incredibly wide range of brightness variation. With highlight recovery, you'll be able to restore detailed over exposed skies, while the expanded dynamic rrange will help you preserve noise-free shadows. You can shoot good images with JPEG, but if you have a camera with RAW format, I strongly recommend that you give it a try, because you will have an extra safety net that you just don't have when you're working with a non-RAW format.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography
Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography

59 video lessons · 22232 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 3m 14s
    1. Welcome
      1m 44s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 30s
  2. 46m 35s
    1. Defining landscape photography
      2m 23s
    2. Considering cameras and gear
      10m 41s
    3. Shooting and composition tips
      6m 39s
    4. Why you should shoot raw instead of JPEG
      4m 25s
    5. Making selects
      10m 42s
    6. Understanding the histogram
      6m 53s
    7. A little color theory
      4m 52s
  3. 1h 14m
    1. Opening an image
      4m 42s
    2. Cropping and straightening
      9m 56s
    3. Nondestructive editing
      6m 23s
    4. Spotting and cleanup
      3m 53s
    5. Cleaning the camera sensor
      11m 17s
    6. Lens correction
      6m 26s
    7. Correcting overexposed highlights
      7m 29s
    8. Basic tonal correction
      5m 45s
    9. Correcting blacks
      11m 54s
    10. Correcting white balance
      6m 35s
  4. 21m 34s
    1. Performing localized edits with the Gradient Filter tool
      7m 24s
    2. Performing localized edits with the Adjustment brush
      7m 54s
    3. Controlling brush and gradient edits
      6m 16s
  5. 16m 34s
    1. Working with noise reduction
      5m 33s
    2. Clarity and sharpening
      5m 23s
    3. Exiting Camera Raw
      5m 38s
  6. 58m 5s
    1. Retouching
      8m 23s
    2. Using Levels adjustment layers
      10m 59s
    3. Saving images with adjustment layers
      4m 18s
    4. Advanced Levels adjustment layers
      9m 36s
    5. Guiding the viewer's eye with Levels
      8m 48s
    6. Using gradient masks for multiple adjustments
      5m 32s
    7. Correcting color in JPEG images
      3m 15s
    8. Adding a vignette
      3m 25s
    9. Knowing when edits have gone too far
      3m 49s
  7. 33m 24s
    1. Preparing to stitch
      5m 59s
    2. Stitching
      7m 39s
    3. Panoramic touchup
      7m 17s
    4. Shooting a panorama
      4m 58s
    5. Stitching a panorama
      7m 31s
  8. 27m 18s
    1. Shooting an HDR Image
      7m 53s
    2. Merging with HDR Pro
      11m 52s
    3. Adjusting and retouching
      7m 33s
  9. 24m 4s
    1. Why use black and white for images?
      2m 26s
    2. Black-and-white conversion
      7m 13s
    3. Correcting tone in black-and-white images
      7m 38s
    4. Adding highlights to black-and-white images
      6m 47s
  10. 49m 32s
    1. Painting light and shadow pt. 1
      11m 22s
    2. Painting light and shadow pt. 2
      12m 42s
    3. Painting light and shadow pt. 3
      9m 19s
    4. HDR + LDR
      5m 7s
    5. Reviewing sample images for inspiration
      11m 2s
  11. 48m 2s
    1. Sizing
      9m 8s
    2. Enlarging and reducing
      5m 3s
    3. Saving
      1m 24s
    4. Sharpening
      8m 23s
    5. Outputting an electronic file
      9m 4s
    6. Making a web gallery
      4m 17s
    7. Printing
      10m 43s
  12. 20s
    1. Goodbye
      20s

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