Image Capture Format

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This is a topic as sensitive as religion or gender preference.  It really shouldn’t be – the image captured is the important part.  It’s the choice of the RAW (unprocessed) image files from your camera or the processed JPG image files.  Do you know where the RAW function came from?  I always like to ask where something came from – it seems to reveal insights into the thing.

When digital cameras first came on the scene the entire idea was to capture a JPG.  Part of that was JPG was the most commonly used image capture format.  “Image capture” not image storage or other uses.  Somewhere along the line someone decided that they should have access to the unprocessed image data.  There is a feeling that there is a certain ability to manipulate the data using either the camera manufacturer’s RAW file tool or using something like Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). 

However, think about how that sounds….. “I can manipulate the camera output (RAW) better than the camera software engineers and their JPG processor….”  Really?  Many people point at ACR and start talking about RAW files…did you know that you can use ACR on JPG files too?  There are some subtle differences and there is potentially more ability to make small manipulations of the images file if you get to it before the manufacturer’s JPG processor hacks at it.  But, think about how much time you’re spending on individual images in post-processing and what that means to the final image.

I always recommend that my photography students start shooting in JPG, unless they can clearly articulate a reason to shoot RAW.  As you develop your photography skills, go out and shoot a series of images – first in RAW and then in JPG.  Post process both files, then compare the results.  Even better – print the images and compare the prints.

I find that JPG delivers excellent results 98%+ of the time.  And you’ve saved a ton of time, storage and trouble.

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