I like RAW processing but then again I like JPEG’s but which is better?
Only one way to find out….fiiiiight!
Ok, let the fun and games begin!
Whenever I read about RAW vs. JPEG on any forum, the discussion inevitably turns sour at some point as people air their views about which is best and why. I would have thought it was fairly obvious that RAW is best ; )
In all seriousness though, let’s discuss this like adults and look for the good and bad in both when related to stock photography in particular.
If you are used to and comfortable with shooting JPEGs only, and your photos are not being rejected for anything quality related (blown highlights, noise etc), then stick with it. JPEGs take up a lot less hard disk space, they are what most agencies ask for in terms of file extension and the quality of JPEGs has come a long way since its inception.
Alamy, for example, used to require 50mb TIFF files to be sent in or uploaded and that was a serious drag and a drain on hard drive real estate. This meant you would end up with the original JPEG or RAW file as well as a 50mb TIFF file for each image…crazy! They now only accept JPEGs which is a good sign of the times as it were.
If you are new to stock photography or photography in general, might I suggest that if your camera allows it, you shoot both RAW and JPEG simultaneously for a while so you end up with one of each file.
Study and work on both files in post processing to see for yourself the difference in the files and what you can do with them. If you are on a very important, one time only shoot, I would recommend definitely shooting both if you normally just shoot JPEG.
If you are in a constant light environment such as a studio set up, shooting JPEGs is fine if you get the initial exposure spot on. You can just fire away knowing that minimal work is needed to the files to get the end result required for stock.
However, if you blow out any highlights due to excessive power output or inadvertently opening the aperture or slowing the shutter by mistake, you will struggle to pull back those details.
Personally I only ever shoot RAW. I did start shooting JPEGs when out with the family but then I started selfishly turning some of those snapshots into stock (with permission of course) so reverted back to RAW to be safe.
If you hear people saying “If you rely on shooting RAW to get yourself out of trouble, you are not shooting correctly in the first place…blaa, blaa, blaa…JPEG…blaa, blaa, blaa…”, don’t listen to them.
Almost every wedding photographer I know covers his a** by shooting RAW.
All editing software can handle JPEGs these days and if they don’t…where did you get it from???
RAW images simply hold more data than a compressed JPEG. This means you have more latitude to correct minor errors than you would with a jpeg however, that information comes at a cost…file sizes.
It is worth buying a separate, external 1 or 2 terabyte hard drive purely for stock as you will want to keep this work separate from the rest of your images. You should always save the original RAW file in its original state and simply throw out JPEGs from processed RAW files as and when you need them.
You are able to keep the processed “recipe” as Canon calls it should you need to quickly process the image once again. Recipe files are very small in size and take up little space but are invaluable for keeping a record of your alterations.
So why keep the RAW file in its original state? Well, I for one like to think I can always go back to an old RAW image and make more artistic and creative alterations after a while, especially as new filters and techniques become available over time.
The other advantage of shooting RAW is that sometimes the agency will inform you that the buyer wished to purchase the RAW file for an additional cost. If you had shot only JPEG you may lose out on some potentially big earners.
Most editing software these days can process RAW files (Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, ACDSee etc) but make sure you have the latest updates as your new camera may have come out after the software.
Other RAW processing software worth considering are:
- Canon DPP (Digital Photo Professional) – Free with camera
- Nikon Capture NX 2
- Adobe Lightroom
- Capture One
- Aperture (MAC)
I am sure there are a load more out there but any of these will do what you need (make sure they support your camera make and model…get the trial first)!
So, RAW files hold more data and that means you are able to extract more information from them. For example, blown highlights, if not too bad, are easily recovered when using RAW data as are the shadow details…just beware of creating noise or grain artifacts when pulling detail from shadows.
If in doubt shoot RAW and learn how to process them. If in serious doubt, shoot RAW and JPEG for a while until you become familiar and comfortable with either.
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