21 March 2006

Digital photography – RAW vs JPG

by Anton Piatek

I known several people, including a new friend from work Andy Piper who will tell you that shooting digital photos in JPG is like throwing away your negatives with a film camera. I personally have not seen any reason to use RAW as i cannot actually see anything that you can really do in RAW that you cannot do in JPG.

I searched and found an article on the subject: RAW vs JPG. This author thinks that there is little advantage in RAW as you don’t get much more from it than with JPG. One thing he did say you get is you can recover for 1/2 a stop underexposure with RAW slightly better than with JPG.
I use gimp for most of my hardcore photo editing, but try not to need to do much to my photos. Just as well as a raw plugin is hard to find. I am of the belief that once I have taken a photo that is what I have. Occasionally I may polish up the contrast/brightness curves to make it a little brighter, or adjust the colour balance to make the colour more natural, but for most shots I don’t do anything to them (unless I want to mix them up a lot (like the coral on the top of this site, which is actually snow covered branches).

I try to take all my photos with the proper exposure, and do tend to check my on camera histogram to check that the exposure is not way off. The camera does a very good job with white balance too. Unlike with my old Canon G2, on my EOS 300D I hardly ever need to set the white balance to anything other than auto – though this might be due to the fact that if I am taking photos indoors I almost always use a bounced flash to give me some more light (which works wonders most of the time though a tall roof or odd coloured root makes it useless). Generally though I don’t have to correct many photos, and when I do a simple colour balancing and simple histogram manipulations look great.

One issue I think people see is what the image looks like pixel per pixel at 100% on a computer. I hardly ever look at my pictures at that size, as that is really low res for printing… I like real prints of my photos (Yes, I need to get more of them as I hardly have any) as a real print always looks far better than the image on screen (assuming you have a printing company that has sense and doesn’t mess up the colours, or if you print your own you have to have the colour matching set up really well).

I welcome your comments and opinions on this issue, as while I may sound made up if there is a serious advantage for using RAW then I will. I can write a script to dump all my raw images to JPEG for the web, and I may even end up cleaning up all my images before saving them (which would be a first) so that I can save them as something that isn’t too proprietary (maybe something with some compression, preferably lossless)