Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jpeg and image quality loss

Ok, folks, I've had enough of the talk by the photographers who argue against shooting jpeg format with digital DSLR cameras. One argument they use againt jpeg to bolster the argument for shoot raw is that all photo editing software packages lose something in the image every time you open and save the image file.

That was the case a few years ago, but since then and especially now with the latest version of packages, well, to them I say they're wrong. All the latest photo editors, from Adobe (Photoshop), Apple Aperture) and LightCrafts (LightZone) are lossless editors with jpegs. So, if you trust your camera, know your photography, and want to take a lot of images with the minimum of post-processing, shooting jpeg isn't bad and you won't lose any quality in the editors.

I'm not against shooting raw format. I use it for the final images with my landscape, nature or studio work. I like to shoot a lot of jpegs to see the different compositions, light, exposures, etc., and then when I get one I like I'll switch to raw+jpeg. In the end I still rarely do anything with raw image. I still find most of the jpeg images to be right on or requiring only minor tweaking and sizing for printing and Web display.

Since I shoot to capture what I see, I don't do much abstract or fine art photography which requires raw and where you can take full advantage of the photo editors. I do use the functions and features with my 4x5 scans of color transparency and black&white negative film, but then I'm working with a large file where the functions and features help.

But having been a longtime film photographer, and living with the pros and cons of each type of film, you have to adjust and learn, and work to get the most in the image at the time. Some films have a good dynamic range, especially black and white negative, and less so with color negatives. Color transparency films, on the other hand, weren't robust and you had to be spot on for the best image.

You learned to work in the framework and mode of the film. And I still do. I love it and it makes me think about everything, or try to anyway, to capture the best slide photo I could that printed with the least work. Shooting jpeg is very similar, except you have the full range of transparency films in one camera, but you have to get the exposure right, because even with the best photo editor, you don't have a lot of room to play.

It's the basic challenge of being a good photographer while your standing behind the camera. And while I will shoot raw occasionally, for the rest of my photography jpegs works fine and with the latest versions of software, it's not a point against it anymore. So can we stop the rants about jpegs now? Because being me, the longer you rant the more I rave.

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