Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New Old Rule

A new old rule in digital photography, never enter a discussion, conversation or debate over image format, especially whether you should shoot just jpeg and not raw at all or raw as a primary or backup format. You will never win any point or get recognition of merit against shooting raw at any time.

It doesn't matter that many photojournalists and photographers rarely shoot raw format, myself included in the latter, because if you get the image right in jpeg, 99% of your work in the photo editor is done. You don't have to spend a lot of time fixing your stupidity in the field or deciding to actually know anything about camera setting since raw covers all bases.

Well, it doesn't, because theory and the real world aren't the same, and won't if you really screw up. But that's not the point here. The point is that there is always one or more "tech heads", ok very competent computer-minded photographers, who will argue raw is the only format to shoot, even if you don't need 99% of the raw images when jpeg would easily work for the situation.

To them it's raw or nothing, and they have all the arguments against anyone who tries to say different, except of course the best photographers who don't shoot raw and have proven it. Those folks are excused from the discussion as it only applies to the rest of less than great photographers and especially ordinary ones like me.

I won't argue there are times raw format is handy and even critical, especially wedding, portrait, studio, advertisement and commercial photography where you want the raw to be close or better and to work with the setting in the photo editor to get exactly what you want. It also covers for all the technical errors in the field. It won't fix composition errors but that's another subject.

I won't argue shooting raw plus jpeg is excellent advice when and where appropriate. I've used it occasionally and at times found it would have saved my photographic ass when I used the wrong settings. Lesson learned, always check them just before you start as I do now everytime. One lost session learned.

That said, this argument never goes away, partly because there are always beginning photographers who ask the question or make the statement about only shooting jpeg and there are always photographers ready to leap with arguments against that idea or for shoot raw format. It's the never ending voices of astonishment and combatitiveness.

The reality is shooting jpeg is much like shooting film, the difference being you can carry a lot of different films in a digital camera with the settings. Yes, it produces different results, but the same idea is there, focus on gettng the image right for you in the field and it's what you get.

If you don't you a lot or don't want to, then shoot raw plus jpeg and spend a lot of time sitting in front of the computer fixing the image, er, excuse me, manipulating it to what you want. The raw format proponents don't like the idea you fix an image. To them you restore it, you improve it, you enchance it, or so goes the words. It's still fixing it.

In the end, when I read the threads on photography forums about this subjects, like sitting in the tavern listening to the same talk over beers, I just sit quietly, listen or read and roll on like nothing happened, because nothing happens. No one's mind is changed. No one's technique is better. And no one's images are improved.

It's all a lot of words about nothing and silence is the better part of involvement, because in the end, when you see the final image it's almost impossible to distinguish if the original image was shot and the final image produced from a raw or jpeg format. It doesn't matter if you get the results you want for yourself or your clients.

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