Raw vs. Jpg


Yup, you know me as a Camera RAW expert. The Camera Raw page on this website is the most visited page consistently – by a huge amount – three times more than the next most popular page. I get ten or more emails a week from people who have successfully opened their raw files because of that page.

As you know, with raw files you can fix just about everything you’ve done wrong with your photo.

You don’t need to be very precise when you shoot raw files. Exposure screw ups, white balance gone wrong, blown out highlights and bad lighting! Shooting raw files is like having photo insurance.

I’ve taught the raw workflow for 8+ years in the classroom and online. I’ve made videos about why raw files are better. I’ve even called myself a raw evangelist! I used to shoot 100% raw files. Why? Because they were the best quality I could get out of my cameras – at that time.

But now the pendulum has swung the other way. I shoot more jpgs than raw. And I also shoot video clips.

Why I shoot jpg

I don’t just shoot jpgs willy nilly, I make sure I get those jpgs perfect in the camera, so that I don’t have to fix (post process) anything! And if you’ve been in any of my classes – SAIT, RDC, ACAD or online – you know I’m always preaching about camera menus and understanding what the most important menus are:

  • File size
  • File Quality
  • ISO
  • White balance

True, I still crop and add my watermark especially when things are going online, and I do like a good Snapseed session on my iPad. But the truth is, I don’t have to edit anything like colour, contrast or exposure anymore, because I’m shooting smarter by setting things up the way I want in my camera.

Cameras are better and smarter now than when you started shooting raw files.

When I got my Lumix GH3 a few months back, I cracked open that camera manual and dug deep to find out what’s new in jpgs! My new cameras have dynamic range controls, better auto white balance (yup I said AWB), super high ISO, and features like intelligent auto, custom function settings, and funky artistic modes that can’t be replicated when I shoot raw files. And are those things ever fun!

I’m scrapping all my Photoshop Actions because I’m getting it the way I want in the camera! Plus, when you use actions, you kind of mask problems with your photography, don’t you? C’mon, admit it. How often have you saved a photo by running it through some artsy fartsy actions?

It’s more efficient to shoot jpgs because I spend far less time in front of the computer than when I shoot raw files.

Here’s an example. On a recent event shoot, I shot jpgs, and some video clips and created an eProduct, as well as final files for printing, in under 4 hours. And that included the shooting time of 2.5 hours! Yup, it really only took that long. And the more I do this the faster I can get a job out the door. So now I can make money on those lower budget jobs.

I used to poo poo people who shot jpgs. I looked down on them from my lofty perch. Now I’m hanging my head in shame.

Why I shoot raw

I have one scenario when I still shoot raw files: The in-studio portrait with strobes. There are three main reasons for this:

  1. Consistency with my legacy clients – mostly from the corporate sector.
  2. Tethering – not all cameras can shoot tethered and my new Lumix doesn’t.
  3. And lastly, with some cameras, it’s impossible to set an in-camera custom WB with strobes. Ambient is no problem though.

I am in the process of changing over many of those legacy clients to the new workflow, so I know in a few months, this will likely change.

Why I shoot video clips

I’m starting a new phase in my photography career. You might have noticed that I’m calling myself a hybrid photographer. Hybrid imaging involves using the video capabilities that all cameras now have, PLUS stills PLUS audio. But not in a fusion way, which is heavily reliant on editing, and costly, but in a simpler more controlled fashion using eTemplates and auto editing tools.

Basically, I’m video fluent. I understand it like a second language, but my first language is still photography.

I’m not starting a video production studio. I’ll let the real video people keep doing that. But I’m video fluent. Hybrid is completely different. Hybid is simpler, easier to learn, easier to produce and easier to make money at.

So getting back to Camera Raw vs. jpg

You need to be open to going back to jpgs (and maybe consider a mirrorless camera). It will make you a better and smarter photographer. Because if you can nail a jpg in the camera, you can nail those hybrid video clips too, and the transition to new ways of showing and selling your work will be smooth!


Don’t get stuck like I nearly did!

Please don’t get stuck in the techno-babble of raw raw raw or the must have full frame sensor talk. Shoot smarter, get a smarter camera, save time, save hard drive space, save money on gear, and make more money with less of your profits being eaten up by post processing time!