Why Shoot RAW

DSC_7945___Version_6.jpgI have received a bunch of feedback on a couple of articles regarding NEF processing in Aperture. More than a few were questioning the value of shooting RAW files at all if the camera does such a good job processing JPG files with in camera settings. I thought that I would share a couple of my thoughts on this along with a contrived example for the non-believers out there.

With storage costs being so idiotically inexpensive and generally huge when compared with real world numbers of still images that can possibly be taken with any thought process at all I would tend to question why not shoot RAW. If you like the way that your camera processes images just shoot RAW+JPG. The JPG files are tiny compared to the RAW file. Heck a couple of readers have informed me that even that blabbering yo-yo Ken Rockwell is starting to back pedal on his "You are an idiot if you shoot RAW" nonsense. Here are some opinions I have and some facts that you can verify yourself.

  • More bits per channel is a big big deal if you are going to manipulate the image in any significant way. Check out the photos included in the post and the article that I posted on the Aperture highlights and shadows tool.
  • Processing WB in post gives you infinite color flexibility - also a big big deal.
  • I have personally seen a huge improvement in individual RAW image files processed in new software vs. processed in older software/in camera JPG files. Why limit yourself to one rendition?
  • There has never ever been an occasion that I shot RAW where I thought at a later date - "Hey I wished that I shot JPG". There have been a lot of occasions that I choose to shoot JPG where I thought "Man I wish I shot RAW" down the road a bit.

Okay so here is the example - it's clouds. Hey tell me every photographer doesn't shoot cool looking clouds. Most of us don't do anything with them but we all shoot them - come on admit it - come clean. Here is the camera JPG with auto WB nice and neutral - how boring.


Here are a couple of manipulations to get closer to what I saw versus what the camera thought I saw. Check out the cool magenta hues in the distance. The only thing that I screwed with in all of these is contrast, brightness, levels, and WB.





Now let's take the in camera produced JPG and screw with the WB and levels to get it anywhere close to any of the above images and see what happpens.


Yuk - see what happens to the photographic subtleties when you only have 256 values in each color channel and throw a bunch of them away.



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