Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Q and A - Why use RAW Format?

With the popularity of RAW format on the rise, we often get this question:

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"JPEG images are quick and easy, and they produce perfectly nice large prints. Why should I shot RAW?"

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We can certainly understand why some photographers choose to shoot JPEG. RAW images cannot be viewed directly on your computer, and they require extra time and specialized software for processing and conversion to JPEG or TIFF.

When shooting in JPEG format, a mathematical algorithm determines how a photo is processed in-camera. This requires the camera to automatically select certain parameters - white balance, contrast, brightness, tone curves, black points, etc. RAW format, on the other hand, allows the photographer to select the best parameters for a given image based upon their visual perception. Today's RAW converters are even capable of applying different parameters to different parts of the image - thus giving photographer excellent fine-tuned control.

Take a look at this sample JPEG image. It was produced using the camera's default settings. Some parts of the image are overexposed (these are highlighted in red), and the rest of the image is underexposed. The automatically selected white balance gives the image an overall yellowish cast.
This second shot was processed using the RAW converter. Jay was able to correct the white balance and adjust the light level to prevent under and over exposure. The resulting image has rich vibrant colors and a no unpleasant color cast.
Here is another example that shows the power of RAW format. This shot was processed using the camera's default settings. This is what you'll get if you shoot this scene using automatic JPG settings in-camera.
With a quick adjustment of RAW parameters, Varina was able to bring back the details and vibrant colors in every part of the image.
So, is the extra trouble worth it? Take a look at the difference between the images you see here, and make up your own mind.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hm, I'm not sure that is convincing. Of course, the RAW in this example looks much better. But surely "adjusting the parameters" works fine on JPGs as well? Except for blowing out the highlights, the jpeg can be fixed by adjusting color balance, change saturation, levels, etc?

January 7, 2010 at 4:05 PM  
Anonymous Jay Patel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

January 8, 2010 at 11:13 AM  
Anonymous Jay Patel said...

Yes you are correct that adjustment can be done in JPEG images as well. But the control offered by RAW files (such as recovery of highlights, control over tonal curves) exceed what is available in JPEG.

Having said that I have to admit RAW is not for everyone. There are advantages shooting with JPEG...including faster frame rates. This blog post presents our view on JPEG vs. RAW. In the end, we would like the photographers to choose what format is best for them.
Thanks for the comments.

January 8, 2010 at 11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant phrase

March 4, 2010 at 11:20 AM  
Blogger Varina Patel said...

Thanks! :)

March 4, 2010 at 11:23 AM  

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