Raw vs JPEG in Photoshop, a Practical View

Raw jpeg top

While I was traveling last week, Lynda.com published an article of mine that looks at the (digital) age-old question of whether to shoot in Raw or JPEG format. Often this topic is pitched as a fight, and because photographers on the Internet are photographers on the Internet, people draw battle lines and argue.

The reality, though, is that both formats are good, depending on your needs. That’s not as dramatic, but who has time to bicker? I’d rather be out shooting photos. In this article, I look at practical considerations, specifically related to working with photos in Photoshop (otherwise the scope is just too massive for an article).

It was also an opportunity to photograph a shot of bourbon, which then became its own post-shoot reward!

Here’s the article: Raw vs. JPEG in Photoshop: A Practical View. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below (Lynda.com articles don’t have comments).

Whiskey shot cropped

  1. One of my favorite topics. I’m a professional photo retoucher of 25 years trained by a dot etcher and I started retouching in the print world off images from the drum scanner at my NYC printing press that I worked at in the early 90s. Currently I design the cover and I color correct 100’s of images each month for a BMW motorcycle magazine in my free time, and every single image is saved as a JPEG at quality 10. I have tested jpegs extensively over the decades and 10 is my favorite. I can open a jpeg and resave it 20 times, make an 8×10 print, and then print an 8×10 of the original file and put them side by side, and nobody in the world can tell me which one is which when comparing the two at a normal 1 or 2 foot distance from the eye. The lossy compression of 12 is totally overkill! It is much better than 10 but the files are also twice the size and it is just not necessary.
    That being said, you are generally using the format to save space and the file is going to be either RGB hopefully or maybe CMYK but down at an 8 bit level, so you aren’t going to be able to push those curves anywhere near the limits of a RAW file. SO I have a rule of thumb that many pros I know use. Going to shoot for money? Shoot RAW. Going to shoot an award winning photograph? Shoot RAW. I switch my DSLR over to RAW for those two instances. But when I shoot family photos on my 6D, even though that camera is not even rated as having the best JPEG in-camera conversions, they are damn good enough. I can honestly say that a JPEG shot from my Canon 6D has 5 times more information than the best scanned 35mm slide I have ever seen in the past. But if your exposure was a bit off you aren’t going to be able to fix it as much compared to if you shot RAW. For family photos, who cares? Today’s problem with personal photography is not landing a perfectly exposed shot. Today’s problem in my opinion is having too many perfect shots, which lessens the value of any one particular shot in your series.


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