There are many articles and videos discussing the pros and cons of shooting in RAW versus JPEG. I’ve been a big fan of the Raw format for a long time because of its editing capabilities. But what is more important than file size and editing? Longevity, life expectancy.
It is good to note here that often the tree prevents me from seeing the forest. So it might not be a revelation for some people. In short, shooting in RAW format captures the most information in each frame, allowing for maximum manipulation in post-production. In fact, it is a digital version of the film negative.
The JPEG format dramatically reduces file size and speed of use, but it also reduces the benefits of post-processing to just minor adjustments. This is just a general point of view, this debate has many layers. The purpose here is not to review them, but simply to add a point to the advantages of the arguments in favor of the raw format.
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I was recently looking at some work I did 5 years ago and came across a portrait that I loved so I decided to re-edit it. I’ve been editing photos for over a decade, so I wasn’t expecting this to be a major retouch, but rather something quick.
And for the most part, I was right. My eye is better suited to more subtle touch-ups, so the results were more relaxed than the original. And overall, I was right. My eye is more sensitive to subtle touch-ups, so the results were much better than the original.
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But it made me think of the eternal debate (a heated debate?) to know between RAW and JPEG which is better. I’ve been doing this long enough to believe that professionals choose what works best for them and their clients, but when you’re just starting out, it can seem like a big dilemma. Not only does this increase file size, but it adds a level of complexity that can seem overwhelming to beginners.
This back and forth is rarely about longevity or preparing for the future, as some say. Note: I prefer the first term because it relates to your career and legacy, so the language you use is important. Yes, there’s a practicality to it, but longevity is about maintaining presence over the years, and the test of time is like applying the right sealant to your roof.
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My career started in the digital world, so I don’t have any experience in the film industry. So I’m used to the fact that I can always go back to the picture and decide if I like the final version or not. If not, I can make changes and save it again. As I said before, this is not an Einstein revelation about photography. I also agree that this is heresy to some who regard the original edition as the purest form. But I’m a mad scientist when it comes to creativity, and I tend to make rules as guidelines.
Why should we shoot in RAW format?
But here it is: I think this is a strong argument to encourage novice photographers to use the Raw format. The list of technical benefits is helpful, but telling a new photographer to shoot in a file format that will improve the photos they take now five years from now is a much more compelling reason. There are cases where this does not apply, of course, such as for published works. I think having a safety net in such a technically difficult career is fantastic.
Why would you want to revisit a job you did years ago? I have been working on portraits for almost 10 years and would like to keep some images in my portfolio as they have been milestones for me. But as I improve my edits or replace my screen with one of better resolution and color, I want to go back and adjust certain images to keep them relevant. If I only had JPEGs, I would have been very limited, but since I’ve been shooting in a raw format almost forever, I have that option.
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A bad photo is just a bad photo, and a professional should never rely solely on post-processing to save their work. Getting it right in the camera is the golden rule, we should always strive to improve. Nevertheless, having this extra level of flexibility for the future is something fantastic.
So buy this biggest SSD now and experience Camera Raw in Photoshop. Your future self will feel much smarter.