Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Rrrrroooaarr... rrraw!

Rainy windy evening in Madrid, so what better is there to do than to crawl up on a sofa with my coffee mug and post a blog update about image file formats. Well, I am not gonna write about all kinds of different file formats, but concentrate on two most common ones regarding (daily) photography - JPEG and RAW. 

Sometimes I like to think of ways to explain things in a really simple, at times even goofy way. I could (with the help of the Internet) get super technical about everything photo related. About anything at all. But that would be a lot less fun.

So in order to share my feelings towards JPEG and RAW I doodled this.

The idea occurred to me when I tried to convince someone to start shooting in RAW. I am not sure I was very convincing, but hey, anything that leads to opening my box of pencils is a win for me. 

These days I mostly shoot in RAW, but I must say I have spent years shooting JPEG. I just really couldn't afford all the expensive memory cards and stuff, so I had to be wise about using the space available when I traveled. Also, nothing wrong with good JPEG files, especially if shot under favorable conditions. 

So, yes, RAW files bite quite a chunk out of the memory card in your camera, but in many cases it's well worth it. 

This is how it works. You see an awesome real life image you wanna capture with your camera. Unless you have some high tech artificial eyes your camera does not see eye to eye with you, the censor has a mind of its own. So the moment you press the release button the censor captures a lot of information and saves it on the memory card. 

All the information that make up an image is squeezed into this small or a bit less small "box" (well, it's not a box, but for the sake of an argument let's call it like that). Box labeled "JPEG" is smaller, so it fits less information. The camera decides which bits and bobs of the captured reality matter the most and squeezes them in. The rest gets lost. It's just not available anymore, nada, nothing, gone.

The other box labeled "RAW" is quite a bit more spacious, so the camera is less picky and throws in a lot more. Way less gets lost. 

So when you transfer your boxes filled with goodies that make up an image, a photo, to your computer and decide that uh-oh, not everything looks as you had planned and the photos could use a little tweaking. Well, if you have JPEG to work with you just have a lot less left to play around with compared to RAW. 

I think RAW sounds a lot more intimidating than it really is, somehow it is considered sth towards being a pro. Well, in my opinion RAW just makes life so much easier. Bringing back highlights or correcting white balance in Lightroom doesn't take much effort and the change can be drastic (in a good way) at times. While reaching the same result with JPEG file might take ages or be impossible, because those highlights were never saved to begin with (in order to create a smaller file and save space). 

If storage is no problem then shoot RAW, you can always convert files to JPEG or other formats for web use, sharing etc. If storage is kind of a matter then well, use JPEG when shooting a well balanced scene (no big contrasts, e.g. dark forest vs light sky) and use RAW in more tricky situations. 

Do you feel convinced? Do you care about file sizes and formats? Does it really matter? Or maybe it would be better to revert to shooting on film so all of this here could be rendered useless? Yes, I like asking (sometimes too many) questions. 


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