UNDERSTANDING “RAW” AND “JPEG”

The back of a DSLR camera and showing the settings

If this title sounds a bit technical, then you are right. But to some photographers, this is totally something they are used to working with all the time. So, for you new photographers, and those who haven’t tried RAW format yet, I hope to clarify today, exactly why there are 2 different formats to your camera, and why you would use either one.

WHAT’S THE REAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO FORMATS?

These days, pretty much every camera – including smart-phones, has the option to shoot in RAW, JPEG, or both. These are file formats, simply different ways of rendering and storing your image after you hit the shutter button.

However, while both RAWs and JPEGs will do a decent job of faithfully capturing a scene, they aren’t equally capable and do offer different functionalities, benefits, and drawbacks.

So let’s look at some quick definitions before doing an in-depth comparison:

WHAT IS “RAW” FILE?

RAW files are unprocessed, unfiltered, raw data that comes straight from your image sensor.

Therefore, a RAW file cannot be viewed by the human eye (it’s not a visual display!), and must be converted to another file format such as a JPEG or a TIFF for actual viewing. In other words, it is only data. It is not an image.

Because RAW files are unprocessed, they have zero sharpening, chromatic aberration removal, saturation, contrast, etc., applied to them. In fact, when RAW files are initially rendered for viewing, they tend to look quite unimpressive, with low contrast, low saturation, and a touch of softness.

Note that different cameras produce different RAW files, such as .CR2, .NEF, and .CR3. So when processing a RAW file, your software must be compatible with the specific RAW format.

WHAT IS A “JPEG” FILE?

A JPEG is a standard image file format that’s readable by pretty much every image program on the market, as well as internet browsers. In other words, a JPEG is an essentially universal method of displaying images.

However, unlike a RAW file, a JPEG is a processed version of an image. In fact, a JPEG image always starts out as a RAW file, but then undergoes various modifications, often including:

  • Compression (where some image data is deliberately discarded)
  • Sharpening
  • Increased saturation
  • Increased contrast

This processing occurs in your camera, by the way, not on the computer (though you can certainly further process a JPEG in a program such as Lightroom). So as soon as you put your memory card into your laptop and pull up a JPEG, it’s already been edited in camera.

THE BENEFITS OF SHOOTING IN “RAW”:

Remember how I mentioned that JPEG files are compressed and are missing data, whereas RAW files are, well, raw?

This comes with a serious consequence: RAW files can be converted into beautiful, large, detailed images. And while JPEGs can look great, you may end up with unpleasant compression artifacts such as banding, halos, loss of detail, and more.

RAW files allow for greater highlight and shadow recovery

RAW files contain information at dynamic range extremes – the brightest highlights and the darkest shadows. So even when an image appears totally blown out or underexposed, you can often recover detail in clipped areas.

But JPEGs discard this information, so if you blow out the sky and want to bring back some detail, you’re probably out of luck.

RAW files allow for extensive image adjustments (i.e., post-processing)

RAW files are uncompressed. Therefore, you have plenty of latitude when post-processing your photos. You can tweak contrast, change colors, adjust tones – and a RAW file will take it all in stride.

JPEGs, on the other hand, cannot be modified extensively. And when pushed or pulled too much, JPEGs will start to show banding and other problematic artifacts.

WAIT !!!! JPEG DOES HAVE SOME ADVANTAGES:

Remember how RAW files contain all of the information captured by your camera, whereas JPEGs are compressed? Well, it majorly reduces JPEG file size – so while a RAW file might take up 20 MB of storage (or more), JPEGs take up substantially less.

This is a big deal for two reasons:

  1. If you’re working on a computer with limited space and you don’t want to spend lots of money on external hard drives, JPEGs can be a lifesaver.
  2. You can fire off bursts of shots without stopping because your camera can record JPEGs much faster than RAW files. Here, the specifics will depend on your camera; for reference, the CANON EOS R5 can shoot around 350 JPEGs at 12 frames per second, compared to 180 uncompressed RAW files.

Don’t want to spend lots of time behind the computer? No problem; JPEGs are instantly viewable and are processed in camera.

Yes, you can process them beyond your camera’s sharpening, contrast, and saturation adjustments, but it’s not a requirement, and you can share JPEGs to social media without stopping for a lengthy Lightroom edit.

pathway between trees towards house
Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

SO, WHICH ONE SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

If you want to create high-quality prints, or you want to spend time post-processing (i.e., enhancing and correcting) your photos, or you want the ability to do either of those things just in case, then you absolutely must be shooting in RAW.

In fact, if you’re on the fence about shooting in JPEG or RAW even after reading this far, then I highly recommend you just switch your camera over to RAW and leave it there. RAW files are just too darn useful to give up unless you have a really good reason to shoot JPEGs.

And if it helps, nearly all professionals and serious hobbyists shoot in RAW, especially those who photograph:

  • Landscapes
  • Wildlife
  • Flowers
  • Insects
  • Architecture
  • Cityscapes
  • Weddings/events

Of course, as I emphasized above, there are reasons to shoot in JPEG. I’d recommend going the JPEG route if you absolutely hate post-processing and don’t think you’ll ever want to work in Lightroom; that way, you’ll have easily shareable images that require no extra work. And if you don’t have the storage for RAW photos, then JPEGs are the way to go.

I’d also recommend using JPEGs if you’re photographing on a very tight deadline (self-imposed or otherwise) and you need to get your images uploaded and viewable, fast. If you’re shooting a family party, for instance, you could work in JPEG then immediately share all the images on Facebook without a significant delay for editing.

Finally, you might consider using JPEGs if you want to use your camera’s burst mode without restraint. The other option, however, is purchasing a camera with a very deep buffer, and I’d urge you to go this route if possible (that way, you can shoot indiscriminately and you can capture RAW files).

lake and mountain photo
Photo by Geoffrey Werner on Pexels.com

CONCLUSION:

What I would do if you are set up to work on “lightroom”, shoot some photos in “RAW”, then shoot the same type photos in “JPEG”, and then work with both of them in “Lightroom”. The only way to know which you would like better is to try them both. You might just become a master of “POST PROCESSING” when all is said and done. Which is not a bad thing.

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This article is mostly written by Darren Rowse of Digital Photography School. Thanks for helping us all with this information.

CONTROLLING YOUR SHUTTER SPEED AND IT’S EFFECTS:

time lapse photography of vehicle tail lights
Photo by Nikolett Emmert on Pexels.com
Another article on: “Something you can’t do with a cell phone”

If you want to be a serious photographer, this is another series of why you should have a “real camera” instead of doing all your photography with your cell phone.

Controlling your shutter speed on your camera is there for you to seriously give you the control to create something beautiful and exciting. The photo above, for example, is just one great photo that was done by having control of your shutter speed. Simply done by putting your camera on a tripod, and then having your shutter speed set so that the lights on the road become a blur or a long string of color. Judging from how long the lights are streaking there, I would say that shutter speed was around 6 to 10 seconds long. Can your camera do that?

SETTING YOUR CAMERA’S SHUTTER SPEED TO “B”.

Photo by Tom Podmore on Unsplash

One of everyone’s favorite things to do when setting the shutter speed slow is to take a photo of a waterfall. When it is slow it just blurs the water and gives it a dream effect. If someone is in the photo, yes, they will be a blur as well. But, that kind of acts as an effect most people will like with this photo.

The “B” setting on your camera stands for “Bulb”. And back many years ago, the photographer would have his camera set on the tripod, and then use a “bulb-type” plunger that you would screw into the camera’s button. This is where the “B” came from. You can still use a remote trigger on your camera, but, it may not be a “bulb”, but, a “cable release” or even use your self timer, so you don’t touch the camera during a long exposure.

EFFECTS OF A FAST SHUTTER SPEED

Photo by Michael Constantin P. on Unsplash

Is there something wrong with this helicopter? No, this photographer used a very fast shutter speed, like 1/1000 or 1/2000 of a second to be able to stop the helicopter blades from showing any motion. Totally freezes anything that moves when you use a fast shutter speed.

Here is another photo showing fast shutter speeds:

Photo by Max Frajer on Unsplash

Of course, changing your shutter speeds, may involve you changing your ISO setting as we mentioned in the previous blog. And your aperture setting may change as well. All 3 of these settings have to work together. You will just need to know what type of effect you are after in order to use the right settings, or making the decision what setting is most important with the type of photo you want to take.

On the next blog, we will go over the results of changing your aperture setting on your camera. What will you create using different aperture settings? See ya then!

“BOKEH” IN YOUR PHOTOS, AND HOW TO USE THEM

Photo by Francesco Tommasini on Unsplash

“Bokeh”! What is this new word? Take a look at the photo above, and notice all the little round lighted circles behind the subject. Those circles are “Bokeh”, and have become popular in photos lately because they make the subject stand out from the background in a very beautiful way.

Taken from a Japanese word for “blur,” bokeh has become a photography jargon used to describe how a lens renders a background that’s out of focus. As I was looking for a great photo showing Bokeh, I was surprised how many people just love Bokeh, without any foreground subject. Just like this:

yellow bokeh photo
Photo by rovenimages.com on Pexels.com

To me, a photo like this is not something I would hang up on the wall, but, might be used as a background to something else I want to create. However, if you search for Bokeh, on Google, you will get photos of pretty little circles, like shown above.

Now, if you would like to use more Bokeh in your photos, then follow these steps: They can only be created a certain way:

USE THE RIGHT LENS:

The reason why some people get frustrated with bokeh is that they’re probably using the wrong lens. The secret to getting beautiful bokeh is using a lens that has an aperture of at least f/2.8. Unfortunately, the maximum aperture of a typical kit lens (the lens often found on entry-level cameras) only goes as low as f/4.5 or f/3.5. Although it’s more or less just two f-stops away from the ideal aperture, it’s still not wide enough to provide the background blur essential for bokeh.

green grass with bokeh lights
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

Take a look at your lenses and see if you have a lens that will do this. If you got a kit lens, chances are you don’t have a lens that will open to f2.8 or lower. So, check all your lenses. A standard lens, with no zoom, is relatively inexpensive, and will generally go to f1.8, which is perfect for creating this effect.

Check out your aperture blades:

Photo by Wan San Yip on Unsplash

When choosing the ideal bokeh lens, also consider looking at aperture blades. The way they shape the aperture’s opening affects how the patterns in the background look. For instance, a lens with 9 blades creates a rounder aperture, making light sources appear circular and more natural-looking. On the other hand, a lens that has fewer blades (about 5 or 7) produces polygon-shaped orbs that look less desirable.

SET YOUR APERTURE MODE TO “AV”

The important thing to remember in creating the “bokeh” effect, is that you need to use a very wide aperture setting. F2.8 or bigger (or smaller number, like 1.8) will be the only way this works. If you want to go manual mode, that is fine, but, just make sure your aperture is set to the lower number.

CHOOSE A GOOD BACKGROUND:

To achieve bokeh, choosing the right background is crucial. Although it’s easy to blur a part of the scene with your lens, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee your image will have good bokeh.

Plain backgrounds don’t make good bokeh because there’s just nothing much going on visually. If you look at beautiful bokeh shots, you’ll notice that even with a blurry background, particular elements like light orbs or soft textures and patterns appear prominently in the image.

The perfect places to get bokeh is usually from urban locations. There, you usually have some kind of soft lights in the background that just make it nice.

Photo by Matt Nelson on Unsplash

Light reflecting on bodies of water such as ponds and lakes creates captivating bokeh effects as well.

Look for lights behind a possible portrait. This is truly a wonderful effect with bokeh, if everything is in it’s place. It just seems to give a dreamy effect.

Photo by Arnaud Mesureur on Unsplash

conclusion:

Look for lights in the background when taking portraits. Or anything else that has a high reflective light coming from it, and see if you can enjoy getting some good “bokeh” photos.

Thought for the day:

If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.

Robert Capa

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UNDERSTANDING “ISO”

white vase beside apples
Photo by Nixon Johnson on Pexels.com

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