Making an attractive online photography portfolio that showcases all of your best work is one of the most effective ways to acquire new clients as a photographer. But how can you determine which format will allow you to get the best shots possible? The time has come to delve deeper into the discussion regarding whether photographers should shoot in RAW or JPEG.
We will discuss the advantages of shooting in RAW as opposed to JPEG so that you can select the format that is most suitable for your needs. This will enable you to consistently produce stunning photographs for your portfolio.
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The RAW vs. JPEG
The debate over whether RAW or JPEG images are superior is an example of one of those pointless debates that should not be controversial. It's the same debate as all those other ones in photography about which camera is "the best" and whether or not full-frame or APS-C is superior.
There is no such thing as the best thing ever; there is only what is best for you. This is the only truth.
In keeping with the tone of many of my other posts, I will make an effort to keep this discussion more philosophical in nature, avoiding specifics such as bit depth numbers, dynamic range and file size comparisons, and so on. After giving these things some thought, you can make an informed decision about whether you should shoot in RAW, JPEG, or both formats while you're out exploring the world.
What's the difference between RAW & JPEG?
In photography parlance, the RAW file format is analogous to the negative, while the JPEG file format represents the print. The majority of cameras can record in both formats.
In the same way that film records the light that is exposed to it, a RAW file is a record of the light that has been processed as little as possible. Processing is required for RAW files, just like it is for film negatives.
After some processing has been done to an image, the output can be in the form of a JPEG. Sharpness, contrast, colour, and toning are just some of the aspects that have already been adjusted. It is the item that the photographer would take with them when they left the darkroom.
Which is better, RAW or JPEG?
There is nothing better; only something that is better for you.
But think about it this way. You take a print with you when you leave the darkroom, but you throw away the negative. The following year, your preferences shift, and you decide that the colour toning needs some adjustments. Since the only thing you have is the print, you will have to adjust the colour directly on the image. The following year, you decide that you want there to be less contrast, so you try to brighten the shadows and darken the highlights. However, since you've already seen everything that was in the shadows, brightening them won't reveal anything additional.
If you continue to make modifications of this kind from year to year, eventually you will end up with a muddled mess. In other words, it's the same as faxing a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy.
If you could go back to the initial negative and make those changes directly to it, do you think that would be a better option?
Is Shooting RAW or JPEG better for you?
"Do you shoot RAW or JPEG?" Different file formats divide photographers passionately. Passionate people don't mean there's one right answer. Like most photography topics, circumstances affect choices. RAW or JPEG (or both) depends on several factors.
Let's define JPEG and RAW files before comparing them. JPEGs are a standardised format designed to be smaller and read by all computers, smartphones, and tablets without specialised software. This makes it easy to share, but has drawbacks:
Much of the information encoded in a JPEG is baked-in, so editing it will reduce its quality.
Starred image quality options compress for maximum quality; file sizes vary by scene. Options without a star use compression to produce smaller files; files are about the same size regardless of location. In the camera, you can change JPEG compression settings to prioritise image quality or file size.
A RAW photo contains all the image information captured by the camera's sensor and all the metadata (camera ID, settings, lens, etc.). Due to all the extra data, the file size is much larger than a JPEG, and because the data is "raw," special photo-editing software is needed. That means more post-production time because you must edit your files, but you can do so without losing quality thanks to the non-destructive file.
RAW file editing software? Nikon's free Capture NX-D software can see and keep all the camera settings (such as Active D-Lighting, Picture Control, Vignette Control), or you can use third-party software, but it can't read many of the camera settings, so you'll have more work to do on your photos.
A JPEG can be shared straight from the camera, while a RAW file must be edited. The JPEG says it's easier to handle. If you want greater editing flexibility, a RAW file is worth the extra editing time.
Let's use math to explain how bit depth affects RAW file quality. Each channel (red, green, and blue) in a JPEG pixel can record up to 256 levels of luminosity. By multiplying each channel (256 x 256 x 256), you get 16,777,216 colours. An 8-bit file can display 16.78 million colours per pixel.
Higher-end Nikon cameras can record RAW files as 12- or 14-bit files, giving you 1.07 billion or 68.68 billion possible colour tones.
Why and when to shoot 14-bit is a separate article. Still, these numbers show that tonal gradation (the steps between colours) is more nuanced when shooting at a higher bit-depth.
How does math affect your final image? Have you seen a banded blue sky?
Posterization is likely to have happened with an 8-bit JPEG. The lack of tonal range (16 million is a tiny range) caused the banding. More tonal gradation in a RAW file would mean a smoother sky colour transition.
A higher bit depth records more colour tones and retains a wider dynamic range, which gives you more editing latitude. If your exposure is always perfect, a larger margin may not help. If you want to rescue a poorly exposed photo or play with highlight and shadow areas, it could be useful.
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The Benefits of Shooting JPEGs
In the realm of digital photography, the JPEG file format is generally regarded as the gold standard. The JPEG mode is the default setting for many digital cameras, and it is highly likely that this is the mode that was selected for you when you first removed your digital camera from its packaging. In order to get a better feel for their camera, many new photographers will begin their careers by shooting JPEGs rather than RAW images. However, this file format can be beneficial for more experienced photographers.
A few benefits of shooting JPEG over RAW images include:
Image Processing is Done For You
When you shoot in JPEG format, your digital camera will handle all of the image processing for you, which is one of the most significant benefits of using this format. Once you've located the subject you want to photograph and pressed the "capture" button, your camera will handle the rest of the work. In order for the camera to produce the final image, various settings, including white balance, colour saturation, sharpening, tone curve, and colour space, are applied. Once the image has been written to your memory card, you won't need to perform any further processing on it because this will be done for you automatically.
This advantage can be extremely useful for beginning photographers who are still gaining experience with techniques such as white balance, sharpening, and lighting their subjects. Photographers who are just starting out can create striking images by shooting a wide variety of subjects, from landscapes to weddings, without having to worry too much about the processing of their images.
JPEGs are processed images, which means that experienced photographers have the option of taking pictures more quickly while maintaining the same level of consistency. It's possible that you won't have the time or the energy to process thousands of photos if you're a photographer who works on a variety of projects throughout the year. You and your customers may end up incurring additional costs as a result of prolonged processing times and extensive file backups.
Photographers who shoot a lot also usually have a good handle on exposing an image and using their camera and won't need to bother with post-processing their pictures, making shooting JPEGs ideal. Create lasting memories through your Yarra Valley wedding photography that will be cherished forever.
A Smaller File Size
The size of the resulting file is something else to think about when deciding between shooting in RAW or JPEG format. JPEGs are kept as compressed files on your computer. Because of this, each JPEG has a very small file size, which ensures that it won't use up all of the space on your memory card.
When you're trying to get a long shot and don't want to have to keep switching out the memory card in your camera because it's filling up too quickly, having a smaller file size is absolutely essential. It's possible that you won't have time to switch out the memory card in your camera if you're taking pictures at a crowded event or a fast-paced fashion shoot, in which case JPEGs would be your best option.
Because of the smaller file size, you will also have the flexibility to take a large number of photos all at once on the same memory card. The cost of purchasing memory cards can quickly add up, which is especially true if you've already invested a significant amount of money in your digital camera; therefore, opting for the more space-efficient JPEG format may be the more frugal choice.
Easily Shareable for Quick Posting
Because your digital camera is capable of processing jPEGs, you are able to instantly share them on your social media accounts. This is true whether you are updating your profile picture on your Facebook business page or publishing a new post on Instagram. JPEGs are also simple to upload to an online photography portfolio immediately, which will not only help boost your site but also assist you in landing clients.
Because JPEGs have such a small file size, the time it takes to upload them is significantly reduced, which means that you can publish your photographs online in a matter of minutes. (If you frequently update your portfolio while you're away from home, make sure that the website builder you choose has the functionality to create mobile apps.)
If you want to print your photos and are wondering whether you should shoot in RAW or JPEG, know that shooting in JPEG will allow you to easily print them off, put them in frames, and send them as gifts to your friends. If you shoot in JPEG format, sharing, posting, and printing your photographs will go much more quickly.
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The Drawbacks of Shooting JPEGs
While JPEGs can be beneficial to new and seasoned photographers, they do have a few drawbacks, including:
Loss of Detail
When an image is compressed into a JPEG format using your camera, the end result is an image with very little detail. JPEGs have the potential to have a lossy quality, which means that the image may come out looking grainy or flat or even pixelated. If you shoot an extremely detailed shot or a close-up, the reduction in detail is likely to be more noticeable to the viewer.
Because an image that has been converted to JPEG format cannot be edited or reprocessed to have a more detailed quality, some photographers find the loss of detail in JPEGs to be unacceptable. This is especially true when considering the fact that once an image has been converted to JPEG format, it cannot be altered in any way.
Fewer Color Options
In the debate between RAW and JPEG formats, colour is another factor to take into account. JPEGs are 8-bit, which means that the colours and tones that can be represented in them are restricted. When an image is converted into a JPEG format, the majority of the colours that your camera can capture are thrown away, so they will not be visible in the final product. However, your camera is capable of capturing trillions of different colours. When you shoot in JPEG, for instance, a landscape with a lot of vibrant colours might turn out looking much more subdued than it actually is.
Lower Dynamic Range
In photography, the difference between an image's lightest and darkest tones is referred to as the dynamic range of the photograph. When you take pictures with a JPEG camera, the resulting image will have a lower dynamic range, which means that parts of it may have a high concentration of light tones (become overexposed) or a high concentration of dark tones (underexposed). It's also possible that there are shadows in particular places, which obscure the image and make it difficult to see.
To reiterate, you are unable to reprocess JPEGs, so if there are any problems with the final image, such as excessive or insufficient exposure, you will not be able to fix them.
The Advantages of Shooting RAW
Now, let's take a look at the RAW files, the other side of the debate between RAW and JPEG. The RAW file format, in contrast to JPEG files, does not use compression and is not technically considered an image file. RAW files are a collection of data saved on your camera that was captured by the camera's image sensor. You are able to view the data as images and edit the RAW files if you have software such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom.
Even though JPEG is the default file format for digital cameras, the vast majority of photographers who work professionally prefer to shoot in RAW. Taking pictures in RAW rather than JPEG has a number of advantages, including the following:
High-Quality Image Files
The fact that your camera stores all of the data it gets from the camera's sensor when shooting in RAW format is perhaps the most significant advantage of shooting in this format. This ensures that none of the image's particulars are lost or discarded in any way (often with JPEGs). When shooting in RAW format, your camera records everything it can see and stores it so that you can process the details yourself later. This ensures that you have image files of a high quality to work with during the processing stage, allowing you to produce the highest quality image possible.
A JPEG file only records 256 different levels of brightness, while a RAW file records anywhere from 4,096 to 16,384 different levels of brightness. Here is how the brightness is broken down in a RAW image versus a JPEG image: If you increase the brightness level, the tones in your images will appear to have a more even distribution.
During the processing of the image, it will also be simpler for you to adjust the brightness, which will provide you with additional options for playing around with while editing the image. You are also able to make adjustments and changes to the photo without causing any degradation to its overall quality.
Posterization can also be avoided by selecting an image with a high brightness level. Posterization is a photographic effect that occurs when a continuous band of colour appears in the image and obscures the view. When you shoot an image against a colourful background or against a bright sky, this issue frequently arises and causes a reduction in the image's quality. Check out our range of wedding photography for your wedding day.
More Colors in Your Images
The RAW format stores an incredible number of additional colours compared to JPEG files — precisely 68 billion more colours. A RAW image with 12 bits of data contains thousands of different red, green, and blue tones, while a RAW file with 14 bits of data contains trillions of different colour options. When shooting in RAW, you can guarantee that you will capture the maximum number of colours in an image, which will result in photographs with a wider colour range and deeper colour depth.
It is for this reason that shooting in RAW rather than JPEG is likely to produce superior results when capturing a vivid fashion scene or a colourful landscape with a variety of different shades and tones.
Higher Dynamic Range
Have you ever been concerned that your photographs were either under or overexposed? When shooting in RAW, you have a lot of leeway if you end up having to make quick adjustments to the lighting. These files have an extremely high dynamic range, which allows them to capture a diverse range of light and dark tones. Because all of this information is contained within the image, it will be much simpler for you to edit images that are either overexposed or underexposed.
If you have a tendency to either overexpose or underexpose an image, switching to RAW from JPEG as your shooting format might be a good idea. If you are photographing in a setting where you cannot always control the amount of light that is captured in the image, this accessory may also come in handy for you.
Process and Edit Files to Your Standards
After you have finished shooting, when you begin the editing process is when you will see the greatest benefit from using the RAW format. If you're having trouble deciding between shooting in RAW or JPEG, keep in mind that RAW files were intended to be processed in a way that caters to the preferences of the photographer. Because of this capability, you have an incredible amount of leeway to adjust images however you see fit, which is especially helpful in cases where they did not turn out exactly how you had hoped they would.
Working in the RAW format provides you with complete artistic control while maintaining the convenience of a processed JPEG image. Your mind is (often) more sophisticated than your camera. In post-processing, you can modify settings like white balance, exposure, and brightness with just a few clicks of the mouse using a programme like Photoshop or Lightroom. If you make the mistake of using the incorrect setting for an image, you can change it in Photoshop by adjusting the RAW file, and no one (including the client) needs to be the wiser for it.
You can also use sharpening tools that are more powerful than the tools that come with your camera in programmes like Photoshop or Lightroom. These tools make it simple to sharpen an image, even if it was originally shot too softly or had an excessive amount of noise. As a result, the photographs that you upload to your photography website will look truly amazing.
Concerned about the prospect of editing RAW files? The fact that editing RAW files is a non-destructive process is one of its most attractive features. You will edit a RAW image (as opposed to a JPEG image) in a programme such as Photoshop or Lightroom, and then save the edited version as a TIFF or JPEG file. Because of this, you will always have access to the RAW file or raw data at any time, allowing you to re-edit or adjust the file as necessary without affecting the high quality of the file. This not only makes the editing process less stressful for you but also gives you the ability to edit the same RAW file in a variety of different ways, depending on the goals and requirements of your client.
The Limits of the RAW Format
RAW files, much like JPEGs, are subject to a few of the same restrictions. Before you decide to shoot in RAW rather than JPEG, it is important to take into consideration a few of the limitations of this format.
A Larger File Size
When you collect all of the data that your camera is capable of seeing, a significant amount of storage space is required. RAW files are not compressed, so they take up significantly more space on your camera's memory card. Because of this, the buffer in your camera will fill up much more quickly when you shoot in RAW, which can result in a reduction in the frame rate of the camera and a restriction on the number of images that can be stored on a single memory card. It can be an annoyance to have to switch out your memory card in the middle of a hectic shoot or a busy event, so you will need to plan ahead and bring along some additional memory so that you have it on hand.
The processing of RAW files can be more resource-intensive on your computer, so shooting in RAW requires additional storage space on your computer in the form of larger hard drives and improved computer specifications. This could end up being expensive for some photographers due to the fact that updates to their computer's storage, graphics, and RAM can quickly add up.
Image Processing is Required
In comparison to JPEG files, RAW files offer more flexibility when it comes to adjusting and editing images. However, processing an image yourself does take a significant amount of time. This is especially true if you are just starting out with photo editing and are working on an image one at a time. If you choose to shoot in RAW format rather than JPEG, you will need to schedule additional time after a project is complete to upload the photos to editing software and make adjustments to them so that they look their best.
When working for a client against a strict deadline, image processing can be an extremely stressful activity for the person doing the work. If you choose to work on large projects in the RAW format, it may be beneficial to create a workflow using Google Apps or another organising programme. This will make it simpler for you to process all of your photographs on time. The lengthy and labor-intensive nature of transforming RAW files into stunningly finished photographs is enough to discourage some photographers. (However, the more you edit your photos, the quicker the process will become!)
Software Compatibility is a Must
RAW files, in contrast to JPEGs, are not designed to be compatible with any and all camera manufacturers. It is not possible to open Canon RAW files with Nikon software if you have a Canon digital camera and use Canon RAW files. Always make sure that the software that you are using to open and edit RAW files was designed by the same manufacturer as the digital camera that you are using, for example, Canon software for Canon RAW files. If you have a more recent model of digital camera, you might find that you have to wait a little bit for software companies to update their programmes before you can use their operating system to open RAW files.
On the other hand, Adobe has relatively recently developed an open-source RAW format known as DNG (Digital Negative). Lightroom is capable of converting RAW files into the open-source format known as DNG files. Although it is an additional step, taking it will ensure that your files are readable and that you have access to them whenever you require it.
A growing number of camera manufacturers are beginning to include the capability to shoot in DNG format in their products. Because this open-source format is likely to become the standard in the near future for all manufacturers moving forwards, you will find it much simpler to access the RAW files stored on your device.
RAW vs. JPEG: So, Which One is Better For You?
RAW or JPEG. Two options. Two sets of pros and cons. Let's do a quick final review of the benefits (and annoyances) of shooting RAW vs. JPEG:
Pick JPEG for Quick and Easy Shots
JPEGs are your best friend if you take photos in a casual setting or on the spur of the moment (say, at a family gathering or a party with friends). JPEGs provide you with the versatility to quickly capture a large number of images and immediately share them; additional processing time is not required.
If you need a quick profile picture for social media or want to capture a special moment for the 'gramme, JPEGs are your best option. You may even choose to shoot in JPEG format if you are taking a lot of pictures in a fast-paced environment, such as a fashion show or a sporting event, and you are confident enough in your ability to know your exposure so that you can let your camera handle the rest of the work for you.
Go RAW for Detailed, Stylized Shoots
When photographing with the intention of editing the images at a later time, RAW is the format that should be used. RAW format should be used for taking pictures whenever you want to get a lot of detail or colour, as well as whenever you want to have more control over the light and the shadows. Choose the RAW format if you plan to spend a lot of time editing the white balance, colour, and tone of the photographs you take for your photography portfolio.
This is especially important if you want to get the photographs to look as professional as possible. When shooting high-fashion, commercial, or creative work in which you want the images to have a consistent vision or style that stands out when edited in Photoshop or Lightroom, RAW may be the best format to use.
Match Your Format with Your Needs
You need a format that will work with your overall goal as a creator if you are going to be successful as a photographer. Consider how you intend to put your photographs to use, and pick a layout that caters to those requirements. This may require you to shoot in both the RAW and JPEG file formats, depending on the subject matter you are capturing and the final appearance you want for your photographs.
Use either method as necessary, and make sure to shoot intelligently to ensure that all of your photographs turn out beautifully. Look at the online photography portfolios of some of your favourite photographers to get ideas and learn how they frame and shoot their work in a variety of genres, such as travel and film photography, food photography, and black and white photography.
Don't Forget to Add Those Shots to Your Portfolio!
Whether you shoot in RAW or JPEG, be sure to include examples of your best work in both formats in the online photography portfolio that you maintain. Do you not yet possess one? With the right website builder, putting together an online portfolio website is quick and simple. If you want to sell prints of your photographs, you should look for an online portfolio that comes equipped with updated, contemporary templates to showcase your incredible work and a built-in online store.
When you use a good website builder, it will be simple for you to modify features on your site with just a few clicks and without the need for any coding. For example, it will make it possible for you to quickly upload beautiful images in RAW or JPEG format. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.