Between 2002 and 2009 I shot all my Community photos in JPG. Over those years I had occasionally tried to process a RAW photo (less than 10 times), but the shear time it took up to open up a RAW photo on my computer was almost enough to put anyone off using it. Once I got the photo open, I unfortunately didn’t have a clue as to how to process the image so I just stuck to shooting in JPG.
I had the belief that if you can shoot it right in the camera there was no use for RAW. Over those years I was very fussy with the way I shot my photos. I made sure highlight detail wasn’t blown out, flash was used where appropriate to bring up the shadows and I kept my ISO between 100-400 on the camera to help produce the best quality image I could.
Mid 2009 I was on an online forum where I had noticed the quality of some web images posted up to be amazing. Now you’re probably laughing thinking how I could find web sized images to be of high quality, but amongst those images I could tell there was something different with them. I asked what was the secret behind them, and the answer was one word and three letters, RAW.
As 2010 approached I decided that in the new year I would change my photography style, which also included the way I captured the images in camera. To do this though I would have to make some computer hardware changes as like I mentioned earlier my personal computer (and also work computer too) wasn’t up to the task with processing RAW images. My best mate who also happens to be a very talented photographer, Oscar Chong (www.blincstudio.com.au) swayed me into getting an Apple iMac as he thought it would be a great platform for me to start on if I wanted take my photo imaging a bit more seriously. To sort out my processing at work, I then bought a MacBook Pro shortly afterwards.
So after a year of shooting in RAW, what benefits and disadvantages have I found over that time.
As a result of shooting in RAW, I’ve become less ‘trigger happy’ and become more concerned about getting quality and variety of images rather than the quantity. I could comfortably say I’ve reduced the amount of images I shoot by 25% to 50% depending on the day.
Some question whether the RAW improvements make any noticeable difference once printed on newspaper quality paper. To be perfectly honest, it’s so minimal (if any at times) that the average reader looking at the paper wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. For me it boils down to providing the best quality image regardless of how my images are used or printed. I've found the colours, detail and sharpness of my images are a lot better since shooting in RAW.
Due to the larger file sizes, RAW files eat into your camera’s memory buffer pretty quick so you may find yourself unable to take a photo while your camera is trying to save images to your card. A potential costly thing especially if it’s the difference between capturing a nothing shot to capturing a great moment in time. Thankfully I’ve yet to be caught out in that situation.
The processing time of RAW files can be debatable. My setup at work has probably increased my processing time by 25-50%, which equates to roughly 15-20minutes extra on a normal Midland day. Some days it can actually make processing quicker, an example of this would be if I did lots of product shots under similar lighting conditions. I can just do a batch process for the images and it will be done quick snap.
At the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with both JPG and RAW file formats but I believe that once you have a proper taste of what RAW could do for your images I doubt you’d want to switch back.