JPG vs RAW, and simple editing RAW
Sorry for the newbie questions.
Having just gotten my hands on a d3000, I've been experimenting with all of the options, and finally made my way to RAW. I'd been shooting in JPG, and enjoying the pictures, but I've never had a camera that shot in RAW - I knew a relative amount *about* RAW, but had never touched it. A bit of google searching led me to such gems as "If you're asking 'should I be shooting in RAW or JPG?', then JPG is fine for you." Still, I switched to RAW and started shooting.
What I found was that there was a noticeable difference, even without any manipulation on my part. The RAW images seemed to have more "real" color, contrast, shading, etc. The JPG images, in comparison, all seemed.. well, processed.
I tried three or so programs to bring up the RAW images, and ultimately found that Picasa seemed the best for me - I'm already accustomed to using it, and the RAW images look better in it than they do in ViewNX or even Photoshop. I'm a little surprised at this, and keep wondering if maybe my untrained eye or lack of knowledge is convincing me that one image is superior to another.
So with all of that said, I'm looking for input from you folks. I'm totally in the amateur category, and though I might do a bit of tweaking on a photo here and there, I'm not going to spend tons of time editing images at this point.
Were you in my shoes, what would you use? Why?
#1. "RE: JPG vs RAW, and simple editing RAW" | In response to Reply # 0blw Nikonian since 18th Jun 2004Thu 11-Feb-10 10:22 AM
Since you're not doing this with ViewNX or CaptureNX, which are the only programs that apply the in-camera settings to the raw files, you really are seeing the raw output, converted to a generic JPEG file. You can't ever really look at a raw file, because it is, well, raw. It's always converted to JPEG or TIFF for viewing. In fact, the JPEGs that you were using are actually the raw files converted to JPEG by the camera, and then only the converted JPEG was saved; the raw file was discarded. If you shoot raw, the camera simply saves the raw file and does not process a JPEG. (Actually it does - that's what you see on the LCD; it's only a preview JPEG.)
So unless your camera is set to some "flat" settings - which are not the default - it's unlikely that the raw file is producing more real colors or contrast.
If you're serious about photography, you might as well shoot raw - because you may decide later to process some of the files you shoot now. But if you don't intend to take up photography in a "deep" way, JPEG is a fine way to go.
Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member
My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!
#2. "RE: JPG vs RAW, and simple editing RAW" | In response to Reply # 0Sat 13-Feb-10 01:04 AM
I could be totally off here...but my understanding of RAW is different than the previous response. In my book, RAW is the image as seen through the lense. It hits the senor and is stored just as it is seen by the senor. The JPG is processed by the camera settings to add color tones and other processing determined by settings you chose on the camera. Now...you can take that RAW image and open it with the software on your computer and apply the same processing as the camera did to come up with the JPG...or you can adjust those settings to modify the image.
So when you think you are seeing a better quality photo, realize that what you see is what the glass in your lense sent to the sensor. Now you can manipulate it to look exactly like the JPG that was also stored (assuming you shoot RAW + JPG). So it's not that it is a better picture...it's just the original unprocessed picture. Your eye doesn't seem to like what your in-camera processing is creating from that RAW photo. Change the settings on ther camera and you may end up with an even more pleasing JPG. Or just take the raw and apply post processing on the computer. It gives you more control.
#3. "RE: JPG vs RAW, and simple editing RAW" | In response to Reply # 0MEMcD Nikonian since 24th Dec 2007Sat 13-Feb-10 03:17 PM
Is the computer monitor that you are using calibrated?
If your monitor is not calibrated, the colors could be off, possible over saturated causing the Raw images to look beter than the jpegs.
The other possibility could your in camera settings.
If you want to convert the image yourself shoot Raw!
If you want to do minimal PP shoot jpeg!
If you want the best of both worlds shoot Raw + jpeg.
Good Luck and Enjoy your Nikons!
#4. "RE: JPG vs RAW, and simple editing RAW" | In response to Reply # 0Sat 13-Feb-10 04:58 PM
Nate and Jerremy
Another good reason to shoot RAW + JPEG rather than just JPEG is that JPEGs are compressed files that uncompress when you view them and them recompress when they are closed. Like a spring, they eventually deteriorate over time. NEF (Raw) files do not. Also, if you have just taken the "shot of your life," and it is a JPEG, you will have less post processing control. The downside to RAW is the size of the file which must be stored on your memory card and then onto your hard drive. This, of course, can be remedied by deleting the RAW files that you don't like or need.
If you do have some JPEGS that you want to keep forever and you don't have a RAW file to go along with it, you can save the file as a TIFF before you open and close it again. TIFFs are even larger than RAWS, but like RAWs, they won't deteriorate.
Good luck with your cameras.
#5. "RE: JPG vs RAW, and simple editing RAW" | In response to Reply # 4Sat 13-Feb-10 05:15 PM
I use an 8 gb storage card and I can save an awful lot of pictures in RAW and JPG before having to delete anything. But alas...while shooting my mom and dad's 50th anniversary last weekend...right when I was about to get that 'shot of a lifetime' the card filled up and I lost the shot. I'm a bit of a pack rat and forget to delete RAWs of shots I don't particulary care for. I had shots of my mother in law's Halloween pumpkins on that card. LOL
Fortunately I download pics right after shooting them so I did not lose anything when I had to do a quick delete on the camera. I also make a copy of JPGs for archival purpose so that if I do degrade a JPG over time I can always do a DOS level copy/paste of the original JPG without opening it.
#6. "RE: JPG vs RAW, and simple editing RAW" | In response to Reply # 5Sat 13-Feb-10 08:15 PM
It sounds like you have a good handle on the JPEG v NEF issue. My son does the same thing with his JPEGs, keeping an unopened copy. I bought a couple of 500 gig Seagate external drives so I just keep all of my NEFs, backing them up from one drive to the other. Eventually, I'll separate the wheat from ... and delete a lot of the NEFs and JPEGs.
#7. "RE: JPG vs RAW, and simple editing RAW" | In response to Reply # 4JosephK Nikonian since 17th Apr 2006Sat 13-Feb-10 09:17 PM
>JPEGs are compressed files that uncompress when you view them and
>them recompress when they are closed. Like a spring, they
>eventually deteriorate over time.
This is incorrect. Opening and closing the JPG files is not a problem. You are just reading and uncompressing the same data over and over with no changes to that data.
The "damage" happens when you change the data and save the data back to disk as a JPG. It is the saving that does another round of destructive compression. It is the repeated cycle of open-edit-save-close that is bad for jpg files. You can do open-close forever with no loss of data.
The advantage of TIF and other losslessly compressed files is that the edit-save loop can be repeated with no data loss.
Seattle, WA, USA
#9. "RE: JPG vs RAW, and simple editing RAW" | In response to Reply # 7Sun 14-Feb-10 12:22 PM | edited Sun 14-Feb-10 01:32 PM by Donald Kahn
After some brief research, it would appear that you are correct. Thanks for setting me straight. I am also glad to know that my endless count of old JPEGs are still safe.
Edited to add: After further research, I have found several articles that claim that opening and closing does cause degradation, however, the majority support your position.
#8. "RE: JPG vs RAW, and simple editing RAW" | In response to Reply # 0
Thanks for the replies.
To clarify a bit:
I'm pretty accustomed to shooting JPG and using Picasa.
I've checked monitor calibration and such, and even tried shooting pics of objects that I could easily hold right up beside the image on the monitor for a side-by-side comparison. I've experimented a little more lately with Photoshop CS4, and have gotten some good results, but I still see a difference when comparing the way Picasa displays a RAW image, and the way others including CS4 display it.
While the colors tend to be more vibrant with CS4, I believe that the colors and skin tones are "off" from what we see with the naked eye. Viewing two images side by side, the JPG sometimes seems more appealing to the eye, with brighter colors, darker blacks and shadows, and more "flush" skin tones, but the RAW image, as displayed, seems more life-like, although appearing somewhat washed out, beside the JPG.
I'm scratching my head here. Not certain if it is just my monitor, I'll try uploading some comparison shots this week to see if I can share what I'm seeing.. Honestly I don't think its the monitor.
#10. "RE: JPG vs RAW, and simple editing RAW" | In response to Reply # 8Sun 14-Feb-10 01:46 PM
Somehow I think your are not getting what is being said here. It's not the monitor. The camera applies post processing changes to your jpg file. The same way a computer can apply post processing to the raw image. You can also apply post processing to the jpg on the computer, but you are not starting with a file as seen through the lens of your camera when you do that to a jpg as it has already been post processed.
Each program you use for post processing will give slightly different results on your monitor. In a perfect world the monitor would be calibrated by the display driver and all programs would use that as a base and they would all display the colors the same. But if CS4 is using an adobe RGB (1998) spec and your other program uses sRGB and another program uses Apple RGB...well you can see that all three programs will display slightly different tones of colors. In order to get everything the same, all the programs must be set to use the same specs and your cache has to be cleared and all sorts of other settings have to be set the same and it's a real pain in the tucos. And that is just so the programs all display the same thing. JPG and RAw will almost never look the same even in the same program. For that to happen you'd have to tell the camera to apply no processing to the jpg. And even then, jpg is compressed so it's going to press similar tones into one tone and it will not be the same as the RAW anyhow.
Phew...my head hurts now.
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#11. "RE: JPG vs RAW, and simple editing RAW" | In response to Reply # 8rectangularimage Registered since 01st Oct 2009Tue 16-Feb-10 04:08 PM
> - snip -
> I've experimented a little more lately with Photoshop CS4,
>and have gotten some good results, but I still see a
>difference when comparing the way Picasa displays a RAW image,
>and the way others including CS4 display it.
>While the colors tend to be more vibrant with CS4, I believe
>that the colors and skin tones are "off" from what
>we see with the naked eye. Viewing two images side by side,
>the JPG sometimes seems more appealing to the eye, with
>brighter colors, darker blacks and shadows, and more
>"flush" skin tones, but the RAW image, as displayed,
>seems more life-like, although appearing somewhat washed out,
>beside the JPG.
Hope I'm not getting too pedantic here:
A raw file contains uninterpolated data and needs to be interpolated (specifically, for most cameras, "Bayer interpolation") to produce an image. The camera can do the interpolation and produce a jpeg, and software on the computer can do the interpolation, and different software does it in different ways and produces different looking images. Only Nikon software will do it the same way a Nikon camera does it and produce jpegs that look like the jpegs from the camera. You don't have to use Nikon software to process the raw file (I don't), but the resulting image won't look exactly like the jpeg produced by the camera. When the interpolation is done, various parameters are used to specify the contrast, saturation, sharpening, etc. When the camera does the interpolation (produces the jpeg) it does it according to the parameters that are specified in the menus. When the interpolation is done on a computer by a raw processor, you can adjust those parameters and see the results of adjusting them. Being able to tweak those parameters interactively and see the results on your monitor is one of the benefits of "shooting raw".
Different raw processors produce different looks, and sometimes the looks differ greatly because their default parameters (for contrast, saturation, WB etc.) are different. In theory you can get very similar looks from different raw processors by adjusting those parameters (I think).
I shoot raw+jpeg and process the raw file with CS3 or DXO. I use the camera produced jpeg as a kind of reference. I don't try to process the raw file to look exactly like the camera jpeg, but I like to know how much I'm deviating from Nikon's in-camera interpolation.
Some people are better at setting up their camera with the desired contrast, saturation, WB, etc. beforehand and do much less in post processing than others. I tend to not mess with the camera menus much and do more in raw/post processing. It's matter personal preference or desired workflow.