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12-03-2010, 12:56 PM   #1
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Shoot RAW Format for a Beginner?

Does it pay for a beginner to shoot in RAW format? Will there be regrets at some time in future when I want to do some post processing? High quality jpegs can be processed some as well, no? I have no fancy processing software and am thinking of just shooting at the high resolution jpeg for the immediate future.
Am I doing good/bad, etc?
Thanks.

12-03-2010, 01:07 PM   #2
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RAW files give you more control but are harder to manage, so I'd start with JPEG's as a lot of things can still be edited in PP.

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12-03-2010, 01:48 PM   #3
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Thanks.
12-03-2010, 01:56 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
RAW files give you more control but are harder to manage, so I'd start with JPEG's as a lot of things can still be edited in PP.
+1 on this.

12-03-2010, 02:07 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by VelvetFoot Quote
Does it pay for a beginner to shoot in RAW format? Will there be regrets at some time in future when I want to do some post processing? High quality jpegs can be processed some as well, no? I have no fancy processing software and am thinking of just shooting at the high resolution jpeg for the immediate future.
Am I doing good/bad, etc?
Thanks.

As Adam points out, you can still do some modification in post-processing of jpegs. And RAW files are, indeed, more difficult to manage. They're also much larger, so they take up a lot more space on disk.

However, I don't think that you would have any regrets in the future, if you shot RAW now. The reverse might be true. Its possible that, by shooting exclusively in jpeg, you might capture an image that is marginal and makes a lousy jpeg, but could be saved in RAW. If you had it in RAW, you could come back to it in the future, when you are more comfortable in RAW, and process it then, perhaps saving an image that might otherwise be lost.

One solution is to shoot both simultaneously. Set the capture mode to RAW+JPEG. This is what I do. In many of my shots, the jpegs are fine. In some, however, I'm glad I have the RAW file to start from.

One example of a trick that I read of in a book on RAW shooting, by a professional photographer. In very low light, when you don't have or can't use a tripod, you may find that the shutter speed must be so slow that even the camera's SR can't save it. In a case like that, if I don't want to use flash, which I often don't, I deliberately underexpose the shot by two or three stops. This allows me to raise the shutter speed to the point where it can be safely handheld. Then, in post-processing, using the RAW file, I can almost always recover those two stops of exposure. With a jpeg, too much sensor information is lost to allow that.

The only drawback to shooting RAW+JPEG is the space it takes in your memory card and on your computer's hard disk. Both are relatively cheap, so, to me, that isn't a deal-breaker. For example, with my K10D, and a 2GB SD card, I can get around 680 high-res jpegs on the card, but only 128 shots in RAW+JPEG. I seldom shoot that many shots in a session, and, if I do, I have several SD and SDHC cards, so this isn't an issue. On my camera, three star (highest) jpegs are about 3MB, and RAW files are about 13MB. Newer cameras, with higher resolution sensors and four star jpegs, will produce larger files.

All that being said, there's nothig wrong with shooting just jpegs. Lots of photographers, even experienced ones, do so. Some people simply don't like editting on the computer.
12-03-2010, 02:16 PM   #6
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noblepa makes the only really valid point in shooting RAW in my opinion.

If you really blow the settings in JPEG you give up some chance in recovery of an image, BUT, that image, regardless fo recovered from either JPEG or RAW, will not be one to be really proud of, more useable from RAW perhaps, but not great.

The other thing to consider is that many RAW processors will start by importing the image to the default JPEG camera settings, AND, if you are proficient in understanding your JPEG settings, even when you migrate to shooting only RAW it pays to get the JPEG settings correct because chances are, they will be so close that you won't make any changes.

This leads me to one simple observation. If your JPEG settings are correct, and you don't need to make modifications in RAW, why are you even shooting it.

I shoot JPEG 99% of the time, I shoot RAW when I am in very very difficult conditions and only have one or two shots at something. When you are pushing extremes RAW is useful and comes into it's own, if you are more main stream, JPEG may be all you ever need, providing you consider the settings as you shoot, especially White Ballance, contrast, and saturation.
12-03-2010, 02:50 PM   #7
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You received some very good advice. Both noblepa and lowell gouge have very valid points.

There is nothing wrong to shoot jpeg, but it pays to try different settings first until your are happy with your camera settings and with your jpeg settings.

I shoot JPEG 14 Mp two stars [**], rather than RAW or RAW+ because I do often some Hi Continuous shooting. That is, I take often some long bursts at 5.2 fps. The RAW format is too big for long bursts and I selected a JPEG that I can shoot at 5.2 fps for long periods (eg 60 s).

Food for thoughts...
12-03-2010, 02:52 PM   #8
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As someone who's been there not too long ago I say absolutely shoot RAW if you can from the get go. One of my biggest regrets now that I've begun to hit the intermediate stage is not shooting RAW from the beginning even though I could have for the most part. I know far more about post processing than I did then and there are pictures that I took in the beginning that had I been able to go back to them and tweak them just a little more would have been far better pictures. But as jpegs what I can do for them is quite limited and I just look at them sometimes and wish I could revisit those places and times as I am now so I could have gotten that picture better or at least in as a RAW file so I could have worked on it more.

Definitely shoot RAW unless you're taking a quick snap to sell something on the internet or something like. You'll look back and be far happier than you would be if you don't. Sometimes even new photographers can get really good shots that are just a hair away from being outstanding shots and from my own experience that way? I say saving every bit of data you can can only be a good thing.

12-03-2010, 02:57 PM   #9
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I was so afraid of shooting RAW because I'm struggling to learn the "photography" aspect of pictures, that I didn't want to add the layer of computer work to it over and above JPEG file management.

One day I just made the break. After hearing more and more about RAW advantages, and moreso future advantages of what may be possible with RAW that we don't even know about today, I just changed my camera to RAW and shoot that all the time. When I don't have the time or the inclination to spend the effort processing RAW files, I just use my default software conversion to JPEG for e-mail, web-posting, etc. and it minimizes the time. It's essentially the same as letting the camera do the JPEG processing, but I choose which photos to do it to, and let the computer do the heavy lifting.

YMMV
12-03-2010, 03:07 PM   #10
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I shoot strictly JPEG, and I've been shooting for a long time.

I certainly ain't no master, and part of my choice has to do with my slow computer. (RAW can take forever to work with.)

But as a beginner learning to use the camera and basic concepts of exposure, composition and focus, in MY opinion, it's a mistake to start in RAW.
12-03-2010, 05:03 PM   #11
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If the camera can keep up with as fast cycling as you want/need using raw, I would suggest using it, because you never know what you might be able to do with a raw file in the future. However it depends on what you're photographing. If for example you are doing some pictures for selling something on ebay, or other sort of temporary, commodity-type application, there's no need for raw. But if you're doing something for creative purposes, I don't see a big disadvantage to raw or raw+jpg.

Paul
12-03-2010, 07:28 PM   #12
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RAW all the way. Not even RAW+jpg :-)

Processing PEF files is only slightly more time-consuming and no more difficult than tweaking jpgs.

The Pentax software that comes with your camera can "extract" the jpg that is embedded in the PEF file. It takes only a few clicks, and can do an entire card in a minute or two. I do this to compare near-duplicates in a more-friendly viewer.

You can also "convert" the PEF files to jpgs, though it can take a few seconds per image. However, you can do either of the above essentially unattended.

You can then spend 10 or 15 seconds (or less) to re-do those images that need extra help.

I use Adobe Elements 6 for the actual conversion. Version 9 is currently available for under $50. It will do just about all you need. There is a 30-day free trial.

With Elements, you can open the PEF file, hit "auto" for the quick fix (or not), then use the sliders for exposure and contrast, among other things, to make your adjustments. You then "open" that, to be presented with another set of jpg editing tools where you can crop or rotate the image, use the spot-healing brush to fix dust blobs or remove trashcans in the background. It also has a leveling tool that I use all the time due to the Pentax tilt :-)

Every image is different and would probably benefit from settings specific to that image. I don't think that it is reliably possible to evaluate images on the camera LCD to determine what those settings are ahead of time. Further, the camera only has a limited number of steps in the adjustments, whereas in PP you have more of a range with many more controls.

Finally, the PEF is like the untouched negative. Because you would never post it or share it directly, it can be persuasive proof of ownership if you are worried about copyright infringement.
12-03-2010, 07:50 PM   #13
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I did what others have suggested. Started out shooting Jpegs for about a month or two then moved exclusively to RAW. The move was mainly due to the PP abilities and me learning how to use my Photoshop CS5. If you do not have any software then definitely shoot jpeg. I would highly suggest getting some kind of PP software. I hear GIMP is pretty good and it's also free. In my opinion PP is a big part of photography just like the dark room. I try to take the best picture I can when I am out and about so that I do not solely depend on software to make my photos better but I do not hesitate to use Photoshop (especially since it cost me an arm and a leg) and in some cases will take a photo knowing I am going to PP it.
12-03-2010, 08:02 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
Finally, the PEF is like the untouched negative. Because you would never post it or share it directly, it can be persuasive proof of ownership if you are worried about copyright infringement.
+1 agree with SpecialK, RAW is the negative for proof of ownership, less worry to be altered and provides more headroom for overblown highlights.
12-03-2010, 09:53 PM   #15
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I love RAW. I find it easier to work with Lightroom or ACR's settings, then the in-camera jpeg settings. Just shooting RAW, opening it up in LR or ACR, and putting auto-tone, and auto white balance, and already my photos look better than the in-camera jpgs.

I'm sure you can get great pictures with the jpegs in body, but I like to have the option of changing anything I want in post processing. It usually takes me under an hour to go through 100-200 pictures in ACR. (Probably longer in Lightroom cuz I become obsessed with trying out the presets.)

So I'm going to stick with RAW. Also I find Adobe's noise reduction nice and clean, and much better looking then trying to fix a jpeg. I get the feeling that doing post processing on a jpeg degrades the image a bit.

Just my opinion though.
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