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09-21-2014, 02:57 PM   #1
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Should I begin to shoot RAW?

Hello,

I'm a complete beginner with a K50 and up to now I have been shooting in JPEG.

I value sharpness in my pictures above everything else. Besides getting a better lens (currently have 18-135mm WR), I read that I could shoot RAW and process my pictures in my PC (lets say with Lightroom) and that the processing power of such program will always be better than what the camera does when shooting JPEG. Questions:

I understand these programs (lightroom or similar) will have lots of sliders to control different properties and settings etc assuming that the user knows, but do they literally have a one-button that automatically processes RAW pictures and gives you what it thinks are the best settings? (similar to what the camera does when it shoots in JPEG)

Would you recommend a beginner to start shooting in RAW just like I'm contemplating? Way I think about it is that the change from JPEG --> RAW must be done at some point, why not now and learn little by little, although I understand the learning curve may be substantial hence my question of the existence of a one-button processing to start off.

Thanks and I welcome any advise.

09-21-2014, 03:01 PM   #2
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Shoot RAW. I'm pretty sure most processing programs have an auto button - I know Elements does. I use that, then slide the exposure, brightness and contrast sliders to suit the image, if needed. There other sliders I use far less often. And I level the horizon, minor crop, and clone if needed. Typically spend less than 10 seconds :-)
09-21-2014, 03:16 PM - 1 Like   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Moropo Quote
I read that I could shoot RAW and process my pictures in my PC (lets say with Lightroom) and that the processing power of such program will always be better than what the camera does when shooting JPEG.
Not true. RAW, and RAW processing make it POSSIBLE to exceed to camera jpeg, not certain.
QuoteOriginally posted by Moropo Quote
I understand these programs (lightroom or similar) will have lots of sliders to control different properties and settings etc assuming that the user knows, but do they literally have a one-button that automatically processes RAW pictures and gives you what it thinks are the best settings? (similar to what the camera does when it shoots in JPEG)
No. And as a beginner I can assure you you will spend considerable amount of time getting a RAW to look as good as the camera jpeg.
QuoteOriginally posted by Moropo Quote
Would you recommend a beginner to start shooting in RAW just like I'm contemplating? Way I think about it is that the change from JPEG --> RAW must be done at some point, why not now and learn little by little, although I understand the learning curve may be substantial hence my question of the existence of a one-button processing to start off.
I disagree that you must make a transition to RAW. It depends on what type of photography you do and what the end result you are looking for is.
Fine Art images with an eye to printing and selling? Definitely RAW
Family pictures and general photography for your own use? Jpeg most likely
Stock photography or magazine submission? Either will work.

I know a number of photographers shooting stock, good ones not amateurs, that could not be bothered with shooting RAW. They aim to get the shot they want in the camera, PP is minimal. They would rather be shooting than sitting at the computer.

That said, I only shoot RAW, I process and keyword, add title and description in Lightroom for each image. I suspect I spend 30% of time with the camera and 70% on the computer. There is no question in my mind that you can deliver better images shooting RAW. The question you have to ask is: Is the quality I get from the camera jpeg good enough? And: Do I want to spend the time on the computer to process my images?

Also, keep in mind that Lightroom is basically an image management system. Primary function is the storage, cataloging and retrieval of images. As in: show me all the pictures of Mt Hood taken with the k-5 and the DA*16-50. The fact that it does RAW conversion and processing is great, but not the primary function. So another question to ask is: What am I doing with the images I take? Can I find that picture of Uncle Bert from 5 years ago and the smiths wedding? Does not matter if it was jpeg or RAW, finding the image is what Lightroom does best. So Lightroom is very useful even if you shoot jpeg.

One thing you can do is get Lightroom, start organizing your images that already exist and learn the system. Set your camera to RAW plus jpeg and try that for awhile. Try your hand at post processing the RAW and see if you can get a result as good as the camera jpeg.
09-21-2014, 03:21 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Moropo Quote
I'm a complete beginner with a K50 and up to now I have been shooting in JPEG.

I value sharpness in my pictures above everything else. Besides getting a better lens (currently have 18-135mm WR), I read that I could shoot RAW and process my pictures in my PC (lets say with Lightroom) and that the processing power of such program will always be better than what the camera does when shooting JPEG. Questions:

I understand these programs (lightroom or similar) will have lots of sliders to control different properties and settings etc assuming that the user knows, but do they literally have a one-button that automatically processes RAW pictures and gives you what it thinks are the best settings? (similar to what the camera does when it shoots in JPEG)

Would you recommend a beginner to start shooting in RAW just like I'm contemplating? Way I think about it is that the change from JPEG --> RAW must be done at some point, why not now and learn little by little, although I understand the learning curve may be substantial hence my question of the existence of a one-button processing to start off.
There are a lot of options if you want to get started with RAW. I would recommend Lightroom simply because there are dozens of videos on-line that you can watch for free to learn. There are lots of books and blogs. It might not be the absolute best at everything, but it is simple and you can use the Creative Cloud for relatively little money. There are Lightroom presets that you can download for free and many that you buy, and they are a good place to start if you are trying to find your own look. It gives you a quick way to process an image with a few clicks and then you can start playing around with all of the settings.

The basics are quick and easy to learn. You can take it as far as you want and it can get pretty complex. Once you get a working understanding of it you can create images with a lot of character.

09-21-2014, 03:22 PM   #5
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Of course you should shoot RAW. There is nothing to fear and everything to gain. I shot RAW virtually from the very beginning, and have never looked back. Most of my shots require little to no post-production fiddling. The best shots are those that are done well at the point of capture.

Last edited by zx-m; 09-21-2014 at 07:23 PM.
09-21-2014, 03:24 PM   #6
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Shoot RAW as it's much easier to correct any shots that may be less than perfect in terms of exposure, white balance, focus (although there is not much you can do with badly OoF shots) etc.

JPEG is a lossy format meaning data is thrown away in order to reduce file size and that data is not recoverable later. It's far better to shoot and edit in RAW mode and only export to JPEG when PP is complete.
09-21-2014, 03:31 PM - 1 Like   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Moropo Quote
Way I think about it is that the change from JPEG --> RAW must be done at some point
Not really. Many people will never, ever touch a RAW file. I shoot RAW but I also process every single picture coming out of my camera, one by one, this requires a lot of time (I typically shoot about 500-600 pictures a week) and about as many every single day when I'm travelling. On a normal day I will spend at least an hour developing photos.

So if you're going to use an auto preset in LR, might as well shoot JPG and get your camera settings just right. RAW files are humongous compared to JPG so if you're not going to process them might as well save space and time.

Working with RAW will however help you understand a little bit more about photography, exposure, dynamic range, highlights and shadows... And if you feel three months later that your pictures isn't exposed right, you can always go back and rework it, with no loss of IQ.

I would never commit myself to JPG because I often go back and reprocess my images. It also gives you more dynamic range so you can pull stuff for the shadows and at times even recover stuff from the highlights which would be impossible with JPG. This can be a life saver if you over/under expose a picture.

Nothing wrong with a beginner using RAW. But be aware that until you master your software a bit, your photos might look a bit bland. And RAW will not make your photos any better or sharper, it is only more flexible.
09-21-2014, 03:34 PM   #8
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My 2-cents? being new at this, it's more important to learn to try get it right "in camera", then perhaps use software to enhance, rather than fix your photo. Until you learn some PP techniques, shoot raw+. that way you'll have a jpeg for now, and a raw to play with while you learn. You may find you don't like doing PP work, and prefer jpeg's, so if you get it right "in camera", you've won 1/2 the battle.




But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

09-21-2014, 03:45 PM - 1 Like   #9
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I agree

QuoteOriginally posted by Al_Kahollick Quote
My 2-cents? being new at this, it's more important to learn to try get it right "in camera", then perhaps use software to enhance, rather than fix your photo. Until you learn some PP techniques, shoot raw+. that way you'll have a jpeg for now, and a raw to play with while you learn. You may find you don't like doing PP work, and prefer jpeg's, so if you get it right "in camera", you've won 1/2 the battle.


As mentioned above, getting "it" composition, shutter speed, aperture, etc, correct before pushing the button is more important than any PP, Of course the beauty of digital is that a person can take multiple exposures changing any or all of those factors above and quickly compare

I still go out with the idea that I'm shooting film, if I only have 24 exposures per roll, I want to make them count.Not because I'm a purist and don't believe in PP, but restraining myself forces me to consider what I am doing with each shot, which often results in a better shot. As opposed to shooting a few dozen and hoping for the best. The idea that "it can be fixed in PP" makes me lazy.

I shoot RAW +JPEG, and choose which to keep and how much PP I want or need to do. I like Lightroom very much
09-21-2014, 04:18 PM   #10
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I am completely in favor of shooting RAW from the get go. I am also very much in favor of buying a little external drive of some kind and dedicating it to just pictures files. Of course you want to come up with a consistent labeling system for your files/folders.

I would say do all of the above from the get go. Now let me address the 'why' I feel this way.

You will be able to go back later and crop and/or process images in new ways... even stuff from a year or even two, three, five years ago, or however long. You might not know all the bells and whistles for PP now... but later on you might learn something cool and you can apply the new learning to an old photo.

Next, some of my best photos ever were taken when I was pretty new to photography. (I have only been shooting 2 1/2 years as of right now). And lastly, going back through old photos with 'fresh eyes'... from a year, two or whatever ago... it's a learning tool and learning experience. You can more fully track your progress over time and learn stuff from 'back then' that helps you 'right now' be a better photographer.
09-21-2014, 04:36 PM - 1 Like   #11
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I shoot RAW+JPEG. It's the best of both worlds: if a shot is good enough (or not super interesting and therefore not worth a ton of extra time), I don't have to spend time editing it. If it has issues, then I have a lossless copy I can play around with.

It is true that camera JPEGs often need some work to look their best, usually in the form of a contrast boost when the lighting isn't perfect. Other problem areas are shadows and highlights. The JPEG that accompanies a RAW gives me a good starting point.
09-21-2014, 04:46 PM - 1 Like   #12
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Have you bothered to read through any of the other, earlier threads on this very subject? It seems we debate this question almost weekly. Everyone's arguments have been made, debated, attacked and supported over and over. It gets a little boring.

I am of the opinion that a beginner does not need to switch to Raw immediately. It simply adds more complexity to the process of learning photography. You can get excellent images shooting Jpeg if you do "the rest of the stuff" right. Learn how to take good photographs first. That should be job one. If you want a little more sharpness in your images, adjust that setting in-camera until you like what you are getting. Or, you can adjust Jpeg images in post-processing software as well as you can Raw images. With Jpeg, you just start out a lot closer to what you want as the end result. In my opinion, if you are simply "pushing the auto button" in Photoshop to finish your Raws, you would be just as well off, with a lot less time invested, shooting Jpeg to start with.

Will Raw shooting make your photographs better? Absolutely not! Raw gives you more opportunity to control the final image and can help correct many deficiencies by adjusting in software. It isn't a magic bullet that will make your photos "better." Only you can do that.

Like a lot of the heavy users here, I shoot in Raw most of the time and spend a fairly large amount of time in front of my computer getting everything just right. However, like most of the old timers here, I learned "photography" in the film days when everything was pretty much already a "Jpeg" whenever the box of slides came back.

My $0.02.
09-21-2014, 04:56 PM   #13
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You have a lot of good advice here and I'm just reinforcing it. Start with Raw+, it gives you a choice. It does take a lot of hard drive space and it does take time to learn. Lightroom is a good and popular program to develop and organize photos. Raw does let you get more out of a photo since it has all of the data from shooting, which is why the file is so much larger, and the raw photo does not deteriorate over time as a jpg can. I have a couple of photos that I have went back and reprocessed several times, because I learned something new, or a new version of Lightroom could do something new, or I jsut wanted to try something different. With raw you can do that and the original file doesn't change (your output is a jpg or Tiff). Raw has bailed me out when I didn't have the white balance set right, which can easily happen if you are at a shooting an event with changing light sources. It is good to take time with your shots so you aren't post producing hundreds every day. There are times and subjects where you will take huge amounts of photos of one subject, I'll do it with tiny birds like warblers that move quickly and are going in and out of shadows and through leaves, but you don't have to develop them all. And it has been mentioned that you can create "presets" in Lightroom that you'll be able to use on certain types of photos. You may have a preset for a sunny scene, you can start with it and adjust as needed.

Just don't get frustrated and you'll be fine. Get involved in the post production challenges to hone your skills and get some tips. This site is rich with resources, and there are a lot of immensely talented people here that are willing to help you.

By the way I always shoot raw, but sometimes in optimal outdoor conditions I'll go Raw+.
09-21-2014, 05:09 PM   #14
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With the K-50, you don't need to choose between RAW and jpg - you can set it to shoot RAW+jpg simultaneously. For those photos that you think are worth post-processing, you can edit the RAW files, otherwise just use the jpg ones. The only real downside to doing so is that it fills up the SD card faster, and takes up more storage space. But with the low price of high-capactiy cards and external hard drives these days, that is a very minor issue.

I used to shoot only jpg with my K100D Super but with my K-30 I now shoot RAW+jpg (using the DNG RAW format). For me, processing RAW is worth it, although the price of that is a backlog of RAW files awaiting processing. (But I have the jpg versions for immediate use.) I wish I had RAW versions of some of my old photos as a little tweaking could have made them much better.

I find that I think a little differently shooting RAW. I am happy to underexpose even by a couple of stops to avoid blown highlights and to be able to use narrower apertures, lower ISO and/or faster shutter speeds than would otherwise be the case, knowing that I can fix the exposure in PP. This is particularly handy for low light shooting and for using slowish lenses (e.g. lenses that are only f6.3 at the long end, where shooting at f8 is much better).

As for the programs, I use DxO Optics Pro. If your lens is supported (check the database), it will correct for distortion, CA, vignetting etc automatically. Like other programs, it also has preset editing for particular effects, such as high-key portraits and singe-shot HDR. The special trick of DxO Optics Pro is its "PRIME" noise reduction - it is stellar at that, although it takes a while to process a noisy photo (e.g. 10-15 mins on my underpowered laptop).

---------- Post added 09-22-14 at 10:42 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Moropo Quote
Besides getting a better lens (currently have 18-135mm WR)
While I wouldn't discourage anyone from buying a prime lens, I'd say don't worry too much about getting a better lens until you explore the limits of this one. I don't have the 18-135, but it is very highly regarded. (One of the veterans here, Normhead, argues that it is one of the best options available for Pentax at around 24mm.) Some of the weaknesses of zooms like this can be overcome with modest processing.

Last edited by Des; 09-21-2014 at 05:58 PM.
09-21-2014, 05:42 PM   #15
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I only shoot RAW and process thru Lightroom 4.
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