tracey medcalfe photography | You're Smarter Than Your Camera - Jpeg vs RAW

You're Smarter Than Your Camera - Jpeg vs RAW

September 11, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
You're Smarter Than Your Camera - Jpeg vs RAW
Good morning and welcome to the September blog.  This month is dedicated to file formats and lenses.  For the first week we will look at file formats, both shooting in and then saving as.  Then next week will focus on lenses.  Finally the third week will combine the two and look in more detail at both topics

Understanding the options for file formats can help you choose the right format to get the most out of your digital photography.  Some formats are better for storage or presentation or for recovering from bad shots. . 

Enjoy and thanks for reading,

File Format - Shooting In

So if you medium of choice is digital photography you have probably come across the term Jpeg.  This is a file format that most digital cameras offer and it is the default file format that your camera is probably set to.  Lets look at the two most common types of file format for shooting in and get a feel for what each has to offer.

The joint photographers experts group format is the most common and can be used for printing and for display on the web.  When you save a Jpeg image, you get a choice for the quality with which you want to save it 1 being the lowest and 12 the highest.  The file size is dependent upon the quality and so you can create small file sizes to share on the web or large file sizes suitable for printing.  The biggest issue with Jpeg is that it is 'lossy';  Each time you open or save a Jpeg, the image compresses and you lose a little bit of the quality of the image.  Because the format was designed for storage (smaller is better) he algorithm that saves the images compresses the information in such a way to minimise that which is thought to be not useful and to retain that which is useful.  If you take your images in Jpeg, the camera does this for you.  Images with lots of detail or lots of noise, won't compress well. 

Raw file format allows the photographer to control exactly what happens during the development of an image file.  There is no editing done by the camera, and there is no compression of the file.  It is considered to be the closest to the film negative that digital can offer. It also offers the best quality file for editing and allows the photographer to edit everything in exactly the way they wish.  The dynamic range (the range of light to dark that can be captured by a camera before being unusable) is much greater than for a Jpeg file.  And, yes you've guessed it, the file size is much bigger as well.

A downside of Raw is that due to the size of the image files, the frames per second is reduced and thus a burst of exposures will result in fewer images than if taken with Jpeg.
File Format - Saving As

So you've decided to shoot in a particular format....what do you then save your image file in?  Here are some of the common options.

Stick with Jpeg...all the notes above apply and make this one of the most common formats to save your image file in. 

Tagged image file format.  This format offers the highest quality along with very large files.  It is great for printing as there is no loss in detail.  There is also no loss in detail upon opening or saving.  However, images cannot be shown on the web in this format.

Portable network graphics format creates a smaller file size than a tiff and also offers the lossless quality upon opening and saving.  It also has a benefit of being able to store transparency in an image that is not offered with other formats other than PSD.

The graphics interchange format is often used for graphics with animation, but isn't recommend for photos.  The colour capabilities are limited and the file sizes are very small to allow images to be opened quickly on the internet.

Used by Photoshop.  It has the benefit of storing the individual layers of the image and so is great for project work when editing images.  It can store the transparency information, but results in a very large file and cannot be used on the Internet.
Ok...So What's the Low Down?
For me, in a nutshell, if you are not going to do a lot of editing of your images and you spend more time sharing them without any edit....stick with Jpeg.  If you would like to get into editing and creating more detail from your photography or you would like the amazing ability Raw has of capturing data in seemingly over or underexposed areas of an image - switch to raw.  You will need -

- More storage space
- Software that can open and edit Raw files such as Photoshop or Lightroom.

100% Jpeg Compression
75% Jpeg Compression
50% Jpeg Compression
25% Jpeg Compression
Loss in Detail
Keep your eye on the bottom right rings on the tree trunk.  In the first image, they are easy to see individually, but in the last image, the section looks a lot more blurry.  Ok, so you may argue that there isn't too much loss in detail in the range of images above, but don't  forget, this is accentuated when the images is printed on paper and the detail has to be 300dpi (dots per inch) (remember from a way back we talked about quality of printing and of on screen).  Images online only need to have a detail of 75dpi in order to look of the highest quality.
Your Challenge
Check out the formats that your camera offers and try a different one to Jpeg.  Do you notice anything different in the resulting image?
Next Time
Which lens is good for what???  Another huge topic, but as always, I will try to give you a gentle outline from which you can get started.  I will outline the different types of lenses without being manufacturer or camera specific.  Look forward to seeing you next week. 
Thanks so much for reading and as always, I would love to hear any comments or questions you have.
Have fun,
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