Thursday, May 5, 2011

JPEG VS. RAW

Yes, the age old debate of JPEG vs. RAW will rage on for years to come, but to be honest I haven't spend a lot of time thinking about it, until recently that is. I've been shooting RAW since I bought my first DSLR, a Nikon D80 back in 2008 and haven't thought about the issue very much at all, other than when I read the odd post on some photography forum. Now that I'm weeks behind on editing photos from various events and my recent trip to Jasper National Park in April, the thought of not having to edit each RAW file sounds kind of nice. It's unlikely that I'd start shooting only jpegs, for various reasons such as losing dynamic range, and colour information, but times like this make me think about it.

All these thoughts have made me wonder if I should switch to jpeg for personal/hobby shooting, while keeping RAW for work related projects. Considering that editing RAW files can be a lot of work, and the files themselves take up a lot of hard drive space, I'm somewhat conflicted on the subject. Sometimes shooting jpegs might make sense, while others not so much. I look at the dynamic range of some of the shots I took on my recent trip and realize that a jpeg could never get the images that I wanted. That is the biggest factor that keeps me from shooting jpegs for personal projects. I know some jpeg shoots might say, "if you get the exposure right, you shouldn't need to shoot RAW!" The issue with that statement is that, sometimes the right exposure cannot be captured by a 8bit jpeg file. I say that because, as noted before, some of the shots from my recent trip needed every one of the 14bits of colour information I could draw from the NEF files of the D700.

Of course the solution to the problem could be to shoot RAW+Fine JPEGs, but that would eat up space on my CF cards. The counter argument to that is that memory cards are cheap, which is true. The issue for me is that I like to keep photos on the CF cards until I've finished my triple backup. The triple backup doesn't get done every week, once every few weeks is more realistic. The first backup happens hourly/daily, to a Time Machine backup drive, the second being an Aperture vault on another drive, weekly. The third backup is a copy of the active aperture library on another drive that I keep in a fire safe box. That last step is what happens less often, which is the cause for keeping photos on the CF cards as long as possible. Most months this isn't and issue and the 6 CF cards I have are more than enough, but other months, like this last April, I had to clear cards within a week of shooting. I guess the real solution would be another two or three CF cards!

Okay, that's enough ranting for one day, I'll have something more interesting tomorrow, hopefully.