Like most photography forums, the questions always arises, “RAW or JPG?” Problem is, many participating in the forum threads don’t understand the “RAW” concept itself—but the arguments follow like MAC verses Windows (Notice I didn’t say PC, PC stands for Personal Computer, every home computer is a PC). If people would first familiarize themselves with what RAW really is, as there is no “single” or “standard” RAW format, (See Wiki def.) then they would understand, RAW has it’s pros and cons. One of those cons is that there are hundreds of RAW formats, even within camera models made by the same camera company, not all RAW formats are created equal–most use compression, encryption and almost all are proprietary to the camera manufacturer.
I personally shoot what is appropriate for what I’m doing–it all goes back to using the right tool for the right job. While I’ll shoot the RAW format on my Canon 5D Mark II, most of the time, I shoot JPG, unless the client needs RAW or I feel the image has “evergreen” value. You only run into problems with JPG’s if you open the original file, make a change, then save it, then open it again, make a change then save it. That is why workflow is so important. So if you shoot JPG, it’s always best to open the file and save out as a TIFF original, make your back-ups, then make your working copy as a TIFF too, then you can final out into the format your client prefers. Heck, most people don’t even understand the difference between the “save as JPG” and “save for web JPG” in Adobe Photoshop.
Let’s not forget that the acronym JPEG means Joint Photographic “Experts” Group and it’s a “standard” format that has been around long before RAW. RAW has no standard format, though many have been trying to adopt the DNG (Digital Negative) RAW format, but most camera companies, since they like to sell their own RAW “converter” software ($$$), don’t want to adopt this standard. My advice, do not get caught up in the marketing hype when it comes to RAW. JPG will be around, just like TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) for a long, long time, though RAW formats change everyday and some RAW formats, may not be supported in the future. I can name at least three camera companies long gone, Minolta, Contax, Bronica and I’m sure others will follow along with their “proprietary” RAW formats. FYI–a few companies, like Leica, use DNG and DNG is what was started, supported and still pushed by Adobe. Problem is, camera companies cannot make money off the DNG format anymore than the JPG or TIFF formats. RAW formats are derivatives of the old workhorse TIFF format.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with private clients at Playboy Studio West this year with their top photographer Arny Freytag (Ken Marcus’s former assistant) and when Arny pulls out “perfect” 8×10 transparencies, not retouched, and shows them to our clients, that says it all. (Read more here.) And today, Arny shoots with the Canon 5D Mark II while the 1DS and the HD-39 sits on the shelf along with his wooden 8×10 camera. And for the record he shoots tethered and the files are dropped into Phase One, Capture One software instantly, for minimal post-production–because it’s done right with lighting! (Make-up, styling, posing, the angle of incidence to reflection and a great model help too!)
I recently conducted a glamour photography workshop in Las Vegas (Dec.) and in Los Angeles (Feb.) and Arny was our guest instructor and he demonstrated some great “over and under lighting” to keep the face clean, the eyes bright, but more important, in the LA workshop, we tethered the attendees camera into his assistant’s laptop. Arny proved to the attendees how to get it right in the camera, RAW vs JPG was not the issue. Getting it right in the camera was the focal point. (Arny will join us at the Phoenix Mansion workshop if you want the experience.)
Bottom line–Get it done right at the shoot, capture it in the right format for your needs (right tool for the right job) with the right white balance, lighting, lens, pose, model, make-up, etc., but more important, it doesn’t matter how you capture it if you can’t capture it correctly the first time. Don’t use formats, Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One, or whatever as your crutch–get it right the first time and “spraying and praying” in RAW or JPG is not the answer. Well that’s it, don’t forget our military men and women, their families and friends–God Bless them all! Thanks, Rolando