This is an ongoing post that I will be adding to as time goes on.
A question that constantly looms in the mind of nearly every aspiring photographer: What image formats do I shoot and edit with? With new camera models and technology coming out so often, the options are seemingly endless, but the answer to the question remains the same. Always shoot and edit your images in a RAW format. If you shoot in compressed format (jpg), please do yourself and your clients the favor of forgetting that that setting existed. Repeat after me, from now on, I will only shoot RAW in professional photo shoots. Below are some of the common excuses I hear for shooting jpg as well as some of the pros of shooting and editing in RAW format.
“The files are too large and I run out of space on my computer”
This is excuse is officially outdated. Storage is so cheap now, there is no excuse for running out. With your next paid photo job, go to Costco and buy a 3TB external hard drive for about $120 and store your RAW files there. With a moderate shooting schedule, this should last you about 4-5 years. If you can’t afford a $120 hard drive every 5 years, you might want to consider charging more, or switching professions.
The latest version of Adobe Lightroom includes a feature called Smart Previews. This gives you the ability to work with smaller versions of you images if your RAW images are offline. This makes it even easier to manage and edit your photos without lugging your external hard drive around with you. Read more here
RAW images see things you can’t
When an image is converted to jpg format, any information in the image that is not visible at the current settings will be removed from the photo. Basically the photo is reduced to what you can see on the screen or print. This is called “lossy compression”. This is great for making the file size much smaller, but it comes with a price. The camera can actually see much more than you can (mostly in the shadow areas). As you adjust your images, you’ll see much more flexibility in RAW than jpg. If at any point during the production process you compress your photos, you are giving up the ability to recover information that the camera ma have captured, but you can’t quite see yet.
1 Stop, 2 Stops
Generally speaking, you can adjust a RAW image up to 2 stops in either direction (overexposed or underexposed). Lossy formats generally give less than one stop in either direction. This means that shooting RAW gives you way more room for error.
DNG (Digital Negative) is RAW format created by Adobe to be the most universally compatible and long-lasting image format out there. DNG format is a RAW format and none of your images information will be lost. Converting your images from the camera’s RAW format to DNG is totally fine and you will not lose any quality or information from your images. The DNG format also has a smaller file size than camera RAW format, so it is good for saving space as well.