Technique PHOTO SCHOOL
Everyone has to start somewhere, even top pros, and in our regular Photo School feature we’re taking a close look at core techniques that every beginner needs to know. This month, in Camera Class we look at the pros and cons of JPEG and Raw files, while in Software Skills we look at using Raw files to alter exposure post-capture
Words by Ian Fyfe
When you take a picture, you have a choice over the file format it’s recorded in – usually JPEG or Raw. You can choose to shoot both – this takes more memory, but gives you the best of both worlds. Each has its benefits and drawbacks, so let’s take a closer look. n What is a JPEG file? JPEG (which stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group) is a universal format for digital images, compatible with just about any software or device. JPEGs are compressed to reduce the file size, but this can sacrifice quality – loss of fine detail and blocking up of colours. Most cameras offer the option of different JPEG qualities: Basic, Standard/Normal or Fine, and sometimes Extra Fine. The lower the quality, the more compression applied, increasing the risk of artefacts. n What are the advantages of JPEG files? For a start, JPEGs are relatively small, so you don’t need to spend a fortune on memory. If you get everything right in- camera, then you also get a polished, printable file straight from the camera. You can adjust the in-camera processing to suit your taste, and reap the benefits of in-camera settings such as noise reduction, distortion control and dynamic range optimisation. This can save a lot of time in post-processing. n Is there any reasonwhy I shouldn’t shoot JPEGs? The biggest downside of JPEGs is that compression not only risks artefacts, but also means information is discarded when the file is saved. Thismeans that post-processing causes further
degradation, so if you’re likely to make significant changes to your images after capture, you’re better off recording Raw files. n What are Raw files? ARaw file is a format (usually) specific toa cameramanufacturer and includes all the information captured by the sensor during an exposure. There’s (usually) no compression or discarding of information in the same way as there is with JPEGs. n What are the advantages of Raw files? Because Raw files contain all information captured, it’s possible to manipulate them much more in post-production without causing any degradation. Compared to JPEGs, Raw files usually include fewer artefacts and have more detail, hence they tend to be significantly bigger than JPEGs. n What are the disadvantages of Raw files? Raw files must be opened and worked on in compatible software, such as Adobe Lightroom. Images are usually quite flat and slightly soft, so you need to process them to some extent to get the best from them. The bigger files mean you need plenty of memory, and a fairly high-powered computer to deal with them for a smooth workflow.
NEXTMONTH: More on your options with Rawfile formats, and how tomake themost of them in post-processing.
Software skills Part 10: Shoot Raw for maximumflexibility in adjusting exposure post-capture ADOBE LIGHTROOM
Words by Will Cheung
Shoot Raw and your ability to enhance an image is incredible. Shoot JPEG and the degree of control in software is more limited. Of course, the flexibility of Raw is no excuse for sloppy exposure technique and you should always endeavour to get it as right as you possibly can in-camera, but Raw is a great safety net. Lightroom and its Raw converter is regularly updated by Adobe as new cameras come out – it usually takes a couple of months. If you have an older version of Lightroom (say version 4) and you buy a new camera, it might well be that you can’t process your Raw files without investing in the latest Lightroom (currently v5.5). Here we took a Raw and JPEG shot simultaneously on a Nikon D800. The night shot was overexposed and needed help in software to retrieve detail. Using Lightroom we used the Exposure (-1.50) and Highlight controls (to -100) to pull back detail in the blue-lit windows of London’s County Hall. You can clearly see the extra detail available in the Raw file – that’s why Raw files are so much bigger than JPEGs and that’s also why you should shoot Raw if you want the most from your photography.
Photography News | Issue 10
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