Why RAW format? Why not JPEG format?

RAW is the image file that contains processed data from a camera sensor. Taking RAW is nothing special, some others like taking images in JPEG format.

I have been taking digital photos in RAW format for many years.  In the initial set up, I was asked to choose the format I captured when I started using the Canon D60 (not 60D). I chose RAW without further thought even if processing the files at that time was a pain. Over the last ten years and more, I have been taking my photos in RAW format, alongside JPEG if there is such an option.  This was done on the Canon 1D Mark III, and now with the Leica M9 and the Canon 6D.

Recently after the trip to Iceland and Greenland I imported 7192 files or still images and videos to Adobe Lightroom. Since I took both RAW and JPEG, excluding about 100 videos, I might have taken 3500 shots. I don’t know whether this is a good indicator of the beauty of the scenery in these two destinations. But I guess it is faulty to judge whether the place is worthy of visit simply by the number of photos captured. Sometimes I doubt whether the digital age has already caused too many junk photos. We have been using the camera as a tool to capture every single moment: food, signs, places and streets. I also have many photos and videos on my iPhone.  At the end, can we name clearly those subjects of interests in our photos?

To process RAW is to illustrate further our understanding of the subject we have captured. That may imply that in the processing of retouching, the digital images will be modified in some areas such as sharpness, colour saturation and colour temperature.  My principle is to keep everything in retouching to the minimum, and to do little to alter the composition. To some extent, you may discover alongside with RAW, the JPEG format is closer in image quality in some aspects if you are not demanding. No one will cease to pursue the excellence in image quality and RAW is surely the end.

I apply these principles to enhance the digital images in colour.  However, it takes more time to process the digital RAW images to black and white because I have to carefully manipulate the grey scales, the highlight and the shadow, and the black and the white. I am not sure the process will be different if I take black and white digital images using the Leica M Monochrom.  At the end, I have no doubt to believe that the Adobe Lightroom is a great companion.

How about the original JPEG files?  Are they superfluous?  At the end of rating all files in the Adobe Lightroom, and when I have converted the selected digital RAW images into JPEG for sharing with others on my websites, the original JPEG files are history.  I may consider using them for reference or comparing. JPEG format is common and easy to manage. Indeed all my JPEG files are very decent and usable (In fact, many four third cameras claim they have better JPEG quality). Perhaps I should have followed the advice of Thorsten Overgaard, recording colour in RAW and black and white in JPEG.  But before the travel I worried about the processing of RAW may take more time on the iPad.  After using the app called PhotoRaw during my journey, my worry was unnecessary. I still believe PhotoRaw can be better.  But I would like to spend some more time explaining the processing of RAW on the iPad with an external storage device called Hyperdrive.

After all, RAW is still the king.


Featured image: Myvatn. Summicron-M 50 mm, ISO160, f/9.5, 1/125 sec

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