If you’ve been paying attention to what’s written on the internet you know that one of digital photography’s seven deadly sins is shooting in JPEG format. Everybody knows that if you’re a serious photographer ya ‘gotta shoot RAW. So now its time for me to raise my hand and admit, “My name is Joe and I’m a JPEG shooter.”
It’s not that I never shoot in RAW format, sometimes I do, but mostly it’s JPEG so let me tell you a true story: I had an assignment from a car magazine to shoot one of my favorite cars, a Nissan Skyline GTR. The editor told me that because the camera I shot produces big files JPEG would be OK for most of the images in the article but that I should shoot RAW if the photo would make a nice two-page spread. OK, you can see what’s coming, right? I did exactly what he asked but for the two-page spread he chose used one of my JPEG files.
But there are other reasons I shoot JPEG. One of the best times to shoot JPEG is when there’s limited space on your memory card. I think that it’s better to get an image instead of missing it because your card is full. It’s happened to me and can happen to you. A few years ago I was teaching a workshop in Miami that included a studio session with a model. It was at the end of the day and I saved a memory card specifically for this session but then one of my students asked me if I had a spare card because all of his were full. How could I say no? So I loaned him the card for the shoot. All I had left after a day’s shooting was room for a few shots on my camera so I dialed in the largest compression JPEG file that was possible for the Olympus camera I was using, which gave me room for six small, low resolution files, one of which is shown below.
The resulting file was a tiny 293K and I was able to make great looking 13×19 prints by using ON1 Resize software to “res-up” or increase the size of the file to make it acceptable for a large print as well as for the publishers of my book, “Studio Photography Anywhere,” where it appears.
Another reason to shoot JPEG files is when you need more speed. JPEG allows you to shoot more images faster because it won’t fill the in-camera buffer as fast. If your subject is moving quickly, as in motor or horse racing, or you frequently hold down the shutter for a continuous burst of photos, you may want to consider JPEG-only shooting to shoot those images faster and longer without a pause.
(I’ve written here before that) when I’m shooting portraits or glamour in black and white, I shoot RAW+JPEG so that I can show the subject an image in monochrome while using the RAW file for processing and retouching before converting to black and white using Silver Efex Pro.
Like almost everything in digital photography, the choice of RAW vs. JPEG boils down to the kind of images you make. For me, JPEG works most of the time. For you, it might be RAW.