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RAW V’s JPEG Wedding Photography

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I just thought I would make a quick post about file formats because someone recently asked me which format I shoot in. I guess the first point to make, whatever your preference, is the need to get it right in camera. There is really no substitute for this, whether it is the composition, white balance, sharpness, exposure – it will save you time in the long run.

If you shoot RAW be prepared to deal with large file sizes and the fact that your pictures will need to be processed in an image editing program. A RAW file is a ‘lossless’ image that gives you all the information as the sensor sees it, typically a boring 18% grey. This means you need to add your own saturation, contrast etc. JPEGs are lossy files and they compress the data that you can’t see and applies its own algorythm to apply saturation, contrast etc. For a full list of the differences go here.

As such RAW files won’t look as good out of the camera as JPEGS, you need to put in the hours to make them look good, but they have more potential to look good than JPEGs because they contain more image information.
Ken Rockwell makes some good points in his article and it has to be a personal decision because he prefers to use JPEG because file size is an issue. Personally I think that file size is less of an issue these days when hard-drives and memory is so cheap.

Another option is to converting your images to DNG. Obviously this makes your workflow longer because you have to spend time converting them. Although it may save you space and all the other advantages converting 21MP files is going to be a time issue for many of us.

I guess the next point to make is that if you don’t plan on editing your photos then shooting RAW probably is a waste of time. I can’t imagine that this applies to many wedding photographers as our images need to be as perfect as possible. We have to make every effort to achieve this.

Another point to remember is that shooting a wedding is not like shooting sport where you are continuously shooting 7 frames per second. Obviously there are times where you need a fast shutter speed but I haven’t yet experienced a point when my camera has not been able to clear the buffer and I can’t take a picture. I don’t use very fast cards either.

You also have to consider which Adobe colour space you are going to shoot in. The choice is Adobe 1998 or Adobe sRGB. I personally use 1998 because of the larger colour gamet however outputting for print I use sRGB because it is closer to the ink pigment used in most inkjet printers.

I would recommend that as a professional photographer you should atleast try the RAW format. There is a certain investment in computer hardware and software to get the most out of this format but the extra time and money is more than worth it in my opinion.


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