So here’s the thing. I’ve been at uni for the last two years, trying to learn as much as I can about photography – reality check – they expect you to know all the practical stuff before you get there! Oops!
Anyway, everyone seems to know so much more than me, so that when I find myself wanting to explain something on my blog, I kind of feel that I’m maybe trying to teach my Grandma to suck eggs. And that’s not what I’m about! But, maybe there’s some of you out there that, like me, want to know more about everything and anything (I’m an infuriating pupil), and might not know what the hec I’m talking about with RAW & Lightroom (LR) etc.
Plus, I learn in an odd sort of way and can maybe explain some stuff Jo Blogg style, (ha – not blog- see?) and it might just click with someone who is like me and needs that extra bit more.
So, here goes.
What is the difference between RAW and JPEG (.jpg) and why should we use one or the other? Well, if you are wanting to produce your own special photographs, do you really want someone else developing them? If you are anything like me, you’d rather like to have control over them – even if you are a long way off really knowing or seeing what you want, there is only one way to find out. Start developing them yourself.
An analogy. For those of you who started taking photographs using film, there were two choices. You either used to send the film off to be developed by Kodak or Fugi or Ilford ect or if you were lucky enough to have your own darkroom then you had control over the outcome. Contrast, blacks, greys and whites, and colour if you were even more fortunate (and wealthy), could be controlled in your own darkrooms. Photographers used techniques such as dodging and burning, by hand, to personalise their work and get the best out of their photographs.
Nowadays, if you have a computer with the appropriate software (such as Lightroom or Capture or software appropriate to your camera) and your camera is capable of taking RAW images, then you have your own “digital” darkroom. BUT, if you are taking your images with your camera settings in JPEG quality, whether fine or basic, your camera is processing the image in camera for you, before saving it, processed, to your the card, as it sees fit, without your input. Even more significantly, as it does so, it chooses what info to keep and what to discard – rather like sending it off to Kodak etc. So if you then want to fine tune your image yourself, maybe to add more contrast, with your computer software, you may have lost the very fine detail you actually wanted. That is especially if you are looking for detail in the xtrtemes, blacks and whtes. What’s more, each time you re-save a jpeg on your computer, it is likely to be compressed over and over again, loosing more and more detail.
So now to RAW. If you set your image quality in the camera menu to RAW then every single bit of what the camera sees is saved on to your card and then you can develop the image in your computer software having full access to every pixel you captured. You can have absolute control over your image, that is within the constraints of your captured exposure. I do have a golden rule of trying to get it right in camera – then you can tweek away to your heart’s content.
The only drawback to taking all your images in RAW is that if you then have a problem, as I now do, with a new camera but out of date software, (my Lightroom 4.4 does not upgrade for my camera yet but Lightroom 5 does) you may not be able to process your images until you update, or in Adobe’s mean marketing strategy, purchase, updated software. Hope that is as clear as mud!
I shall be uploading some images from the summer V. Soon.
PS Have you ever tried to get Adobe on the phone – good luck with that one!