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Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Joy of Jpg... Using Images Straight OOC

Let me start by clarifying that I'm a RAW shooter, or as of late, RAW+jpg.

We all know the beauty of RAW, and that no sane person would shoot jpg, but lately I've been finding myself enjoying jpg. Of course, using the RAW+jpg setting on my Nikon D300's, I've still got the RAW files too, so I know they're there if I need 'em. Kinda' like a digital security blanket. :)

But a lot of the time I don't need the RAW files, as the image looks just fine in jpg. In fact, sometimes it's extra work just to get a RAW file developed out of Lightroom to look the way the OOC jpg does (for those of you that don't know, "OOC" means Out of Camera, as in straight out of camera with no modifications or Photoshopping).

Ever look at a RAW image file and find you just can't get it to look quite like it did when you saw it on the camera's LCD? Maybe you've shot RAW+jpg, and the jpg just seems to look better than your jpg you developed from RAW, no matter what adjustments you make?

More and more lately, I'm finding I just go to the OOC jpgs. If you've shot the image well, you likely don't need to adjust it much, if any, and jpgs stand up very well to minor editing like contrast boosts, a color action or two, and a little sharpening. This is especially true of jpgs from the current crop of modern DSLR's.

Jpgs out of DSLR's like the Nikon D300, D90, D700, and D3, contain an incredible amount of data and hold up very well to post-processing. In fact, this is pretty much true of any of the newer DSLR's. The jpg engines in these cameras are doing a fantastic job at processing images.

Granted, there are still a couple of areas where RAW files hold an incredible advantage over jpgs. When it comes to highlight recovery, you just can't beat RAW. Jpg offers little if any highlight recovery room, but RAW offers up to 2 stops of highlight recovery with modern software such as Lightroom 2.3. If you've shot RAW+jpg, you can go to the RAW file for those images where you find you need to pull back the exposure a bit.

The other area where RAW files still have a BIG advantage over jpgs is white balance. If your white balance isn't right OOC, then it's easier and often faster to fix it using the RAW file than it is using a jpg. You may not even be able to fix a jpg file properly, whereas you can almost always fix a RAW file's white balance to your satisfaction.

RAW+jpg offers you the best of both worlds. You've got your jpgs, straight out of camera and ready to go, and you've got your RAW files in case you want to do some serious editing.

Another BIG advantage of RAW+jpg is the speed difference that your computer can view and process the files. This is especially true for those of us that do a lot of work on laptops, which are usually not as powerful as our tricked out desktop machines.

My laptop for example, is a brand new Dell Inspiron 15 with a Core 2 Duo T6400 2.0 Ghz processor and 4 GB of RAM. While still being a very fast machine for a laptop, it is nowhere near as fast as my desktop, an Intel Quad Core with 6GB of RAM. When it comes to working with RAW files, my desktop blows my laptop out of the water. Don't get me wrong, the laptop can handle them... I just have to wait a bit, which I'm not used to doing as I'm spoiled with the speed of my Quad Core desktop.

Here's the thing though... if I just load up the jpgs into my laptop, everything from ingesting to viewing to processing goes much faster, and most of the time, the jpgs are all I need. I can quickly make my selections and any edits without the speed penalty that comes with the RAW files, but I also know I have the RAW files there should I need to go to them.

All the image above are OOC jpgs from my D300, re-sized to 800 pixels using Picasa 3. I specifically used Picasa instead of Lightroom for these, as Picasa is faster and easier to quickly view a folder of jpgs, make a few selections, and re-size for the web (especially on my laptop).

While I might normally tweak a little contrast, fill light, and a few other things in Lightroom, these images are all straight OOC to illustrate the point I've been making. There is a joy in looking through images without having to spend a lot of time working on them. Jpg facilitates this.

Sometimes we get a little too caught up in the craft of making images, and the joy of taking pictures gets lost. Having the jpgs and being able to use them when the RAW isn't needed is liberating.

Next time you pick up your camera, try setting it to RAW+jpg. You might be surprised at how nice it is to re-experience "The Joy of Jpg... Using Images Straight OOC!"

P.S. All of the images above were shot yesterday at the Brantford Twin Valley Zoo, in Brantford, Ontario. It's a fantastic little zoo, and a great place to take the kids. We lucked out on our visit yesterday, as there were newborn goats (in fact, some were being born while we were there) and a newborn Black Bear cub!

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