The Argument for Shooting JPEGS over RAWs in the Modern Photo World

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A7r review photos brooklyn bridge reddit walk (4 of 14)ISO 1001-800 sec at f - 3.2

Shoot Raw. Always shoot Raw. Only shoot Raw: this is the mantra that many, many photographers live by. They swear by it. We swear by it here at the Phoblographer. I swear by it as a photojournalist, commercial and portrait photographer for years. Why? So that we can get a better result in post. So that we can differentiate ourselves from the plebeians and peasants that would rather shoot in just JPEG and be happy with their results. Yes, reader: we are the higher class of citizens that stick our noses and in the air and would rather accept death than shoot in JPEG.

Or at least that’s how it’s been for years. As time has gone on and I’ve reviewed camera after camera and the technology has become better and better, I (we, actually) have seen that JPEG quality has improved tremendously. We even dare to say that it is now so much so to the point where that if you know what you’re doing in the first place with your camera that you won’t need to shoot in RAW. Indeed, many of the photos for the Phoblographer’s Instagram are shot in JPEG with an Olympus OMD EM5, Sony A7, or Sony NEX 6 then transferred right over to my phone or iPad and added to our feed. How much post-production goes into them? Basically, it’s not much more than some sharpening and contrast fixes in Instagram, VSCO or EyeEm.

And guess what.

The images are good enough for our over 4,000 followers on Instagram and usually just fine for our over 250,000 Facebook followers.

But all of this brings up the notion of getting it right in the camera to begin with. Do you think loads and loads of photographers always had time to sit there in the darkroom burning and dodging then applying fixer over and over again? Probably not. And so with that said, they worked to get it right in the camera in the first place.

Then you consider the advent of social media and how quickly clients want images for their feed. And if you can get it right in the camera the first time around, then why even bother shooting RAWs if your client won’t care? Do your client’s social media followers care? Probably not.

So why, are we as a society and culture of photographers so hell bent on always shooting RAW if all that matters is the end result and pleasing a client? Why do we have to focus on shooting RAW and not capturing the moment the right way the first time around in a day and age when technology has come so far where we don’t need to shoot RAW and where GoPro adds still images from their cameras to their social media feeds and have developed a cult?

Why can’t we just get it right in the camera in the first place while shooting a JPEG and be happy with the result? Sure, some work totally requires you to shoot in RAW. And we’re not bashing that at all–in fact, we’re not bashing shooting in RAW to begin with. But what we’re saying is that we don’t always have to. How many times have you come home from shooting and did some very minor adjustments in Adobe Lightroom via sliders then exported them and put them on the web? And why couldn’t you just dial those settings in your camera’s color profile?

We need to get back to accomplishing and achieving the end result in the most efficient and pain-free way possible and stop worrying about doing things the old way that photographers have been doing things since the spawn of digital.