An Argument for Shooting Your Photos in Black and White JPEGs

Every photographer that knows what they’re doing often shoots in RAW.

Why? Well, you take the images, edit them to just the way that you want them, and then export. That’s it. It’s done. No matter what is said, Jared Polin is pretty right about this. But if you come from a film shooter’s mentality and don’t often develop your own film, then I think that not shooting in black and white JPEG is doing yourself a great injustice of sorts. Let’s start from the top with the culture of photographers who shoot film, scan their TIFF files as flat as possible, and then bring them into a computer to edit. In 2018, this is more or less superfluous. Digital photography and cameras are more than adept enough to do this and if you’re going to edit your TIFFs or JPEGs after you get them back, then you should probably just be shooting digital. Why? Because software like Lightroom or Capture One is designed to edit RAW files. It’s just what they do. Film’s original intention wasn’t to be scanned. it was to be printed. With black and white film, you’re best off taking the film after you’ve shot it, develop it yourself based on what you want the entire roll to be like, and then printing. After that, you can scan the print to digitize it.

Still not following? Well look at it this way: besides the personalized experience, what is the difference between editing a black and white JPEG from your digital camera and a black and white scan JPEG? They’re both JPEGs, right? Essentially there isn’t much of a difference. You’re not going to take advantage of most of the tonality in the scene, and you’re surely not going to get most of what a film like Tri-X and Acros can do. The only way that you’re going to get that is by actually developing the film to way you like.

A TIFF file scan probably won’t create the largest tonal zone for you to get from the film. Scanning your photos in with a DSLR won’t take the fullest advantage of what’s on the film either. The only thing that genuinely will is printing.

So why don’t we print more? At least in my eyes as a society, this makes no sense. At the same time, why can’t we just go shoot our JPEGS and be happy with the images as they are by customizing the color profiles within the camera? Now I’m not saying don’t do something like shoot RAW and JPEG, but instead, I’m trying to rationalize being content with what a camera and lens give you based on what they are. You can shoot and appreciate the look that you’ll get right out of the camera due to their own in-processing algorithms. You can think about it as film: Kodak looks different from Fujifilm. Ilford and Kodak differ on their looks, etc.

And if you’re importing RAWs, often what folks do is just a bit of sharpening and contrast. So why not just get that in-camera to begin with?