I have to get it off my chest…I have to come out of the closet and confess something so shameful and so heinous that it will probably cost me dearly in terms of career, family, friends, and maybe even my ASMP membership. What is this horrible secret?
I shoot JPEG.
Wait, wait, before you click off in horror and disgust, I always shoot RAW too, always. But for the last six months or so, I’ve been shooting RAW +JPEG Fine, and about 80% of the time, I’ve just been using the out-of-the-closet, er, I mean, out-of-the-camera JPEGs. Hit the jump for details on how I found myself in this position—and how it is saving my sanity.
It was late at night, doing my post processing after an assignment. I was looking at the previews of a bunch of NEFs and I went and made my JPEGs (in ACR) but no matter what I did, I couldn’t get them to look quite as nice as the preview JPEG embedded into the NEF file.
A few camera models ago, Nikon started putting in all these customizable parameters for your JPEGs—you can get them Vivid, Neutral, or Portrait (read “Velvia, Provia, or Astia” for you old “transparency types.”). Plus in the D90/D300, the in-camera JPEG engine even automatically corrects for the Chromatic Aberration of each specific lens. Plus, you can pick the amount of D-Lighting (read “shadow fill”). So you set a couple of these parameters according to prevailing conditions, and damn if the camera-generated JPEGs don’t look like a million bucks.
Now, let me explain further that I rarely do any photoshop stuff on my files. I try to shoot cleanly at the time of capture (old slide-shooter habits die hard), I do the global stuff in ACR, and I output high res JPEGs with Dr. Brown’s 1-2-3 Process action. That’s about all I ever did.
But even that was a pain in the neck, time-consumption wise.
So, just as a lark, I started shooting RAW + JPEG Fine, paying attention to those customizable settings and changing them as necessary, double checking my exposures and white balance settings more often, and found that, in the large majority of cases, the JPEGs were more than usable. In many cases, they were preferable to my hand made versions.
Now it’s no secret that shooters of my generation would rather get a root canal than sit in front of a monitor massaging files and making layers (see Joe McNally’s recent post on a similar subject—Rambo says it all). If I had a full-time assistant like Joe does, I’d delegate the processing to him or her. But I’m a one-man band, so the only person I can delegate to is me (or Peggy, but even she draws the line at digital processing).
Here’s the deal, however….my clients are happy with the files. For those few who prefer Tifs to JPEGs, I just do a batch conversion. And I’ve got more time—to shoot, to blog, to work on my new book, to keep up with the columns, to have a life, (well, maybe not that last one—who has a life outside the digital dungeon in this day and age? In that regard, we’re all still in the closet together, staring at our monitors).