Don’t Ask, I’ll Tell…

An in-camera jpeg. Photo © Bob Krist

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).

This Post Has 71 Comments

  1. My hat’s off to you. I’ve tried to shoot JPEG but I just bring myself to do it. Maybe a raw shooters 12 step program to get me back to JPEG?

    I even shoot raw with my little G10. But in defense of raw, I’ve found using Lightroom it takes about the same amount of time to process a raw file as JPEG. Storage is another matter though. I get about 300 images on an 8 gig card shooting raw over 1,000 images on an 8 gig card in JPEG.

    Loved your posts from Buenos Aires.


    1. Jack: I always shoot a RAW with it. It’d take more than 12 steps to get me to give that up. I’m just saying that I don’t go back to those RAWs most of the time, but I archive ’em and I’d never give them up.

      Funnily enough, on my pocket camera, I shoot only RAW—so far. Bob

  2. Bob

    Thank you for this!! I think there are many of us (me included) that spend WAY too much time reading photo forums and websites and comparing technical details and PS’ing skills (of which I have none!). I also learned a most of my photography with slides and agree that shooting cleanly is far superior to spending hours in front of PS!!

    I’ve been reading your blog for some time now, and have also amassed a pretty substantial collection of your DVD’s and some books. Clearly, I respect your work and applaud you for it.

    I spent many years as a PAO in the Air Force and worked with a lot of quality shooters. It’s also where I gained most of my photographic knowledge and what “skill” I have. Most of these guys were “one man bands” so I absorbed a lot of their skills and techniques. It’s served me well.

    Of course, in all honesty, we need to do a bit of a tip of the hat to Nikon as well. The technology hidden inside these cameras is pretty amazing.


    Tacoma, WA

  3. So gratifying to read this Bob!

    While I shoot only RAW/NEF… most of the time I give folks a converted jpg or tiff that has not been manipulated at all. The in-camera curve is often more than satisfactory to me and whomever I give the images to. And by the way, I’m still using a D200.

    Also… New book? Do tell!

    1. Hi Ken: Yes, all credit goes to Nikon (in my case) for making their JPEG engines so sophisticated that even a RAW only junkie can trust them without going cold turkey! Bob

    2. Hi Mike: It’s funny, I’ve had clients come back to me to ask for JPEGs instead of Tiffs so they can look at the whole take on one DVD instead of multiple disks! Maybe not the best reason to make JPEG the standard file for delivery but I’m a bit market-driven in that regard.

      The new book is about the power of moment in still photography. Should be out, from Lark Publishers—the guys who did my last travel book— in early ’11. Bob

      1. Very cool… looking forward to it!

  4. First of all; Thank you so much for all the effort and work you put in sharing your knowledge and experience! As an amateur I really learn a lot from people like you – so thanks!

    Now, when it comes to capturing and processing digital images, my “practice” has changed from Only JPEG, to RAW+JPEG, and now recently Only RAW. When I shot RAW+JPEG, I too noticed that it was really hard to match the RAW-conversion the camera did. In fact I don’t think I managed to get the same result ever, even when spending A LOT of time in the RAW-conversion in Adobe Camera Raw (using both Photoshop and Lightroom).

    Recently I tested out Nikon Capture NX2 and; Voila! All the same settings as processed in-camera was now applied during RAW-conversion on my PC! The image converted from RAW to JPEG was now exactly the same as the in-camera. AND, now I could do those tiny “extra” adjustments to make the images just the way I wanted them.

    So why go through so much hassle to get the same result as the camera can give you direct, many may ask. Well, I get the same, perfect RAW-to-JPEG conversion when the exposure of the image is perfect at the time of the shoot AND I also get the posibility to utilize the powers of RAW-captured data and post-processing if the capturing moment wasn’t all that perfect exposure-wise. I believe the same, direct RAW-JPEG conversion can be done with Nikon View NX (free), but then the adjustments are a bit limited. So for me, it’s back to only RAW shooting, and RAW-to-JPEG conversion in Nikon Capture NX2!

    Gøran from Norway

    1. Hi Goran: Many thanks for sharing that. I have to admit that I haven’t dealt with NX Capture (largely because I don’t like to learn new software) but that seems to be a compelling reason.

      Norway is one of my favorite places to visit…great place! Lots to shoot.

      cheers, Bob

    2. I agree with Goran. Nikon Capture NX2 does a better job of raw conversion than Adobe Camera RAW. I always shoot raw images – then back home do a quick batch conversion via Nikon Capture NX2 which uses the same settings as the camera. 90% of the time that’s all that’s needed and I’m happy with the jpg results.

      Occassionally the white balance was a little off or perhaps it was a high contrast scene – in which case a little more work is needed on the raw image and I can get much better results than trying to fix a jpg image.

      Of course if you are perfect you never make a mistake and need to correct afterwards – unfortunately I’m still making mistakes!

  5. It’s good to confess sometimes. I’ll confess as well. I shoot 100% film. Yep, I’m a film photographer in a digital world. In fact, I just returned from a trip to Australia, and left the DSLR at home!! Just me, my Nikon F6, Chamonix 45N-1, and a nice helping of Fuji Velvia.

    I always enjoy reading your site.

    1. Robert: Sounds like the ingredients of a great trip. Bob

      1. Thanks, it was a wonderful trip, although I was in the Victorian Alps and we had a fair bit of rain. Not to worry, I live in Hawaii, so I see great weather almost every day, as well as great places to photograph.

    2. Hi:
      Read your blurb on RAW/JPEG and the fact that you are a FILM person!!!!
      I have a MINT condition Nikon F4 and a MINT F5 (bodies only) if you have an interest.
      Price is right too!
      Phone in the USA is: 315-6827272
      Many thanks.
      Jerome N. Fine
      Photos By Fine

      1. Hey Jerome – what is the price on the F5? I am in Melbourne Australia and can only find rough ones. Sold my F5 this yr and bought a D700 – the digital is ok but should never have sold my F5.

        cheers – Phil

        1. Hi Phil:
          Thanks for the reply…
          Best price on my MINT F5 is $525.00 plus some for the shipping and Ins.
          May also have the factory box as well!!.

          1. Hi Jerome: I’m glad you guys met on the blog, but this isn’t meant to be a marketplace and I’m wondering if you can take it to email to do the horse trading! Thanks! Bob

      2. I appreciate the offer, but I have both an F6 and an F5. I’ve pretty well decided to stick primarily with large format for the foreseeable future.

        1. Hi Robert:
          I have a MINT cond. Horseman 4 x 5 with three very hi end wide angle lenses -all in MINT cond.
          Let me know if any interest.
          ALso have the rack extension and the Bag Bellows as well.$ x 5 Poloroid back too ( accepts the Fuiji Instant film.


  6. Bob, I did a workshop with Bill Fortney and Scott Kelby earlier this year. When we moved the images into Lightroom, Scott says, “OK, first thing we should do is make them look at least as good as the jpeg we saw on the LCD”. Then showed us in the camera profiles where we could choose different profiles that were similar to the jpeg profiles in the camera. He just picked the one he liked and set it up as an import profile

    I figure if Scott can do it, I can too. 🙂

    1. Interesting…I’ll have to try it. Thanks, Bob

  7. I’ll second using Nikon’s software. It’s not nearly as easy to use as ACR, but if you got it right in camera, it can’t be beat. I use Capture NX to batch convert all of my RAW files to TIFFs because it does better at handling lens distortion, noise, etc. than does LightRoom or PhotoShop.

    1. Marcus: I’m going to have to try it…that’s two ringing endorsements from readers. Bob

  8. I too use Capture NX2 and for about 90% of my photos that’s all I need. I shoot RAW and jpeg and have recently been focusing more on RAW, simply because not only do you have the non-destructive editing in NX2 (and other programs too of course), you can save multiple versions with the RAW file. I like this capability – I can have a 4X6 version or 8X10, or I can have one with a little soft focus and one with a bit of tweaking color wise and save them all with different version names. And I can always go back to the original any time!

    Great blog. Thanks for sharing!

  9. i started doing the same thing bob, i used to shoot only jpegs but thought i’d like to have a raw file to back it up in case i needed it. i shot nikon for years and switched to canon, but to be honest i think nikon’s files look better straight out of the camera maybe i’ll be heading back to nikon in the near future. i’d rather be behind the camera than in front of a computer any day.

  10. Bob,

    Great Post…I am always seeking inside knowledge into the digital workflow!

    I took Rich Clarkson’s Workshop a number of years ago in Jackson, WY. They issued me ( a film shooter at the time) a Nikon D70s and set it for RAW + Jpeg explaining that the RAW would serve as my “digital negative” and the jpgs would be used to quickly edit and present our work at the end of each day.

    I have never looked back, until it was recently questioned by more than one of my fellow photographers who claim the RAW “does it all”, save space, simplify your workflow… perhaps. I too avoid post processing images at all costs!

    You have made a fine point here, a well shot Jpeg right out of the camera is often brilliant and perfectly suitable for most image submissions! Keep the RAW on the back burner….more time behind the lens, less time on the Mac!

    Now here is another workflow question for you…I use Photo Mechanic to do the quick edit from my Hard Drive and then import selected images into Adobe Lightroom 2 where I Organize, Keyword, Add Metadata and otherwise “touch up” the images before sending them off or creating a folder of “Keepers” back on the Hard Drive….I own PhotoShop but rarely use it.

    Any red flags you can see here….I am always open to a better/faster workflow!

    Cheers! Jeremy

    1. Jeremy: Sounds like a good, workable system to me! I do essentially the same thing but use ACR/Bridge instead of Lightroom (the catalogs in LR throw me….I get so confused!), Bob

    1. Jeremy: I don’t think it’s any different, at base, from Lightroom, and you may find it not as convenient. But you don’t have to create catalogs with this method, and some people (myself included) don’t want catalogs created every time we work on a folder of files!

  11. Hi Bob, thanks for another great post. I’m so glad I found your blog, I love it.

    I echo Gøran’s sentiments and the others who use Capture NX2- it is outstanding and the RAW files retain your camera settings, all of which you can change in post of course. I shoot jpeg and RAW but I suppose I could use NX2 to output the jpegs while I grab a cup of tea. NX2 does such an amazing job with the Nikon NEF files and my experience with ACR has been so poor that I gave up long ago, I honestly think it does a bad job with NEF files, especially with the reds. The selection point feature in NX2 is like nothing else and it is so fast, I never make masks in PS anymore. I also use ViewNX, it is the fastest program I have found for tagging photos from a shoot, the slideshow mode is so much faster than Bridge and not as buggy (and it is free). You can also use it to add metadata, batch process, etc. As far as shooting jpegs I agree- the Nikon files are great if you use the correct camera settings, I see no difference between those and a Tiff processed from a RAW. I have tried so many of the Nikon settings and custom profiles, but after shooting many tens of thousands of images I now prefer the “standard” setting! It is actually a little punchy, I love it.

    One more thing- I used to use the cataloging software (iView and Lightroom) but now I use a folder system for my shoots so the catalog is in my brain and on the computer right in front of me. I open the folders with View NX to see what is actually in there, no virtual copies in Lightroom, no catalogs to worry about, I love it!



  12. Thats great to hear Bob – so I guess we can remain friends since I .. cough cough shoot JPEG as well.

  13. With advances like this – the ability to control your JPEGs in NEF+JPEG mode – I’m hoping the day will come once again when travel photographers can spend more time traveling and less time stuck in a hotel room processing photos.

    You’ve inspired me to try shooting RAW+JPEG again on my upcoming New Orleans trip next month. Thanks.

  14. I’m a recent convert to CaptureNX and I’ve been evaluating Capture 1. All these choices… but, I agree with those who see a difference with files processed by ACR and NX. The BIG plus is that NX will read your JPEG settings and apply them to the NEF file. I’m also trying Lightroom 3 beta and it seems to be handling the NEF files better. I’ll have to report more when I get a chance to process a few more files.

    Also, I’m using Epression Media for editing and archiving, but I’ll have to try VeiewNX. My gut resists the viewer type applications, like PhotoMechanic and Bridge. Every time I want to access a folder, I don’t want to wait while the software builds the thumbnails. With EM, they are always ready, even if the source drive is off line, or the files for a topic are stored in several places. EM will also batch rename and move/copy files among other features. I’ll process my keepers in LR with PS for files that need layers.

    There’s just not one single application that do all that I need.

    I would like to see a comprehensive review of all the RAW converters.

    1. Jim: So would I. My take on the other browsers, though, is just the opposite, however. I’ll wait for PM to build thumbnails, as long as it doesn’t saddle me with building catalogs of every folder I want to browse! Different horses for different courses! cheers, B

      1. Hey Bob, who do we get to compare and contrast all these RAW converters? Can we organize a project? Say, create a test file and have several users process them in various converters with several using the same software and then compare. I would suggest a large folder of images with a variety of situations: studio light, sunset, high ISO, sports, cathedral at night, out door portrait, mountain landscape, long exposure waterfall and several brackets of each image — with the same subject photographed with different cameras. Looks like it would be a huge project, but as photographers we could get definitive answers for what would be the best tools.

        In ExpressionMedia, the catalog is built once, not every time you open the folder, as PM or Bridge does. Like LR, you can build a catalog with files located any where on your system. But you can create multiple catalogs and copy, paste, and delete thumbnails into new catalogs or between catalogs, even move, copy and duplicate files or a selection of files. You can search across catalogs and create a new catalog of your search result. I’ve used EM when it was iView, before Microsoft bought it. I haven’t found anything to replace it.

        1. Jim: You have more energy than I do. Sounds like a nightmare project! Bob

      2. Upfront – I shoot NEF-only, import into PhotoMechanic, RAW convert with Capture NX2, and finish with Photoshop if necessary.

        Like many others here, I’ve never been able to approach with ACR what I get with Nikon’s RAW converters. Also, I’ve never been able to understand why I should throw away all those camera controls by using a third-party RAW converter that doesn’t recognize them. Your eye at the time of shooting will usually tell you if you need a creative in-camera adjustment; my memory can forget this by the time I’m looking at photos on a computer screen.

        Nikon’s software applies all those in-camera settings during RAW conversion, and, if you don’t like them, or have a different creative inspiration, you can change them.

        PhotoMechanic builds thumbnails with the embedded JPEG (the one that is used for the lcd preview on the camera back) so its thumbnails come up FAST. Also, you can extract those JPEGs easily with PhotoMechanic, but they are not full-sized, and size depends on camera model. However … if you run a batch process in Capture NXx to simply open the files, then close them, it will save a full-sized JPEG within the NEF file which can be extracted later and used as the “straight” shot. I started doing this a couple of years ago, but haven’t admitted it until now. Advantage is saving the card and disk space by shooting NEF-only instead of NEF+JPEG fine … you get the JPEG anyway.

  15. Oh yikes, now you have me thinking, Bob. I’ve gone back and forth and tell my students to use RAW + Jpeg for a quick image for critiques, and i have to say I’m pretty darn happy with many of them they show provided they are well-exposed. (forget composition, focus, etc. I’m just looking at the overall exposures/Jpeg quality here). So now I’m gonna think about this, too. I’m simply tired (and so is my bum) of sitting in front of a monitor. But I’ll probably still shoot both – RAW for my large fine-art prints, when I make them…it’s so hard to let go! Thanks for being up front about your activities with us all – we really need to stand up to the digital onslaught of must-dos and just DO what works for us!

  16. I’m starting to see this more and more. I’ve been criticized for shooting JPEG and all of the ‘potential’ that I’m missing; however, I always get the shots that I want. I expose carefully and bracket. Haven’t missed yet. 🙂 It’s nice to see that there’s still some sanity out there. I will shoot raw in tough mixed lighting conditions … just in case.

    1. Hi Paul: I bet more people are doing it than admitting it! It’s so easy to crucified by the experts on the internet…we should start a support group!

  17. Well it’s a silly debate similar to Canon vs. Nikon. I personally know photographers making over $200,000.00 a year shooting nothing but JPG fine and know of guys making the same shooting everything in RAW.


    It’s always the carbon unit behind the camera, always.

    And not all RAW would be the same, camera to camera. It’s nice to say “I just get my exposure right and everything is hunky dory.” That’s fine in tranquil, contemplative situations, but not always practical in a hurried environment such as a wedding (with the 5 different lighting scenarios you will get over 8 hours!) or event shooting.

    I started out shooting JPG fine and have moved over to RAW for convenience and speed. But to each his own.

    For all you RAW evangelists I say to you stop with all this pixel peeping crap about “getting all you can at the time of capture” because most of what we are getting * won’t print * anyway.

    For those of you who might pooh-pooh RAW, it will give you latitude of maybe a stop or two to save a good capture but imperfect exposure. Granted, those pics might not be able to hang in a gallery, but most of what is shot, pro or amateur, will not anyway.

    For you all you Photoshop jockeys who do most of your “photography” late at night sipping coffee (or beer), too much thinking, too many actions and what not make for the same old stuff we see on the magazine stands and in Bludomain Flash template websites. And for those of you who just bought some black and white actions to make your stuff “look like” Tri-X, HP-5, Velvia, or whatever…my question is: if the film look is so desirable…just man-up (no offense ladies) and shoot some film. Don’t let computers in the cameras and on your desktop determine your photography – excuse me…the term today is “image making”.

    RAW has unfortunately been marketed has a silver bullet and a must-use technology if you are going to make serious pictures. BS. I laugh when I see an editor of some expensive (usually British) magazine set up shots where one was shot in RAW and identical picture shot in JPG. It shows the RAW picture as amazing and the JPG as if a 3rd grader took the snap. Really, guys? I have shot enough frames in both JPG and RAW and never had huge fluctuations that these magazine types do. The kicker is they always say these pictures were “professionally” shot by ace photographer Johnny Jones. Really? Any pro worth his salt can make a JPG look great most of the time. However, the rookies just eat all this RAW stuff up and spend the next 2 years looking at their LCD’s rather than what’s front of them.

    I challenge the leading Photography magazines to hold photo contests and have all Meta data stripped and have readers judge for them selves. No camera manufacturer, no file types, heck, no digital or film. The results might surprise a lot of people, especially all the young kids who never got to look through the view finders of Hasellblad’s, Mamiya’s, Rollie’s, and Leica’s.

    1. Rob: You’ve said a mouthful! Thanks for the input. cheers, Bob

  18. I tried the same thing once: hand-processing the RAW in an attempt to get it to match the camera-produced JPG! I figured it’d be a good way to learn how to process the RAW files, but it was all to no avail. Thanks for your indirect permission to shoot JPG (+RAW).

  19. Bravo.

    Fully agree. I used to use slides too. I think RAW is useful for archival purpose. We don’t know what can be done in next 10years with all these softwares.


  20. LOVE to shoot RAW and JPEG BUt I shoot JPEG only in the “small” mode because that’s what I send to my clients as “proofs”. I have the large/ Hi Res files for my print enlargements and the tiny image files for the clients to view.
    Enough said.

    Photos By Fine
    Syracuse, New York

  21. Shoot jpeg only after you have thoroughly studied (by experimentation) how every tweak makes an incremental difference in the output. I spent weeks experimenting with my eos 20d and Nikon d200 and the effort has paid off. I can directly get the results I want from my jpg’s. Now I can look at a scene and instinctively tell what settings to apply (WB, exposure, color, contrast.. etc)

  22. I agree with alot of the readers here and will only add that no matter what choice of format you use, it is always about exposure. No amount of fussing will make up for the wrong exposure or focus.

    I also caution those thinking of change. Frequently, what you are using now will continue to serve you. If anything, concentrate on the image in the viewfinder and not on what it might be later.

  23. Funny, I was just getting ready to shoot my first set of frame in RAW – I’ve been 100% JPEG’s so far.

  24. Bob, many pros should confess by now, but unlike you,they are afraid to tell the truth: JPEG is absolutely fine… the only RAW that makes sense is film.
    I only shoot film (negative). I’ve never even moved up to autofocus or autoexposure.For work I still use my well maintained F2s (I own 6 and still buy them whenever I find one in good conditions) and occasionally Rolleis TLR. I bought a D60 and use only for family reunions…it feels like a toy. The few time I brought it on site as a back up, it did not make it out of the bag.
    I’m journalist, if I have to spend time in front of the computer is for writing, editing videos or putting together audio slideshows. Scanning is done mostly at the lab, I scan only my own work and magazines covers.
    None of the images in my site (it should be updated) where shot with digital (

  25. To start with, in my humble opinion, customer opinion is not a good quality yardstick. Artist’s is. Any photographer should be one. For money of for soul. I did shoot JPG and RAW until about 14 months ago. Neither provided acceptable quality. Part my faults. Part of the faults have been corrected. Then, I discovered Capture One by Phase One. Well, The RAWs processed by it are worlds apart from anything else (DXO, NX, Lightroom, Photoshop, Bibble, you name it). Not perfect, but of such tremendous impact… Correcting some exposure errors is so easy to do… Images are sharper, more colorful, more clear, more alive than anything processed by either Nikon or other software. A sharp image has no traces (almost always visible in JPG original) of pair dark-light lines. I know, quality is subjective, but can be seen! So, my humble advice, shoot correctly, use Capture One. A JPG is always available, embedded in RAW. Be happy.

    1. Hi Florin: It’s good to be an artist.
      I’m not.
      I’m a working editorial freelance photographer. I don’t have customers, I have clients. Clients who work with some of the best photographers in the world, and put out some of the best publications on the planet. They’re pretty good judges of image quality, I’d say. If I were a fine artist, or if I myself could tell the difference between in camera or processed jpegs, it’d be a different story. Different horses for different courses. I’m happy that you’re happy with Capture One! So we are both happy! BK

  26. I started out jpeg, moved to RAW, (I drank the cool-aid), and now I’m back to jpeg most of the time. Shooting jpeg makes me pay closer attention to what I’m doing. If the lighting tricky and I have to shoot quickly, I’ll shoot RAW so I can make small adjustments to white balance and exposure.

  27. Hi Bob, terrific posts here! I pretty much have always shot raw+jpeg and am pretty happy usually with the jpeg results, and provided of course that all else is done well in camera. I am amazed at how well the jpegs come out the way I want them without a lot of tweaking. And the other posters are right on the money…Capture NX/NX2 is outstanding!

  28. A couple of weeks ago I changed I switched fraw NEF to JPEG Fine. I still use raw for the more demanding situations, i.e. high contrast or mixed lighting. But in general, the soc jpeg’s from the D700 and D300 have the look I’m after. And in Lightroom I can still tweak the photo, although raw would permit more drastic changes. So raw + jpeg is the option when in doubt.

  29. Hi Bob:

    First, I still use the camera bag that you designed for L.L. Bean several years ago and love it.

    Your post has me thinking about my own workflow. Your reference to the Vivid option (and others) suggests that you use the picture controls in your D90. Is this true? If so, do you prefer one setting to others?


    1. Chris: Take a quick read of the post again to see how I set the parameters according the film types I might use in similar situations….if you’re an ex-film user it’ll all become clear! Bob

  30. I’ve come to exactly the same conclusion after a long trip to Alaska…then trying to get the darn RAW files to actually look like I had set on the camera is an UNENDING disaster, and you can’t (IMPOSSIBLE) figure out a solution to it, and ViewNX doesn’t even work on snow-leopard, so I thought, why not just store both…a bit more, and tons of time saved! if I need the RAW, there it is for endless tweaking, but the JPGs are fine for almost all things (fine settings of course).

  31. I prefer VIVID also…just love the colors 🙂

  32. Well, sorry for the long comment, I´ll add some point to this outstanding post.

    JPG=more time to have a successful life

    The question of RAW vs JPG in terms of quality is a cliche this days, since the Pros already know that the best feature a camera needs is 15cm behind the lens.. The raw format is the 90s marketing gimmick created to attract and brainwash newcomers who will become brainwashed pros that will empower CANON´s and NIKON´s business model.

    Lets go back a bit in time when Canon was created as a company with the goal of copying the Leica (The simple, light, perfect and quick but very expensive camera). Well they couldn´t at the time so they went another route and thats why the cash in so much money today, with Nikon they built an ecosystem with similar rules to a price fixing practice.

    Empowering the Photographer´s by encouraging low self esteem and lack of ownership

    They built this whole scenario were a pro photographer needs to handle all this settings and go through all the menus to “CREATE” the perfect picture. With finesse over time they perfected this feeling about “authoring” with RAW, now, not only you managed to get an outstanding picture after 2 eternal minutes of setting the camera but you will spend 30 min perfecting the picture a bit more. By no means I´m arguing the micromanaging capability of this whole raw experience, it is what it is, a highly tweak able negative. My point is far from a “RAW sucks” comment.

    This brainwashed community that feels the need of “authoring” a picture is the biggest force behind the tweaking workflow cash cow. First of all, as a photographer, you don´t really “OWN” the picture, CANON and NIKON know this, and to give you more “Psychological Ownership” they offer RAW software with hundreds of settings and accessories for your cam in a world where most Pro photographers mostly use only two lenses. Yes, they make our life easier as any tool for the PRO does, but true greatness comes 15cm behind the lens. By being humble and by understanding that our profession is about capturing moments, will lead you to be more proactive in the field when capturing this moments, not behind a LCD questioning yourself about calibration for hours before actual RAW manipulation.

    JPG = more time = more money = more time to have a successful life

    As simple as that, when you go back to basics and remember those awesome award winning pictures that were shot with a disposable Kodak, if the photographer that captured them tried to spend 1 min setting a 5DMark II the moment would had been lost.

    Yes, a picture can be perfected as anything in life, but lets go to another profession to ease objectivity a bit. Say, you are a pianist, wouldnt you achieve more experience with a piano that plays instantly rather than using a full blown studio with software and else to polish your tunes?. Wouldnt a 1h live show give you more experience and than 30 hours in that same studio switching cables to differentiate signal loss?

    Well, Canon and Nikon wont teach you that, it isnt in their best interest, Leica doesnt need to teach you anything since their motto is “be simple, be reliable, be there and pay a hell lot of dosh for that readiness”. Not that I´m a Leica guy (I shoot Nikon JPG), but something must be missing in this plot if a $9000 Leica M9 that looks as a point n shoot from the 70s, captures as good as a 5D Mark II or a D3, all this in 1/3 of the weight and size. Ask Ken Rockwell for details Yes a well fit 5D Mark II will top at $4000, well, “readiness” costs $5000 according to Leica, which is fair if you value time as a feature.

    Real photographers are in the field not behind a computer.

    Guess why you haven´t managed to get one of your highly edited raw files published at least in the National Geographic Wallpaper Contest. First, get out of your room and stop trying to learn how to read RGB and go shoot, shoot in JPG. In the audio world nobody cares if a Master file from a studio has 200 channels and the voice was recorded with a Neumann U87. The standard format is mp3, that is the medium that sells and thats what the economy pays for, if your 200MB Master file can´t sound decently in a 128kps MP3, well the problem is on your side, not with people who cant afford a Bose system.

    1. Javier: Thanks for the thoughtful comment! BK

  33. I have older cameras that do not have the Picture Control option so I shoot in RAW. So I went home last night and opened a couple of files in Lightroom and applied the “Vivid” camera calibration profile (Adobe developed these to mimic the Nikon Picture Control settings). Guess what? They look great with one click! And with Lightroom’s easy “Sync” button or preset option it it easy to apply this setting with some minimal capture sharpening to large number of files at the same time. I know that this option is also available in Capture NX and the free View NX.

    Thanks, Bob, for the wonderful post.

    – Chris F.

    1. Excellent, Chris. Glad that the idea was able to save you some time! Bob

  34. Hi Bob,

    It’s very interesting to know that there are pros such as yourself out there with many years of experience that are shooting JPEG. I’ve been shooting part-time for about 3 years now doing mostly weddings, family portraits, high school sports, and the like (shooting D300’s). Although I’ve experimented with RAW files and Capture NX2 (it is a nice program), I’ve found that processing a typical wedding takes about twice as long with RAW as it does with JPEG. I use ACDSee Pro as my cataloging/editing software (and Photoshop on occasion). With ACDSee, you can adjust just about everything on JPEG’s, including white balance. Granted you don’t have quite the latitude as you do with RAW, but I have a hard time justifying the extra time that RAW takes. Like you said, as long as you have good exposure and proper focus, JPEG’s are just fine. I’ve even made the mistake of having my white balance completely wrong in camera (i.e. WB set to incandescent while shooting outside in daylight – oops!), but was able to correct it in ACDSee and have those images make it into the final album. And, my clients have been very happy. I’m certainly not a ‘pro’ and I’m learning new stuff all the time, but I thought I would just share my experience.


  35. I am so very glad to here that not every photographer shoots raw. I have a real hard time making raw files look better than the JPEG’s.

    You are now my favorite photographer.

    Thanks for coming out

  36. Anything that shortens the digital process is welcome. The suggestion about Dr. Brown’s 1-2-3 Process sounds fantastic. I have laboriously learned the ACR, thinking “whoopee – no layers” (except in some cases). Now when I do get out in the field, I can shoot both RAW & JPEG Fine with my trusty Nikon D200. Jeepers, maybe, it will be like the good old days, when I shot film, and that was sorta it!

    Thanks, Bob.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu