RAW Is What Separates Us From The Animals

Shooting in RAW will guarantee that your images will be even better when jpegs are retired.

I never understood photographers who've bought DSLRs or even new mirrorless systems - and only shoot in jpeg. This, after perhaps what could be a thousand dollars or more investment.

Jpegs are the bane of file formats and by extension, of photography. By no fault of our own, this terrible and pitifully compressed format has haunted humanity for over two decades (since 1992), well past its prime. For reasons of convenience, laziness, and likely greed, jpegs have come to dominate the way we compress, share, and view our images.

Photographers and hobbyists have had the option to use their camera's RAW file format since the early to mid 2000s to shoot and edit their images with. The TIFF file was adopted in 2001 and Adobe launched their DNG format in 2006. Since then, camera manufacturers have developed their own proprietary formats too.

By no fault of our own, we have been forced to convert all our RAW images into jpegs if we wanted to share our work with the world. This remains the case today in late 2019. Photographers are pretty much stuck with a chunky, watered-down version of our cameras' capabilities when it comes time to publish.

There is hope. The HEIF format has been popularized by Apple by offering this file extension on later iPhone models. In a nutshell, it's a smaller file size while arguably delivering a higher quality picture post RAW conversion or natively when compared to jpeg. Unfortunately, camera companies haven't offered any alternatives to jpeg conversions because of market pressures, or lack thereof for making the change.

Tony Northrup put out an interesting video recently titled "JPG costs you THOU$ANDS: Let's CHANGE it!" It's worth having a look at to understand that not only are photographers and billions of smartphone users getting screwed over by this antiquated format, but we're also losing tons of money because of it.

Logic dictates that photographers should be shooting in RAW

Which brings us back to RAW and the point I want to make. If photographers have the option on their cameras to shoot in RAW, they should be doing so. Even if there's an option to shoot RAW + jpeg - do it.

The reasons for shooting in RAW should convince any photographer that he or she should stay clear of shooting in jpeg. The main reason being that at some point, there will be alternatives or one popular replacement for jpegs, like HEIC. Those who had shot in RAW at the beginning will be able to take advantage of the better format to bring the highest quality images to the world - in a much smaller file package. Whereas if you shot in jpeg, the conversion process will result in a further quality degradation of your files.

RAW is what separates us from the animals. It's not about putting people down who only have jpeg as a viable option, mind you. But for those of us who have a choice, shooting in RAW should be the option between taking the high road and taking the low and easy road, the one that leads to image bloatability, quality loss, and ultimately, extinction. RAW is the safeguard against such a fate.

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