Does JPEG Make More Sense?

Over the past month or so I have been considering my general absence from dSLR photography. And during the course of pondering, considering and talking to myself…outloud…which can be rather disconcerting to those around me….I have further honed a thought that I have had and shared on numerous other occasions:

I really like being behind the camera, but not in front of the computer.

I mean, I don’t particularly care for the process of going through my photos, picking keepers from dumpers, and then editing them to turn them into something better or even tweaking them for upload to Flickr.

I had, for a while, dismissed my lack of interest in such matters as being a reaction to the complexities of Photoshop and Lightroom. To address this particular issue I have undergone a metamorphosis, if you will, by reading, watching and listening to any number of websites, podcasts and online videos related to the proper and creative use of Photoshop and Lightroom.

And while this information collecting has left me feeling more comfortable and confident about the use of these fine pieces of software it has done nothing to dissuade me from the general sense of apathy I have about using them.

So what does one do?

I mean, there’s little reason to continue to hang on to my cameras, lenses, flash and other assorted photography-related items if I have no intention of putting them to use, right?

But that’s absurd as well because I desperately want to put them to work. Because I really enjoy being behind the camera. So you can see the problem.

And then just today, while watching some lovely red cardinals soar from tree to tree in our back garden, I thought to myself “How could I mitigate the amount of time I spend in front of the computer?” in regards to the whole process and what-not as related to this photography caper?

Shoot in JPEG.

Okay….shooting in JPEG doesn’t mean I don’t have to sift through my shoots and sort keepers from flushers, but as the amount of processing that can be reasonably done to a JPEG is monumentally smaller than that which can be done to a RAW file….well….you get the picture. (pun completely and utterly intended)

And by processing I don’t mean the creative sort of stuff one typically does in Photoshop, but the more basic sort of processing at which software like Lightroom excels. The sort of processing I have been doing, but do not particularly enjoy.

As an added bonus I wonder if the switch to shooting in JPEG would force me to become a better photographer? I mean, without the ability to make monumental and wholesale changes to my image file I would have to learn to shoot better pictures to begin with, wouldn’t I?

And certainly there is no correlation between excellent photography and file type, right? A quick look around Flickr convinces me that the skills, knowledge and creativity needed to make exceptional images has little if nothing to do with whether or not one shoots in JPEG or RAW.

But I don’t know….it’s a major paradigm shift, isn’t it? And what about the ability to save a picture shot in RAW that might otherwise be for the trash bin if shoot in JPEG? The way I shoot I need every saving grace I can get both hands upon.

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Damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it…

AUGH!

I absolutely hate it when I do something stupid. Then again, I imagine most everyone hates it when they do something stupid. But this blog is about me and not everyone else, so at the moment I’m very busy hating myself for doing something stupid.

Yesterday (Saturday, 25 April 2009) I hooked up with fellow Flickrites Edgar and Ron at Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm. We were going to stroll about the grounds (and then head over to Aullwood Gardens) in hopes of finding interesting things to photograph, but before we even got started Edgar realized he had accidentally left his camera at home. Not completely his fault, mind you, as they were waylaid by a last-minute telephone call, which put them off their game.

For this photographic adventure I had elected to instead make use of my car-camera: the Rebel XTi (400D for you European types) with accompanying lenses, instead of my more usual kit (the Canon 40D and such). As I had just been to both Aullwood Audubon Center and Aullwood Gardens the week previous, I didn’t feel the need to carry my more serious equipment and looked forward to the much lighter and more transportable Rebel. But now we had a man down, so to speak, and as such I did the valiant thing and offered my Rebel to Edgar. He was hesitant at first, but Ron convinced him to accept my most generous offer, especially since I was able to use my 40D, which was in the car anyway.

As Edgar uses a point-n-shoot camera we made adjustments to the settings of my Rebel to better reflect the way his camera would shoot and the way he uses his camera. One particular adjustment to the settings was to turn off shooting in RAW and engage shooting in JPEG, which I no longer do at all. For the most part Edgar was satisfied with the adjustments and went about taking pictures for the afternoon.

Once we returned to the cars and said our goodbyes I immediately set out to revert the Rebel XTi to my preferred settings so that said camera would be ready-to-go at a moments notice, as is its typical usage. Except for one thing: I forgot to switch back to RAW.

Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!

And I’m all “damn it, damn it, damn it,” because I took a quick trip today to a park which I had not yet visited: Charleston Falls Preserve (part of the Miami County Park District, Ohio). I called it a recce and as such wasn’t going to bring any camera, but at the last moment elected to bring along the ready-to-go Rebel. And I’m glad I did. I may have obtained a handful of decent photos from the excursion, but it was when I was only minutes away from the end of the trail (the return leg as I had been in the park for about 2-hours by then) when I realized that I had been shooting in JPEG all day!

Don’t get me wrong…there’s nothing really wrong with shooting in JPEG. Lots of folks never do anything but shoot in JPEG and they take awesome shots! That said, I much prefer shooting in RAW because it allows me greater control over the final product and, perhaps most importantly, allows me to sometimes salvage photos that might have been designated to the round file otherwise.

Damn it.

Sometimes a picture is just a picture

When I first began snapping pictures with my lovely, lovely Canon 40D (did I mention it’s lovely?), I horded every image file as if it were the only thing standing between me and certain death. Every image was a masterpiece of lighting, composition, framing, colour management, blah, blah, blah. Well……the truth is that most of those early pictures were, at best, okay. And that is being rather generous. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has moved up to a dSLR (or a super nice compact super-zoom) as there is a learning curve with the camera, forgetting completely about the learning curve that comes with the process of photography itself. But within a few weeks of blissful dSLR ownership I was struck by a certain problem: what do I do with all these image files?

For your consideration:

Wedding mausoleum (2)

A lovely picture, no? And no doubt it is a picture. And it was shot in both Canon’s RAW format as well as JPEG. So what do I do with these files once I get home and upload them to my computer? It was a keeper (as not all were from this particular shoot)….the JPEG version was good, but with the RAW file I could make some minor tweaks (to coin the phrase of a certain Flickr mate) and then convert to JPEG, thus making the from-camera JPEG moot. So what is one to do?

Well my solution was to delete the from-camera JPEG, edit the RAW image file, create a new JPEG from the RAW file and then upload that to Flickr. The nice thing about the RAW editing software I use for much of my workflow (Capture One 4) is that it doesn’t really alter my original RAW files, but creates a new file that tracks all my adjustments to each image file within a given folder. If I re-open an image file in Capture One 4 it displays with the afore-mentioned adjustments, but if I open the file in another app (say….Photoshop Elements) then I am once again working with the unaltered RAW file. Heck, if I want to start over completely all I need do is delete the Capture One 4 created file from the folder and there you go! But this isn’t really to what I was referring earlier. I really mean when do I keep the RAW file and when do I only keep a JPEG (either from-camera or generated from the RAW file)?

For me I look at my image files in the context of “What was my intent?” Was I trying to do something interesting or was I trying hard to make a better picture, or was I simply pointing and shooting and thus creating a record of a moment in time that I wish to have? I guess I could split this concept in a different manner….the creative/working hard for a better picture side wants to use the Canon 40D, while the record-creating side can use the 40D, but would have been just as happy with the Canon A630 point-n-shoot. I do not usually carry both cameras with me, so I often end up using the 40D for point-n-shoot situation photographs like the image above and the one below.

BBQ at Aunt Linda's (5)

Maybe it sounds like a bit of a strange way to do things, but I’m finding that it works well enough for me. I keep two folders on my computer: one for images that are simply records of a moment in time and one for everything else (hoping that ‘everything else’ are better or more interesting pictures). I really don’t know if this is such a great system, but one must have a system otherwise their picture collection will become completely unmanageable. And isn’t that the real kick in the head? Because even if you do have a system, if you find or discover one that may work better there isn’t much change of making the change because it could involve so much work as to make it unfeasible.

Isn’t that a warm and fuzzy feeling?