Hello! Right from the beginning, I would like to say, as the title clearly shows, that shooting in JPEG mode will offer you more freedom in photography. And in your life, too. Let me explain.
As a novice, you start your first shy steps in photography with (maybe) a compact camera, or a smart-phone, but for the first time, you will enter in the world of photography by shooting in Auto Mode. It is something natural and I truly recommend you to shoot in Auto Mode, when you begin this journey. Because there are some priorities you have to take into account, like keeping the horizon line horizontal, correctly frame your subjects, maybe learning and applying the Rule of the Thirds. You need to focus on all those aspects and, at the beginning, there is no time, or resources to suddenly switch to Manual Mode and play with those settings, doing more harm, than good. But from the Trial and Error approach, you can start to learn sooner than your friends, how Manual Mode settings affect your outcome in your photography.
But there comes a time when you want more from your photography and you start to learn Aperture Mode, Shutter Speeds and eventually, full Manual Mode, where you can manually tweak every setting: aperture, ISO values, shutter speeds, exposure compensation, focus points, metering types, bracketing and some other factors. And you find out about RAW and you start to shoot using it. The most common setting for this is using JPEG + RAW, where you have the same photo in 2 different files.
Then, you start to learn how to process your RAW files. The amazing thing is that a RAW file comes with 100% of your digital sensor capabilities, retaining a lot more details and information than a JPEG file (which is also a compressed form of storing your image information). I won’t go into explaining how to process your RAW files and how you can recover information from the too white and too dark areas of your photo. The Internet is full of tutorials on how to do it. Just remember that a well-developed RAW file will finally show you (most of the times) a miraculous result, compared to your JPEG file. Bad exposure? Wrong white balance? Not to worry, you can fix them while developing your RAW files.
This is a natural transition in the personal experience of a photographer. Starting by using JPEG files, first, then upgrading to RAW format. Most of us are obsessed with image quality (although this is not everything that counts for good quality photography). You have a good digital camera, you have invested in some good quality glass for it and even if there are technical limitations everywhere, you would like to get the best from it. Why not using your gear at 100% of its capacity? I hear you! And you are right.
But RAW requires more hard-disk storage. More time to process it. And time is money. Or freedom you sacrifice. That’s it, I’ve said it! Do you value your time in your life? Do you spend many hours in front of your screen, post-processing your photos? Isn’t it better to have more time to just go out and photograph, instead of processing your photos, to make them “look better”?
JPEG is freedom, as I have also discovered another way to free myself, when switching from a DSLR system to a mirrorless one, as I have explained in a previous article.
When I had a DSLR system from Canon, I used to shoot 80% RAW and 20% JPEG. Because the quality of the JPEG files was only good for photos that I will never exhibit anywhere (some street photography, family moments, etc.). Now, owning a Fujifilm camera, it’s the other way around: 80% JPEG and 20% RAW. And you know what? My image quality expectations did not change over the years. Only my gear and the quality output, while using JPEG mode. The JPEG files that Fujifilm cameras can produce are simply stunning. With the perfect settings, there is little to improve in post-processing. Sometimes you can do more harm, than good, while trying to “enhance” a perfect Fujifilm JPEG file.
RAW is the best choice for studio work, or high quality professional well-paid work, where you cannot take your chances – you need to walk on solid ground: provide the best for your clients. But apart from that, I see no reason for shooting in RAW. There are professional photographers out there, that are so sure on their skills and camera, just to easily shoot in JPEG mode and provide excellent quality material to their clients. I needed a great camera that can deliver fabulous JPEG files. Fujifilm just did that for me. They offered me more freedom, more time to just photograph more. The fact of making even 90% of my photography in JPEG makes me smile, while looking to myself and to the past.
There are some people out there, trying to impress the others, by stating they are 100% forever fans of RAW shooting, as a superiority show-off manoeuvre to intimidate and present themselves as the real image of perfectionism and professionalism. Only to see their less than mediocre work results. And in RAW, too! 🙂 Or people who, when handed a new, different digital camera (yours, for example), immediately try to impress you how well they “see the light and the settings” by quickly adjusting everything in your camera, just to shoot a test image in fully Manual Mode. They know better. Of course the image looks worse than if taken in fully Auto Mode. After all it’s a new, different camera. Things like that happens a lot. Just don’t let them impress you in any way.
Most of the times, I shoot in Aperture Mode. Sometimes I change ISO values, sometimes I impose a certain Shutter Speed, but a lot of my photos are made while controlling only the aperture. The camera does the rest – and it does it wonderfully, most of the times. I am not ashamed to say that Manual Mode (although I know how to use it) is not my main shooting mode for my cameras (except film cameras, that I love and still use – fully Manual Mode, there is no other way). Yes, I shoot in Aperture Mode and by doing that, I miserably fail to impress others with my “professionalism”. 🙂
Don’t you love getting the “decisive moment”, instead of missing it because you were busy, making some tweaks for the “ideal” shot that just passed away? Don’t you think it is more important to shoot street photography, travel photography, environmental portraits, events or other types of photography in an almost automatic mode (in JPEG, too, if your camera delivers the quality) and to use the time to shoot more, to think more about what’s really important, like composition? When you will free yourself of the burden of technical aspects in your photography, out there in the field, or streets, you will have the mental resources to connect yourself to your feelings, the source of inspiration, see the scene in a different “light” – the stuff that really matters in photography. Isn’t it great to be free?
All the images I have used in this article were made with a Fujifilm camera, in JPEG mode. Please take my word that they are exactly as I wanted them to be. I had no need to capture them also in RAW. They are not perfect, technically speaking, but who needs that kind of perfection in art? You may not like them, or you could say “I would use different settings”. I don’t care. The most important thing in the photography that I make is that firstly, it should please my spirit. I think it is a great thing to do photography to please yourself – but about that, soon, in a future article.
All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2017 / www.sebastianboatca.com