The Great Switch: From RAW to JPEG

I appreciate that this isn’t technically ‘travel-related’, but photography is such a big part of what I do here that I just had to write this post. It’s mainly for the photographers out there though you could just be interested for a bit of background to my images!

In a debate that’s been around as long as digital cameras, RAW has always come out on top.  For those unfamiliar, a RAW image is essentially a digital negative stored directly from the camera’s sensor.  Once you get that file into an editing software such as Lightroom, you are able to manipulate it to your heart’s content.  Compared to a JPEG (an image that’s already been processed), RAW stores so much more detail meaning that you can safely adjust the exposure and edit without image destruction.

Since I started getting serious with photography eight years ago, I always shot RAW and spent many hours editing.  I mean, everyone tells you to shoot RAW and, back then at least, JPEG’s looked awful.  I had no choice.

As a travel photographer, I can often come back from a trip with thousands of photos and all need painstakingly editing which is VERY time-consuming.  Time is precious and, whilst I love digital developing images, I need another option.

The W Hotel, Seminyak

Enter Fujifilm

I read another blogger’s post the other day setting out how to choose your first camera.  Everyone thinks that for ‘proper’ photography you need a DSLR and this particular blogger posed one question; Canon or Nikon?  It’s always between Canon or Nikon.

Well guys, let me tell you, for me at least, the answer to the above question is Fujifilm.  As many of you may know, back in early 2017 I converted to mirrorless with the incredible X-T2.  Fujifilm users have been described as being like vegans, they won’t shut up about their choice.  I guess I’m exactly the same but it’s just because I want you to know how good these cameras are.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic.

Fujifilm know colours.  They’ve been producing amazing quality films for years.  All that research and development has been passed to Fujifilm’s cameras in the form of Film Simulations.  A bit like Picture Styles on other cameras, you can choose between a number of different film looks directly in camera.

Whenever I take a photo, I review it almost immediately on the camera’s rear screen and am always blown away by how amazing it looks.  The colours are just incredible.

For some reason though, I shot in RAW so all of that lovely colour is lost when you import into Lightroom.  You essentially have to start again.  All of my RAW processing has been to try and achieve what the original JPEG looked like.  Doesn’t that sound stupid?  I spend hours and hours editing thousands of photos simply to achieve what the camera had already done for me.

As we travelled Australia, I had thought of shooting just JPEG a few times but always convinced myself not to.  I would always have the flexibility to change a photo’s look and colour but, if you think about, that kind of takes the fun out of it.  I try to get the image as perfect as possible in camera just like you would have done in the film days.  Once you shot a photo on a particular film, that look was ingrained in it.  Consistency is key.

What Next

I still have 500 unedited photos from just two weeks in Bali and something has to give.  Just like many other Fujifilm shooters, I’ve now set up my camera for shooting JPEGS only. I’m leaving RAW behind (almost).  I’ve created seven different in-camera ‘presets’ (just like you would do in Lightroom).  I love the Astia film for day to day images (almost all of my photos have Astia as the base) and Classic Chrome for street images.

I’m going to test out shooting this way for the remainder of my travels and, if I’m honest, I’m a little nervous.  For situations of high dynamic range, RAW is perfect as you can brighten the shadows or darken the highlights by several stops.  I find RAW is also great for shooting night landscapes.  There are then a few situations where I may have no choice but to switch back to RAW (albeit plus JPEG).

Hopefully, you won’t even notice a difference in my photos as, like I said, I have always tried to emulate my own camera’s colours.  It should however save me heaps of time which I can put to good use elsewhere.

I’d love to hear from photographers who only shoot JPEG or, if you’ll only shoot RAW, let me know why!

ps.  All the images in this post have been shot in JPEG using my new custom settings.


12 Replies to “The Great Switch: From RAW to JPEG”

  1. All of the photos in this post are beautiful, well done! I have never considered trying RAW, JPG and PNG formats always work well for me, a ‘not a professional’ photographer!

  2. I always shoot RAW. There may be something that I need to clean up later or some detail I want to bring out. You can set your camera to make a RAW and a JPG just in case. I can understand not wanting to bother around in post-processing.

    1. Yeah that’s been my position for ages but I feel like I’ve been wasting Fujifilms amazing JPG quality! I can already see this being a massive timesaver with the RAWs as backup!

  3. Wonderful blog mate and it poses an important question for Fujifilm shooters. Personally, I always shoot RAW as I like the control that gives me in post processing. But it sure is tempting to just let that camera do its thing and push out a high quality JPEG. Cheers. G

    1. Thanks for commenting Greg! Yeah that’s what I might miss about RAW but if I do end up with JPEG + RAW then I’ve got the best of both worlds! I just love the quality direct from camera and never seem to be able to quite replicate it in Lightroom!

      1. That is true. I think that is also why I opted for creating my own LR presets based on the LR versions of Classic Chrome, etc.

  4. Thanks. I am completely amateur and never took the time to learn anything but the basics. This has been a very helpful discussion.

    1. No worries at all! I still feel like I’m always learning even after years! That’s what’s so good about photography! Thank you

  5. passportandpixels says: Reply

    An interesting and brave choice! I have a Fuji X100T which I took up Kilimanjaro and must agree the colours are beautiful – but I still shot RAW and edited everything afterwards. Normally I shoot on my Canon 5D IV in RAW, but I agree about the workload – I came back from Uganda with over 4000 photos to edit! So I’m slowly working my way through them (light tweaks only and lots of Lightroom presets!) but I do agree it’s a pain. I’m not sure what the answer is though, not sure I’d ever be happy with an image straight out of the camera!

    1. Thanks for your comment! Your pictures are fantastic! I just wanted to see whether it was something thay would work for me…I’ve been through my Singapore photos where I shot RAW & JPG – the JPGS are really nice and with a tiny bit of added contrast I’m happy with them! I think I’ll still have the RAWs as backup – once I get my Singapore photos up I’d be interested to hear your thoughts! Thank you

  6. Love your photo’s. I never realized you could shoot with the options liek Fuji camera’s offer. I am going to look into that for my next camera. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Thank you! I really recommend Fuji’ s cameras you’ll not regret it at all! They’ve just released a new one XT-100 which looks good!

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