Green Room

RAW vs JPG, tablet apps in digital photography

posted at 10:52 am on July 1, 2013 by

Thanks to some personal and semi-personal travel coming up in the next few months, I’ve taken more of an interest in my digital photography equipment.  Last week, we discussed the elimination of point-and-shoots in favor of phones and tablets on the low end and DSLRs on the high end.  Today, I’m looking at combining both worlds.  I’ll be taking a cruise at the end of the month — the Hugh Crew Cruise with Duane Patterson — and touring the Holy Land in mid-autumn. For both, I’ll be bringing along my Canon EOS Rebel T2i and my Galaxy Note 8 tablet, but not my laptop.  That means I won’t be able to download my pictures off of the card, but I can use the MicroSDXC cards to move between my camera and my tablet.

That raises a couple of questions, which I’ll pose for those with some experience in the field:

  • Should I use the RAW format rather than JPG? — I don’t have much experience with RAW, but it creates a lot more opportunity to refine the images than the compressed JPG format does. It also takes up a lot more room.  I’ll have 3 64G MicroSDXC (Class 10) by the time of the trip, though, so storage shouldn’t be a huge problem (I’ll be taking some video, though, which will make it more acute).  Is it worth it to go RAW, or is the difference too slight to worry anyone but professionals?
  • If I go RAW, which Android app should I have to view and possibly edit the files? — I will want to use the tablet to get a better look at my shots each day, and perhaps to delete any that don’t turn out well to save some space.  The native Gallery app doesn’t handle RAW.  I downloaded two apps that do — Android Photo Review by Mars Software, and Photo Mate Professional by TS Systems (with RAW extension).  Does anyone have any better suggestions for apps?
  • Once I get back to my laptop, what programs work best for editing and exporting to usable JPG formats? I’m using the Canon Digital Photo Professional at the moment; I’m pretty sure iPhoto isn’t the answer here.

If I’ve missed any other key questions, be sure to point them out in the comments, and thanks for your advice in advance.

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I would just buy an extra memory card for your camera ( or two) and leave your pictures on it until you get home. You’ll have storage for thousands of pictures. You can view them during the trip on your tablet each night, and still have the full raw data to play with on the laptop when you get home.

Allahs vulva on July 1, 2013 at 11:16 AM

If I go RAW, which Android app should I have to view and possibly edit the files?

ewww, just don’t tweet anything (unless you want to run for mayor)…

Mr. Bingley on July 1, 2013 at 11:24 AM

RAW will give you the ability to salvage otherwise bad shots (e.g. exposure, contrast, color,…) as well as refine the good ones. A full resolution RAW takes about 20Mb. I always take a full-res RAW and low-res JPG in tandem (the camera, a 50D, shoots them simultaneously) that way I can review the shots and only work on the ones I like from the thumbnail. Your cards will limit you to about 10k shots.
I like Lightroom by Adobe for post-processing trip photos. It allows cataloging as well as post. Don’t have a clue about Android apps.

BizDoc on July 1, 2013 at 11:24 AM

I would suggest, as Allahs did, get more memory cards and shoot RAW. If you camera allows it, shoot both at the same time (my K-5 does that). That way you can view that shots on the tablet w/o having to have a RAW viewer/editor, and when you get home, post-process the RAW images.

sadatoni on July 1, 2013 at 11:43 AM

RAW and process with Lightroom or the like.

Kanyin on July 1, 2013 at 11:45 AM

I get back to my laptop, what programs work best for editing and exporting to usable JPG formats?

Sounds like you have a Mac ::stifling snicker:: – if you had a real PC, I’d recommended two excellent freeware programs:

IrfanView
http://www.irfanview.com

Photofiltre
http://photofiltre.free.fr

whatcat on July 1, 2013 at 11:52 AM

If you care about picture quality use raw format. JPGs are smaller but they are not lossless nor are they noiseless.

For your laptop photoshop (older versions available on EBay) or Photoshop Elements. I’m curious about android apps too.

Remember to backup your images to dvd or Bluray if you have one.

dogsoldier on July 1, 2013 at 12:17 PM

RAW and process with Lightroom or the like.

Kanyin on July 1, 2013 at 11:45 AM

This. Beware that Adobe is shifting to pay-as-you-go use, so if you want Lightroom, best to pick it up now.

Although if you download Adobe Photoshop CS trial and play with it a bit, you may find that you want it too…

I’ve played with lots of Photoshop competitors (Paint Shop Pro, Gimp…) but I find that I always return to Photoshop…

unclesmrgol on July 1, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Remember to backup your images to dvd or Bluray if you have one.

dogsoldier on July 1, 2013 at 12:17 PM

Or to one or two removable hard drives. A lot easier to store, and probably as good an archive. I have 10 year old DVDs which have deteriorated, and they’ve been stored in a low humidity and cool area…

unclesmrgol on July 1, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Ed, you may also want to bring a storage device that you can offload the images to.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B0006SKK4C/ref=dp_olp_0?ie=UTF8&condition=all

dogsoldier on July 1, 2013 at 12:25 PM

I’ve played with lots of Photoshop competitors (Paint Shop Pro, Gimp…) but I find that I always return to Photoshop…

unclesmrgol on July 1, 2013 at 12:20 PM

CS-5 rocks and can be had on EBay, also there are educational versions of it too.

dogsoldier on July 1, 2013 at 12:26 PM

This. Beware that Adobe is shifting to pay-as-you-go use, so if you want Lightroom, best to pick it up now.

Although if you download Adobe Photoshop CS trial and play with it a bit, you may find that you want it too…

I’ve played with lots of Photoshop competitors (Paint Shop Pro, Gimp…) but I find that I always return to Photoshop…

unclesmrgol on July 1, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Hitler learns about Adobe’s new Creative Cloud model

Anti-Control on July 1, 2013 at 12:42 PM

1. Have your camera save in both RAW and JPG. You’ll have lots of throw aways; but when you have a great JPG that needed to be tweaked, you’ll be sorry you didn’t have a RAW copy.

2. Since you should have a JPG copy of all your photos, you can delete the RAW copies when you find ones that didn’t work out in JPG

3. Two programs are essential: Photomatix and Photoshop. Go to stuckincustoms.com to learn a little about HDR photography; and to get a 15% discount on Photomatix. I didn’t learn about it until after my trip to the Holy Land; consequently, most of my photos were shot in JPG and I missed a lot of great opportunities for memorable photos. Every time I look at my photos of Petra, I’m sad that they’re JPG rather than RAW. There is so much data on a RAW photo that it’s a shame to use JPG for anything but viewing to see what to keep.

4. Take a tripod and a wireless remote control ($20) to reduce vibrations in low light settings.

Alma on July 1, 2013 at 12:48 PM

unclesmrgol on July 1, 2013 at 12:20 PM

If you have a Mac:

Pixelmator

Acorn

GIMP (with a year or so) will FINALLY enable 16 & 32 bit mode.

None of these tools are as powerful as PS.

But most people honestly don’t need all the features of PS.

tetriskid on July 1, 2013 at 1:12 PM

By the Holy Land you mean India, right Ed? ;)

1. Have your camera save in both RAW and JPG. You’ll have lots of throw aways; but when you have a great JPG that needed to be tweaked, you’ll be sorry you didn’t have a RAW copy.

Alma on July 1, 2013 at 12:48 PM

^ This, if your camera supports it.

DarkCurrent on July 1, 2013 at 1:56 PM

But most people honestly don’t need all the features of PS.

tetriskid on July 1, 2013 at 1:12 PM

My Sony A77 takes 16 bits per channel raw, and at 12fps will bracket by 0.7 (or 0.3) stops in less than a quarter second. The JPEG mode (not J2K — just old JPEG) is 8 bits per channel. By doing raw, I need 16 bits for most of the workflow. GIMP will not process 16 bit workflows. If they haven’t done it when I retire, I’ll probably work to add 16 bits to GIMP. And HDR.

There’s no way I could process the HDR stuff in 16 bits without photoshop. The camera itself has an HDR algorithm built in, but photoshop’s is superior.

I don’t have a Mac (I’m Linux and Windows 7 Pro), but I think Ed does, so your advice will probably work for him.

unclesmrgol on July 1, 2013 at 2:08 PM

If you want to do the post-processing, go RAW. If you don’t want to be bothered with it… JPG.

And Adobe Lightroom is the way to go for processing until you want Photoshop, but it doesn’t do android.

E L Frederick (Sniper One) on July 1, 2013 at 2:40 PM

Step 1: Shoot RAW.
Step 2: Edit in Lightroom.
Step 3: Be amazed.

You can shoot in RAW and JPG if space isn’t an issue. That’s a matter of preference. At the very least, shoot RAW. I don’t see the need for the JPG, because the RAW always will turn out better after editing. If the picture is worth keeping, it’s worth making it look as good as possible.

If you’ve never used Lightroom to adjust a RAW image, you will be truly amazed by the results. It’s simple and straightforward, but extremely powerful. For me, Lightroom is indispensable.

Photoshop is an alternative to Lightroom. I use both. Lightroom will handle most of your editing needs. It also catalogs your images. Photoshop does not catalog. Some edits demand the power of Photoshop, so it’s nice to have both. Photoshop can be especially useful for portraits, HDR, or removing pesky photobombers.

I can’t speak to which Android apps work best. There are several that view RAW files, but I’d leave the editing to a PC or MAC.

thebriand on July 1, 2013 at 3:02 PM

I feel like I’ve got some cover now from my friends who keep joking that photography is for lefties… :-)

I would advise you to manage and edit your photos in Lightroom on your desktop/laptop. Apple Aperture has definitely fallen behind in recent years, and Apple seems to care more about new generations of products that are yet another .01 inch thinner than about improving its photo management software. I’m personally not interested in editing my images on a smartphone or tablet, so I don’t have a clue about Android apps.

The RAW vs. JPEG argument is as old as digital photography, and it boils down to personal preference. If your editing will be really basic and you aim to get your images mostly straight out of the camera, go JPEG. The camera gives your images additional pop if you want it to by increasing color saturation and sharpening levels. If you have a good eye for photography, you could surely produce some great images this way.

However, if you plan on getting into the post-processing part of it more seriously, shoot RAW. You’ll be able to recover tons of detail in the image that is hidden to the naked eye but nevertheless recorded by the sensor. ‘Blown out’ highlights in skies and black shadows are an example. Some clever editing can bring back a scene as you saw it, darkening an overexposed sky and brightening dark shadows. If you shoot JPEG, this information would be lost forever. RAW files may look rather bland compared to JPEGS (because they haven’t been ‘enhanced’ by your camera), but don’t judge a book by its cover: Post-processing can do amazing things with them!

I personally read too much Ken Rockwell when I started getting into (landscape) photography more seriously and ended up shooting JPEG for a while. I now regret not being able to really enhance the shots I took back then. Photography is a very exciting new hobby for me, and I’m constantly pushing my boundaries in post-processing. On the other hand, you may be (and stay) perfectly content with taking good shots in JPEG without touching them too much in Lightroom or Aperture. Also, I can spend a lot of time processing my images, so take that into account as you come back with 5,000 shots of the Holy Land!

One last note: storage being so inexpensive nowadays, 5 vs 10 Mb (on my camera) has never been a big issue to me. You could consider recording both JPEG and RAW, and postpone your decision.

Have a great trip!

Alexis on July 1, 2013 at 3:07 PM

My photography skills are very amateur, but here’s my 2 cents:

My Nikon DSLR can save in both RAW and JPEG, which is the setting I just leave it in. I took a fantastic photography class (fantastic because the instructor was very good, which is not a given in continuing-ed type classes). His take home message was to use JPEG if you will mainly be sharing pictures online, and RAW if you plan on making prints.

He also said Lightroom is the future and photoshop is being clung to by those refusing to accept change. Also, Lightroom is MUCH more affordable but may need to be repurchased when you upgrade your machine.

Again, I am a mere amateur.

Jackalope on July 1, 2013 at 3:28 PM

Beware that Adobe is shifting to pay-as-you-go use, so if you want Lightroom, best to pick it up now.

unclesmrgol on July 1, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Lightroom 5 is awesome.

Adobe added some important features to Lightroom 5 (not 4), and reduced the price, I believe. For me, these features almost negate the need to use Photoshop for photos, except for complex edits.

This shift is part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud segmentation and pricing strategy. My understanding is that they intend to keep Lightroom as a standalone product.

As for the features, the advanced healing/cloning tool imported from Photoshop is worth the price alone. It’s content-aware.

They also redesigned the tone interface, which makes things much more efficient. Now, there are separate sliders for blacks, shadows, exposure, highlights, whites so you don’t have to touch the tone curves.

My two cents.

Hot Gas on July 1, 2013 at 3:33 PM

I’ve been a professional photographer for 30 years, and a conservative longer than that (my dad saw to that).

Although I’m a Nikon guy, you have plenty of camera in that Canon. I actually do a lot of shooting tethered to the iPad, but you won’t be bothering with that unless you’re doing some interiors of great architecture (you probably wish you did this when you were in Italy). I agree with leaving the laptop at home. I still bring mine on the road, but just to do editing in the hotel room.

I don’t know how much spare time you have on your hands, you seem like a pretty busy guy. RAW gives you ultimate flexibility, but you’ll have to learn it. Lightroom is fabulous for organizing an batching files, as long as you know what you’re doing. Again, there’s a learning curve. If you have plenty of storage, shoot RAW and JPEG and decide later.

Meter for the average of your scene and bracket your exposures, normal, +1 and -1 on high speed continuous. If you face an extremely high-contrast situation, bracket 5, 7, or even 9 exposures – these require a tripod. Then you’ll need either Photomatix (I think it’s around $100) or Bracketeer (free).

It’s ALWAYS best to use a tripod.

When you get back home, YOU MUST RUTHLESSLY EDIT. It’s a distasteful job and seems like a waste of time – much like trying to tell someone that there’s still something you like about Marco Rubio.

Have fun!

MikeinPRCA on July 1, 2013 at 4:26 PM

If you plan on publishing photos as opposed to keeping them for personal reasons, raw is the way to go provided you have software such as DXO for post processing. I’ve used Adobe’s stuff and the freeware Gimp, but DXO is far more sophisticated in what it will do automatically for you. Raw edits are labor intensive even with the best editors, and DXO’s ability to cleanup flaws by camera body and lens model is worth whatever extra expense DXO has.

If you don’t plan on publication, hey jpg is great and with the camera you’re using, its going to give you the correct exposure and focus nearly all the time. True point and shoot care free ease.

Remember with raw, you are limited in the number of burst photos you can take since the larger file sizes eat up camera flash memory and tax the driver used to write out the image to your flash card. The image is written twice, once to camera memory and once to the flash card. Jpg’s smaller sizes are what the burst mode is designed for.

richardb on July 1, 2013 at 5:13 PM

NEVER compress during capture. ALWAYS capture the most data possible. This will never change.

RAW will give you the ability to salvage otherwise bad shots (e.g. exposure, contrast, color,…) as well as refine the good ones.

It’s like the difference between bottled and homemade BBQ sauce. If you can’t tell the difference than it probably won’t matter to you. But if you know the difference you would never settle for the lesser.

Remember to backup your images to dvd or Bluray if you have one.

dogsoldier on July 1, 2013 at 12:17 PM

Ignore this advice unless you want to lose your data.

Capitalist Hog on July 1, 2013 at 7:21 PM

Get a large (coupla large) SDXC cards and shoot RAW + JPG and use Lightroom to process the special shots while using the JPG to send out quickly.

There’s a HUGE difference between the camera’s built-in processing and what you can tweak out of the camera with a post processing tool like Lightroom.

Skywise on July 1, 2013 at 7:24 PM

Over on DPReview, there is continual sparring between the Aperture partisans and Lightroom fans. There is minor overlap in the two camps – many LR fans seem never to have used Aperture [or even OSX]

Both are capable ‘digital asset manager’ programs. Aperture uses OSX’s system level service to render RAW images, Lightroom uses its own raw converter.Both can use external pixel level editors or may be extended with plugins.

TheOldBear on July 1, 2013 at 9:28 PM

Shoot both and use the JPEGs for your proofs. Don’t bother editing the RAWs on the road. The only editing you should do until you get home is to shrink some JPEGs down to size for “wish you were here” emails. Your vacation isn’t for playing with your computer, do that when you’re home and you’ve got a weekend to work them over with a good display and fast computer. On the road, backing up pictures to the cloud is the safest way to go, but, if you can’t do that, backup to your laptop or a USB disk. I’ve had more than a couple FLASH cards go bad and don’t trust them, same with optical media.

Socratease on July 1, 2013 at 9:31 PM

Ignore this advice unless you want to lose your data.

Capitalist Hog on July 1, 2013 at 7:21 PM

Why is that?

dogsoldier on July 2, 2013 at 5:52 AM

Unless you’re going full blown professional, high resolution JPG is fine for what you’re doing. Though, if you plan on a lot of manipulation, RAW is the way to go.

I use CS3 for most of my editing and use Fusion for my HDR shots. Both of those programs will allow you to work with the RAW or JPG format.

ButterflyDragon on July 2, 2013 at 7:38 AM

unclesmrgol on July 1, 2013 at 12:22 PM

I’ve never seen this problem and bluray disks are less prone to getting scratched, not that I have had that problem. DVDs are susceptible to heat.

Another option is USB hard drives. Or extra SD cards.

The Epson P-2000 I linked to upthread is not a great choice anymore, due to the size of modern image files.

dogsoldier on July 2, 2013 at 7:59 AM

Don’t fall for the “I will tweak these in PhotoShop/Lightroom/Pixelmator when I get home” trap, unless this is something you usually do. Today’s cameras take great pictures at large sizes. You can snap away all day.

Question: What is the end goal of the pictures? If you are just going to display them online, view them on devices, and maybe print out a few 8×10′s you have no reason to shoot RAW format (unless you are a tweaker).

Buy several extra memory cards, you can get them in very large sizes these days. I’d buy a handful of 32GB cards, LABEL them and then fire at will.

If you are going to be in any high-speed shoot scenarios, RAW is a tad slower, you can get delayed if the camera has to catch up with its cache and write to the drive. But I don’t think a cruise with Duane and Hugh will involve any fast movements. ;-)

SUMMARY: Buy more memory cards, shoot JPG at the largest setting your camera allows. Done.

:-)

TheLoudTalker on July 2, 2013 at 9:49 AM

RAW – I call it the second chance file format.

2lbsTest on July 2, 2013 at 10:28 AM

Meaning no disrespect, but if you have to ask…

The problem for amateurs and dabblers (me) is that you can spend an hour on one photo and still not know what is “correct”. This adjustment looks good, set it aside for an hour, review again and begin tweaking… midtones need some work, then this and that.

I have the Adobe CS6 cloud subscription I use to create my own marketing materials and booklets (Photoshop since version 4) and I spend more time on color correction than content creation. It’s tough for non-professionals.

Over the xmas holidays I picked up a 2tb western digital pocket drive, about the size of a man’s wallet, for barely over a hundred bucks.

rookwood on July 2, 2013 at 10:38 AM

I belong to a local camera club and this question comes up all the time, although I own a Panasonic Lumix point-and-shoot (which use Leica lenses in their entire line), and which I can only save as .JPGs.

That being said, I have taken some excellent photos with it; I can use aperature priority, shutter speed or manual settings in addition to the automatic settings built into it. I bought it after a long search and by asking several pro photographer friends what point-and-shoot camera they would buy if they didn’t want to lug all their equipment around with them. I don’t own either an iPhone or iPad, but maybe someday …

I worked as a photo tech for four years, so I am very experienced with using Photoshop for tweaks and editing. I haven’t tried Lightroom, yet, but I think down the road I’ll end up buying it.

PatriotGal2257 on July 2, 2013 at 11:44 AM