Digital Capture and Workflow

Modern digital cameras capture images in a range of formats, commonly these are:

JPEG

(Joint Photographic Experts Group)

JPEG is perhaps the most common file format. It is popular due to the small file sizes it produces compared to other formats.

JPEG files however, use what’s known as a “lossy Compression” technique to make them small.

Data is thrown away in the compression, and this results in a loss of detail, colour fidelity and sharpness.

Capturing in JPEG is throwing away detail as soon as the shutter is pressed, and you can never get this detail back.

Always Shoot in raw .

For:

  • Small File Size
  • Images come off the camera in a format ready to use online
  • No further processing required
  • Compatibility with a wide range of devices.

Against:

  • Lossy compression results in loss of detail
  • 8 bit colour depth results in limited ability to edit images
  • Resaving images using “save as” to make a copy results in further compression again.
  • Fixed white balance difficult to correct after shooting
  • Locked into a 256 levels per pixel format so less flexibility to alter tonal range

TIFF

TIFFs are not compressed normally and suffer no loss of detail. They can record 16bits of colour depth (Billions of colours) and are full quality files recording all the data the camera recorded.

TIFF files are ideal for archival storage of your final edited work as they suffer no loss in quality.

(Tagged Image File Format)

  • While TIFFs do not use a destructive compression routine, they still have limitations.
  • They produce massive file sizes compared to other formats, and because they are a bitmapped image format, are no better than JPEGs at allowing post shoot correction of exposure and white balance.
  • Large file sizes mean greater use of storage space
  • Greater file sizes mean slower loading and writing of files, both on the computer, and especially in the camera.

RAW

For:

  • RAW files are not a bitmapped image format, meaning they are not locked into a fixed file format and do not have their colour palettes already mapped out into a finite amount of colours and profiles. RAW files are the raw data from the camera.
  • RAW files are smaller than TIFF files.
  • There is no in-camera processing of RAW files, so this can be done on the computer at a later time for more accurate, and sophisticated editing.
  • As no in-camera processing is done, and it is not a fixed image format, white balance, sharpness and more exposure modification can be done post shoot.
  • A RAW file is your digital negative
  • All changes made to a RAW file are not permanent and a RAW file can be reset to its “as shot” condition.

Against:

  • Still relatively large files compared to JPEG
  • The image requires a great deal more processing after shooting
  • You need extra software to utilise and edit RAW files.
  • There is a certain amount of knowledge and skill required to work effectively with RAW files.
  • Shooting TIFF files makes no sense at all, as a RAW file can be processed and saved as a TIFF file, and TIFF files are so much larger than RAW files.
  • TIFF files, while full quality, are still a mapped image format and will not allow for post shoot adjustments at the data level like a RAW file can.
  • Shooting in JPEG should only be done if you need instant access to an image that needs to be uploaded to the internet, or used immediately – where speed is more important than quality.
  • For everything else you should be shooting RAW.

While RAW files are not a bitmapped image file format, they still come in various types depending on the camera manufacturer.

Nikon = .NEF

Canon = .CR2

Pentax = .PEF or .PTX

Phase One = .CAP or .IIQ

Mamyia = .MEF

Olympus = .ORF

Sony = .ARW or .SRF

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