Since owning a Fujifilm X series camera I’ve spoken and written about shooting in jpeg more than ever. It’s not a photographing routine I was used to when I was using Nikon cameras, and the change has come about for a number of reasons. There are of course times when I will still use raw, and for most of the time I actually photograph in both raw and jpeg, mostly just out of habit these days.
Why the thought of shooting jpeg?
Over the decades of photographing digital cameras, I’ve always taken the photos in raw and processed the images later in software. Occasionally I would use the jpeg files, but I was never happy with the colours of Nikon jpeg images, and ended up spending a long time editing those images!
I’ve never been a fan of wasting time editing photographs, and always tried to get things as close to my vision as I can in camera. During the 35mm film era I wasted time developing film for a while, but in the end I just found the experience of sending them off to be processed more rewarding, as the majority of the time they were exactly as I had wanted them to be, because I chose the film stock to match the subject I was photographing.
Anyway, after an age searching for another digital camera system that offered superior jpeg images, I decided to go with Fujifilm. I had loved using thier film, and had previously owned a number of non-X series digital cameras from them, which always produced stunning jpeg images out of the cameras.
I won’t be able to edit a jpeg though will I?
Before we go any further, this question always comes up, and it’s usually by people who rarely shoot in jpeg, or don’t have much experience in photography. Of course you can edit jpegs, and with Fuji jpegs there is a lot of play with the image file. However, if you are going to get your settings in camera so very wrong, without exposing correctly and getting your white balance as it should be, then perhaps jpegs are not for you. There are plenty of settings available to get great photographs straight from your camera, including settings that affect your dynamic range and allow you to have great shadows and highlights (which some people seem to insist need recovering in every photo – get it right in camera and no need to keep recovering!)
Anyway, the difference between editing a jpeg and a raw file isn’t as huge as some would have you believe, especially if you are set up correctly before you press your shutter button. There are conditions though when using the raw file is handy, so this cannot be dismissed for situations such as low light photography or event photography where there is ever changing light situations.
What are the benefits of photographing in jpeg?
For a lot of people like myself who have come full circle, starting in jpeg, having years of raw experience and now back to mostly jpeg, the benefits of jpeg are easy to see, and once they are understood, it’s hard to imagine why we bothered shooting in raw all the time.
The most important benefit is seeing a beautiful image coming straight from your camera. An image you can use straight away without a second thought of post processing. In modern cameras such as The Fujifilm X series, you can create recipes (or colour profiles) that can not only emulate old film stock, but also have the capacity to get the colour science that you want, straight from camera, along with control over dynamic range, noise, added grain and mug more.
Because of this control, the next benefit could be the one that most enjoy. There’ll be no need for long editing sessions, and you can spend the extra time taking photographs instead of “developing” each one. Sadly, “raw” is an antiquated throwback to film photography days in order to satisfy the needs of those who want to separate the final image from the image that was taken in camera. Ideally, a format should be invented that has all the benefits of jpeg (file size, finalised vision of the processing and versatility of use, meaning it can be viewed on any device without issue) with the manipulation capabilities of raw. A jpeg from your camera can be an excellent starting point so that you won’t need to do much editing with at a later date.
Mentioning file size above, that’s another benefit of photographing in jpeg. You can save between 4 and 8 jpeg files for every raw file you saved, based on raw files being between 25mb and 50mb, as they are on Fuji cameras. A lot of people say storage is cheap these days, which it is, but when you’re shooting thousands of photos, it all adds up! A number of services, including Google Photos, allow free storage of your jpeg images, which is another win situation!
Shooting in jpeg allows your camera to be more efficient too, giving you faster or more sustained photographing rates of fire. You’ll never miss that shot again because your buffer fills up so quickly! This can be most important in photographing sport, wildlife, birds and most importantly your family at play (have you tried taking photos of children? This is the ideal trick for capturing great photographs of them!)
Printing from your camera images is more important now than ever before. Not just your artistic landscape shots, but your snapshots of your family and friends. Shooting in jpeg will allow you to get to your printer straight from, or during an event, load up the 6×4 or 5×7 paper (or any size you want really) and just print from the file. This is something we’ve lost the art of lately, and one you can help bring back!
You can still shoot in full manual, you can still have the same control, you can still shoot with raw files as well and most importantly, you can be a better photographer by using your camera to its fullest capabilities. You’ll learn to get it right, you’ll learn to expose correctly, get your horizons straight and more importantly, you’ll learn to just enjoy the art of taking a photo and being happy with your vision when you see the cameras output.
Camera manufacturers spend a huge chunk of their research and development on colour science, getting the image colours to that perfect sweet spot. They give you the ability to adjust any of their multitude of presets to your heart’s content to make the image suit your taste. It’s there to give you the best results, and usually it’s pretty accurate at what it achieves.
It’s a time where I can now, after many years, be happy taking photographs using the jpeg image as my main source for the vast majority of the time. Taking photographs in jpeg is freedom to do more, freeing up time to do other, more important things.
I shoot jpeg… And I’m a better photographer for it. I wrote a great article on how I setup my Fujifilm camera which can be found here, so it gives you an idea of what I do when I go out with the camera.
— There is a lot of debate on raw vs jpeg, with some photographers saying you should only ever shoot in raw. There was a time I thought this, but with the right tools, the right attitude and in thanks to hindsight, we know it’s a load of rubbish. The majority of my prints that I’ve sold have come from jpeg photographs, and no one ever asked or cared on how they were taken or processed.