Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Why TIFFs and not JPEGs? Why Lightroom Rather than PS? Answers to Paul's Questions

Paul raises some interesting questions in his comment to the previous post which I will address.

Why TIFFs or RAW rather than JPEGs.?

The answer to that one is that JPEGs deteriorate everytime you save them. They were never intended for permanent storage but rather for viewing on a computer monitor or sending by e-mail. Its compression also renders less desirable prints. TIFF is a permanent file and does not deteriorate. It also is the format of choice for printing. Of course it is a much larger file and not suitable for posting on the Web or e-mailing.

RAW is a different critter altogether. It's big negative is file size. My 8.5 megapixel camera pukes out 25 meg files in RAW. They are just frickin huge and have necessitated buying an external hard drive for storage. With the advent of USB2 connection though, that is a minor problem and external hard dtives are pretty cheap. My 200 gig hard drive cost about $130.

RAW is just what it sounds like, it is all the raw data that the camera received when you took the picture. This allows you to make the choices in the convenience of your computer that you would normally make on the fly in the field. The big issues, for me, are white balance, tone, contrast etc. All that can be done easily from RAW at home where you are more or less locked in when shooting JPEG, not to mention the lost data in JPEG due to compression. There is no way a 2.5 (or smaller) megapixel image has the info a 25 meg image does.

When the RAW processing is done, I save the image as a TIFF which is a much smaller file. When satisfied, I can delete the RAW file... but have not done so as yet. It's like throwing out one of your children!

Now,as to Lightroom.

First, it is MUCH cheaper than PS CS. Just now you can get it for $200 as opposed to $600 for PS. Secondly, for workflow, it is WAY simpler and better organized than PS and is aimed at the photographer and his needs as opposed to the publisher, or occasional reporter screwing with war photographs trying to make the military look bad. I was a beta tester for Lightroom and just could not be more impressed.

Lightroom is a bit of a memory hog. I have 1 gig of RAM and it works fine. But, if you have a bunch of stuff auto-running on startup, 1 gig might not get the job done. When converting JPEGs to TIFFs I did start having memory problems after about an hour or so. But how often are you doing something like that? Normally I'm just working on fewer than 100 images after a shoot, and I have never had a problem.

Well, there are my answers for Paul.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Thanks, John. I would encourage you to read this article for a different point of view:

I used to shoot raw, but then after not being able to tell any difference in a print that originated as raw vs. one that originated as JPEG, I quickly dropped the raw. All theory aside, JPEG delivers equivalent quality for prints up to about 30x40 " prints. The largest that I've had printed from a JPG is 16x20 and it was flawless. Anything about that is just a waste of time for me and all mathematical theory. :-)

Regarding, the deterioration of the JPG: It is true that JPG is a lossy storage algorithm; however, in my workflow, the JPG is the original and is never written. Opening the file has no affect on it. Any file that want to change is saved as a .PSD file and then subsequent copies are made and saved as JPGs of various sizes.

I know that this is a big 'religious' war with people on both sides believing what they are saying. My approach works for me and is more practical for me. I can have beautiful prints from JPGs, put so many more of them on the disk, copy them to the disk much faster, and have overall less hassle.

Finally, regarding the ability to adjust colors, etc. I can do everything that I need to in JPG. My job is to get it right the first time. :-)

So, anyway, that's why I use JPG, because I see absolutely, positively, no reason to use raw. It offers no advantage, from my point of view.

"Steps off of soapbox"

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