In reviewing tonight’s photos in Picasa (which is where I load my photos because it is fast and I can quickly cull and metatag), I was struck by an interesting juxtaposition of a couple of the thumbnails, which nicely illustrate my thoughts on two big issues in the perennial jpeg vs raw debate.
I need to refer you back to when I first noticed significant differences in how they are displayed (in picasa). This is because after a while Picasa tries to give the best exposure to the RAW data (at first it just use the small jpeg embedded in the RAW file, which will match visually what the Jpeg from the camera looks like at thumbnail scale) it inevitably ends up with a fairly boring average look. Lightroom avoids this comparison because when you have a Jpeg & RAW pair it only displays the RAW version. How and when it tries its best on the rendering of the raw file depends on your load settings (I’ll leave the details on that for another post) but it will also pretty enviably gives you the bland average version. THUS it is my conclusion that RAW files always need at least a bit of post processing (usually just a small amount of colour and/or tonal tweaking). Whereas the Jpeg render follows my camera settings (which give me extra saturation and contrast because I prefer it that way). SO if you just want to post to the net, such as sharing on a social network WHY NOT just play round with your camera settings and just take Jpeg photos (they are smaller).
If you don’t mind (and enjoy) the time taken to do this post processing the RAW file will give you much more opportunity to enhance the image.
A big advantage of RAW files comes when your photo hasn’t turned out well (such as the BADLY UNDEREXPOSURED shown above). In this case you will be able to salvage an image (albeit a noisy one) from the extra detail in the RAW files. A more pragmatic approach is rather than relying on the RAW file just take another (better exposed) photo.
The RAW files are significantly bigger than the equivalent Jpeg so if you are like me and want an each way bet, expect to chew up your disk space quickly.