The advantages of shooting in JPEG.

One of the first things we hear, when we start to get serious about our photography, is that it is essential that we use the .raw format since it has many advantages when it comes to processing our images: Versatility, noise reduction, unsharp mask etc. And it is true, it is normally advisable to photograph in .raw because we are able to keep all the file information. So why wouldn’t we use it?

It is undoubtedly one of the advantages of digital photography. However (and this is an opinion) it has made us lazy when it comes to our photographic technique. Selecting the type of metering that interests us the most and exposing the photo correctly from the get go has become less important because we know we can count on Lightroom or any other processing program to  recover highlights/shadows and make any necessary corrections from the comforts of our home.

What’s more, we often fall into the ‘dynamic range trap’. Because we have so much information, we tend to want to use it all, though sometimes it is simply not necessary. This leads to an issue that many people have which is a lack of understanding of the quality of the light that we are capturing.

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Kathmandu, Nepal. Fujifilm X100F, Jpeg directly out of camera.

One of the things that I always recommend my students is to study the great masters of photography. In fact, many photographers look for inspiration in names like Alex Webb, David Alan Harvey, Constantine Manos… and in addition to their mastery in composing or capturing decisive moments, these photographers are also masters of light.

By now you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with JPEG? Well, here’s the thing, many of the photographers that we admire used to use slide film, (Kodachrome, Velvia etc…) and that type of film had almost no latitude. You either nailed the exposure or you didn’t have your photograph. Talent aside, this meant that they all had to have a very good understanding of light and make the most of the shadows when taking photographs.

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Viñales, Cuba. Fujifilm X100F, Jpeg directly out of camera.

Nowadays the closest thing to photographing with slides (obvious differences aside) would be to shoot in JPEG which, like the great masters, will force us to pay more attention to what we are shooting and the light that we are capturing.

Moreover, modern cameras allow us to “mess around” with our settings to give more contrast, change the white balance (to give our photos a warmer or colder tone depending on the situation or our personal taste) and several other things to adapt our JPG’s so that we do not have to renounce our style, with one major added advantage: you’ll spend less time processing on the computer and have more time to be out on the streets photographing!

I’m not saying you have to switch to JPEG forever, especially if you’re working on an important job or project, but every now and then, as an exercise, jump into it without looking back for a few days to see what happens. You will realise sooner rather than later how you see the light in a different way.

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