I don’t shoot RAW with my Fujifilm X100F. I rely on camera-made JPEGs.
Wait! Don’t click the X in the corner! Let me explain.
Those who shoot JPEGs have been unfairly stigmatized. It’s kind of crazy. You will find on message boards, social media posts, and in the comment section of websites this argument that RAW is for pros and JPEG is for amateurs.
And it’s not true. Or not completely true. But it’s touted as if it’s common knowledge.
There are many professional photographers who don’t use RAW. Perhaps they don’t have time to mess with it (constantly off to new assignments or their photos are needed immediately). Maybe their clients demand straight-out-of-camera JPEGs (think photojournalists). Or they simply like the look of their camera-made JPEGs (mostly, this is Fujifilm users). Whatever the reason, there are many pros that prefer JPEGs over RAW. No, really, this is a fact.
And vice versa. There are plenty of amateurs that shoot RAW because someone on the internet said that they should. They don’t know what they’re doing or why, but they’re doing it anyway because they don’t want to be thought of as amateurish.
So if professional photographers are using JPEG and amateurs are using RAW, what does this do for that argument that RAW is for pros and JPEG is for amateurs? It shows that it is poppycock–empty words by people who try to make themselves seem superior.
“But, really, you should learn how to use RAW,” someone is saying in their heads right now. If that’s you, here is something you should know: I’ve been shooting and editing RAW files for a decade. I’ve shot tens of thousands of RAW exposures. I know all about RAW. I might even have more experience with it than you. So stop.
It’s ridiculous that I have to qualify this before I even begin to type the rest of this article. But if I don’t, everything else that I want to say will be dismissed. People will tune out.
Digital FilmIt’s been well known for several years now that Fujifilm has the best JPEG engine in the business. Yes, Canon and Nikon both make good JPEGs, but there is just something about those from Fujifilm cameras–that Fujifilm look!
With the X100F, Fujifilm has elevated the camera-made JPEG to a whole new level. They made several significant improvements. They added a new monochrome setting and film grain. This is a big deal!
Before I get ahead of myself, I want to talk a little about how Fujifilm rethought the whole camera-made JPEG concept. They approached it differently, and it shows in the results.
You are probably well aware that Fujifilm was a popular film manufacturer well before digital photography was big. They still make film. The soul of the company is analog film photography.
Fujifilm took their knowledge and experience with film and applied it to their digital cameras. They designed and programmed that analog soul into their modern cameras.Instead of traditional JPEG settings, Fujifilm made Film Simulations, which mimic the look of different 35mm films. My favorites are Acros and Classic Chrome. They even have fake (yet convincing) film grain as an option. They tried to make their JPEGs look less digital and more film-like.
You can see this in how they process digital noise. It looks completely different on Fujifilm cameras. They did their best to make the noise look less digital and more organic, more like film grain.
Fujifilm also came up a neat little trick for maximizing dynamic range. Basically, the camera underexposes to prevent clipped highlights, then increases the shadows and midtones to the appropriate level. It’s very seamless, but the results are far superior to the narrow dynamic range found on typical camera-made JPEGs.
Because of things like that, Fujifilm JPEGs are better than everyone else’s. I call it Digital Film.
RAW Because You Have ToLet’s face it, the reason that almost everyone who shoots RAW does so is because they have to, and not because they want to. Their cameras make JPEGs that aren’t good enough. If their JPEGs didn’t stink so bad, they’d certainly rely on them. But since they aren’t reliable, people choose RAW format instead.
But camera-made JPEGs don’t have to stink. Your camera could be programmed in such a way that the strait-out-of-camera JPEGs look like how you would make them look if you shot RAW and post-processed them on your computer. The technology exists. Camera makers just haven’t included it in their products.
If the JPEGs produced by your camera matched the look of your post-processed RAW files, why would you continue to shoot RAW? Why wouldn’t you save a whole ton of time and money and shoot JPEG instead?
The Fujifilm X100F is the first camera that I have ever used that I feel produces JPEGs that match how I would edit my RAW files. It creates in-camera the look that I want. That’s why I don’t shoot RAW. That’s why I am now a JPEG only guy.
ConsistencyWhen I shot film (I still do occasionally), and I shot a lot of it, I had my go-to options. I used Velvia 50, Ektachrome 100VS and 100SW, and Kodachrome 25 and 64 for color. I used Ilford Delta 100 and 400 for black and white. I used plenty of other films over the years, but those were my main options.
When you shot film, you exposed a whole roll of it, typically 24 or 36 exposures. All of the images you captured had a consistent look because they were captured using the same film. When you embarked on a project, you used the same film for the entirety of that project.
Even thinking long term, my images had a consistent look because most were captured with one of a handful of different films. Over the course of years, even decades, there was a uniformity to the look of my pictures.That’s a lot harder to accomplish digitally because there are so many options and ways to customize each image. For example, Alien Skin Exposure X2 has over 500 one-click presets that can be heavily customized. With so many choices, it takes some serious discipline and restraint to stick with just a few. Creating and applying an undeviating style to your RAW workflow is something that’s rarely realized.
I think it’s better to have a consistent look that you can easily recognize. Especially within projects. It shouldn’t be all over the place. It looks incoherent if its inconsistent.
By shooting JPEG and relying on the Film Simulations found in the X100F, I can get back to the consistent look that I achieved as a film shooter. I have a few custom recipes that I use, and because of that there is a uniformity that my pictures lacked for a long time.
AuthenticityThere’s been a lot of controversy lately with photographer’s use of Photoshop. Some very big names have shown up in the news. There’s been many debates on how much editing is too much. It’s all subjective, and so the line will always remain grey. Besides, people have been manipulating pictures since the early days of photography.
But there is a point when a photograph loses its authenticity. Its not hard to move from photography into graphic design or digital artistry. Photography is less believable now than it used to be.
I get asked often, “Is that how it really looked? How much did you Photoshop this?” People look at photography as a mix of reality and fantasy. They don’t take it at face value anymore. It lacks truth, it lacks authenticity.It’s like the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I think people are tired of being fooled and tricked by pictures that have been heavily manipulated.
Many news outlets have begun requiring that only straight-out-of-camera JPEGs be submitted. There have been too many examples where some photograph in a big story turned out to be significantly edited. Now many news outlets want only what the camera captured, no manipulation please! This is to save the integrity of the genre, which has lost significant credibility.
Shooting JPEGs allows you to answer, “This is how the camera captured it. I didn’t use Photoshop or any other software. This is straight from the camera unedited.” This isn’t for bragging rights. There is value in creating authentic pictures, and this is becoming more true every day.
ConclusionSeveral weeks ago I was asked to photograph for someone, and he needed the pictures immediately. He paid me a higher premium for this service. I made my exposures and, using the screen on the back of my X100F, deleted the ones that weren’t good. After I was finished I uploaded the pictures directly to his laptop. From the moment that I arrived to the delivery of the finished pictures was about an hour–photoshoot completely finished and check in my hand.
As I was driving away, I thought that this is how it should be every time. In the past I would have spent a day post-processing the pictures. But since the straight-out-of-camera JPEGs look so darn good, I felt more than comfortable delivering them to the client unedited. And this person contacted me twice afterwards to tell me just how pleased he was with the pictures. “They were perfect,” he said.
I save so much time and money by not shooting RAW. There are plenty of good reasons to choose JPEG instead, all of which I laid out above. All of the photographs in this article that were captured using the X100F are straight-out-of-camera JPEGs. I just wish that there wasn’t such a stigmatic attitude towards it. But times are changing, and technology is advancing, and I think that the lowly camera-made JPEG will see new life in the upcoming years.