The Future of Photography is Unedited

Bench with a View – Prefumo Canyon, CA – Fujifilm X-E4Pacific Blues Recipeunedited

Photography is moving in a clear direction, and it is unedited. Let me explain.

There’s a new photography trend on the iPhone. Instead of using the front-facing camera to take selfies, people are taking screen shots of the preview from the selfie camera. Why? What’s the difference? The pipeline for the image preview and the actual photographs are different on the iPhone. Most notably, Apple applies an HDR processing to the exposure (but not the preview), which creates a less-contrasty picture. If you are going to apply a filter to the photo and edit it, having a flatter starting point makes sense; however, if you are not editing, one might prefer the more-contrasty image preview. Aside from that, it can be frustrating that the preview doesn’t match the photograph.

My RitchieCam iPhone camera app uses the same pipeline for both the image processing and the preview, so it doesn’t have this issue. The preview you see will be the picture you get. No need to screenshot, which produces a much-lower resolution image. Those using my camera app (instead of the native iPhone app) won’t need to go through the hassle of the screen shot (plus cropping out the non-image part); instead, they’ll have better quality pictures with an analog-inspired aesthetic to post to social media.

Photo by Amanda Roesch – iPhone 13 Pro – RitchieCam App – Standard Film filter – unedited

Of course, we’re not talking about photographers here, but snap-shooters, as I doubt that anyone who would self-identify as a photographer is taking screenshots instead of using the camera. It shouldn’t be surprising that they’re uninterested in picture manipulation, and just want good results without fuss. Maybe they don’t know how to edit pictures, and the idea of doing so is very intimidating, so they have no interest in learning. It could be that they don’t want to spend their time with picture editing, and just want to share (either through text or social media) their snaps quickly—the easier the better, but the pictures still need to look decent. Others don’t edit because doing so seems less authentic; Photoshop is a bad word, and picture-manipulation equals people-manipulation. Let’s not forget that the vast majority of photos captured across the world are by amateurs, so their opinions, preferences, and trends do matter.

For the advanced-hobbyist or professional, surely photo manipulation is a requirement, right? There’s a growing movement towards reduced (or even eliminated) photo editing. First, the less time spent sitting at a computer equals more production and/or more time with friends and family. For a lot of people, for every hour out with a camera photographing means two hours in Lightroom or Capture One fiddling with the RAW files; if those two hours can be reduced by 50% or more (especially more), that’s a huge win! Second, shooting camera-made JPEGs affords the advantage of knowing exactly what you’re going to get before even pressing the shutter. Don’t like what you see? Simply make a few quick adjustments until you do, then take the picture. Not having to pre-visualize in your mind the finished photo, but seeing it right there in the viewfinder in real time, is a game-changer for many. Third, getting great (often analog-like) results straight-out-of-camera can be a much more fun photographic process, especially if you don’t enjoy sitting for hours at a computer post-processing pictures.

I used to shoot RAW and edit, but thanks to Fujifilm cameras and Film Simulation Recipes, I now use unedited (or sometimes lightly-edited) camera-made JPEGs. I will crop or straighten when needed, which is the majority of my post-processing; occasionally I will adjust the brightness a notch, but very rarely do I manipulate any further than that. Most of my pictures are unedited, even to a strict definition. This has changed my life, no hyperbole! My post workflow takes minutes instead of hours, which has made me a much more productive photographer while simultaneously improving home-life, because I can now spend more time with my wife and kids. That’s amazing!

Pacific Poppies – Montaña de Oro SP, CA – Fujifilm X-E4 – Pacific Blues – unedited

For example, on a recent trip to the California coast, during the downtimes—such as while at lunch, as a passenger in a car, or at night before bed—I transferred the JPEGs from my cameras to my phone, cropped if needed, and uploaded to cloud storage. A few minutes here and there meant that, by the time I got home, my workflow was essentially already complete. For most photographers, once back home the work would just be getting started, with many hours sitting at a computer.

But, but, but… surely the unedited camera-made JPEGs are not good enough for serious photography, right? You couldn’t do true professional work like this, could you? You can’t print very large and still look stunning, can you? Actually, yes—you can! I know because several successful professional photographers have told me that this is how they now do their paid work. You’d be surprised by just how many are doing some or even all of their pro photo work completely unedited or just lightly edited.

It’s not just photographers who benefit from a simplified workflow, but clients. Because of social media, people often desire to have a quick turnaround on their professional photographs. The newlywed couple doesn’t want to wait two weeks for the wedding pictures to be done, and in fact their parents wished for them that very day! If you can deliver the images quickly, you have a clear advantage over your competition.

Dave Wyman using RitchieCam – Montaña de Oro SP, CA – Fujifilm X100VSuperia Premium 400 Recipeunedited

In fact, Fujifilm X-Photographer Nathalie Boucry told me about two recent corporate events where the client wanted the photos as the event was happening! Periodically, every so many minutes throughout the day, she would download the straight-out-of-camera images from her camera to her phone, then upload them to a cloud location that the client had access to. As the event was happening, they were able to share the pictures to their social media accounts. Delivering real-time results to the client is going to be the future of event photography. Nathalie was able to do this thanks to the Film Simulation Recipes that she had programmed into her Fujifilm cameras.

Whether it is professional, hobby, or snap-shooting, photography is slowly and stubbornly moving towards less editing. It is easier and quicker and more fun, the disadvantages of it are disappearing, and the stigmatization is dissipating. More and more, people want great results without fuss. Editing is no longer a requirement, especially if you have gear that will deliver solid out-of-camera pictures, such as Fujifilm cameras or the RitchieCam app.

The next battle will be AI. Technology allows one to simulate a photograph with a string of words, or add to an image what wasn’t there—all with a similar ease to shooting camera-made JPEGs. It will come down to authenticity. I believe that as tech pushes us towards an augmented or even fully artificial reality, society will push back with an equal and opposite force towards the genuine. People will generally prefer authenticity over artificial, but it will be a divide. Camera makers should carefully consider how to move forward through all of this, and how they can improve their straight-out-of-camera experience. Fujifilm has a clear advantage, which materialized in the recent explosion in demand for the X100V. A simplified workflow with less editing or even no editing is the future of photography, and the future is now.


  1. Wilf · July 7

    Thank you for your comments on shooting JPEGs & your tweaks.Looks like my style twins yours, so now I can relax a bit knowing the RAW possee can slow down a bit. When I first got into Fuji a few years ago it seemed to be a mortal sin by many for not shooting in RAW. Probably why I keep a low profile on Fuji forums too.

    • Ritchie Roesch · July 8

      It used to be that JPEGs were generally mediocre (or worse) across all brands… 15-20+ years ago. If you were even remotely serious back then, RAW was indeed necessary. Times have changed dramatically, but there are still all of these gatekeepers stubbornly holding on to outdated beliefs. It’s a shame. I’ve been told that I’m personally doing so much harm to the photography community by suggesting that RAW isn’t necessary. Crazy, right?! 🤣 😀

      • Wilf · July 8

        Have people look up the famed British photographer Martin Parr.All Jpeg shooter, photos in world renown galleries…….

      • Ritchie Roesch · July 8

        I’m not familiar with his digital work, only his film photographs from ’70’s-’90’s. I’ll have to look it up, thanks for the tip!

  2. lu · July 8

    Having spent HOURS of my life poring over images in Lightroom and Photoshop in the mid 00’s, I can confidently say (lol) Fujifilm’s simulations changed my entire workflow. Now, the most I use is a small crop or brighten – everything else is already SOOC. It’s incredible. I often wish I’d known about Fujifilm a decade earlier!

    • Ritchie Roesch · July 8

      I agree! I was interested in Fujifilm when the original X100, X-Pro1, and X-E1 were released, but didn’t jump into the system until years later. In hindsight, I wish I had taken the bait way back then, but sometimes things work out the way they’re supposed to, so it’s all ok. Thanks for the comment!

  3. I agree with you, I think many people would prefer authentic pictures over IA manipulated pictures.

    Also, we need your app on Android 🥰

  4. fredric h dimmer · July 9

    The skill and enjoyment composing and adjusting aperture, shutterspeed and fujifilm simulations with a manual lens on a camera like xe4, is something that even AI won’t replace

  5. D. Bell · July 9

    Do whatever makes you (or your customers) happy, but arguing that SOOC jpegs aren’t “manipulated” or “edited” is somewhat disingenuous. We know how the process works; you’re just applying post-capture RAW-processing decisions using the camera’s computer and software, instead of using different software on a different computer. Whether or not you keep the RAW file around when you’re done is also a choice: storage is now so cheap, there’s no practical reason why you can’t keep both the camera-generated JPEGs and the RAW files. I do, and I often shoot hundreds of frames a day. RAW workflows aren’t the ponderous slog they used to be, either (including applying any recipe or film simulation that you could in-camera). Of course, if the JPEG is adequate, the RAW file can just serve as insurance.

    AI is going to create a crisis of legitimacy for photography in general. Will clients or an artistic community see “value” in a digital file that is less-manipulated (I strongly suspect advertisers won’t care)? How will we define what is or isn’t “manipulated” by AI tools? How will we prove it? Will this create a resurgence in commercial opportunities for people using analog methods? Perhaps some cryptographic means of authenticating digital images (and changes to them) will be developed?

    As a fine art photographer, none of this affects me very much (my audience really doesn’t care what methods or equipment I use), but it’ll definitely be a concern to photojournalists, event photographers, etc. I would think it should be of utmost important to the legal system…

    • Ritchie Roesch · July 10

      Well, that’s a pretty strict definition. No picture ever captured or ever will be captured, whether film or digital, can ever be unedited, with your statement. My definition (and I think that of most people) of unedited, is not any editing after capture. In other words, no post-capture processing. I include small crops and straightening (when necessary) in my definition of unedited, but I understand that not everyone will agree with that. However, more important than the definition of “unedited” is the real-world experience of having a finished picture without sitting at a computer fiddling with files. That’s what we’re really talking about.

      While I do shoot RAW+JPEG (because it makes creating Recipes much easier), the RAWs never leave my camera, nor do I keep them for very long. If I kept them, that ends up being a lot of storage to just collect digital dust, and eventually lost to time. I have thousands and thousands of never-edited RAW files on an old laptop that’s been sitting in a closet unused for at least five years. I’ll never do anything with them.

      I will also argue that no RAW workflow will ever be nor can be as quick as a SOOC JPEG workflow, no matter how quick you or the software is with RAW processing. I’m sure, though, it is faster than it used to be.

      With all that said, what matters most is whatever works for the photographer. There’s no right or wrong way to do things, only what works best for the photographer, which will be different for each person. If you have a system that works for you, that’s great!

  6. JR · July 10

    I love post processing raw images in Lightroom, Photoshop and Capture One as much as I loved working in the darkroom. Now without the dark and the chemicals. Don’t find it at all to be a waste of time. When using my x100V I shoot raw and sometimes fool around applying different recipes using XRaw

    • Ritchie Roesch · July 10

      I think the chemical smell was my favorite part of the darkroom.

      To me, the darkroom was a dance. Shaking canisters. Dodging/burning. Moving from tray-to-tray to see the image “magically” appear on the paper. The darkroom dance was a physical process similar to an artist placing paint on canvas, except more movement.

      The digital equivalent feels more like working in an office cubicle.

      There’s no right or wrong way to do photography, only what works for each person, and each person is different.

  7. Colin · July 11

    Hey Ritchie, long-time listener, first-time caller.

    I only started really getting into photography once I got my X-E4 this year, and the very first thing I did once I got it was pull up this very site and plug in a bunch of recipes for films I’ve never even heard of, let alone shot.

    Shooting JPEG with your recipes actually led me into editing the photos afterwards as well. I didn’t know to adjust the white balance on Portra 400 v2 for indoor artificial light, so I learned to manage yellows and magenta; I learned how sharpening, vignetting, and clarity worked by trying to adjust these parameters on the photos I had taken to further emulate certain looks.

    It made me feel like I was in my own little darkroom, messing around with vibrance and saturation and highlights/shadows, as opposed to my first attempt at editing RAW, which was a few years ago and felt so clinical and not artistic.

    All that to say, I think unedited is definitely a move and a direction that a lot of art is going in these days. But I’m sure I’m not the only one to feel that getting good results SOOC is also an amazing way to segue into editing and post-processing, because it’s definitely more encouraging than starting with RAW and working from scratch to get your desired result.

    Regarding AI, I wonder if one day, we’ll need to add something similar to a Captcha to the EXIF data in each photo taken by a human so as to verify its authenticity. So strange to think about.

    Thanks for doing what you do with this site. Without FXW (and DPR, of course), I don’t think I’d have ever learned to take a decent photo.

    • Ritchie Roesch · July 12

      I’ve definitely shot my fair share of RAW over the years. There’s no right or wrong way, or any particular path that anyone must follow. It’s all about finding what works for you. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that Recipes have been a step from digital to film, and also film to digital. I’m just happy to be helpful. Thanks for the comment!

  8. davepatphoto · July 15

    I mostly subscribe to this. Two-thirds of my photography is unedited (I don’t count cropping) or mildly edited (+/- brightness, etc.). These would be film scans from my Nikon FM, or jpegs from my X100T. The last third would be shots taken with my Nikon Z fc. For that I shoot RAW+jpeg. These are landscape or night sky shots (the latter typically requires the most editing). But often enough, the landscape jpegs are good enough for me. So it’s probably more like 85% unedited.

    • Ritchie Roesch · July 17

      Imagine if (for example) Nikon teamed up with (say) Alien Skin and had (like) 50 of their film-like filters from Exposure built into their cameras. Something like that would be a huge! I’m a little surprised it hasn’t already happened.

      • davepatphoto · July 17

        I have tried out some of the built-in Nikon sims, some from nikonpc, as well as some of the “moody” sims for Nikon Z fc you wrote about in another article, and have been enjoying the results. Appreciate all your work in this area!

      • Ritchie Roesch · July 19

        You are welcome!

  9. Lisa · 22 Days Ago

    As a pastime, I upload images to the internet, hoping that others would like them and, more importantly, recognize the expertise, discretion, and hard work that went into making them. As the use of AI to create images grows more commonplace, I fear that this will become increasingly difficult, if not impossible.

    • Ritchie Roesch · 21 Days Ago

      AI will definitely oversaturate the world with images, which will make it more difficult to get noticed on a crowded field.

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