I first started shooting in RAW a little over a year ago, mostly because I should. What was understood in theory, however, took time to be grasped in reality.

At first, Lightroom stacked the JPG and RAW files on top of each other. The JPG (which is what you see on the back of your camera) is what I saw when initially viewing the image in Lightroom. Seconds later it looked like it had been whacked with an uglify filter: the RAW file was “showing.”

I was horrified. Why was I shooting RAW when it looked so icky?

Once I learned how to separate the two files (this is one of many areas where I am thankful for the guidance of Alan Hess, a generous and invaluable friend), my instinct was to still edit the JPG. Its starting point usually looked closer to the end result I sought, plus it was familiar ground after shooting in JPG only for so long.

(If your RAW files are being stacked upon import in Lightroom, go to Lightroom> Preferences> General tab, and check the box that says “Treat JPEG files next to RAW files as separate photos.”)

I usually apply one of Matt Kloskowski’s Nikon Auto Enhance Presets when importing RAW files, which dispels some of the initial blahs and gets me to a better starting point. Most images need increased exposure and contrast (lovin’ that new Lightroom tone curve, too).

There’s just so much more data to work with in the RAW file. While I always grasped that in theory, time has proven the benefit and the need of it, like this past weekend in Hilton Head.

Photography on the beach is a tricky thing! Shooting wide open, which is my norm, results in blown out photos. I’ve heard to dial down your exposure compensation for snow, but maybe it’s a good idea for sun and sand, too. 🙂

As you can see in this unedited (except for that Auto Enhance import preset) photo of Holley and Stephanie, the JPG has almost no detail (ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/250th of a second, if you’re interested).

In the RAW, however, it’s there: sand, water, sky. That file has so many more possibilities.

I’m shooting RAW + JPG, which eats up a lot of memory on my external drives. For photos that will only be used in a blog post, the JPG is often just right and I’ll use it as-is or with minor tweaks. If I’m really going after a file though, it almost always occurs with the RAW image now.

What about you? Do you shoot JPG? RAW? Both?

(or are you saying, “What is she talking about?” which I totally get, too) 😉

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