I’v been having the Fuji RAW v JPEG discussion with people ever since I first picked up the original Fuji X100 around four or five years ago.

Whilst the original incarnation of the X100 needed a little refinement in terms of AF and handling, the one thing that immediately captured my attention was the JPEGs that the camera produced.

Initially, I shot everything in RAW, and yet I could see these glorious technicolour previews in the viewfinder, or the deep lush monochrome images.  When I’d bring those images into Lightroom, it would tantalisingly, and very briefly, show me those previews before cruelly ripping them away and revealing the core components of the RAW file.

had a long-standing love/hate relationship with JPEG files from my Canon days.  As you may know, I’m predominately a wedding photographer and as such, workflow and time management are critical.

I’d chosen to shoot RAW+JPEG with my Canon system partly as a backup mechanism, but mostly because I really wanted the camera to do as much of the processing for me as possible.  The Canon system was close, and using its Camera Faithful profiles I at least had a good baseline for my JPEGs.  But they always still needed editing and then, apart from it being a case of speed (storage, download time etc), I may as well have simply used the RAW files.

I’m a huge believer in the fact that a camera is a tool.  If the camera can do something for me, I will allow it.

For example, I mostly shoot in “auto” mode, and I pretty much always shoot in JPEG.

Here is a little story….its true, but I’m telling you it with an element of humour as of course each user of a camera is different:

I was once at a convention and in those days I had a Canon 1DX (great camera it was too).  I was chatting to another 1DX user and we decided to compare the way our cameras were set up.

The other guy was shocked when he realised I had my camera set to “P” mode, spot metering and to shoot JPEG.

“That’s a five thousand pound camera” he said. And he was shocked.  “How can you not use all the great features?” he continued.

I looked at his camera, which was set up in fully manual, RAW to both cards, matrix metering and he had some kind of L bracket thing with a large flash unit attached.

“That’s a five thousand pound camera” I said.  “How can you spend all that money on something and not trust it to do the very thing it’s meant to do?” I continued.

Of course, that’s a little tongue-in-cheek (though its a true story), I’m very much aware that each camera can be used in very different ways.

I choose to allow the camera to do as much as possible for me, so my role is one of observer, not camera operator.

Part of that working framework for me, is to allow the camera to “process the images”.  By that, I mean, shoot in JPEG.

Its important for me to point out, as you will see in the screen cast, that this is just my preference of course.  I fully understand the reasons why people choose to shoot RAW, and I’m not here to persuade you not to do that.  I’m here to show you how I deal with the situation and processing.  

As far as I’m concerned there is no right or wrong answer to the RAW v JPEG question.

I’ve decided to do a screen cast which demonstrates the way I approach JPEG and RAW shooting.  The screen-cast below will show how I edit both and the benefits to me of shooting JPEG when shooting a large transaction of images.

You might want to turn the sound up a little, and hit Full Screen for the Screen-cast below:

In Summary ~ Main arguments in the Fuji RAW v JPEG debate:

For Jpegs

  • A much quicker in camera operation if you use CH or CL
  • A quicker (though this is partly only relevant if time is an issue) card to computer download
  • A hugely quicker Lightroom experience in terms of rendering images.
  • Editing (assuming you are happy with the JPEG) is greatly sped up

For RAW

  • Greater latitude for exposure correction
  • Lossless editing (also possible with JPEG)
  • Greater opportunity for image retouching

As mentioned above, and in the screen-cast, there are going to be many situations where only RAW will do, and really, as I shoot weddings and street photography I often have a large amount of images to edit in one go.

I’ve fallen in love with the Classic Chrome colour film simulation in the newer Fujifilm cameras.  I’m also a great fan of the Black & White + R(ed) simulation.

These are personal choices.  I like punchy, deep shadows and images that have bite and that is why I’m drawn to those film simulations.

My Fuji X-Series JPEG Settings

Every single one of my cameras, with the exception of my original X100 are set up the same.

Colour JPEG Setting for Fujifilm X-Series

I use the Classic Chrome film simulation without exception.  I like the idea of uniformity in my images, which is part of the reason I’ve adopted this film simulation.  I really do love the way the images are rendered in the camera though.

Whilst the Classic Chrome film simulation is a “little” retro, it’s not over done, and it certainly has an emphasis on the deep shadows that I like in an image.

  • Colour +2
  • Highlights -1
  • Shadows +2
  • Sharpness +2
  • Dynamic Range (Auto)
  • White Balance (Auto)
  • Noise Reduction -2

Black and White JPEG Setting for Fujifilm X-Series

For the same reason I use the Chrome simulation, I use the B&W+R film simulation for all my monochrome work.  Again, I like the paunchiness of the image and often I’m asked about the “punch” in my monochrome images.  The B&W +R film simulation, along with the settings below give me that punch.

  • Highlights -1
  • Shadows +2
  • Sharpness +2
  • Dynamic Range (Auto)
  • White Balance (Auto)
  • Noise Reduction -2

A note on the JPEG settings

  • Highlights:  I have this set to -1 as I want the camera to keep a relatively decent amount of detail in the highlights.  Because we have the EVF in the cameras, there isn’t really any excuse for shooting a poor exposure (OVF users admonished D-) ).
  • Shadows:  This is set to +2 as I want to keep those dark areas punchy.  I tend to underexpose slightly (and I use spot metering a lot), so I end up with some really deep black areas to the image.  Just as I like it.  I rarely find myself burning areas in these JPEGs as the camera has done a fine job of the overall exposure.
  • Sharpness:  I don’t use any post production sharpness.  My album producers may sharpens slightly, but for me, when shooting JPEG, I want the camera to keep the image as sharp as possible.  Less work for me afterwards.

Printing JPEG’s

I’m asked this a lot; what about printing Fuji JPEGs large?

It’s a very valid question as traditionally JPEGs haven’t held up well to large format printing.

If I were shooting a billboard campaign, then I’d be shooting in RAW.  However, I’m shooting wedding and social documentary images and I’ve never had any issue with print size.

Fujifilm have printed my images (from JPEGs) at two meters wide for conventions and I have an image on my wall in my studio that is a four foot wide print from a JPEG.

 

As ever, please feel free to leave comments below and I will get back to you.

This post isn’t meant to be about telling you how to shoot, rather telling you about how I shoot.  There are many ways to skin a cat as they say.

  • (Tuesday morning, sat in my studio in Malmesbury listening to Street Focus podcast with Valerie Jardin)