Two Things Some Photographers Do That Make Me Shake My Head

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By Steve Russell

While we strive to write informative and helpful articles designed to teach or make you think, from time to time we, like most other people, want to rant a little so today it’s my turn to rant. These are things that I’ve either observed, read or heard. Most of the times I just shake my head and forget it, but these things keep being repeated.

Always shooting in “P” mode with a DSLR – A new DSLR with a kit lens can cost over $800. A really good new Point & Shoot camera costs around $200 or less. Why spend $800 and always shoot in point & shoot mode? Actually “P” stands for Program mode but I call it P&S. I actually asked that question once and the answer was because the DSLR takes better pictures. I answered okay, and walked away shaking my head. Of course, as a reader of Beyond Megapixels you know that there are some really good photos taken with P&S cameras as I featured in my post It’s Not Just The Camera.

Yes, I know I can take a better photo with a Nikon D3Sthan I can with a Nikon COOLPIX L24 because there’s so much more I can do with the DSLR. But, why would I pay over $5,000 for a camera and shoot in “P”?

I’m not talking about someone that just purchased their first DSLR last week. I understand that all the settings and dials and buttons on today’s DSLRs can be very intimidating. But hopefully the ultimate goal is to never shoot in the “P” mode.

Always shooting only in jpeg with a DSLR – I know there are times when shooting jpeg is the right answer but always is the operative word here. I know people who only shoot jpeg. When you shoot jpeg you will have a jpeg image. You will always have a jpeg image. A P&S camera shoots in jpeg. A DSLR shoots in RAW and/or jpeg. With a few exceptions, I even question shooting in dual mode (jpeg and RAW).

When you capture an image in RAW the camera captures all the information the camera is capable of capturing and saves it in a single file. So long as you don’t delete or save over the original file you will always have the raw data (pun intended) of the photograph you captured.

You can manipulate it with post-processing software all you want and save it in any format the software will allow. You can save it as a jpeg and you’ll have a jpeg file and still have the RAW file. This is really important stuff. As long as you have that RAW file, you can play with the image in Photoshop or other software to your heart’s content. If you want a different effect, open the RAW file and do something different to it.

If you shoot in jpeg, you will have a jpeg file. A RAW file contains approximately 25 megabytes of data. A jpeg taken with the camera has less than half that amount. What happened to the rest of it? The camera compressed the data when it saved in jpeg format and the rest is gone forever. Then if you open the jpeg file, manipulate to where you want it and then save it again, the file is compressed again and it’s smaller.

Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of jpeg files, but I made them myself by opening the RAW file and then saving it in jpeg format.

I have heard people say that jpeg files are much smaller and don’t require as much memory. An 8 gigabyte, 60 megabyte per second compact flash card is less than $40. At roughly 25 megabytes per photo an 8 gig CF card will hold approximately 320 RAW images. Over time, get three or four of them, download your images each day and you won’t have to worry about how much memory is required to shoot in RAW.

Photography is a great hobby, avocation, vocation or whatever it is to you. It is an endeavor where there is always room for improvement. Take advantage of all the tools you have and work to improve your skills as a photographer. It’s a lot more fun that way.

Photo Credit:

Sunrise Over Cape Canaveral by Steve Russell

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  • Luka Oman

    I shot mostly in JPEG, especially when I am on a trip and I shot in good conditions. If I see a possibility to enhance a picture with RAW post processing I use RAW+JPEG combination. After reading your article I will try and use only RAW. As you said, storing space is cheap and I process almost every photo anyway. Just one question: Do you store final results in JPEG and leave RAW untouched? Regards; Luka

  • ohno studio

    Very true. If you’re going to lay down money for “the Big Camera” then why not exploit its full capabilities? After all, it’s what you paid for isn’t it? I love my P&S cams too and they do have their place. In fact I still like my very old P&S Oly C5050. It’s great for inclement weather (because I can afford to lose it) and silly web stuff. And because it can shoot Raw, I do.

    @Luca – your Raw files will always be that – Raw files. The change data is generally stored in XMP or what are called Sidecar files which are separate from the original Raw files. The Raw file itself never gets physically altered.

  • Trakais ezis

    “Why spend $800 and always shoot in point & shoot mode? Actually “P” stands for Program mode but I call it P&S.”

    Don’t forget, that in “P” mode you can select from variety of aperture/exposure combinations which are “correctly” exposed. This together with exposure compensation is powerfull tool for creating exactly the image you want.

  • Scott

    If I shoot 150 shots of a Little League game, with no intention on enhancing any of them, except for an occasional one-off for cropping, and just want to post them for all to see and share, why would I take the time to shoot raw and post process each one?  Yes, for a photograph I am setting up for the perfect shot, go raw.  And yes, I shoot in aperture mode for those, usually, sometimes shutter mode.  Manual for set up shots.  The auto is on the point&shoot.

  • Steve Russell

    I did say that there are times when jpeg is the right answer.  You just described one of those times.

  • Yone

    I feel your sentiments, especially when I travel on vacation.  On a recent trip, I witnessed many people with mid-level DSLRs and Canon “L” series lenses shooting in “Auto” mode.  I know because I helped them take self-portraits at landmarks and such.  I even tried to help one person get a difficult shot by changing his settings and adding my own Speedlight, but he didn’t want the help and asked me to shoot in Auto mode.  It’s a shame if they never explore their camera or photography further, but it’s their money to spend as they like.

  • Ahosterm

    I agree with Trakais. I will put my Canon 7D in P mode and shoot that way. Why? Because usually it captures what I would do in Av or M modes. And if I want to adjust it, P give me that leverage to do it; Auto mode doesn’t. But to be fair, I shoot quite a bit in Av mode.