My preference

I’ll never forget my early experiences in wedding photography. I’d spend one week in Cambridge shooting alongside an experienced photographer who’s telling me to change my camera settings to JPEG, then the following weekend I’d be in Richmond Park with another pro who’s telling me to only ever shoot in RAW. Having worked using both camera settings, I understand the advantages and disadvantages for both, but for me, one massively outweighs the other in terms of rewards.

JPEGS are convenient but prevent perfection

My camera wasn’t that great when I started out, and I quickly found that RAW files need a longer processing time than JPEGS. The size difference between a RAW file and a JPEG file is huge, and that was one of the main reasons why I was advised to shoot in JPEG for my early weddings in Cambridgeshire. As I was strictly the second shooter, I’d pass my photographs over at the end of the day for the main photographer to process and she was completely against handling bulky files. Maybe this was because she’d need to invest more time during the post-production stage or more money on faster memory cards, whatever her reason, I knew this wouldn’t be the file type for me. Okay, so shooting in JPEG does offer speed advantages, but from looking over her final work, I could see that it was missing that something special.

To give you an idea of the advantages that come from shooting in RAW, take a look at one of my favourite shots below. The original photo is a bit flat and overexposed, and it was taken right at the moment the lighting conditions changed as I was slowly walking backwards into the harsh daylight. I knew I’d get the chance to perfect it though, so it wasn’t too much of a worry, and that’s the true power of RAW.

Original RAW file

Final photo

Letting RAW come to the fore

The digital camera of today is no different in the overall process than it was a hundred years ago with film. The camera is still a light gathering device; a tool used to gather data. What I do with that is the craft. When you shoot in JPEG, the file get’s processed inside the camera’s buffer and it comes out as a JPEG, a completed image if you like. You don’t have to do much editing work because the camera has done it for you. That’s a bit of a problem for me because I love having full control over my image. I don’t want the camera to decide on a photo’s contrast, sharpness or shadows, I want to have the flexibility to process photographs for hours upon hours until it’s just right, after all that’s what my clients pay for.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some disadvantages to using RAW, but as a wedding photographer they’ve never dissuaded me. RAW files will take up more space and they can slow the camera down, but for me, these arguments don’t really hold water anymore.