I made a huge mistake a few weeks ago. Like, a colossal mistake. My brother visited me here on O’ahu for ten days in the middle of March. We had talked about a potential visit for years and it finally came! I brought my camera nearly everywhere and I was so excited to import the photos into Lightroom last week. I felt that I hadn’t done a lot of shooting in the past year and I was happy to have found photography again.
When I finally pushed “Import” and saw how fast the photos moved from my camera to the computer, I realized with horror what I had done.
I shot every photograph on JPEG- not on RAW.
For those who don’t know, there’s no such thing as “No filter”, in photography. A camera simply collects light and color data, and a JPEG engine turns that data into a usable file. Essentially, a JPEG engine “Develops” the photograph! When you take a picture with an iPhone, the internal JPEG engine collects the raw data and uses software to make decisions- how green should this “green” be? How bright should the sky be?
Many photographers, myself included, like to be involved in that process ourselves, so we choose to set our cameras to shoot in “RAW” mode, which produces large files that contain all of the data from the photograph- then, we choose which data remains, essentially developing the photograph ourselves and making all of the choices that a JPEG engine would. When you set your camera to shoot in JPEG mode, you’re losing much of the data that would come with a RAW file and allowing the camera’s internal engine to make those decisions for you. That’s great if you have to deliver photographs quickly or if you don’t want to spend time at the computer doing processing. That’s really not good if you want to push the files in your own computer.
(All photos shot on Olympus OM-D EM1 mk III- JPEG)
Going through these photographs, I can’t help but feel sad at the loss of a my ability to choose exactly how the photos look. I am sure (I hope) that I’ll never make this mistake again. That being said, as I go through them, I realize the joy in the snapshot. Some of these look great! Maybe they’re not the decisions I would have made, but they’re nice all the time. Take a look at some of my favorites and see for yourself.
I’ll definitely head out again with my camera set to JPEG. When it’s not an accident, I imagine it’s a wonderful way to take photographs in a way that is not so high energy and focused on perfection. These photos certainly aren’t the most technically perfect I’ve ever shot, but I think they remind me of what was important for the shoot- memories with family.