Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Technique Tuesday Again: Conversations, Discussions, Questions and Insights

Hey Gang,
I wrapped with my clients about 5 p.m. The ice storms just hit Cincy and things are a mess on this Christmas Eve Eve. Anyway, my clients just left - I hope they travel safe, another just showed up to pick up a gorgeous family portrait, and I just hit the keyboard with this new idea - Conversations, Discussions, Questions and Insights.

Give the video a watch, post you feed back, and let me know if we can go anywhere with this interactive concept. Now it's time to check in with the real world - LaDawn, Christmas, & Law and Order on TNT ;~) See ya' tomorrow. -David


  1. David:
    Your video with the new camera looked good, but your videos always are very good quality.

    Previously have you ever noted any difference between JPEG or RAW?

    You can make the same LightRoom adjustments with either format.

    Every picture you include in the album is going to be adjusted. Can you see any difference between a fine JPEG or RAW file on a picture smaller than 20 x 30, especially after adjusting it in LightRoom?

    Why waste you time and trouble with Large Format RAW?

  2. I believe that you can do different sized RAW files so you might vary the large or small RAW files.
    One of the reasons that I have been taught to use RAW is the archiveability of it.. As technology increases the viability of using the image in the future will be higher with the more information that you keep. I don’t see it affecting you as much because I would guess you will not need to retreave the images in the future. You sell them I would guess mainly within a short while after the shoot.
    I’ve been wondering about this challenge as I’ve been salivating over the 5D II.

  3. David:
    I think you are right on the money. I am wondering if there is a third option: sRAW.
    There are jobs we do were we do not need the size but we do need the other benefits of RAW.

    Thank so much, Ray

  4. David:

    We do not yet have a 5D MkII but does it also record audio along with the video?


  5. Hi David.
    I have to agree with you that with file sizes being so large shooting the candids in jpeg would be the only option.

    I would not be happy in shooting SRaw until canon have resolved the banding problem

    Regards Andy...


  6. David,
    Nice video with the 5D Mark II! Earlier this year I finally went from a jpeg shooter to RAW. I too have been thinking about file size lately, how much data I'm accumulating and where/how I'm going to store it. I agree that it could be a good idea to shoot the candids and other pictures that might not end up in the client's album in jpeg format, and save RAW for the more important images. The images that you have posted on this website prior to you switching over to RAW several months ago were spectacular as jpegs. I remember a post awhile ago, maybe it was a picture of a cathedral, showing the difference in the image when it was taken in RAW and then jpeg. In this case RAW made a difference. So I'd say, it's a good idea to shoot in RAW for important shots and in images where it will make a big difference over jpeg, and jpeg for everything else. Thanks for the food for thought and keep warm in Cincy.

  7. Thanks David for opening up the discussion. I normally shoot weddings in both jpg and RAW. I used to be an avid jpg only shooter, you know, get it right in the camera. But I have always loved the flexibility that RAW gives us. But the files are HUGE! I shoot with a Nikon D700 and the RAW files are so darn large compared to the jpgs.

    So I think that a jpg/RAW workflow makes sense, especially when you are shooting so many images at one event. I do not think that we should have this "all or nothing" attitude when it comes to file types. Use what makes the most sense for your business. Hey, the jpgs these cameras produce are still amazing!

    I also love your new video segment. Thanks!

  8. Right on the money! Especially if you are an event photographer, you don't need raw for everything especially when you don't print large sizes. The biggest argument for raw used to be the adjustments for white balance. However you can edit jpegs with camera raw and certainly use Lightroom presents to do corrections. Use a white balance card and you are done.

  9. To play devil's advocate a bit...shooting in sRAW has been mentioned, and I think is a viable option to give us the flexibility of RAW without quite as much real estate. The other side is why do we shoot in both RAW & JPG? If a card dies, a card dies - it's going to take both files with it...seems like a waste to me (but if someone can explain it I'll gladly eat crow).
    My big question, however, is this - do you know beyond a doubt when you're shooting what the important image of the day is going to be. Yes, you shoot your groups in RAW, because they are likely to be important. Yes, a few of your special moments. But let's say you're shooting candids and you catch a nice looking family man in a grip-n-grin with the groom. Turns out, it is the groom's long lost someone-or-another and they both want huge prints - and all you've got is a medium quality JPG.
    Yes, I'm playing the "what if" game, and I know that "what if" frogs had wings - they wouldn't bump their bottoms when they land. But I have had a client recently look through the "discarded" files from their shoot after I had pulled the keepers (long story how I let it happen). Turns out one I threw out was their favorite and is now a 18x24 canvas in their foyer.
    Consider the pot stirred.

  10. It hasn't been mentioned yet, but what about converting to DNG when you import into Lightroom. That would significantly reduce the size of the RAW files.

    I think you are right to take less important shots in jpg mode. MDKauffmann also brings up a valid concern that has crossed my mind. Sometimes you don't know which image will strike a chord with the client. However, just because you shoot "less important" images in jpg doesn't mean you need to shoot them in lower quality jpg. Shooting in the highest quality jpg is still a significantly smaller file than RAW.

    This mixed mode shooting seems like a reasonable compromise until the technology catches up on the cost-effective side. Some day we will buy Blue-ray disks for $1 each and maybe they will be the 400GB variety.

  11. Okay, probably not the 400GB, but even 50GB Blue-ray will eventually be reasonably priced.

  12. Hmm. My thoughts are a little different, and which hopefully give some of the benefits of both - the quality, safety and resolution of the highest quality RAW files, and the archive cost/ease of JPEGs.

    Ok, we like RAW for a number of reasons - firstly, safety. It allows us to recover better from off exposures, white balance issues and other things. Ok, if you know what you're doing, we shouldn't hopefully be getting to many of those. For me, well, I'm grateful of the safety factor :)

    But if you shoot JPEG, you are losing image quality that *you can't recover from*. If you're happy with these images then great, but *if* there may be times when you lose options because of this, then it could cause problems (say, you shot something in a low-ish quality which you didn't think was going to be that important an image, and the clients loved it and wanted something special done with it, blown up huge, or whatever.

    After all, would you feel comfortable saying to your clients "These images of your special day aren't important enough to shoot with my best quality, I'm going to throw away some quality to save me a buck or two in my workflow?"

    So. Here's what I suggest:-

    Shoot RAW. Archive JPEG.

    Shoot everything in RAW, so you can always have maximum options. When you bring in your data after a shoot, import it all at RAW, and have automated tools which render those down into the JPEGs you need - this can be done on a second machine dedicated to batch processing if necessary. Put that old machine you just upgraded from to good use!

    You then have RAW and JPEG images, totally under your control in terms of quality, and when you decide to do something special with particular images, or need to rescue something, you can use the RAW file.

    Once the job is finished, and the images are printed and accepted by the client, you archive off the final JPEGs of everything, and THROW THE RAW FILES AWAY.

    I know this goes against the "back up everything" mantra, and requires a head shift from some of us (yes, me too!) but let's face it, they are not really needed anymore.

    (And if the alternative is shooting JPEGs, you still end up with the same result, you just protect yourself and your business from risk a little better.)

    If you have situations where your clients come back after a few weeks to order more pictures, you might choose to have those RAW files sitting live on your system for a little time before trashing them, but in general, to get more pictures you are most likely fine with just your finished JPEGs.

    So. Use RAW files to produce the job. The end of which results in a set of JPEGs. Think of the RAW files as "temp" files to produce the final images.

    - Shoot RAW
    - Import RAW
    - Automatically batch process RAW into JPEG, using whatever default picture settings works best
    - Use the RAW version for special images, or when necessary to fix problems
    - End up with our final set of JPEG images
    - Archive these
    - Trash the RAWs - they've done their purpose

    There you go - the quality, control and options of RAW files, with the archive-friendliness of JPEGs.

    - Ben

  13. I totally agree with the shoot RAW save JPG comment. If space is the problem then this solves it to a degree.
    Key shots could be saved as DNG to give flexibility.
    However the loss of RAW files at shooting reduces your options a lot.

  14. David,

    This has been a very interesting and though provoking post. The topic really needs to be addressed and I'm glad you are putting it out there.

    I first started thinking about this whole issue I think, when I read "Matt Kloskowski" Guest Blog Wednesday last week on The Destructive Workflow (Erase, Merge and Flatten)..... It made me start to think maybe there is a better way of handling these files were pushing around..... I agree with Ben's earlier comment that our first option is to better organize our work flow.... What we archive... Personally up to now, I've been saving everything. 100 to 250 MB pst files with all the layers for each file I work on... I'm using a 40D now and have been trying to reason with myself. Do I really need a 5D? I think I'll more than likely loss this battle in the new year..... So.... these files I'm shooting will double in size... That's a 1/2 a GB per photo.... I don't shoot near that amount you do but even still....
    I'll be very interested in reading all the comments that come in and your follow-ups on this topic....

    BTW..... Thanks for what your doing here Digital ProTalk.... Your a daily read for me and I'm not even a weeding shooter.... All the best of the season to you and yours (and also all your readers)...


  15. Hello David,

    You completely hit the mark. I have been telling colleagues and other photog friends the same thing for a while now. Everyone else thinks I'm loosing my mind, but I laugh when it takes days for their computer to process job data, while it takes me a couple of minutes and I'm off shooting again! I love it when others finally "Get it". Yes! the technology is great, but where in the world are we going with 20+ Meg file right out of the camera? As a matter of fact, I went backwards from a Nikon D2x(12mp) to the D2h(4mp). Many say I'm nuts, but I'm actually enjoying myself. I love the camera for the speed and quality and can shoot "Raw" all day long under 6mg's a file, BEAT THAT! Many say, yeah but its a 4mp camera, yes it is! but its a "Pro" camera with an unbelievable sensor in which I have no problems getting 20x30 image outs of. Thanks for the post David and while we're on the subject, does anyone know any photogs purchasing the [50mp Hasselblad Digital] what's the file size of each of those images. LOL

  16. I have been doing this since I started shooting weddings. I shoot Raw for the important things, jpeg for the fill. I usually just shoot away at Jpeg fine but still Jpeg none the less. I'm transfering my data between two computers and my server with no slowdowns or problems.

  17. Hey David,
    I agree with Ben about shooting in RAW and archiving JPG. This is some of the same thinking that the Photoshop guys where saying recently about destructive editing in photoshop, how many times are you asked to go back after a job is done to re-edit a photo. If after all the editing is done and such. You save everything as JPG or DMG and then archive that off are you losing anything?
    Although you are not solving the other problem you bring up is the file sizes when you are working with the photos.

    I am going to look into your idea on switching between shooting jpg and raw on my 30D.



  18. D:

    I disagree with you and agree with Ben about the process of Raw/Jpg. All the reason you posted in previous arguments to justify the conversion to Raw still hold true and Ben did a good job pointing out the effective and efficient alternative.

    As I watched your new video I was reminded of a segment of your video from the Digital Walk Up Call that described shooting digital as opposed to film. You stated during that segment that a click of the shutter as "free, free, free..." Obviously, not the case with today's files sizes.

    But, I still agree with Ben and suggest that "saving everything" is also a waste of space. I am ruthless in my purging and dump all those "maybe" images into a maybe folder that get trashed as soon as the job is complete.

    Great post, great video, and I really appreciate your work. Thanx again! Happy Holidays!

  19. Hi David-

    Great post to get us thinking!

    I have multiple back-up hard drives on- and off-site because I don't want to take the time to burn DVDs. I can always migrate up to newer and larger drives as necessary.

    If we switch back and forth during a job between RAW and JPEG, we might forget to switch before the important photos, and be stuck with JPEGs.

    There was a comment above about converting RAW to DNG on import into Lightroom. I have found that to be very slow.

    Think back to the film days--you didn't shoot 3000 images on a job then, did you? Is it really necessary now? If it is, how about a severe edit to keep the very best, then delete all the rest? We are the artists, and should use our discretion to show the client what we want them to see.

    Thanks for taking the time to contribute to your blog--I always learn something here. Best wishes to you and all of your readers for a great holiday season!


  20. While I do agree with you on file sizes becoming problematic ... I totally disagree with the choice of moving to jpeg because it changes your workflow.

    If you are "time constrained" at all, then your workflow is far more important than your data storage needs. I can much more easily afford to buy another 1TB drive (which only costs $100 today) to store a few more weddings than I can to spend several more hours processing files.

    So rather than switch to jpeg, keep it in raw and switch to sRaw1 or even sRaw2 if you really don't need the resolution.

  21. A few thoughts that came to me...
    First, I agree with Eric, 3-4000 shots, even if that includes your one (or even two) assistant? Last year I shot 4000 photos over the four days of an airshow, with a total of around 16 hours of "action" for the whole show, shooting in 5fps on my 30D. So solution #1, be a little more conservative on the shutter? :)

    #2, What do pro studio photographers with large medium format backs do? They've had double-digit MP cameras for a lot longer than the average consumer which means they didn't have the powerful computers of today either. I'm sure their solution for backing up and processing large files wouldn't be ideal for your average wedding photographer/studio, but some items might cross over.

    #3 Be ruthless in your edit. If I was in the situation of shooting large quantities of photos every weekend (I'm purely a hobby shooter) I would:
    -Shoot RAW... you never know when you'll need it
    -Import into LR and backup at the same time to a second hard drive
    -Slaughter what I've shot down considerably (especially if shooting 4 digit photo counts)
    -Once the shoot was "finalized", use a sync program to match what was kept to your HD backup and let it delete the dregs
    -Backup the "kept" to DVD... or Blue-Ray once the price comes down (and it will).

    Here's an added twist to this whole thing... just how large was the unedited movie file for this post? How much space did that take up and how many RAW files would fit in the same space? Just curious.

    The better news for me is that if I DO ever move to the 5DII, I JUST received my new computer that can handle the files it puts out (Core i7, 8GB RAM) replacing my 5 year old Pentium that was struggling with my 8MP RAWs... Of course I'm that much farther $$-wise from getting it now!

  22. I have to agree that one of the issues is shooting style. Just because you CAN shoot 4,000 images at a wedding doesn't mean you should. Couples are completely overwhelmed with thousands of images. We find delivering 500-700 is more than they really need, so we starting slowing down on the shutter and cut our final image count down to about 1500 and then are brutal in the editing to come up with about half of that to be edited and delivered.

  23. I think a great compromise to this situation are droplets. Yes a Photoshop droplet on your desktop. Shoot all large RAW files. When you return your staff are going to look at all of the files to choose the “keepers”. place all of the “money shots” in a file and process as RAW as you are doing now. All of the potential shots place in a file named JPEG medium----JPEG large---JPEG small or whatever size you deem best. This file is transferred to a droplet on your desktop that will automatically convert the RAW file to whatever file size and type you have predetermined. TIFF, Large JEPG, Small JPEG, JPEG for web. You can have one droplet or multiple. The droplet does all the work. You don’t even have to go into Photoshop to do it. When you are complete you will have a folder of RAW “money shots”, JPEG keepers and a file for culls. The RAW files of the JPEG converted files and culls can be deleted. This is not as destructive as it seems. In fact I am doing in computer what you are talking about doing in camera. The only difference is that I decide exactly what photos are RAW or JPEG. It seems like a lot of extra work but if you use droplets then you are talking about seconds of drag and drop. The computer does the work while you catch up on e-mails or this wonderful blog.

  24. I really see where you're coming from. I just hit the TB milestone too. You never really know what you're going to get out in the field. You could get the perfect "David Ziser Photography" poster shot and guess what . . . it's a jpg, right?

    With that said, here's what I would suggest. Shoot everything RAW (if you have the card space) and do everything RAW until you get to the point of backing things up. Then use Instant Jpg From RAW or create a PS action (which would take forever, I totally understand) and back things up in jpg. That way you have the"RAW security blanket" if you get something you really like, but you don't have to pay the price for everything that you take.

  25. From the comments that have been made everyone is taking at face value that the principal problem you are trying to solve is archiving space and time. If so, then the shoot RAW and convert later is the most sound strategy. But if there are also issues in the time it takes to move through post processing (that wasn't clear in your video) then the size of the source files is an issue that "shoot RAW" doesn't solve. In that instance I don't see any issue with your proposed strategy assuming that you don't forget to change settings between the formats. I don't use your camera so I don't know what the risk of error may be.

  26. Completely unrelated to the issues of RAW versus JPEG file sizes, I noticed in the video that only the left audio channel had any signal. This was apparent only when I listened over headphones. I'm guessing that the camera mic is picking up only a mono signal, but for some reason the authored video is thinking it's stereo and not duplicating the signal to the right channel.

  27. In my opinion, shoot RAW because it can save your ass. Shoot a lot because as David says, you have to shoot a lot to sell a lot. Throw out the real losers (blinkers, and the shots of your feet when you bump the shutter release by accident) and archive in JPG.

    Personally, I'm going to stick with a 12 megapixel camera for a few more years. I get great quality shots that I can blow up MUCH bigger than I need to, and in couple of years you guys will have figured out a storage solution. Sometimes it pays to not be an early adopter.

    Luca Ragogna

  28. Hi
    I am not a wedding- or event photographer, so I look at it maybe a little different:

    - always get the shot in the best possible quality = RAW; one can always "reduce" to jpeg for archiving

    - coming from years of still shooting film, that was scanned, I am still/already used to those file sizes ... and bigger ones

    - if i wouldn't need the bigger file sizes, I would keep on shooting the original 5D

    btw: a general thank for all this great blog.

  29. My thinking is like David's in one way; shoot different quality at different times.

    But it is different, and like many commenters, in another way; always, always shoot RAW.

    I am shooting the 40D currently, but have plans for the 5D2 in the new year. My plan is to shoot 10mp sRAW for the type of shots David is talking about shooting JPG, and full size RAW for the type he is talking about shooting RAW. The sRAW files should be very comparable in size to my 40D RAW files, and my 40D NEVER leaves RAW.

  30. Thanks for the video, definitely food for thought. I think we can all get a bit carried away with RAW and the benifits. I shoot with two D3's and there is no doubt in anyones mind it produces a more versatile file. But put a RAW file and a medium JPEG file on a 7by5 print and I doubt very much anyone could spot the difference. I use lightroom so another bonus is the files appear the same within the program, so no extra steps in the workflow even with two different file types.

    Thanks for all your work on the blog, looking forward to 2009.

  31. What you're describing is exactly the way I shot weddings (when I shot weddings). I captured all the money shots on RAW and all the rest in jpeg. My reason at the time was I was just getting my business rolling and couldn't afford a lot of CF cards (and they were more expensive back then to boot) so to save card space I shot that way. It worked great. I think its a great way to address your concerns as well. And coming from a film background it wasn't a huge deal. My exposure skills, as I'm sure yours are as well, are pretty good so I don't usually need to do a lot of "fixing" anyway. Also, I tend to only save the files that I've already edited so that cuts down on what I back up. And I never save layered files.

  32. I just wanted to through a few questions out there:

    Why not just continue shooting your jobs RAW with the 20D and 40D?

    Are your clients really benefiting from the humungous file size of the new camera?

    I know the newer technology is handling the low light much, much better but you still like pumping light into the scene, so again is the file size worth it?

    I'm just asking because I've never seen a side by side comparison of the two files and I'm wondering if its like the age old argument of ink jet printing.. 180ppi VS 360ppi . Does one have to be a pixel peeper to notice the difference.

    If your going to switch back and forth between jpeg and RAW. I've got to ask... is the new jpeg that much better than a 40D RAW?..

    Great Topic...


  33. David -

    FIrst Question:
    Do you have on-line backups ?

    What I am getting at here is say you mount a network disk as drive E. This is a large say 1 TB 'working space' for you and your staff. Does that space itself get backed up Hourly, Daily, Weekly etc to a HD in the server?

    I use backup scripts that take deltas off my network storage and my laptop throughout the day.

    An approach like this may provide you will the safety work on your shoots pre-archive.

    Next Question:
    Do You rate the photos in your workflow ?

    Rather than try to pick and choose at the shoot RAW vs JEPG, use the rating system to drive this.
    1 Star -> Delete
    2,3 Stars -> RAW in workflow, JPEG Archive
    4,5 Stars -> RAW in workflow, RAW Archive

    You could also color code or flag or tag.
    You could put the "Album Candidate" tag on photos you think may end up in the album, and keep these RAW.

    2 cents...

  34. Clarification...

    When I use the term on-line backup, I am NOT describing a internet based backup service.

    I am using online, to describe the network attached storage that you have immediate access to on your network. (offline storage would be backups/archives that require mounting...)

    What I am describing is something akin to Apple's Time Machine. Regular, frequent snapshots of your working storage that are stored on separate physical drives.


  35. I have to agree with an earlier post. If size is going to be an issue why not stick with the earlier 5D/40D combo. Sure, you don't get the higher iso/low light benefit but it seems that the benefits of the new camera are outweighed by the other factors you mention.

    With luck, Canon may at some point introduce a full frame 15 meg camera without video. That would meet my needs for stock work and save me the issues of storage etc.

  36. Every comment so far has ignored David's faulty premises. Start with the cost of Blue Ray blanks. The first CDR blanks were more than $10 each.

    And David's suggestion (that no one has challenged) is 4.7GB is the limit of a DVD blanks. Has Dual-Layer (9.4Gb) not come to David's world).

    We're all computer techs and we need to remember Moore's law and it's corollary suggesting that the price halves as the power doubles. I have a 1996 PCWorld article hanging on my refrigerator - the Title: "A gigabyte drive for $199?" Note the question mark.

    Today an external terabyte drive can be had for $129. Probably less if you buy in quantity. In a year $89 or less. If you only get sixteen jobs on that drive you still never need to have more than two such drives hanging off your PC. One for backup and the one that you are pulling files from. The rest can be stored.

    As a photographer (RIT, 1964) for over 40 years, I'm appalled at the thought of shooting 3000 images at a wedding. Clearly David needs to not be using burst mode for every snapshot. David needs to go find a Speed Graphic and shoot a wedding with it. He'll never do 1000 images on one job after that.

    There are many other flaws in the rambling that you guys confuse with erudition.

    Get over yourselves.