Going JPEG

Why I moved from RAW and Lightroom to JPEG and Photos


Some things in life should be fun. Choosing which things to labour over and which to enjoy in fleeting moments can be difficult, especially, for example, when everyone is telling you to be a photographer.

I became seriously interested in photography around the beginning of this year, mostly to fill a creative void. I got myself a Lumix mirrorless, a decent lens and found myself in Lightroom and or Tonality Pro for upwards of an hour every evening.

I’d move raw files to the computer, process, export to a folder and maybe Flickr or 500px, and import into Apple Photos to sync with mobile.

Carefully tweaked hilights and shadows…

Over the months it got tiring, and I stopped processing all but my favourites. I started to get the feeing I was polishing turds (is that an Australian saying?), by photographing things that I thought would look good after a touch-up.

It’s a psychological problem for me — focussing on the result, rather than the process. I wanted to make great photographs and my habit is to do this sitting at my desk. But I don’t think the desk is where the magic happens, or shouldn’t be (for a photographer).

“Great people are great because they do small things well.”
This picture took hours to process. I felt it was too busy. I bothered because I loved the subject, but maybe I shouldn’t have.

“Why am I at my computer more than I’m out with my camera? Can I ditch my enjoyable but involved editing process? Will I like my photos enough straight out of the camera? Where am I going with photography?”

These questions were compunded when I booked tickets to Japan, by the knowledge that I’d be taking a lot more shots than usual. Shooting raw would mean filling up my hard-drive. Certainly the organisational overhead for my holiday would be crippling.

“Do I need RAW?” I asked. It was hard to let go, RAW is so much more versatile. But shooting JPEG has helped me enjoy my holiday, and stay in the moment. Not to mention not having to worry about making my photos “better.”

Here’s what I’ve been doing so far in Japan.

JPEGs from the GX7 look good and are usually less than 5mb. I generally leave them as they are, perhaps attempting to add location data (even though the Panasonic Image App doesn’t seem to do it reliably). I regularly move some favourites to the iPad via the GX7 wifi, where I view and share. The rest get moved into the Photos app on the mac periodically.

Straight out of the camera. Not absolutely ideal but I can post and print it. It’s just for fun and creative expression anyways!

Shooting JPEG is limiting — you can’t fix much without multiplying compression artefacts. You can only really edit them one time, because the artefacts compound, and even then they’re only good for smallish screen viewing and printing. I make one copy of the photo I want to edit and work on that one.

Some black and white iphone conversions from GX7 JPEGs. From my Flickr.

There are three custom shooting modes on the GX7 and I’ll set one of them to raw for the occasion I know I’ll need it. But JPEG is the new default. And lightroom will hang around as a part of my Creative Cloud subscription (for at least as long as I can get the student discount).

If you get it right, camera JPEGs can look great. Between buildings in Shinjuku.

The iPhone6 does just fine for well-lit environmental shots. At the moment iphone photography is so much more fun with automatic geotagging and Photo Stream.

I don’t dream to be photography pro of any description. Hell, I want a vegan pizza truck about 1000 more times than I want to be a photographer, then I’ll probably just take photos of that.

I want my photography to be more about being out there in the moment, living life, and less about the technical and oranisational aspects that Lightroom and RAW forced me into. If it was easier, sure, but it’s a pain.

To say goodbye, here’s three photos straight out of the camera — all GX7.

And just for overkill, a black and white conversion done in Photos. I’ve discovered that it’s quite powerful with a range of options (more on Mac than iOS) to accomplish the most important basics you might in Lightroom. I’ll be posting some specifics before too long. As said, you only really get one shot. This is the carpark of a shrine in Suzuka, Japan.

Next I’ll describe a bit of my editing workflow in Photos.

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