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Can JPEGs Win The RAW vs JPEG Debate?

After my experience using the new Sony a9, I felt like I needed to do article about how I was able to get great looking JPEGs right out of the camera. I had posted several photos on Facebook and I got a number of positive comments, but there were some questions about the files themselves. All of the images I posted were JPEGs straight out of the camera and some said there was no way that JPEGs straight out of camera could look so good without doing any Photoshop work. So I wanted to write this to explain a little more about the settings a use and also the lighting.

I took the photos at Kando Trio 1.0 in California. That was the first time I had a chance to use the α9. I knew the camera’s specs were impressive, but I was eager to see it how it would perform for myself. Using the 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master on the α9, I was photographing on a set that was lit with the HMIs outside of the windows. There were none inside the trailer which was a beautiful, classic Airstream trailer. There were no lights inside the trailer except for an LED panel.

On Facebook there were questions about the richness of the colors in the photos. But as I said, the images were JPEGs straight out of camera. I used auto white balance, normal JPEG settings, normal contrast. The warm colors are a product of the light reflecting around the inside of the Airstream with its beautiful wood.

Also, I got some comments about RAW vs JPEG images. The debate about shooting RAW vs JPEG has been going on since the beginning of digital photography. The fact is if your camera has a good sensor and a good JPEG engine JPEGs are perfectly fine…as long as you expose them properly. I normally don't shoot jpegs, but I did at Kando Trip time because the camera was so new at the time that my copies of Photoshop and Lightroom couldn’t open the RAW files. And when I reviewed the JPEGs, they looked so good that I didn't have to do anything to them.

As I mentioned, JPEGs will be fine if the images are properly exposed. Because I was raised on slide film, I’ve always been careful about my exposure. You simply cannot over expose slide film or you won’t have a usable image and I shoot digital with that same mentality. And that's why in the photos from Kando Trip I have details everywhere—in all the highlights and shadow areas straight out of the camera.

And that's really it. There’s no digital trickery or special post-processing technique required. I was in aperture priority for all these photos with the camera set to ISO 100 or 400. It’s all about proper exposure and using a top flight camera.

All images by Sony Artisan Of Imagery Nino Rakichevich. Sony α9. Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens. All images are JPEGs straight out of the camera.

You can follow Nino on Instagram @nino_rakichevich and on Facebook.