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I am amateur photographer and I don't plan any variants commercial use of my photos. But I want to evolve to take better pictures.

I started from the purchase of the camera Sony Nex-5 (with KIT-lens 18-55) Then I added postprocessing of my pictures (white balance, contrast, brightness, etc.). I'm postprocessing of JPEG-files, often HDR. Also I tried a bit of other lenses (cheap - Helios) and long-exposure.

Now I feel certain stagnation, I can't do better using the same approach.

Purchase better camera or lens would open up new possibilities, but now I cant much to spend on my hobby.

Will I get much better pictures if I start to work with RAW instead of JPEG?

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marked as duplicate by mattdm, Itai, Philip Kendall, AJ Henderson, MikeW Apr 14 at 19:09

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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@mattdm I think this question is more focused on RAW's role in developing as a photographer. This isn't necessarily addressed in the other questions. –  AndyML Apr 14 at 16:22
    
@AndyML, except, see the comment to Itai's answer, "I'm interested in only technical part rather than creative." –  mattdm Apr 14 at 18:14
    
@mattdm Answers there were useful for me, thanks. However, answers here have given me more. Maybe I'll learn something useful from the answers that will still be here. –  w.hrybok Apr 14 at 18:59
    
If your question is really different, please edit it to make that difference more clear. Then, it might be reopened and be helpful to more people. –  mattdm Apr 14 at 19:27
    
@mattdm I think AndyML hit the target. I can't write "more clear", my English is bad. Also I removed the postscript from the question because in any case RAW has little relevance to creativity. –  w.hrybok Apr 14 at 19:54

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Yes, you will get better image quality.

  • 14-bit NEF is far superior in the amount of color data contained compared to JPEG. (14 bit means a much wider dynamic range being captured.)

  • Another issue is JPEG artifacts (JPEG is lossy) so if you want to cut around, create a composite image, you will have serious troubles around the high contrast edges.

  • Tuning contrast, color curves, etc. is possible on JPEGs, but because of the previous points, you will see image degradation, color banding, color fringing, etc. more easily.

Use JPEG if you need to do snapshots in volume, e.g. a model is moving unpredictably - this speeds up the capture, as JPEG is much smaller than RAW. Also, to store JPEGs is far easier.

But, if you want to do serious postprocessing, skip JPEG, use RAW. I work from 5 to 50 hours per image of my liking, and I have suffered for years with JPEG...

Go for high-bitdepth NEF, and you will not regret that. Do not take my word: rent a D5100, pretty cheap, it does 14 bit NEF, and has an exceptionally good sensor for the price.

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No. RAW files are certainly capable of being converted into better quality images but that will not improve your photography. There is a huge difference between better photography and higher image-quality and these are largely orthogonal concepts.

Think about it, there are great images made famous taken on a film camera of 60 years ago. Its quality of output being far less than what you can get with most cameras today. Conversely, you can take a very boring and poor photo with a PhaseOne back in all its 16-bits RAW-glory and it would still not be a good image.

What you need is to learn more. Find books, courses, seminars to improve things. You will reach a point with each where you will not advance and have to switch to the next one. Personally, I started reading books and when I kept reading and barely learning anything new, switched to classes and eventually went to seminars where professionals teach and guide.

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Thank you for your response. Maybe I was not accurate in the question. Now I'm interested in only technical part rather than creative. –  w.hrybok Apr 14 at 13:33
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@u.hrybok If that's all you are looking for, this is a duplicate of existing questions, which should cover what you're looking for nicely. –  mattdm Apr 14 at 13:41
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@u.hrybok Books and courses cover technical aspects as well as creative ones. There are plenty to learn I would say, Brian Peterson's Understanding Exposure to get better at metering for example. You can learn how to set WB so that you do not have to guess and correct in post. Same with brightness and contrast. Really RAW gives you more latitude to do this but if you don't understand how that is of no help you will simply have more rope to hang yourself as they say. –  Itai Apr 14 at 14:08
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This answer is problematic in that RAW gives far more margin to errors. You can create great pictures with postprocessing much easier (if at all) from RAW. So RAW itself is a learning aid. You will not get more competent just by using RAW, but you can examine your photos, and make adjustments, and meanwhile you alter your mental model of HOW you should take a picture, so next time you will be more proficient. Let's not forget: you learn a tremendous amount IF you super like your end result. If it is a so-so, it is not a positive feedback for yourself. –  TFuto Apr 14 at 14:49
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Ansel Adams spent a huge amount of time in the darkroom to make sure the final prints matched his intention for the shot. Making sure the right picture gets into the camera is a huge part of photography, but I think there is also a spot for developing the image after you capture it. –  Alan Shutko Apr 14 at 14:58

This depends on what you plan to do with the images...

Natural Edits

By natural, I mean staying true to the level of quality the JPEG provides in respects to white balance, exposure, etc.

No, you will not yield significantly better images. You will, however, yield more experience in photography by obtaining a better understanding of the limitations of your camera's sensor. Your post production workflow will improve and you'll gain a better perspective of what degree of manipulation is possible. This means that you will become more experienced in post production, but it will not necessarily yield better photos.

Now, your question asked if you would yield "much" better images with RAW, but I should say that you will yield slightly better images. Sharpening, noise reduction, and basic exposure changes will yield slightly higher quality images when printing larger than say 8x10.

Artistic Edits

That being said, you have more artistic capability when you shoot RAW. RAW lets you really maximize the dynamic range of your sensor by pulling in shadows, manipulating specific colors (saturation, luminosity, etc), and more. If your intent is to lean more toward artistic images with drastic modifications, then RAW will provide much more flexibility and yield better photos.

You mention HDR, which I would consider to be an artistic edit. In this case, yes, you will yield significantly better results when shooting in RAW over JPEG. This is due to HDR software using all information in an image when creating the final HDR result. Depending on the level of HDR you are going for, you may realize that a single RAW will produce the same results as merging multiple JPEG files.

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