I hired a photographer for an event, and he says he doesn't shoot raw because he has his lighting (white balance and exposure) all figured out. Are there any other reasons why a pro should shoot in raw if the lighting will be correct? I'm trying to convince myself that there may be some other reasons and then maybe I'll convince the photographer too.
I can think of a handful of possible reasons to shoot RAW:
- The "oops" factor. If anything at all needs to be corrected -- even if you believe it's properly set up during the shoot -- RAW gives you just a bit more room to do so. In virtually all cases, you'd very much prefer to get stuff right in-camera vs. trying to fix it later, so you can think about having access to the RAW file as a sort of insurance, where you hope you don't need to use it.
- External tools vs. in-camera processing. All of the processing your camera applies when creating JPG files can be applied in an external tool. In some cases, you might believe you can do a better job of sharpening, noise reduction, etc., using specialized tools.
- Increased dynamic range. Your sensor records information that can be helpful in recovering details from highlight or shadow areas of a photo.
Having said that, I can't evaluate whether any of these are particularly applicable in your case. It's entirely possible that all of these are complete non-factors in your situation, and as others have pointed out, there are also good reasons not to shoot RAW, including speed of processing and storage requirements, and it sounds like your photographer may be leaning in that direction based on his understanding of the event.
RAW certainly gives a lot more after-the-fact flexibility. But, it's generally true that if the exposure is correct and white balance set to match the lighting, that flexibility is less important. If you're happy with the processing options the camera gives (and, especially for higher-level cameras, such options are extensive), RAW isn't really a necessity.
Were I doing professional shoots, I'd want to use RAW in order to give myself a little more of a safety net. But, on the other hand, were I hiring a professional to do a shoot for me and the agreement was for finished images, I would relax and trust her or him to do the job.
If you want the RAW images yourself, or would like the photographer to do extensive and careful processing of the images after the fact, you should negotiate for that, or find a photographer who will offer what you want — but be prepared to pay extra for the effort of extra processing or for the loss of creative control in giving you the RAW files.
It really depends on what you mean by "photographing an event". If on-site printing/sales are part of the deal, then the photographer would have to be an idiot to shoot RAW; it would just increase turn-around time for no benefit, and every delay is lost sales (that part of the trade is highly impulse-driven). So if the "event photography" is mostly a matter of photographing individuals and small groups in a mini-studio environment, then expect JPEG (and expect the "I have it figured out" to be a true statement).
If, on the other hand, the photographer is milling around playing photojournalist and subsequent sales (if any) are post-event, then RAW is not a huge penalty to take. There is a time penalty, but with up-to-date equipment (fast cards, CF if possible, since they're still faster than SD, and a fast USB 3 reader, reasonably up-to-date computer, preferably with an SSD), then the penalty isn't quite so great as it once was. (And it once was huge.) In a PJ shooting situation, lighting isn't always well-figured-out, and even if you can be confident in your white balance/exposure based on what you're doing, you're still at the mercy of a hundred morons with their point-and-shoots set to red-eye reduction who will manage to match, to the microsecond, your shutter timing.
I've been on the client side of this argument - I paid a relatively hefty price to I get an electronic copy of my kid's school photo which was shot straight to jpeg under controlled conditions by someone who does it all the time... Let's just say if I ever meet that particular photographer I'm going to set their camera to raw and duct-tape the controls as the results were truly awful!
Ultimately your situation is not about convincing the photographer, if they're happy dumping around 6 stops of detail to save a few seconds per image in post and a few pennies in storage space over the whole of a shoot then few arguments are really going to sway them.
So it comes down to "Are you happy with their workmanship?" as a client I'd check over their recent shoots very carefully (not their portfolio of 'greatest hits' but the real deal.) After you've done that you'll either agree they know what they're doing and book them or you don't agree and you get someone else in who'll produce a better product.
I would never want to shoot anything but RAW for an event. The main cost is how long you can keep up continuous shooting and the secondary cost is how long post takes since you have to apply a conversion to JPEG (or similar) later.
That said, the advantages far outweigh the cost. On good modern equipment, you can still shoot burst for several seconds without buffering. If you are using burst continuously for more than several seconds, you are doing something wrong generally. File size is larger too, but cards are fairly cheap. I shoot with two 64 GB cards in my 5d Mark iii and can shoot thousands of images without running out of space.
The benefits are that you have a safety net and can fine tune what the camera does for you. Any uncontrolled lighting is going to have variability to it. If any sunlight is reaching the room, light is going to change throughout the night and time spent adjusting white balance is time not taking photos and capturing the event. Is it possible to consistently check and manually adjust the white balance so that you don't need to be able to do it in post? Sure, but not without sacrificing a fair bit of attention and trusting a small screen on the camera.
Additionally, sometimes exposure might be off a bit from what you expected, even with the best practice. Having the ability to adjust well for minor exposure issues is a true lifesaver, particularly for one time events where you don't have a "redo" option.
Put another way, basically shooting RAW lets you take all the image processing work the camera does on it's own and postpone it to a point where you can instead make sure that it is doing it the best way and have complete control over the noise reduction, sharpening, color balance, exposure, brightness, saturation, contrast, lens corrections, etc, etc. The camera's best guess might not be right on any one of those and could damage an image.
Personally I would not trust an event photographer that doesn't shoot RAW unless they have one seriously high quality portfolio to back up the claim that they know their gear and their craft well enough to insist on not needing it and even then I'd question it.
Still for better editing flexibility and best results, shooting in RAW is more advisable. Editing flexibility in a sense of editing a photograph into creative shots. Example is turning it into an old photograph, or apply a selective color effects. with proper lighting, still it is necessary to shoot in RAW.
Well, maybe for a not so important but time demanding event like on news photojournalism where the most important thing is to deliver the images as soon as it was captured because of the tough competition (news companies competes for first aired or reported news), it is not practical to shoot in RAW. I personally shoot in RAW in a very special event and when I do art Photography (landscape, portrait etc).