Raw vs Jpeg. With Lightroom Presets & Workflow In Mind!

UPDATED 07/11:
As a photographer I prefer the RAW file format. I find I can get more flexibility in post production, more dynamic range and ultimately a better image quality with less hassle. Having said that, there are plenty of great JPEG photographers.

What’s It All About:

This article is not so much about the which format is better. We’ll save that for another day. The situation in question is editing images in speedy workflow programs such as Lightroom. Lightroom has revolutionized photo workflow because it’s fast and batches are a snap using Develop Presets.

Presets allow you to add effects and settings to images with a single click, or even apply them to countless of images. This is priceless when it comes to a photographers creative workflow. Also this type of editing is non destructive to the photo, meaning that you can make edits, and reset them to original at any time.

JPEG responds totally differently to LR edits than RAW files. Not long ago you could not even use a RAW style editing process on JPEG. However with the introduction of programs like Lightroom, and Camera RAW updates in the past few years, things have changed. The issue here is that what looks amazing on a Raw file may well make a JPEG look horrible, overexposed, too contrasty, ect. The reason for this is not totally clear, but JPEG defiantly seems more fussy about edits than RAW files do.

As many of you know, I design Lightroom preset collections here on Seim Effects. My Power Workflow3 collection has both RAW & JPEG formats. Nobody seems to be talking about this issue, but in my experience, the only solution is to make a separate preset for RAW and for JPEG. Even the presets that Adobe includes with Lightroom have this RAW/JPEG problem.

On my part I want to cover all aspects for photographers who buy my products. In order to make Power Workflow work on both formats, I made two sets of presets for that collection. Starting with the RAW version of the preset I would tweak things like brightness, contract, blacks ect until I achieved the same look on the JPEG version of the image. It is a hassle but can always be done.

The problem for the photo world is that most presets are designed with RAW in mind. Will nearly everyone switch to RAW? Do companies like Adobe need to train their software to better handle JPEG files? I think raw works better, but some pro’s and many consumers will continue to shoot with JPEG. Just be aware of the situation and know what your presets are designed for so you can know the results you can achieve.

Happy editing… Gavin

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7 thoughts on “Raw vs Jpeg. With Lightroom Presets & Workflow In Mind!

  1. Pingback: Free Lightroom Presets Directory. Lightroom presets and where to find them free

  2. Well, the reason I was looking at this was because there is a considerable difference in how lightroom handles RAW vs. JPG. I was noticing that while I was recording correct exposure on my camera, whenever I imported them into Lightroom as a RAW file, they were considerably darker, the vast majority looking underexposed. However, when I look at my raw files in Nikons dedicated software ViewNX and Capture NX, they are as I originally intended…integrity intact! So, it leaves a big dilemma here. I prefer editing in Lightroom simply because it is sextremely easy, but that is taking up way too much time with the RAW files…so thanks for bringing this up.


  3. I’ve always found it odd that people continue to use Adobe products to process RAW files. They look inexcusably AWFUL and it’s no surprise that real pros. That’s, REAL pros…Joe McNally, Bruce Dale, etc…not the online pros that abound these days….do not use softwares such as Lightroom or Aperture. They use Capture NX, or Canon’s DPP. Why? It looks better, right from the camera, and unless you are employing well-paid assistants to render your RAW files for you, why would you bother with anything but the manufacturer’s software? Time is money. Lightroom’s organizational skills are handy,, but who cares when you have to spend EONS just to get a RAW file to resemble what could have been a JPEG from the camera.

  4. Lightroom photos only look bad because most people dont know how to process RAW photos. Real pros DO use Lightroom. Check out benchrisman.com for example. Those are the best photos out there – all done in Lightroom. Lightroom requires users to dial in most of the settings, and people just dont have an eye for whats correct.

  5. You make some good points. Personally I handle jpegs and RAW images separately. I find jpegs are great just for a quick shooting when you want to simply capture a moment or you want to take a large number of photos but have limited time to process them. But I use RAW for the serious stuff where I want more control over the final image. It’s kind of 6 of one, half a dozen of the other. For alot of users (non pro/hobbyist etc) jpeg let’s them max their time behind the camera rather than the monitor. The flip side of the coin, IMHO is having the monitor calibrated properly and then of course a printer that will give a true print. This, of course, assumes the editor has an eye for digital development It does get complex and time consuming. For those special shots like portraits and landscapes especially if you dabble in HDR you can’t beat RAW, tho… I use LR and CS4 but love filters and presets because it saves time.

    In the final analysis, in my mind, jpeg or RAW?? Really depends on what you are shooting. Anyway that’s my 2 cents….

  6. Great article! I was just looking around for more presets and actions and this showed up.
    Many thanks.It’s a lot more practical to use Lightroom. Having previews from the presets in Lightroom makes for easier editing.

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