Thursday, August 28, 2014

RAW v. JPEG: A Somewhat Different Perspective

Click to Enlarge
I've been a shooter in the adult biz for a long time. I've worked for companies like Playboy/Club Jenna, Hustler, Vivid, Wicked, and more. Guess what? They don't want RAW files. They never have. They want JPEGS-- large, fine, JPEGS.
I know, I know... Some of you might be thinking, "That's porn. Quality doesn't matter much." Okay. If you say so. But before you start feeling all photographically superior and so much smarter than the people who shoot and utilize glam, tease, and erotic photos in the adult industry, you might want to take a look at some of the packaging, print ads, and more adult companies produce.... from JPEGS. Shouldn't be too hard to find some good examples. They're all over the place, Certainly, on the web.

That's not to say there aren't adult companies who aren't too picky about quality. There are. Many, in fact. But that's the same in most industries, not simply the adult industry.

When I'm working for adult companies, I usually burn disks of what I've shot right on the set at the end of the production day or days. Why? For a number of reasons. First, those companies don't pay me to go home and convert RAW files for them. Second, those companies' art departments don't want to spend time and resources converting RAW files. Third, trust issues of various kinds. They paid me to shoot the stills and they want them in their possession almost immediately. (Note: If I'm working for a company for the first time and I don't really know them, I don't give them the stills until I'm paid. I'm not saying I hold the stills hostage. I don't. And they're not holding my pay hostage either. For the most part, it's a mutually understood practice: they hand me a check and I hand them disks or vice versa. It works out better for everyone that way, i.e.,  actual trust is taken out of the equation.

As I said, all I shoot are JPEGS. And that's at the direction of my clients. And guess what else? Many of my clients have full-blown art departments. It's the people in those departments who are the ones who don't want the RAW files. And some of the people in those art department are very experienced and truly terrific re-touchers and graphic artists. Often, very well paid re-touchers and graphic artists.

I should also mention that, because of the way it works for my job,  I don't get to fix anything later on. At the end of the production day, I do a quick edit and delete frames with blinks or strobe misfires and what what have you, and then burn the disks. In other words, I turn in the SOOC (Straight Out of the Camera) images. Those art department people I mentioned have the ears of my clients long after I've shot the pics. Consequently, assuming I want to get rehired for future productions, it's a pretty good idea for me to do whatever I can to make their jobs easier and more efficient. Like most people, none of those art department people wants to work harder because someone else created more work for them.

None of that is to say my clients' art departments don't enhance my images. They do. Sometimes, they make them look truly stellar on the packaging and elsewhere. I remember walking into the big annual adult convention in Las Vegas some years back and the first thing I saw was an approximately twenty-foot vertical banner of Tera Patrick made from a JPEG I snapped of her. It looked really good. I mean really good. And the JPEG held up terrifically through all the enlarging that was done.  

I'm not saying shooting RAW is automatically a waste of time and storage space. It's not. But RAW isn't  the end-all be-all for all digital photographers either. I shoot a fair amount of non-adult-biz portraiture. Even then, when it's most likely I'll be doing the post-production myself,  I snap JPEGS. Not because of habit but because those JPEGS are more than good enough for most of that work.  If JPEGS are good enough for the people who pay me to shoot pretty girls and the skilled artists who process the pics, they're almost always good enough for me when I'm shooting other stuff. Leastwise, for the most part. 

The pretty girl at the top is Sasha Grey. I've shot Sasha more than a few times. She's always terrific and fun to work with. The image was captured in a night club in Studio City, CA, on a Vivid Entertainment production. It was a bit difficult remaining focused. There were somewhere between 50 and 100 extras on the location set. Plus, a rather large crew. Confounding the keeping-my-focus-focused issues -- and keeping Sasha focused as well -- was a 4-man, 4-camera reality TV crew from Showtime who were all over Sasha and I while we were trying to shoot this set.


Ken Tam said...

Most stock agent want JPG too

jimmyd said...

I didn't know that, Ken. I've never shot-for or submitted-for stock. Now I know. Thanks!

Bill Giles said...

For me, the big advantage of shooting RAW is when you don't get the exposure right. The big disadvantage of RAW is the file size.

Winston Cooper said...

Great perspective. It adds a lot to the constant discussion on this subject. In my hobbyist efforts I shoot both at the same time.

Would you care to add to this issue by remarking on which color gamut you shoot and why..????

Thanks Jimmy, always good stuff on your blog.

jimmyd said...

Winston: I shoot using sRGB as my color space. That's what my clients want me to use. Works out well for me because whatever I end up doing with some of the pics, like posting them on this blog, the color space matches web colors. That's not to say sRGB doesn't work well for print applications. (From JPEGS) It does. It works just fine.