The DOs & DON’Ts of Editing

When I was in middle school all the girls in my class started wearing makeup. I, of course, wanted to fit in. So my mother took me to the drug store and bought me a metric ton of cheap wet-n-wild makeup in such understated colors as pumpkin orange, and goblin green. Painting my face up like a clown was fun, but it didn’t exactly make me look like a young woman – which is what I was really going for. It wasn’t until I visited my aunt, who was a makeup artist for a major cosmetics company, that I really figured things out. She sat me down and gave me a lesson in subtly. She said to me, “If the first thing people notice about you is your makeup then you’ve missed the point entirely.”

So many of the images we see on YANAP are bad images with comically bad editing. But it’s much more upsetting to me when I see someone who is otherwise pretty talented ruin a decent photo by editing it to death. The point of photo editing is to enhance your image, not over power it. An over-processed photo is like a woman wearing too much makeup; no matter how beautiful she is, all you can see is the caked-on horror. I’m going to go over some tips and practices to help you enhance your images instead of ruin them.

Shoot RAW

If you aren’t shooting RAW, you aren’t a professional. Period. RAW files are files that have not been compressed yet so there is much more information for you to work with. You can fine tune your exposure, white balance, and about a gillion other things right in your Camera RAW window. If your files start out as JPG files then you have much less control over your final product. RAW files take up more space on your cards and you’ll need to make sure that you have the correct software to read and edit them. Which brings me to my next point.

Get Professional Software

You can’t create professional images without professional software. If you are serious about your craft you need to invest in the right tools for your trade. Would you take your film to Walmart to get processed instead of a custom lab? I’d hope not. Get yourself Adobe Photoshop (not Photoshop Elements, not Picasa, not Windows Photo Editor, not Gimp, etc.) and learn how to use it. Some people also use Lightroom in addition. You can sign up for Adobe’s Creative Cloud for an inexpensive monthly fee, and you can get a membership for cheap to learn your program thoroughly.

Tread Lightly

If you only remember one thing from this whole article, let it be this: It is ALWAYS better to under-edit than to over-edit. If you aren’t sure if an edit needs to be made, then it doesn’t. Never make any  unnecessary edits. The goal of photo editing is to make an image look as if it hasn’t been edited at all. Make sure you use a light hand with each new process, and work in very small increments to make sure that you haven’t crossed the line from making an image better to making it worse (this can be a FINE line). Always keep a layer with your original image on it and check back often to make sure that you aren’t doing more harm than good.

Skin Texture is GOOD

Nothing pisses me off like seeing an image in which a person’s face has been transformed into an inhuman mask of expressionless plastic. Not only does this look incredibly bad on a professional level, it is extremely offensive to your subject. This person, I assume, has a face that their friends and family quite like. When you do this to a person– even if it’s a model–  you are effectively saying to them “your face and skin are so terrible to look at that I just did away with them completely” at best. At worst, “I think you’d look better as sex doll”.  Our job as portraitists is to document the human face, not hide it behind a blurry mess.

Step AWAY From the Blur Tool

That isn’t to say that you should never touch up a persons skin or face. Of course you should. But you need to be certain that while cleaning up blemishes and minor skin issues you are still being true to your subject. The way to do this is simple; never to use the blur tool. Blurring pixels will just draw attention to the area that you are trying fix as well as obliterate all pixel information in that area. There are better ways to clean up skin. That is a topic for a later article so for now I will just say that I suggest you explore other options.

Ditch the Gimmicks

Lens flares, selective coloring, sparkles, bokeh lights, harsh vignettes, fake HDR and all of that nonsense only distracts from the image you have painstakingly crafted. And for the love of all that is holy, please don’t put frames on your images! Save that kitschy crap for Instagram.

Good Editing Can’t Fix a Bad Image

You can put lipstick on a pig but it probably won’t win any beauty contests (save for pig beauty contests). You can’t make up for crappy shooting with the magic of Photoshop. You can sometimes salvage an image that was destined for the recycle bin but sometimes you just need to acknowledge when you screwed it up.

Editing can be both an exciting and meditative process where you really separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s a time to get honest with yourself about what’s working and what’s not working, and come away all the better for it. The digital darkroom is a crucible, where imperfections are burned away, and we get to see a product in it’s purest form.

I hope this article helps you, as you delve into the world of photo editing, to come out with images that look more like classy and sophisticated young ladies than trashy Jr. Prostitutes. Thanks Mom!

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  1. Absolute bullshit. Learn how to use light, is this an advert sponsored by Adobe? Must use photoshop and be a sheep.

    • are you really, pal?

      did you even READ the article? -.-

      but for you, maybe it should be re-titled, “Obviously, you should get it right in camera- but if you don’t…here are a few editing tips that don’t make you look like a fauxtographer.”


      • Blablabla

        He has a point: “Get yourself Adobe Photoshop (not Photoshop Elements, not Picasa, not Windows Photo Editor, not Gimp, etc.)”.

        I use Gimp / Digikam suite and I am losing nothing as if I were using Photoshop or any of the Adobe crap. The tool doesn’t make the artist. Period.

      • Not really Forrest

        I think the writer was more relating to ‘if you shoot in RAW’ — which you should — then you want a program that can read RAW. I don’t know much about GIMP cause I have never used it, but I know Photoshop handles RAW, while none of the other programs he mentions can. So…not trying to disagree with the line Blablabla says about ‘the tool doesn’t make the artist’, but the ability to edit, if needed, should be based off the quality of photo you take, which then leads to the software you need to read that file. So…that’s all I have to say about that – Forrest Gump

      • GIMP handles RAW just fine. Actually, i like UFRAW (Gimp’s RAW editor, or at least the one i use) better than i like adobe’s solution. The Gimp is an extremely useful tool for photo editing, when used correctly.

      • I used Gimp (and Picasa, etc.) when I first started out, but I have since learned as many do in the process of trial and error, that there are a LOT of things Gimp can’t do. Same with many other programs including Lightroom (also made by Adobe), it’s great for pre-editing, and it’s great for establishing a quick workflow to do basic edits on photos, as well as for a storage system and organization, but there are a lot of things you have to switch into Photoshop for. (For the record I will graduate with a visual communications degree with a minor in photography at the end of this semester, I’m just finishing up a couple of web design courses. I have used many different programs, Photoshop is over priced, but necessary for any professional photographer.)

      • Stephanie

        I’m sorry, but I shoot professionally and neither myself nor one of my peers uses anything but the Adobe RAW interface to process photos (unless I’m shooting film, which I just process in my darkroom). Some of the amazing photographers I know use Lightroom, but I haven’t bothered with it since the Adobe RAW editor does everything I need in a fast, super-streamlined, manner.

        The high-paying clients will ask what your process is and if you say “Gimp”, they’ll laugh. If you are honestly a professional, you use Adobe. Oh and with the new CC subscription thing, Photoshop and the RAW thing is only $10 a month AND you can write it off on your taxes as a business expense.

    • AmaturePhotos

      I have to agree with this. While some of the programs mention should not be used because of their inability to process RAW files, some of them are great for when you are on a budget like GIMP. In addition, I think there are much better programs out there for the same price as PhotoShop and LightRoom. I personally just keep using the 60 day trial of Capture One Phase One because it is free, processes RAW’s, and has so many features made for professional editing with fixing exposure among other things, not extreme cases like adding complete components to the photo. Its more for meta editing not specific detail.

      • Sandra KV

        Why is PS Elements wrong? I get most of my images right SOOC, so have minimal need for edits beyond cropping, levels, and some blemish correction. I shoot RAW, I understand lighting and composition…. but, because I don’t need heavy editing software, I can’t be a photographer?

        I do agree on most other points…

    • Thomas G. Y.

      Must use RAW, wonder if she knows you can open jpegs in Camera Raw, too. And you have to have Photoshop to have a professional image? Next time I see a book with Ansel’s pictures I will check to see if it lists which version of Photoshop he used. Come on, for a site dedicated to calling out people who are pretending to be photographers it is ironic they say such things.

      • You can only quote Ansel Adams as an example of not needing to edit your photos if you’re using film. The film decisions and film processing decisions he made are also what makes his photos. Adobe Lightroom is like the film processing of old. Since digital is 100% sanitized, you will NEVER get the same result SOOC from a digital camera than from a film one because all you get SOOC is a negative. The development of the film is post processing and editing.

    • kelechi

      thanks for this.. . very stupid and meaningless post

  2. Look up Damien Lovegrove and then ask him why he doesn’t use photoshop.

  3. Irony: the PortraitPro add right below this article article with a plasticized face “after”. Ick.

  4. I’ve been professional (before adopting our 3 children), and I’ve never shot RAW. My goal is to make the image perfect in camera so I don’t have to fix the RAW file later: needless work, takes up too much time and space, and I’ve never done it. RAW doesn’t make you professional.

    Call me “unprofessional” all you’d like, but it won’t change my mind.

    • First I’ll start with your images look pretty good for not using RAW.

      Second you are saying your clients are not worth the investment of time and the space on your harddrive to shoot RAW? Space is so damn cheap now days it’s not even an argument. Right now you can buy a 2TB external drive for around $100. If that investment isn’t worth trying out RAW then you’re in the wrong field. As for time, I edit and entire wedding shot in RAW, around 700-1000 photos and I get the photos back to the client within a month sometimes three weeks.

      Getting my bachelors in photojournalism the school probably didn’t think RAW was that important since you had to shoot in RAW. RAW is industry standard. I’ve sold photos that have been published as advertisements, editorials, etc and they always ask for RAW.

      I’m sick of the RAW complaints like these. If you are professional you shoot RAW.

      • because they are shooting snapshots, not really serious photography. Not shooting RAW is lazy and unprofessional, they might as well use a plastic toy camera.

      • “If you aren’t shooting RAW, you aren’t a professional. Period. ” That’s retarded.

        Try shooting hockey and filing photos between periods using PM to your wire when shooting RAW. I’m not arguing quality as I often shoot JPG to one card and RAW to the other but as far as shooting hockey professionally is concerned, RAW is a stupid option that only hinders your workflow.

        Try this during gameplay and ensure you’ve captioned all the images and uploaded to multiple servers before the next period starts. Seriously, who are you?

      • If you’re an art or editorial photographer and you’re not shooting RAW, you’re not being the best photographer you can be. And you don’t deserve to be called a professional. It seems anyone in the photography industry can call themselves a professional now. That’s unfortunate to the art.

      • I’ve been a photographer for 9 years – started off as a novice, became a semi professional in 2008 and it’s been my full time job for the last 2 years. I’ve shot 2 weddings and one live show in RAW and nothing else. I’ve had my images published in major printed music publications both here in the UK and in the USA and Australia, and included in over 30 albums, put onto a variety of official merchandising (for bands like The Darkness, Enter Shikari, Deaf Havana), used in advertising and tour posters. I could go on.

        I am not going to say photographers shouldn’t or don’t need to shoot in RAW, because that’s a totally personal choice, and yes, it IS a better format because there is no lost information in the image you take (it would be naive to not know this) but the comments about anyone not shooting in RAW not being a professional, or it being unprofessional to not shoot in RAW aren’t justified. That’s a bit of an elitist attitude isn’t it? is my website. Feel free to pick holes and tell me that I’m not a professional photographer.

    • It doesn’t make you necessarily unprofessional but it does definitely make you lazy.

    • The best way to put it, without being insulting, is this way:

      RAW = negative
      JPEG = finished product/print.

      You can expose a picture perfectly on film and still have it come out a big old mess if you don’t know what you’re doing when you create your prints. The same goes with in camera images. You can nail the exposure, the white balance, EVERYTHING (which is unlikely these days with the ridiculous amount of settings on SLRs and how much “thinking” the camera does for you even on manual settings), but still wind up with a finished image that looks flat and unimpressive.

    • Another point is color temperature is a pain to deal with sometimes. Shooting in RAW allows you to correct certain pains with ease.

      • A Photographer

        I’ve never come across a JPEG with color that I couldn’t fix. I shoot sports under horrible arena discharge lighting so trust me, I correct colors ALL the time.

        If you think RAW is an industry standard, try handing your RAW file to a media guy in the athletic department when they want to update their web site during halftime. They won’t know what to do with it.

        People like RAW because most products do A LOT of default processing before the image appears on the screen. They do lots of noise reduction, they do sharpening, they bump up the saturation and make the image look very appealing. You can do the very same processing with a JPEG.

        If you want to know what your RAW images really look like, use a no-frills RAW converter like DCRAW which does nothing more than Bayer interpolation. See all that noise? See how soft the image is? See the colors are terrible? That’s what your expensive RAW converter (as well as the camera’s JPEG engine) is hiding from you.

      • Color temperature is easy enough to fix, but you still have to understand what is happening in your file. When you adjust the white balance on a JPEG, you aren’t actually adjusting the white balance of the captured pixels. White balance determines what the outputted calculated pixels will look like, whereas a JPEG “is the outputted pixels”. Working with JPEG, you will ALWAYS lose the original pixels obtained in the camera, and will ALWAYS be limited in how you can output those pixels. It’s not a matter of opinion or preference, or how awesome you think your editing skills are, it’s simply a fact that you are working with less available information. The reason you feel adverse to RAW is that you don’t understand it, and your eyes tell you your JPEG image looks good. But, you simply cannot see what is not there; and that’s the point, you have no way to know what your missing with JPEG. Saying you prefer to work with less options is an absurd statement. It may be the truth, but still absurd.

    • Mr. Clark

      What does your adopting children have to do with your photography?

      • I’m assuming that the addition of children equals the subtraction of time? That’s certainly how it was for me. Not a professional, but I was a keen hobbyist until my sons came along. Now my photography is confined to family snapshots because I don’t have time to do anything else until they’re considerably older.

    • Claiming pros only shoot raw is bullshit. It’s like claiming pros only shoot with certain brands of camera or with certain lenses.

      Raw adds certain advantages in *many* circumstances. In other circumstances it merely adds extra work and NO human measurable advantages. If you’re shooting in your studio with your pre-set lights and a calibrated camera direct to printer, it’s utterly idiotic to shoot raw. Plenty of pros do that for high volume portraits. And even if you expect to do some touch-up work, as long as your color and exposure is correct, there’s not one human alive that can tell the difference between prints of an edited JPG or an edited raw, except for the extra time and space the raw takes.

      In addition, I don’t know a single photojournalist that shoots for any printed media who shoots exclusively in raw. Sports photographers might want to burst out 30 shots over a few seconds… let’s see your camera buffer handle that in raw.

      It completely makes sense to use raw for events and non-studio shooting where you might not have the ability to use a light meter, where you want to do heavy editing of the colors, and where you might need to recover shadows in post due to very high contrast. But for sports, media, travel news, war photography, and certain commercial shoots it doesn’t add anything, and is often a disadvantage. Converting raw to jpg to upload footage to your news desk via satphone seems stupid.

      I’m sure there are lots of folks who like to claim “Oh, but raw has so much more data and every time you write a jpg it adds artifacts.” Raw does have more data, but neither your printer nor your monitor can display them, so how the hell do you know? Try this, if you’re a doubter: Take a properly exposed and WB picture in raw. Do whatever editing you want, then print it out (which requires a conversion to JPG since few printers read TIF or other formats). Close the program and open the JPG. Then change a corner pixel to a shade darker (to force a rewrite), and write it out in a high-quality JPG (10/12 or 11/12 or 90+ quality) to a new file. Close the program again (to guarantee a fresh read) and repeat the edit on each new file until you have a 10th generation JPG. Then print out the JPG and compare the print to the original. You will not know which is which. I’ve done this experiment, and when done properly you can only tell by pixel peeping on your computer at full resolution. Prints are indistinguishable by humans.

      The bottom line is that pros know when to use raw, and when to use JPG. For most of us, you will almost always use raw. But the idea that not using raw disqualifies you as a pro is bullshit.

      • Stef, you can refer to my other comment slightly above this one, but let me expand on this. Photojournalists have restricted media and tight deadlines. A newspaper publisher can’t actually use all the quality even in your JPEG image, and you might as well set your quality to 30. Also, the photojournalists usually aren’t the ones to edit these photographs for print, so it just doesn’t matter as much to them. They are looking for news, not art, it’s completely difference.

        Sports photographers actually can benefit from RAW to compensate for lighting situations that are out of their control. But often these events have sufficient lighting. Again, it’s much the same as photojournalists. And most importantly, as you mentioned, slow burst speeds while shooting RAW. This is a hardware limitation, and has absolutely nothing to do with what the photographer would prefer.

        Your examples are all backwards. For most of those photography professions, the reason they use JPEG usually has little to nothing to do with image quality. The place where RAW shines (which you incorrectly assume isn’t needed) is portrait photography.

        See, what you’re not understanding is that your camera shoots in RAW whether you choose RAW or JPEG as your output, regardless. So, you in fact already use RAW all the time. But the sacrifice that you’re making is letting the camera do the conversion process into JPEG. The computer in your camera has design limitations. As such, they have to take certain shortcuts in order to give you a good picture, and often these shortcuts will lead to inaccurate results. You wouldn’t know, because you falsely assume you didn’t have your lights set correctly or it was an odd fluke. You’re not understanding that the picture was perfect, it just wasn’t processed very well. What you’re suggesting is the equivalence of a film photographer saying “I don’t need to develop my own film, I’m going to trust Wal-Mart to get it done right”. So, what your suggesting is the modern aged version of a sentiment that would make professional film photographers smack you across the face.

        Perhaps now you might understand why other types of photographers use JPEG. It’s because if you’re going to print a picture of Selena Gomez’s skirt riding up in a tabloid, Wal-Mart is probably going to get the job done. Especially since you didn’t have high quality light (thus, high quality pixels) to begin with, so Wal-Mart probably isn’t going to make it any worse.

      • you are a moron. There are no other words necessary. No human measurable advantage? haha.

      • jackd, do the experiment, or stfu.

        Gabriel, you dismiss the ability to shoot quickly in raw as a hardware limitation, yet harp on “shortcuts” the camera takes to write out a JPG. Which is it, are hardware limitations important or not? If they’re important, then it’s significant that sports photogs often use JPG. If it’s not important, then the shortcuts to write out a JPG are insignificant.

        And actually, big manufacturers make specialized chips designed to convert JPGs as fast as possible, with as little degradation as possible. While the sensor does capture in raw, you cannot argue that you “might as well shoot in raw” because that’s not the issue. The issue is speed, and JPGs write out to the internal buffer in tens of milliseconds as opposed to a few hundred ms, and are 1/5th the size. There may be shortcuts taken by the camera’s embedded custom image processor, but that’s making an assumption. Your entire argument is based on this one assumption, which is not verified or established. You’re basically saying “Don’t use in-camera JPG because the camera’s processors are buggy.” How do you know this?

        I fully understand why photojournalists and war photogs usually shoot jpg, and yes, it’s so that they can upload quickly without adding extra time to their workflow. I’ve sent things to news desks before, and they have a simple drop box and the editors grab them and crop/adjust/whatever as needed. The only editing I do is adding the EXIF data the individual paper requires. (And yes, I shot raw, but I had the luxury of time to convert. If I had zero time and, e.g., had to upload via cellphone, you bet your ass I would’ve shot JPG or converted the raw to jpg in-camera.)

        > “Your examples are all backwards. For most of those photography professions, the reason they use JPEG usually has little to nothing to do with image quality.”

        My examples are fine, you misunderstand my argument. I was not saying anyone shoots JPG for the image quality. I’m saying that many professionals do shoot JPG over raw. I don’t care *why* they do it. The simple fact is that they do it, and that is enough to prove the raw vs JPG statement in the original post is wrong when it said “If you aren’t shooting RAW, you aren’t a professional. Period.”

        I have proven, and it appears you agree, that pros use JPG all the time. It doesn’t matter why. The original post is incorrect.

      • Here is your experiment. Shoot a picture in raw and jpg.
        Take the jpg and increase the exposure a few levels.
        Take the raw and increase the exposure a few levels, notice any difference?

        benighted moron is being generous.

      • Oh, I’ll agree with you that shooting RAW doesn’t automatically make you a professional, I never claimed otherwise. But a strong argument is that a professional would at least know when to shoot with RAW, but you don’t even seem to understand it.

        You just gave away more of your ignorance. Really, you should get a book. The speed issue with shooting RAW has absolutely nothing to do with the computer inside your camera. In actuality, RAW is faster to process, because no conversion is done. The speed of shooting with RAW is limited because the write speed to memory, moron. As soon as they invent memory with faster write speeds to use in your camera, RAW will be the industry standard in all fields. You’re trying to compare the computing speed of your camera to your desktop/laptop. Seriously? You don’t possibly see how a computer could perform more calculations over thousands of pixels quicker than the calculator sized processor in your camera? And then you throw out the whole idea of being able to control that processing, developing the image, which is the same as developing your own film. Somehow you don’t see any advantages with that… Well, of course you don’t. You don’t even understand how your hardware works. Good luck with that.

      • Gabriel, I have literally nothing to gain from edumacating you, but I assure you there is no misunderstanding on my end. Not only do I have intimate knowledge of how computers work, I also have deep knowledge of the platform in cameras. Nowhere am I confused on the speed of jpgs vs the speed of raws.

        You, however, seem to be very confused on the speed issue.

        With the statement “pros only shoot raw” firmly in mind, I suggest you reread my above posts. Slowly. And if you have any rudimentary knowledge of logic and reading comprehension, you will see I disproved that statement.

        You can carry on your crusade about raw, and I couldn’t care less. It has nothing to do with anything I stated or the argument I disproved. But your latest post has started devolving into Jack’s trollish behavior, so I can only assume that’s intentional.

      • Phil B

        There is a DISTINCT advantage to shooting RAW all the time. If you know you that you will have to use it at least SOME of the time, then it is better to be able to think from this angle when processing ALL of the time. If you got it right in the camera, there is nothing to correct. If you weren’t able to because of conditions beyond your control, you have the ability to correct. But you know you will only ever have one process and one set of rules to learn and master.

        Someone posted that there is nothing they can’t correct in RAW that they can’t correct in JPEG. This may be true, but the corrections in JPEG typically take much longer, because you are trying to enhance or create something that isn’t there, rather than simply calling up existing image information.

        The reality is, I try to do as little post work as possible. But I know when I sit down to do corrections, it will take me no more than a few minutes, and I never have to wonder what to do or how to go about it because I didn’t shoot RAW. Use one format, establish your process, and you’ll be good to go. And that means leaving yourself the most options by shooting RAW.

    • Interesting statement considering none of the images on your site are SOOC, and at least one has added texture added…

    • Professional Photographer

      I agree with you Dana. This article is full of unrealistic opinions. They are good ideas, but not raw. Now jpegs work just fine for normal images. It does take up time and space, and it DOESN’T mean you are profession. I know several professionals and professors and world famous photographers who do not shoot in RAW. So you are right. RAW is good for things though, so don’t just trash the idea of RAW out.

  5. A real photographer will understand the light, understanding that should be enough that post work shouldn’t be a big deal. Except when editing something for an editorial in which case you may need to remove every trace of a flaw. Vogue won’t take so sub-par bullshit. Consider output before you even shoot, that’s what you really need to know.

  6. I am definitely a professional photographer and have been for many many years. I do not shoot RAW for that exact reason. I *am* a pro. I don’t need to fix my images if I am taking them correctly SOOC. RaW is great when you blow your exposure or the such, but not using RAW doesn’t make you any less a pro. Who runs this site? It sounds like one of those mom-tographers graduated from selective color and now feels the need to sound more superior than the other AWACs.

    • Yes it is your option to throw away 3/4 of your color information. Your camera must have much more dynamic range than my dos D5lll. I treasure each of my millions of colors in my RAW file.

      • If you’re not changing the colors or exposure, you gain nothing from raw. In fact, carrying around that extra 300% color information is a disadvantage if you’re never going to use it. Your printer, your monitor, and your eyesight cannot display or see all of that dynamic range you prize.

        Do you try to stock your fridge with 4x the food you need, just in case?

      • Mostly playing devil’s advocate here (I shoot raw+jpeg), but precisely who does that extra 300% worth of information matter to? I can tell you, the vast majority of clients won’t care. Heck, even in art photography most people won’t care. There’s a nationally known wildlife photographer who has a gallery in my town. I love going down there and looking at his new stuff, but I also people watch. Most of the folks coming into that gallery, even including the ones who buy the art, don’t care. They almost always stand back about 6′ from the print, never getting very close to nitpick. I’ve seen people come into that gallery, take 30 seconds to look at a print, and buy it off the wall. That’s hardly enough time to decide if you like the composition, let alone analyze the white balance or look for graininess. This particular photographer shoots a lot of his stuff on film, and does no post-processing. In the digital world, that’s exactly equivalent to shooting in jpeg. And yet people spend millions of dollars annually on his photos. I’d call that a “pro”.

        I would argue that the only people who really care about that extra 300% you allude to are photographers. To the bride, as long as they can see themselves well enough to remember the day, they’re going to be happy, even if the white balance is slightly off or the color curves could have been tweaked. Heck, the reason this site has material is because there are scads of people willing to pay for crappy photos. People truly don’t care. The one and only time anyone has ever asked me if I shot in raw was because they had just spoke to a photographer who made them feel as though not shooting in raw is tantamount to being a horrible photographer. Beyond that they hadn’t a clue what it was or why it mattered.

        Raw is great. It’s an awesome tool for people like me, who make enough mistakes that I sometimes need to do a little tweaking. That’s why I shoot in it. But is it the mark of a pro? No way. A pro is a communicator; someone who has a vision, and can tell the light how to hit the sensor in the way that matches their vision. Everything else is just fluff.

      • The point isn’t to have more detail in the picture, the point is to have a properly exposed picture. That’s an obvious statement, that the client doesn’t care about your file format. Obviously they only care about the picture. And yes, only the photographer should care. Some photos go down in history for being so good. How would you like to throw out one of those pictures because it wasn’t properly exposed, and those exposure settings were baked into the JPEG and the rest thrown away? Imagine an entire shoot being improperly exposed because your light meter broke on you, and RAW means the difference of success or failure?

        What I’d really like to hear is any possible advantage of JPEG, when high burst speeds aren’t needed (only current limitation of RAW due to memory write speeds)? You guys are quick to ignore and criticism the benefits of RAW, yet you give no good reasons to use JPEG. I only hear the lame excuse of storage space, in an age when you can get 2TB for under 100 bucks. Sure, if you’re on safari, and you don’t bring enough storage, then go JPEG. But if you’re on safari, you’ll probably need high burst speeds, so examples like that don’t apply. There are no benefits of JPEG, none at all. And your criticism of RAW is only your failure to understand it.

    • Claiming you don’t shoot RAW, is just as bad as those peeps claiming to be ‘Natural Light’ photographers. It just raises a flag that says I’m not really a photographer. Ther are some times when shooting JPEG is fine (the media photog example is great), and I can see where you are down to your last 2GB card and still have a half-day of shooting ahead so you must degrade your digital negatives by shooting DX and jpeg-Basic. Waving a flasg that proudly states you don’t shoot RAW as part of your (non-journalism) workflow is akin to wearing a ‘stupid’ sign on your back.

  7. I have a serious issue with the “If you aren’t shooting RAW, you aren’t a professional” statement. I’ve been running a successful portrait photography business for over 10 years and I don’t shoot RAW. I just can’t get the same results shooting RAW that I can get with JPG. And I’m faster with Photoshop than I am with Lightroom. The tools/methods you use don’t make you professional or non-professional. The quality and consistency of your work does.

    • Your studio has a dynamic range of your own making, are your results as perfect when you shoot nature without the extra color information a RAW file provides?

  8. Rubbish. Raw VS jpg is a personal choice. It has little to nothing to do with how professional or unprofessional you are. That said, some of the replies here are ridiculous. Professional or not, sometimes you miss the shot. Being a “pro” does not equate to being perfect. Get over yourself. I shot raw because I like having the option to recover something that otherwise may be unsalvagable if shot in jpg. Because yes, I’m a “pro” and yes, I don’t always get perfect exposure. *gasp*

    And ONLY full blown photoshop will do for editing? Jesus! What a crock! Elements is very powerful and can do some highly complex editing (especially if we’re talking about not “overdoing” it here). I (among many others I know) used PSE exclusively for a handful of years and was absolutely able to do all the editing I ever needed.

  9. I agree with the most part of this article but what I really didn’t like was the no adding sparkles. Hey, sometimes sparkles can be used for artistic expression! just really depends on the approach of the photoshoot and what the client wants, too. I’m a sparkle queen and I give this a thumbs down. BOO!

  10. I’m not sure I can take this story seriously. While there are some good tips in here. I think the RAW issue needs to go. We’ve had this debate in a professional photographer group over and over again. About half shoot RAW the other shoot JPG. I personally favor RAW, because it’s the way I learned it, but I have seen some gorgeous portraits coming from JPG. A skilled (not just “professional” photographer) will know how to use their gear to maintain a consistent SOOC image. None of the things (Besides the Filters, presets and action over usage) make a photographer a pro. Presentation and consistency of images, Quality , technical knowledge, artistic ability, pro grade equipment (argue that if you will but if you care about your clients you’ll be using at least a topside prosumer camera.) and business sense, Make a professional photographer.

    Is there a lot of bad photogs claiming to be pro out there? yes. Is the market so saturated it looks like a bad lightroom image? Yes. Are the pro’s tired of all the 30.00 fauxtogs? Yeah. But can you define a pro by their shooting style? Nope.

  11. I invested in Photoshop in 2003 when I changed to digital photography, but to be honest, I use it very little, just some retouching, an occasional eye or head swap and a few other things. All my images are processed through Lightroom, I import my RAW’s into LR, make any corrections that may be needed and output to jpg or tiff as needed.

    The truth of the mater is, you have to start off by getting it right in the camera. You need to learn light, know light and light you images properly. If you insist on being a “natural light photographer”, you still need to learn light and use reflectors!

    That said, and thought I do shoot raw, and I do own and use Photoshop, you do not need to do either to be a professional! You also don’t need to do all your own color management! I trusted my labs through the late 80’s, 90’s and early 2000 to manage my color with film, why not trust them now?

  12. anonymous

    I do no think you HAVE to have Photoshop to be a photographer. I do 95% of my editing in Lightroom and what i can’t do there Elements handles just fine. If you do clean edits and don’t do a whole lot of skin work or fancy effects you don’t need what Elements doesn’t offer.

  13. You know what I have realized about the photography industry…No matter what you do, you will never be good enough. The only opinions that matter are your clients. If they are happy, f*ck other photographers and know-it-all’s! Whether you shoot in RAW or JPEG, use the most expensive of everything and try your best to do it perfectly right, until you do EVERYTHING the way someone who has been doing it longer than you does it, they will judge you and your work to death!
    I would tell anyone new in this business to IGNORE advice and follow your heart. Learn at your own pace. Buy what you can afford. I would be willing to bet these people on here who are so perfect, started out pretty shitty as well!

    • I disagree, Samantha. It is always great to get advice and opinions of other photographers because they see things that you may not see. Its very helpful for future shoots and this is how photographers improve. It is true that with any image, no matter how great, will be picked apart by photogs, but if you cant handle criticism, you are in the wrong businesd

      • SandMan72B

        I agree that opinions of other ‘pro’ photographers is a good way to learn, but those pros don’t put cash in your pocket. Clients do. So bottom line, you can listen to pros all day and be poor as church mice. Keeping clients happy should be the first priority of your business.

      • You disagree with that person’s opinion only make her statement more true. What you see may not be what I was looking at so how can you tell me I was wrong. When I got my first camera and photographer I respected told me to go get my money back and buy something more expensive. A “monster” as he put it. I asked him would you give a new driver a highly expensive sports car to drive before he has gained any real driving experience? Everything has a learning process and I understand some will be there to help and offer advice worth listening to. Others will just give smug opinions because they are doing it a certain way. But if we all did it the same way then where is the room for creativity.

        This article is suppose to be about editing tips and it is more of a rant about things that pisses the writer off. Maybe if he wrote without so much bias it would have been taken better.

  14. I find it amusing how many “purists” out there think ANY use of editing software is somehow “wrong”.
    Get over it.
    A light touch in editing can enhance a photo without being noticed.
    You can bring out details that might otherwise be left unnoticed.
    You can enhance the beauty of a subject by removing visual blemishes, be it an unsightly pimple on your model, or an errant telephone/power line or aircraft contrail in your landscape.

    Oh, you get it all “right” in camera? Great.
    You can tell me about all of those renowned photographers that never hired a retoucher.
    What’s that? Can’t think of any?


  15. “Would you take your film to Walmart to get processed instead of a custom lab?”

    Maybe. Walmart mail order prints used to have a good reputation from lab tests. It all depends on the printer the place uses. I will sometimes print at Costco if it falls within a certain size range, because one of the printers at one of the stores in my town is a very nice fuji printer, similar to what many color labs use. As long as you get recent ICC profiles and turn off color correction, some of these big stores can be a real bargain.

  16. Not a single person mentioned the true importance of shooting raw versus jpg. It has nothing to do with color or exposure. It has everything to do with the blacks/ whites and shadows/highlights. It’s a real big deal when you want perfect images without washed out/ blown out whites and shadows that are either too dark or too light. Correctly exposing from the beginning has nothing to do with a perfect final image when you are dealing with a white dress and perhaps a really dark accessory or background.

  17. There are a lot of opinions on here, but maybe you should post what your annual income is from photography. That could possibly help everyone decipher the amateurs from the true professionals that have the eye to distinguish the difference. Everyone has a right to their opinion but for people who own a full time business and are dependent on the income from their photographs “might” have a different and more favorable opinion towards this article.

  18. I had no idea that shooting RAW was such a controversial topic. It seems that i have stumbled upon a touchy subject. Let me tell you how I learned the value of shooting RAW. As with EVERY photographer I still have things to learn and I occasionally can botch an exposure or something form time to time (although its good to know that there are so many other folks out there who have never have this problem) The real value of RAW is when you are looking through those images later and you realize that the best shot you took (lets say of the first kiss at a clients wedding) is underexposed, and there are others with good exposure, but they aren’t as good in other ways. Being able to save that photo from the recycle bin and let your clients have it is to me the biggest gain. Maybe there will come a day when I am such an amazing photographer that I will never need to have the safety net of shooting RAW again, but I seriously doubt it. To me, I would rather be safe than sorry, and I would rather have the information and not need it, than need it and not have it. Any day of the week. Even if it means a little extra work in post, which I don’t believe it does. My workflow has been just as speedy with raw than it was with JPG, even faster. I guess it might just be my personal choice, but I just don’t understand why its controversial to have the most versatile files available to you. Maybe you are all right that you can still be a professional while shooting JPG, but I can’t imagine why you would want to.

    • The simple sentance “I had no idea that shooting RAW was such a controversial topic”, show everyone that you’re not a real photographer either. This debate has been on since RAW has been available, and about half of the “real photographers” (so, not you it seems) are not shooting RAW.

      Why? For most it’s because they know what they are doing (their white balance is OK, the setup of the camera is right according to the light/effet they want to give, etc.: so why bother as the end-media is 8 bits deeps anyway?), and for some its (as mentionned) a speed tradeof: RAW are far bigger and fill-up the buffer too fast in continuus shooting mode (like sport photography, some wildlife, photojournalism, etc.).

      I dont even want to comment about the Photoshop point…

      • pro-tog-graffer

        So what you saying Garp is that in order to be a pro you must keep your eyes and ears fixed on the bickering in your industry? Lol…. “Do you even shoot bro”. Lol. Pro’s are artist…artist care about one thing….Art… They are not forced to sit back and read blogs and news articles about raw vs jpeg. As for others burst rate differences with raw vs jpeg…. my buffer doesn’t fill often with my mark iii… I use super fast cards, so I can get a good deal of continuous shooting in. But….. how many “pro’s” just spray and pray like that anyway? That’s not very “professional” to me. I have shot sports and if you know the sport you can anticipate movement.

  19. This article was poorly written and is based on a opinion and not fact. If you use a light meter correctly you should not blow the highlights. To be a professional in anything you need: knowledge to determine the best course of action in any situation, confidence in yourself, customer service skills, and the ability to produce a quality product consistantly.

  20. I hate Fauxtography

    End the madness!! Shoot RAW + jpeg and get the best of both worlds. Just upload the files you need to work with to get the results you want. Both have disadvantages and advantages, and only the photographer themselves can decide which file is best to process to achieve the end outcome they are after with their image/images. Anyone that says one way of processing is superior over another, and starting with a certain file type is the ONLY and/or BEST way, seriously needs to stop. It’s just SO NOT what photography is about, and probably the most unimportant aspect to what we do, but is the most debated, and discussed. I have NEVER looked at an image that caught my interest, or moved me and thought “I wonder if that’s a processed RAW or jpeg?” It’s not a file type that makes a wonderful photograph, or a photographer’s finished work professional or not.
    Any article, or post that states “you must shoot RAW!” My eyes roll and I end up losing interest. It’s just silly, and shows me that the person I’m seeking knowledge from isn’t as knowledgable as they think they are. Even though there are bits of good stuff in this article, they all get weighed down and hidden by the stupid RAW vs jpeg debate.
    meanwhile millions of snap shots are sitting on hard drives as RAW files for no apparent reason whatsoever, just because people read misinformed/personal bias articles like this one. Just stop it! Quit contributing to this silliness. Besides all you “SHOOT RAW!” People do realize, as time goes on camera makers are giving so much more control over your jpegs and how they are processed in camera. If you know what you are doing, and take the time to read your camera’s manual, and learn what all those wonderful options and settings can do, you may just find that you need less and less RAWs to work with. Cameras are only going to improve with time, and their you’ll be, stuck behind your computer while everyone else is shooting because you stuck with this stubborn nonsensical way of thinking. Because I prefer to take more time editing before I click, and choose to process data to jpeg in camera and only do light editing on my computer, does NOT make the quality of my work any less than someone who only shoots RAW.

    • I hate Fauxtography

      And visa versa

      • I hate Fauxtography

        Gosh! I just reread what I wrote, and I came off as trying to imply that my way is better. Not what I wanted to do at all. For many artists shooting RAW is very important to there creative process, just as shooting jpeg is to mine. RAW and jpeg both have their place. Their own very equal but different place.

  21. Raw + JPG is photography standard in my opinion. (just depends what industry you’re in)

    RAW has its endless possibilities with editing and always needed for serious clients. (advertising / print)
    JPG is perfect for client reviewing and portfolio viewing, backups and can also help with shooting low light because JPG is better with Noise. (but you can always fix this on RAW’s)

    in the end, it’s down to personal preference and what photography you do, I shoot travel & hotels for many well known travel companies and they need both RAW & JPG for their brochures and websites.

    I use Lightroom for quick cataloging and Bridge to select / edit in Camera raw.
    any further changes I need to make its always photoshop to really enhance a single image.

    each photographer works differently, it doesn’t matter how you do it but you’re only as good as your last image you take, and we never stop learning.

    Its always interesting to read peoples comments on this site and to view those funny images!

  22. Wow there’s a lot of negativity and even insulting going on here, come on guys we’re all here because we love photography, that’s all that matters.

    I think the focus should always be getting it right in camera as much as possible, and learning the compositional theory to allow the images to speak for themselves. If you ever say to yourself “I’ll fix that later”, then you’ve probably strayed too far from this approach and relying a bit too heavily on post processing.

    Regarding RAW/JPG, by shooting JPGs you are essentially allowing the camera to make a lot of creative decisions for you. Sometimes this is preferable, e.g. if you want to share the results quickly or if they are informal shots that don’t require being perfectly adjusted. So long as you know what creative decisions the camera is making on your behalf, then there’s nothing wrong with it. Certainly though, for any ‘professional’ output, the expectation these days is that you should shoot RAW, as it allows you to take full creative ownership of the image rather than relying on the camera manufacturer’s in-camera automated processing.

    But like all these things, rules are there to be broken, so long as you know what you’re breaking and why. All that matters is the end result and whether it means something to you and you are proud of it. If other people don’t like how you got there, who cares.

    • I hate Fauxtography

      Certainly though, for any ‘professional’ output, the expectation these days is that you should shoot RAW, as it allows you to take full creative ownership of the image rather than relying on the camera manufacturer’s in-camera automated processing.
      Tell me, how does letting software convert your RAW rather than your camera give you less creative control if you are telling the camera how to handle the RAW data? If you tell the software how much noise reduction, how much sharpening, exposure compensation, how to handle color, etc or your telling the camera, either way you are in creative control, and starting with a workable file. I prefer to tell my camera how to handle things. I find it much easier, more second nature, and more customized to the shoot, than having my software put out it’s own less customized way of handling RAW data in front of me to correct. I use my RAW files when I need to correct my mistakes, and when I desire a black and white image that was taken in either a low light situation, or it’s questionable that I did things properly in camera. Again, this does not make my work less “professional” or affect the final outcome in any sort of negative way. Data processed by camera or processed by software. Both are very acceptable, and professional ways of working as long as you know what your camera and/or software is doing to your data and why. The only reason why there is some sort of “expectation” that pros only work with RAW files is ONLY because of articles, posts, and opinions like this one that are so very abundant out there. I assume most photographers have worked with both, and make there own decision on what they prefer to get the results they want/need. That’s what a beginner should be told to do. They should be told the benefits of both, and the disadvantages of both unbiasedly “Use both intently, and take time to figure out which way works best for you and the way you shoot and create” and be warned that the way they work may change over time. “Don’t discount either way of processing” Not “you MUST shoot RAW!” I shot RAW for over a year not knowing why, just that “I should”. In my case it put a damper on my editing and interfered with my process. Once I started listening to myself and my own needs not only was I spending less time at the computer, and more time behind the camera, but I was more readily getting the results I desired and had a much better understanding.

  23. Hahahahaha! Get yourself “photoshop, not photoshop elements”

    And what is the picture in the article edited with then?

    Are you sponsored by adobe? WTF can PS do that PS elements can’t? The answer? Practically, for PHOTOGRAPHERS? Not a lot more. Sure there are things, but most people can cope with elements.

    Hmmm….the picture in the article, is that really your best shot? Kudos for not over touching, but it’s a horrible portrait. Her eyes are too dark and you should NEVER put the pupils in the corner of the eyes like that: there should always be some white of the eye.

  24. Ciao_Chao

    Please don’t call this a general article, half the “rules” don’t apply if you’re working with landscapes or photojournalism. It should be clearly stated that it doesn’t apply in all fields of photography.

    When shooting landscapes I know exactly whether a shot can be made with raw processing, and at most a mild HDR or perspective correction, anything more than that and I’ll be rethinking my approach, with landscapes you’re positively trying to avoid working in photoshop too much. Likewise in documentary photography you’re not always looking for the perfect photo, and what matters is often a fast turnaround, and for that a quick cataloging software is essential, and excessive use of photoshop is frowned upon in the community.

    I think the article is perfectly valid in many ways, but be clear that this isn’t gospel and neither is this a set of rules.

  25. All I see here is comments from people bragging and claiming they’re “real photographers”. I’m not a photographer, just an aspiring one, and even I know that you RAW is the most advisable format when you’re a pro. Do you guys even know the difference between RAW and JPEG? Knowing how to work with light is important, but in a situation when light is constantly changing, it’s a pain in the ass to correct your camera’s settings before each single shot. Sure you can edit JPEG, but if you don’t know that will undoubtedly reduce your image’s quality, then I don’t see how you can claim being a “real photographer”.
    If you’re in fact a professional photographer you have all the advantages in shooting RAW, because in a nutshell: you’re getting an uncompressed file and complete/lossless data from your camera’s sensor VS a compressed file that will lose data and quality each time you edit or make any change to it (including a simple rotation of the image).

    Most “pros” that I come across are in fact mediocre photographers who over-edit their images or don’t edit at all. I don’t think a reputable photography magazine (or other kind) would accept either case. Most websites or magazines I’ve seen my photographer friends work for always ask for basic image enhancing. Otherwise they wouldn’t need a photographer to make a picture they can do themselves.

    • Oh, BTW, what’s the deal with the crappy colour cast?

      • I hate Fauxtography

        I don’t think the author (if that is their work) is quite as knowledgable as they think they are.

    • I hate Fauxtography

      I’m glad you took the time to learn the difference between RAW and jpeg, and it’s good that you found the file type that works best for you and your photography. Everyone should explore both. But to say RAW is more advisable for anyone/everyone who aspires to be or is already pro, and to imply working with jpeg is somehow wrong, is just silly. I shoot both and work with jpegs a vast majority of the time. I only worked one RAW in the past 6 months. This does NOT reduce the quaility of my images. This does not mean that I don’t understand RAW. Processed RAW data in camera, or processed RAW data in software are both different, but equal ways of working. It’s a personal preference/choice, dependant on how you shoot, and what you need to achieve your desired outcome. The end outcome is what counts more than anything, not how or where the data was compressed.

    • A grown up

      Read up to the part where you admitted to not being a professional photographer again and then shut up.

      • And you call yourself a grown up? LOL good joke there bud.

      • Of course I did! I don’t claim to be something I am not, in opposition to you calling yourself a grown up with that a-hole attitude. I’ve been modeling for years and have worked for many photographers and/or follow their work closely. Your butthurt tells me you must be one of those “know it all” “pros” who claim to be so but whose work shows exactly the opposite. I must have ruffled your jimmies somewhere in my comment… 😉

  26. I shoot about 50 weddings a year in JPEG and have for many years. I’m among the most popular wedding shooters in my area, so I’m pretty sure I’m a professional.

    • Well I hope you are doing better than the guy who did a friend’s wedding. He thinks he’s a pro and shoots with a D5000, stating that “I use the latest digital technology” on his website on his “about me” page.
      He shoots a lot of weddings a year too and for some reason is popular. He also shoots JPEG. He charges middle of the road prices. In a nutshell his work is abysmal, overpriced and as an amateur I wouldn’t have given 10% of his photos to the client.

      How about sharing some of your work so it can be judged?

    • Are you sure you’re the most popular? lol

      • Just ask him. 🙂

        People don’t lie when posting on the Internets Tubes. That would be wrong.

  27. Not really sure what the hate is about, but I find it to be a really top notch article in steering newer photographers away from the common mistakes. Or preparing them for a more “pro” type workflow.

    • Thanks! I didn’t realize at all that it was so controversial to say that people should shoot RAW. This article is about editing after all, and you can’t edit what you don’t have. It seems that no one has anything else to say about any other part of the article. Everyone is so pissed that I have opinion about RAW files. .

      • better then you

        You can edit jpegs non-destructively any one who says you cant doesnt know the facts and gets info from joke sites like this or that asstard jared polin. but shot raw then edit and then what do you do… oh yeah you convert to jpeg to give to the client and they the client dont give a fat rats ass if you shot in raw of jpeg they just want the shot thats all then your left with how many 30+ mb raw files that are worthless to you but to eat up storage space. lol shot raw what a joke.

      • You are a cock better-then-you

    • Right. Especially because of the overall tone and personality of this blog. It’s very tongue-in-cheek with a tough-love sort of attitude. I would expect a no-nonsense, my-way-or-the-highway approach from a blog like this. Also it gave us all something to talk about. I don’t go to blogs to read “everybody can do everything they want.” I go to the blog to hear that particular author’s opinion.

  28. Steve Lineberry

    A better blog title might be “Why I think I am a better photographer than you!!” At a PPA Convention, I once heard a photographer talk about her start in photography. She went and bought a camera and invited her next door neighbor over a photo shoot – she was self-taught – and she related to us – how ALL of the photos were out-of-focus; poor lighting and posing. I guess she would have fallen under the “” – but she refused to just accept it! She continued to learn and work as a photographer. She became (and is) one of the most successful photographers in history! Who is the “” photographer? Ann Geddes!!!! And here is what her bio says “Geddes’ books have been published in 83 countries.[2] According to she has sold more than 18 million books and 13 million calendars.[3] In 1997, Cedco Publishing sold more than 1.8 million calendars and date books bearing Geddes’ photography.[4] Her debut book, Down in the Garden, made it to the New York Times Bestseller List.[5] Her books have been translated into 23 different languages. I am sure that the writers of the blog wish they could be the type of “” as Ann Geddes is!

    • This is great! There isn’t anyone on this site who says your images need to be perfect when you are just starting out, or that you cant make mistakes, this site goal is not to make fun of people taking bad images while they are learning. This is about people who do not have an interest in learning trying to pass their work off as “professional” and devaluing our whole industry. Theres nothing wrong with learning, of course there isn’t. But we need to be harsher on ourselves and more honest about how experienced we are when we decide to call ourselves professionals.

    • Clearly you’ve completely missed the point of this site. Also, maybe YOU wish you could be Ann Geddes, but it doesn’t seem like anyone who runs this site does.

  29. So many old pros here who don’t understand how RAW works at all.

    Your camera always shoots RAW, whether you choose JPEG or RAW as your output. This is a fact. When you output as JPEG, what you are doing is letting a computer in your camera with the processing power of a calculator make decisions on your behest on how the photograph should be developed. And even according to the camera’s own literature, sometimes it makes the wrong choices. This decision becomes permanent, because you essentially sent your film to Wal-Mart and told them to burn the film after printing.

    Don’t get so upset about it. If you’re happy with throwing out perfectly good images, or ignorance is bliss when it comes to not knowing how the photo could have actually came out when processed correctly, then keep your cheap JPEG rendering. You’re still a professional, you’re just out of date.

    Personally, famous film photographers would roll over in their grave if they knew I wasn’t developing my own photographs, so I’ll keep my RAW. To each his own.

    • better then you

      sucks to be you thinking raw is better but hey as you state “ignorance is bliss” so wallow on boy. shooting raw doesnt make you better then any one else and you can tell a client you do and end up shooting jpeg it doesnt matter you can edit a jpeg non-destructively any ways. but you keep shooting raw and thinking that makes you some kind of “pro” or something.

      • You’re a very dense headed troll boy, aren’t you? No, RAW doesn’t make “you” better. I doubt much at all would help your case. But it is a far superior file format to JPEG. What you do with it is up to you and your skill level. Which in your case must be quite low, since you don’t even so much as understand how RAW works. So, for people like me who actually understand our tools, RAW is the obvious choice for technical reasons, which have nothing to do with opinion. And since you just point and click, without even understanding what’s happening inside your camera, stick to your JPEG. You wouldn’t understand RAW anyways.

  30. So did the article writer shoot that picture (and can we get proof) or is this another case of the site admin stealing images again?
    Photo comes from a modelmayhem profile

    • That’s definitely the model, but that double-pic is to show a before/after edit, so it’s probably a photographer’s site.

      And it does appear they may be posting random images they find for non-Fair-Use.

      • That IS my photo. This has not been stolen. It comes from my Flickr feed.

      • That’s cool!

        The rest of the article is pretty good, although I think it bounces around from generalities to specifics and so on.

        Specifics: listing the software, listing the tools in the software, etc.

        Generalities: keep skin textures in editing, avoid gimmicks, edit lightly, shoot well, capture in raw.

        You should choose a camp and stay in it. If you’re going to make a general article, then make it general. If you’re going to make a specific article, then make it specific and title it such that it’s clear it applies to those using the specific software and approach.

        The only objections to your claim about raw is that it’s presented as a law, but is not really correct. It ignores all sorts of areas of photography that you’re unfamiliar with, yet paints them all with the same brush. Take no offense from the responses, but learn from it.

      • You’ll forgive us LiseAnn but the site admin does have a habit of non-apologetically violating IP laws, all while trying to remain on their high horse.

      • So that IS your photo? Then what’s with the shitty red color cast?

      • Poor Katie deserves better than to have her ‘before’ photo posted to “you are not a photographer” :/

  31. What a snobby article.

  32. cameraclicker

    You are not a professional if you don’t shoot raw and process with Lightroom and Photoshop. No! You are not a professional if you don’t shoot with the intention of getting paid. You are an amateur if you shoot because you love to, and are not doing it for the money.
    Good photographer or bad photographer has little to do with amateur or professional.
    Can we all agree that a standard JPEG is 8 bits? That raw files are 12 bits, or 14 bits, or perhaps even 16 bits depending on the camera? Going from 8 bits to 9 bits doubles the data available. Going from 9 bits to 10 bits doubles the data again, … you get the idea. A JPEG has somewhat less than 10% of the data that a raw file can contain.
    Sometimes a lot of data is useful. Sometimes, not so much. I usually shoot to raw files because it saves the time of changing to shooting to raw files when I need a raw file. My computers are fast enough that there is almost no time penalty from shooting to raw files. Raw files are just sensor data. Every camera deals with sensor data at some point. Every camera that displays an image on the back, also deals with JPEG, at some point. Writing media may be slow compared to what your camera can do with internal data, which is why many cameras can shoot a burst of less than a dozen raw files but can shoot a hundred JPEGs. Some newer cameras with really fast memory cards don’t seem to have this limitation.
    If shooting news or sports, you may need instant JPEGs. You can even use your cell phone as a wireless hot spot and JPEGs get delivered to your office within seconds of releasing the shutter. I suppose you could do that with raw files but they are larger and would make more work for the person receiving them. If you shoot weddings, you can shoot JPEGs that come off the camera’s card in time for display at the reception, and you could change the reel so the second half of the reception it shows the first half. Too much work for a notebook while you are still running around taking more photos. Of course, if you are in any of those groups, you are probably shooting with a camera that has dual slots. So you put a fast 8GB card in one slot for JPEGs and a fast 16GB card in the second slot for raw files. Then you get the best of both worlds.
    Raw files can be a huge help with event photography, where the light changes frequently and can be completely different even if you stand still and just turn 90 degrees. The dynamic range can be helpful as well, you can recover the contents of TV screens in a dark bar, that would otherwise just be white rectangles. Raw files definitely have their place, as long as you have time to process them. I still shoot to raw files when doing studio portraits, but frankly, I don’t see any benefit there.
    Shooting studio portraits, lighting is all adjusted to a tenth of a stop, if you need more fill, add more fill, if a light is too bright turn it down a bit. Need a rim light? Add one! If there is anywhere that straight out of the camera JPEGs should be excellent, it is studio portraits.
    Use Photoshop, not Elements, and not GMP. Well, perhaps not. Yes, Photoshop is the defacto standard at most editing houses, but GIMP is almost all of the power and none of the cost. Canon think you should be using their software if you are shooting to raw files with their products. Personally, I prefer the noise reduction software in ACR that comes with Photoshop, but if you are shooting studio portraits, why are you using noise reduction software? Some people like Lightroom, I don’t get along with it. Photo Mechanic suits me better.
    It’s funny that the ad running beside the article is for Portrait Professional, which is a fast way to get that plastic doll look, and they even take all the freckles off one of their models in their ad! Perfect way to get her into the witness protection program!
    The best advice in the article is to edit gently and leave your model looking real.

  33. A grown up

    I get the impression that on this website “professional” means “I bought an expensive camera and read all the internet articles about how to take good pictures on a technical level, but although I’ve never actually SOLD my images to anyone I am a professional photographer based on what I’ve read.” Only a bunch of failures would make such demands that you MUST do this to be a PRO LIKE ME.

    Having shot for National Geographic, the New York Times, among many others, and having many friends in the industry and having had several solo and group exhibitions in my home of New York and all over the world I can assure all you little aspiring mommy-bloggers and “please book me for wedding’ facebook photographers that shooting RAW is a personal choice, not a professional indicator. Most real photographers I know do not care to shoot RAW. It’s really just not that important. It’s one of those things that people who can only understand ‘bigger numbers = better” think is important. I would actually suggest that shooting RAW is for amateurs.

    • I get the impression that you think that merely claiming that you accomplished all that actually means anything. Unless you can prove it (and I’m sure someone as good as you claim to be wouldn’t be posting on here anonymously) then just sit down and be a good boy/girl.

    • Bigger numbers? LOL. What bigger numbers are you referring of? No, resolution isn’t it. No, number of colors isn’t it. Heck, your prints are going to be limited by your printer regardless. Were you under the impression that RAW gives you more of something? Maybe it would help if you understood what RAW is.

      No, RAW doesn’t give you more quality. It only lets you control what that quality looks like. Eventually your photos are going to get converted to JPEG regardless, whether for online display or for print. The difference is, you’re choosing to let a little computer with the processing speed of a calculator do your conversions for you, instead of doing them yourself.

      RAW is the modern equivalent of film my friend. JPEG is the modern day equivalent of developing that film. Find me an old pro who doesn’t develop his own film, and I’ll show you a flying monkey. The problem these days are that old film photographers falsely assume the days of developing an image are over, but that’s not true. Just because you made the switch to digital after clinging onto your film camera for so long, and then got used to the idea of letting your camera do your developing for you, doesn’t mean you’ve mastered your equipment. Get it right, RAW is not new, your camera has always shot RAW and converted that to JPEG for you. Now you’re able to develop your own RAW, thanks to progress, and we can finally stop letting cheap hardware do it for us.

      RAW is not new. You have always shot RAW. RAW is not a “preference”, RAW is reality. If you want to let your camera develop your RAW data, be my guest. Don’t make false claims that cheap JPEG conversion makes you a pro because you take good photos. That only means you’re a pro who uses cheap file conversion. That’s fine for YOU, don’t put that shit on the rest of us.

      • I would say that JPG is the equivalent of getting your film developed at wal-mart, and then trying to correct the printed film using an ink set. Using raw is developing the film yourself and working with the negative.

      • anonymous

        quite new here, but it’s always most amusing to read the comments on photos and the arguments :p

        I think what a lot of photographers and people here are failing to realise is the change in technology over the past few decades. Remember the great photographers of old didn’t have the power of Photoshop or dslr cameras – but still produced brilliant pictures, advice from this class of photographer is priceless, but they are usually set in their ways. A 21st century photographer is going to have c completely different perspective to working and different tools for the job – end of the day it’s how good that finished job is (and looks)

        personally I don’t think many of the pro photographers even properly understand what happens to your pictures at the ‘bit’ level on disk. I think more should speak to computing people to really understand what is happening there – this would also greatly help you understand the ‘raw vs JPEG argument’

        and Gabriel I’m sorry to say but you are completely misinformed if you think a dslr camera is “little computer with the processing speed of a calculator ” if you knew anything about computer processors you would realise how ignorant this statement is! modern day processors are very fast and powerful

        even if your statement held true the calculator sized processor would simply take LONGER to do the same job – everything else would stay exactly the same – in a nutshell any processor is simply looking at numbers – how quick it can go through them determines speed( laymans = ‘power’) it does not dictate how well or better one does the job 🙂

        (you’ll also notice the lack of replies from anyone with a real in depth knowledge of computer programming on here – remember it’s then that make photoshop, gimp, Lightroom or whatever)

        happy learning 🙂

  34. While I agree with a lot of this I have to say that I was trained by a pro tog that’s been in the business for over 30 years as a photo journalist for several larger newspapers, wedding photographer and portrait photographer who started in film and is now using digital and Lightroom and photoshop and he never uses RAW to shoot in and teaches how to get it right without having to use RAW. I know it has its uses but I do not agree with the statement that you’re not a pro if you dont shoot RAW. I’ve only been a “pro” for a short time and still have lots of learning to go and do not always have perfect images but every tog started somewhere, but I will agree with a tog that’s been in the pro biz for 30+years.

  35. GIMP is a very versatile kit I think for most uses and has most of the common editing tools that are needed. It’s limitations can be overcome with other open source tools and UFRaw (for raw conversion) performs well with the right settings and color profiles. Photoshop CS6 for Windows is priced above £600 from Amazon UK (Creative suite is £1,299). For those on a budget or who need to prioritise their wish-list of kit, I think that would be better spent on lenses or a spare body, a solid tripod and some good quality filters.

  36. Get Professional Software

    “You can’t create professional images without professional software. If you are serious about your craft you need to invest in the right tools for your trade. Would you take your film to Walmart to get processed instead of a custom lab? I’d hope not. Get yourself Adobe Photoshop (not Photoshop Elements, not Picasa, not Windows Photo Editor, not Gimp, etc.) and learn how to use it. Some people also use Lightroom in addition. You can sign up for Adobe’s Creative Cloud for an inexpensive monthly fee, and you can get a membership for cheap to learn your program thoroughly.”

    A PROFESSIONNAL photogapher gets its income from Adobe Inc…… a good job?

  37. I don’t think you can compare photoshop editing to makeup on a woman’s face. Well you could like just was done but you would be totally missing the point of photoshop. I shoot raw but to be perfectly honest I love “overpowering” editing. I really hate boundaries. Typical colors become boring. This just another article trying to make rules that don’t exist.

  38. Why are people still arguing over raw vs jpeg?
    As if anyone aiming for art shoots digital.
    Every fine art photographer is shooting film and gets it right in the camera and darkroom.

  39. I am sure someone already said this but if you really took the time to understand color depth and light then you will understand that shooting in RAW is a lot better especially when editing photos. It is a better quality photo! Not to say you are less professional because I do know a few photographers that are great and professional and capture amazing pictures using JPEG and depending only on light and not software. It is better for editing quality and printing and if you do those, shooting in JPEG doesnt give that much color range than RAW because JPEG compresses your photo and when editing or printing in JPEG your color could be block gradient instead of a smooth gradient.

  40. BarefootMedia

    I tried to read through all the repetitive comments and found no one ever asked the actual question of “what constitutes a professional photographer?” And more importantly, “what do pros do?” Pros don’t use this or that exclusively. Pros are people making money. In my experience, being a pro is more about salesmanship than technical skill or artistic vision. I know of artists selling work for thousands that use children’s cameras. And there are still landscape professionals using sheet film in view cameras. Both can be making comfortable livings as “professional photographers” but to expect them to have a great deal in common in their workflows is utterly insane. And seriously folks, all your carping about RAW vs. JPG is about workflows. So all of the crap here works out to, “if you don’t use my workflow, you’re wrong (ie. not professional.)” And we all know that is a for crap argument for or against anything. Get real people, RAW is perfect for some workflows and JPG is better suited to others. So they are equally professional, which means people making money with photos use them. And absolutely nothing more.

    • Thank you for saying this! Who’s to say what makes a professional versus what doesn’t? In every art form, individuality is usually a good thing.


    Hey douches, if you dont shoot in raw, you aint professional. I’m filthy stinkin rich and probably one of the best photographers in the world man. You know WHY MAN? RAW. DEAL WITH IT. Got a problem with it? Thats what i thought.

  42. Jesus, people really get worked up about the whole RAW vs. JPEG thing. It’s a personal preference. not a religion.

    Also, screw Adobe. I was planning on purchasing Photoshop, but ever since their subscription system, I’m sticking with GIMP.

  43. Raw or JPEG?… it depends on your ability to handle raw and what the final output is going to be. Pics for newspapers or home albums don’t require RAW. Art photography requires RAW, if you know what you are doing but then if your’e a true purist you’d shoot in film.

  44. I transitioned from the JPEG camp to the raw camp a while ago. It is definitely better. The article was probably wrong to use the word ‘professional’ when describing the format you shoot in. More accurately, people who are fastidious about the quality of their image in every pixel will shoot raw. Those that don’t mind either way, whether it be because they are excellent with using light and exposure, might shoot in JPEG. I find that there will almost always be a part of an image that needs correction, and while it can be done in both forms, will always be better in raw. It may not always be noticeable, but in many cases it is. A good example is photography under horribly coloured lights that need to be white balance corrected. You can do it in raw and JPEG, but man the quality of the raw conversion is so much better.

  45. Liseann,

    The article is good and texture is great unless you are shooting plastic sculptures or automotive paint jobs. I do not mean to criticize your article, only offer a different viewpoint. That being said there are several things in the article that I see differently. The biggest is “Only Shoot Raw”. First off why do you type it as RAW? It is not an acronym and should be typed as raw. That is just a little peeve. Many of my friends and I have debated raw vs JPEG (this is an acronym and should be capitalized) and we agree to disagree. I have no interest in the adding a JPEG file to their set up or yours and don’t understand those who will argue like it is a personal insult when I tell them I don’t shoot raw only. Technically I do shoot raw, I take every photo with an NEF file written to card slot 1 but a JPEG Large file is also written to card slot two. Every photo. If I am shooting my back up body with its single CF slot I still shoot raw plus JPEG. If I have my shot set up properly (contrast, saturation, white balance, etc, etc) I can take my JPEG large, do a few minor touch ups in Lightroom and be done with it. If I made a mistake, mainly on exposure or white balance, I have a raw file to work with. My only problem with raw files is that it does not open with all the settings I so carefully made in my camera, but there is more raw data to work with and I can often save images that I performed poorly on in the first place. If I set up the shot properly why should I have to make all those adjustments again? The only other time I see the need to process my raw files is when printing larger than 20″x30″. At that size the JPEG files, IMO, are at their max in my 24MP camera. Nothing wrong with shooting raw, it just adds another step if I’ve already done my job. If I had someone who did the editing for me I’d probably shoot just raw too, but that is not in my budget. As the author of the article you are certainly entitled to your opinion and I support your right to shoot raw only, just don’t make a blanket statement as many of us prefer to use raw only as a back up when we didn’t set up the shot correctly in camera. I started with film and correctly setting up the shot is a a habit I learned before you were probably born. No offense is meant in that statement, but I don’t consider myself a digital artist so much as a photographer.

  46. This article has some good ideas, but is mainly full of opinions and statements that are very false. As many many people have commented before, you don’t have to shoot in RAW to be professional. Period. You don’t. I can promise you. I work with and know many professional and world famous photographers that would agree with all the points I would say about this article. You CAN create great images without software. In some magazines and contests they require non-edited images. I can prove that point as many times as you need me to as well. Be open to other ideas. There are things that work with some techniques and people and others that don’t. And to those that read this article, keep in mind this is just one (strongly opinionated) way to do things.

  47. A Photographer for AP

    You people don’t even realize that ALL the photographers for Getty and AP at the Olympics and many many other events NEVER SHOOT RAW. It’s just simply too slow to transfer that amount of data and get the photo out immediately across hundreds of different channels.

    • DidYouEvenLookThroughTheViewFinder

      Perhaps there should have been a disclaimer at the top of the article “Not to be applied to action shots of news worthy events.” These are portraits: staged and hopefully well planned in advance.

  48. OhBoyOhBoy

    The whole I’m a pro and you are a amateur is so over done. Who cares if someone does something different than you do. Art is in the eye of the beholder. Who are you to say you aren’t a pro if you don’t do this or if you don’t buy that. Get over yourself and understand that everyone has the right to want to do photography, especially if its something they’ve always loved to do! I am not a professional and I know that, but I am working my ass off to get there. The fact that a lot of you are bashing each other based on shooting RAW or JPG is a bit childish and immature. Its not like you just randomly woke up one day and became a pro photographer…. You all started from the bottom like the rest of us!!! Grow the hell up and stop with this nonsense, Its people like you that make being a photographer more of a hassle then it needs to be!! How about helping each other since we are all interested in the same thing: Photography!! I have never read so many immature comments in my life!!! You all need to get your heads out of your asses and start respecting each other for who we are instead of who you want people to be. The fact that there’s a site dedicated to bashing people who are not pro photographers is disgusting. You all make me sick! Literally sick! I have never been more ashamed of being a photographer than I am now by seeing all of your petty comments attacking each other! God damn!

  49. Your means of explaining everything in this piece of writing is genuinely good, all can easily
    understand it, Thanks a lot.

  50. Stephen

    Software plays a small role, it’s more what the images look like when your done. Stop editing your photos like your a wal-mart,sears,kmart photog..

  51. I cannot believe the level of stupidity and ignorance of all the dumb morons posting comments. You people are insane. No wonder you have time to post comments here instead of working.

    You cannot compare sports shooters and fashion shooters. You will not find a fashion shooter shooting in JPEG. Beauty, glamor and fashion are generally the folks having lots of retouching happen to their photos. Therefore, they shoot in RAW. Because that is professional for their industry.

    Professionals who shoot sports shoot JPEG because that is the standard for professionals in their industry. However, many sports shooters also shoot in JPEG + RAW. If you don’t believe me do a bit of research or google amazing sports images.

    I don’t feel like addressing the stupidity here. Sports shooters who are going to retouch an image or two and want to capture a killer shot to do lots of post work on it will shoot a RAW copy, end of story. Today’s cameras fire off RAW’s just as fast and work fine.

    Fashion, glamour and beauty shooters shoot in RAW as well.

    RAW is the more professional choice. Comparing industry’s is totally retarded and only amateurs would make such a comparison.

    No one posting here is a top professional in either industry as those folks would never have the time to post a comment here. And if they did, they would never lower themselves to posting a comment in here.

    Get a clue, people. Or a new hobby. Because you obviously have no understanding about modern DSLR’s, the fashion/beauty and sports industries or photography in general.

    For those who are really stupid and stubborn about the JPEG thing: how come the most expensive cameras made do not shoot in JPEG? Why do medium format digitals only shoot in RAW if JPEG is sufficient? If JPEG is superior, why don’t the $60,000 camera systems shoot only in JPEG as opposed to RAW.

    Idiots. All of you. Idiots.

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  55. stephanie

    Last Paragraph should be

    Good Editing “Can” Fix a Bad Image

    .. this is silly.

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  57. David Leung

    I dare portrait photographers to show their clients the before and after processing shots. If the client doesn’t like the after processing shots, you are doing it all wrong.

    • David Leung

      I shoot high school sports. The parents love my work. When it came to senior portraits, I got 25 clients in 2 days because there is a level of trust. Why? I don’t shoot for money. I set aside 3 hours for each senior, and 100% of my fee goes back to the senior class bank account. I refuse to process the photos to make a real person look like a clothes store mannequin.

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