HDR Photography
Raw vs JPEG Comparison
(Example 2)

By Scott Umstattd

HDR Photography Raw vs JPEG comparisonIn a previous article you learned why shooting in Raw gives you more editing options and, in the end, a crisper, more refined photograph when compared to a JPEG.

In this article, I will make a similar HDR photography Raw vs JPEG comparison.

HDR Photography Raw vs JPEG Comparison

Below is an example of an HDR photograph shot in both JPEG and Raw and edited identically in Photomatix. Can you tell the difference?

Having trouble? Here's a crop of the same pictures.

For all practical purposes JPEGs make great images and not many people are going to look at a picture taken as a JPEG and remark on the fact that some areas in the shadows are lacking in detail. JPEGs make for great pictures coming straight from the camera and are very easy to work with.

But what makes the Raw file more compelling to many photographers is knowing that more detail is being seen by the viewer – even though they may not consciously recognize it when they are looking at your picture.

While the differences are subtle and maybe even hard to see on a web page (especially if you are using a mobile device) those subtle differences compound greatly as you increase the size of the picture. 

In this HDR photography Raw vs JPEG comparison I hope to show you (even if in a subtle way) that Raw images contain more data and will therefore give you more latitude in any post processing you do to the image.

Look again at the shadows and dark areas of the pictures above. Does one image appear to have darker shadows? Maybe it feels like it has a bit more punch to it. Is that a good thing? While it may look better here (with minimal editing done) those areas where the blacks are crushed data is actually lost. Meaning information about the picture is lost! That means that with any further editing it will be difficult to pull out the subtle shading going on in this picture.

Raw files allow you to be subtle. They allow you to make those small changes in white balance, contrast or color that make a big difference in the end.

Are you curious to see if you were able to tell one from the other in this HDR photography Raw vs JPEG comparison?

Here you go. How did you do?

And here they are again dropped even tighter. (Below)

This is a pretty good example of an HDR photography Raw vs JPEG comparison. It demonstrates that those little differences matter.

Think of it in terms of wine tasting. Those that have a studied palette can notice the hints of oak and berries. Even if your taste buds aren't sophisticated enough to speak to the differences, they know better wine from good wine.

HDR Photography Raw vs JPEG Comparison 

As your taste for photography matures, so will your demand for perfection. There are plenty of good $7 bottles of wine. But when you know what's what with wine, you appreciate paying more. So it is with photography. JPEGs are a great $7 bottle and that may be all you are looking for. But when you demand the best, only Raw will suffice.

Video: Making An HDR Image

Thanks to Tony Northrup for this simple explanation on how to shoot HDR images.

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Hi there! I'm Scott. I love photography. It's a constant challenge and there is always something to learn - if you want to learn.  For those that do want to learn, I created Picture Power. In time, Picture Power will unite the superhero photographers of the world. Once we are all united, I will give further instructions. In the meantime,  Picture Power serves as a resource for you to sharpen your photography skills. If you don't find the answer you're looking for just let me know and together we'll find a way to ignite that inner superhero photography genius. 

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