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The Best Photo I’ve Ever Taken Was a JPEG

Alright, I don’t know if it’s the best photo I’ve ever taken, but it’s one of my favorites and it’s been the most popular photo I’ve posted recently on Facebook and Instagram.

It’s a pretty standard belief in photography that if you’re a serious photographer, you have to shoot RAW. Many people will sneer just at the thought of shooting in JPEG. If you’re familiar with popular YouTuber Jared Polin, you will be aware that he always wears bold T-shirts which in large, bold lettering proudly claim ‘I SHOOT RAW.’

Let’s please not get elitist about such things. Yes, RAW is generally better and gives you much more flexibility, choices, and control. I’m not going to go into all the benefits of RAW here or why you should shoot RAW over JPEG, as there is plenty of info out there for that.

But let’s consider what’s really important in photography.

When I am doing street photography, just walking around my local area and looking for things to photograph day to day, just for practice and my own enjoyment, I shoot in JPEG. This is because it’s quick and easy and I don’t have to spend hours editing photos that I won’t be putting in my portfolio or printing large prints from or selling to clients.

JPEGs are great just to encourage you to take more photos, practice more, and focus on the actual photography and the art of taking photos.

All that being said, when I arrived in the Lake District recently to photograph sunrise, I forgot at first to switch my camera back to RAW. When I eventually realized, I was really concerned that during the best light of the day I had been shooting JPEG instead of RAW. I was worried that I wouldn’t then get a great image or the result that I wanted.

The truth is I needn’t have worried. I still managed to get exactly the image I had in mind, and would anyone looking at the image alone know whether I was using RAW or JPEG at the time? Absolutely not.

The reason why I still managed to get exactly the results I wanted when taking the image is because I was in a good location at the best time of day, during good light in good conditions. I composed the image well, I waited for the right moment, and I got the exposure right. Everything was done correctly in camera. I didn’t need to spend ages editing the photo, massively adjusting the exposure and tones, or cropping unwanted parts out.

Yes, if I had realized my mistake, I would have shot this image in RAW, but this does not dictate whether or not you are a good photographer or will get good results. I sometimes feel that too much emphasis is put on the wrong things in photography.

Too much emphasis on equipment, too much emphasis on shooting RAW, too much emphasis on full-frame cameras. Whether you have a $5,000 top-of-the-line full-frame camera or a cheap “point and shoot,” please focus more on the actual process of taking photos and actually getting out there with your camera and having amazing experiences, practicing, and above all having fun.


About the author: Chris Gouge is a professional street and travel photographer based in England. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Gouge’s work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.


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