You don’t need RAW. Long live the JPEG photographer
I break down the toxic mentality that you have to shoot RAW to be considered a professional photographer.
I started doing photojournalism in college. At the time, there were few point and shoot cameras used by students to take the picture. We did it with JPEGs, passed the course and learned to tell stories. I eventually switched to a RAW shooting camera. For years, I stuck with it. But lately, I have wanted to go back to my roots. The truth is, you don’t have to shoot RAW to be a professional photographer. Not only is there a misconception about RAW shooting, it is outright wrong. If you say otherwise, you are spreading misinformation.
A professional photographer is not defined by the equipment he uses to take pictures. It’s all about career. Let’s try to figure this out.
Are you a professional photographer just because you own a Sony a9 II and shoot in automatic mode?
Are you a professional photographer because you own professional quality equipment that takes award-winning images, and you shoot raw? And you edit until the kingdom comes?
Are you a professional photographer because you earn taxable income from your photography?
Are you a professional photographer because most of your taxable income is made by creating images for someone who pays you for them?
The last two are the big questions. The last identifies a professional photographer in terms of career and legal taxation. The penultimate is a semi-professional photographer who does it part-time. The others are amateurs. They are all avid photographers, but the idea here is that taxable income is the only thing that defines if you are a professional photographer. If you don’t believe me, trust the big one Ken rockwell.
A professional photographer can take JPEG photos. In fact, they can work to get the shot in camera without post-production. How? ‘Or’ What? Well, the idea is foresight. They have to be meticulous and micro-manage the scene. They will use their own lights, set their own exposures, add colors, use lens filters, have their models apply makeup to smooth skin, use a graduated lens filter, and more. They don’t need post-production. These people are the truest form of a photographer.
People have asked me this several times. I’m not saying photographers shouldn’t use post-production. I’m saying instead that they shouldn’t be doing image magic with just post-production. It makes you a photo editor.
Let’s put it this way. I’m going to compare you to a line cook at McDonald’s. They pretty much put something on a grill, then put together a burger. It’s not rocket science, and anyone can do it. Teens do it every day. A real chef should experiment, prepare the burger, and then arrange it in a way that makes it easy to reproduce. It is very good. But, if all you’re doing is mostly afterwork, you’re not the chef, you’re the line cook. And the same goes for being a photo editor, which is good!
If you take raw materials and do most of the work to present the final image in the post-editing process, then you do it mostly through photo editing. MOST OF THE WORK IS DONE IN POST-PRODUCTION. And I understand that most landscape photographers do this. It is the result of what Trey Ratcliff gave to the world. Most landscape photographers don’t know what they want until they’re editing, but I think you should have foresight and foresight. Otherwise, you’re relying on a camera’s RAW capabilities. This is more important than ever as we try to protect the idea of what a photographer really is.
You are a photographer. Specifically, you are a landscape photographer. You have filters, a tripod, a custom profile in your camera, etc. You have a specific white balance. You wake up early and arrive at a place. You set up your tripod. You wait. And then you start to shoot. The image is perfect as it is in the camera. You take it home, print it out, put it in a gallery, tell everyone to come, etc. A group of people buy prints. And you keep doing that. You probably never get into Photoshop or Lightroom. It makes you a photographer. But even if I admit it’s a bit extreme.
My ideas come from the ethics of photojournalism. Minor edits and no retouching is what we need to do to keep people aware that photography is a skill. Photo editing is also a skill, but the two are distinct. That said, you potentially don’t need to shoot RAW at all.
Before you go wild in the comments, re-read it. Thought. We would love to hear from you.