Question Re: Printing photos

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    Colin M.Colin M.

    Quick Question, this never really came up before don’t ask how, but mostly because I haven’t printed many of my photos when this scenario applies. Anyways, here goes.

    When you shoot in raw, and looking at the photos obviously they look better in RAW than they do with a Jpeg, how do you print those photos out?

    Any sites you can upload that big a file to?

    Thanks in advance.

    Stu HastieStu Hastie

    I’m no expert, but my basic understanding is you need to edit the RAW in some editing program like Lightroom, and then export them out of there as a Jpeg or Tiff file. The benefit of shooting in RAW is being able to control white balance, contrast, saturation and all those sort of parameters to a greater degree than you could with a Jpeg, without degrading the original file. I’m not sure you can print a RAW.

    Tim JohnsonTim Johnson

    +1 for Stu’s comments. If you are using some photo editing program for Raw photos, for example in Lightroom, when you go to print, it does the conversion, the outputs the file to your printer. You can also output the photo in the print module, which will default to a jpeg and ask where you want the file to be stored. In Photoshop, you can save the output in several file types or print directly, but I believe the default print output will be a jpeg, and you can specify the quality and other parameters. ( the above comments based on memory, as I am not currently at my photo computer).

    As far as photo sites, most that I am aware of, including print sites, take jpegs. The different RAW formats for various camera manufacturers would cause havoc with web browsers ability to display the files correctly.

    Brett ColvinBrett Colvin

    I’d echo Stu as well. RAW file size is mainly a function of the amount of metadata being stored, and not one of color rendition or resolution. The camera’s highest quality .jpg setting captures at the sensor’s maximum resolution. You get more latitude and flexibility in post processing from the RAW, but every lab I work with wants a .jpg or a .tif to print from.

    The file you send to the printer, however, does have attributes that are important to the result. Sometimes your editing software will have default values when you save a .jpg (such as 72dpi) where you typically want 300dpi for a good quality print. Many labs also apply color correction to your file unless you specify otherwise, and that can make a big difference in the final product.

    If your .jpg files don’t look as good as your RAW files, it probably has something to do with the software you’re viewing them in. Each application has its own defaults and the same photo can look very different depending on if it’s being displayed in a RAW tool, photo editor, browser, image viewer, etc. To get consistency between what you see on-screen and the finished print, monitor calibration using a Spyder4 or similar product is often necessary.

    All the labs I’ve used can accept very large .tif uploads, but in my experience a 300dpi .jpg is all you need for professional results and larger files just take longer to upload.

    Have fun with it – printing is an art unto itself.


    Just one thing I will add that Colvin mentioned about Color Correction….

    Do some homework and print a few of your photos with and without photo color correction. I will often opt out of color correction depending on the lab I am working with. The results can vary extremely.

    Professional labs will have software and Print tools you can often download to create a print profile to ensure that the final printed product matches with your color settings viewed on your monitor.

    Colin M.Colin M.

    Thanks for the input guys!

    I do run them through photo shop on occasion, although the editing is really an art in and of itself. I was just perplexed as how the raw photos showed up much more vibrant in the explorer photo viewer than the other jpegs.

    I presume most guys who shoot in RAW get the jpeg too.


    Most SLR’s have the ability to capture both RAW + JPG when you are shooting.

    I do not use this option that much however, it can be useful when you do not want to spend time converting the RAW file to JPG after import.

    My rule for knowing when to shoot RAW vs JPG is something like this:

    If I am shooting any kind of paid gig or I am on the water and I feel the images could be used for potential print opportunities I shoot RAW. If I am going to be printing anything larger than an 11×16 I always shoot RAW if I know this going into any shoot.

    I shoot JPEG when I am at little league games or taking quick snapshots for the web.

    The majority of my shooting now is RAW because when I do break out the SLR it is mostly for paid work. Having the flexibility to convert, edit in this format prior to print or client delivery is essential. Anything else I turn the setting to JPEG.

    Hope that helps.

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