Northrup Vs. Fro, JPG Vs. Raw: Why Is It Even Still a Debate?

It’s the equivalent of a presidential Twitter feud, but for the photography world. Everyone’s favorite Anderson Cooper lookalike Tony Northrup released a video on November 4 about the benefits and downsides to shooting raw files versus JPG files, and in this video dispensed some advice on when to shoot raw files and when to shoot JPG files (and when to shoot both). Naturally, this elicited a strong response from everyone’s favorite (only?) Fro, Jared Polin of “Fro Knows Photo” fame, who is known for his shirts indicating to the world that he does indeed shoot raw. All the time.

Northrup fired back, talking a little bit about the behind-the-scenes between him and Polin leading up to Fro’s fiery response. He also took on each of Polin’s points. Let’s take a look at what some of those are:

Speed and Buffering

Polin makes the argument that you should always shoot raw files because most cameras will get 20 raw files or more to a burst anyway; a point which Northrup demonstrates using a Canon Rebel that can’t muster more than six shots to a burst. Polin’s point just isn’t true with most popular consumer cameras. It sounds like a case of someone shooting a D5 all day and forgetting how the rest of us live.

Northrup and Polin also disagree on what to do when shooting raw plus JPG. Northrup suggesting one format to each card, and Polin suggesting both to both cards, a recipe for long write times and slower overall performance, for sure. I understand the point of having all formats on all cards for backup purposes, but when shooting weddings or sports, I do one format for each card, Northrup-style. That way I have a way to send off files to couples or editors quickly (the card with the JPG files on them) and files with more information to edit and create a more polished gallery later with (the raw files). As Northrup mentions, importing raw plus JPG files takes a long time, and so when my editors need my files yesterday, working from the JPG files means a faster edit across the board.

Storage Space

Northrup talks about how $100 for storage is a lot to swallow for people on fixed budgets, and this is a point where no one wins here. At the end of the day, finances are a personal situation, and so while Polin’s right about storage being cheap, cheap is relative.

There is a key point in Northrup’s video though that the cheapskates among us should heed: there is no free lunch, and storing photos in free services such as Google Photos is only asking for trouble when those companies start charging for services they roped you into for free.

Important Photos

Aside from sports and weddings, where I’m shooting raw plus JPG, I’m shooting raw files all the time. There’s one quote from Polin that sums up my argument for always shooting raw files, no matter what: “If you’re shooting unimportant images, then why shoot them at all?”

What’s your strategy for shooting? Are you a Northrup or a Polin? A raw or JPG shooter? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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143 Comments

Jason Lorette's picture

I'm with Polin...I can turn a RAW into a JPG...not the other way around. ;)

Thank you.

Last Friday I've photographed one event where they needed "warm" delivery of photos, i.e. I shoot 15 minutes and then hand them card with photos to transfer and publish online.

Guess what? They didn't have a tool to turn RAW into JPG and I couldn't do that for them as I was shooting. SOOC JPEGs was the only solution for them.

So, never say never and always :)

Personally I would shoot both just to have the Raw files. And yes the JPEGs for their needs will be fine.

I still would shoot both myself.

When I used to have my photos published in a magazine,the editors all insisted on JPEGs straight out of the camera.So specifically no RAW and no Photoshopped JPEGs.

Dan Howell's picture

I have only heard of this from Reuters wire service submissions. I have never had a magazine specify JPEG capture. Whereas I have had magazines request camera raw files in addition to JPG or TIFF; and commercial clients specify TIFF delivery.

It was about ten years ago and was low circulation (about 10,000 ish),but that request came from a couple of different editors that I can remember.I was always on a VERY tight deadline (i.e. less than a day) and there could be 300 or more images for them to get through,so maybe just the time factor to convert from RAW? But they were also specific about JPEGs out of the camera without any sort of post processing.

Leigh Miller's picture

I'm inclined to side with the guy who has more than 20 years of experience in the photo business and has written many books on the subject...also he has a real portfolio with quality images.

Many so-called "social Media Influencers" talk a big game but their actual photo work rarely measures up.

Michael Jin's picture

I can see why you might be so inclined, but I know plenty of people with decades of experience in this industry and produce wonderful work who have no freaking idea what they're talking about when it comes to stuff like this.

This is not a topic of subject matter, lighting or composition. It's completely a technical matter so it really doesn't matter how much experience each person has or what their portfolio looks like so long as both people have a firm grasp of the actual technical merits of their arguments.

Hi, I actually have 23 years of experience and you can see my work in many places. Jaredpolin.com has some and I have a ton I haven’t shared or posted.

Sorry, but Jared's portfolio has far more 'quality images' in it than Northrup's

Agree! He has his own style and he does own it, Northrup more common.

Reginald Walton's picture

Well you know, they both are "media influencers" and they both have a big presence on Youtube and other social media sites. And they both are very experienced in what they do, but I do agree with Jared's points. I mean, why spend all that money for a camera with the capabilities it has and then limit yourself to shooting Jpeg? If anything, as suggested, shoot both RAW and Jpeg.

Korey Napier's picture

Even if you don't agree with Jared, you can't deny that he knows how to get good photos. I've been following his work for a while now and the guy can flat out shoot! He has a signature style to his photos as well. He probably shares just as much if not more of his work when reviewing a camera or lens than most other reviewers. He's legit.

Dan Howell's picture

That is an incredibly naive methodology for determining your own workflow. It is possible that you might have a particular need for in-camera JPG workflow. You're not going to figure that out by comparing resumes from two people arguing. I came to my raw workflow by understanding the fundamental properties of both.

William Howell's picture

I watched every minute of this national crisis!

And don’t forget “The Angry Photorapher” he got in on the act too!

All three took it so serious, it was really awesome, you know, just the banality, and at some time or another you need some good banal!

the angry photographer is soooo annoying though. he just talks crap and never shows his work. he has said more than once that no one sees his portfolio until they book him. plus he has been caught stealing photos and passing them off as his. every week he has a new story that is crazier than the last. he is a gear whore. i can't watch him anymore unless i want to see how high i can get my blood pressure. i think he might actually be a little bit crazy.

Christoph .'s picture

He has photos on his Flickr. They're worse than I would have ever expected. I find his reviews informative, but there is something severely wrong with him and he seems to be a terrible photographer.

Johnny Rico's picture

Is Tony Northrup actually a working photographer or just an educator? I feel like this is some kinda turf war between those who teach over selling tutorials to beginners.

I was just sharing my opinion on his statements and he was sharing his on mine.

William Howell's picture

You’re response to Tony was cool, just like the old Howard Stern and Don Imus feud of the eighties and nineties, I loved it.
I knew it was going to be good when I got the YouTube alert that you had responded to his assertion that jpeg was in some instances better than RAW!
And then the Angry Photographer horned in on the act and it made me think, what a great country we have, I don’t know why I thought that but I did!

The title of his video also changed........

William Howell's picture

Tony is missing an opportunity, by not collaborating with you, I believe it would must watch Youtube, at least that’s my thinking. You know it would be for photography nuts, like me, must viewing.

Ooh also bring in some of the other polarizing You-tubers, like the Angry Photographer, I like him and that one guy that wears a hat all the time, you know, he is a big Sony fanboy, I forgot his name, but you know what I’m talking about. That guy is polarizing for some reason, but if look at his work, it’s good.

Youtuber.

Dan Howell's picture

I remember an article on Model Mayhem written by Penthouse photographer Ken Marcus about 5 years ago that he shot jpg and not raw for a variety of reasons (mostly inaccurate or emotional on his part). It was met with overwhelming criticism and also the sentiment that at the time the debate was already out of date. Again that was 5 yrs ago. Seems even more archaic now.
https://www.modelmayhem.com/education/photography/3611-ken-marcus-opinion

William Howell's picture

What is your opinion? I just shoot in the RAW format, because that’s what the experts said at the time.

Dan Howell's picture

I shoot RAW (NEF) exclusively for a number of reasons. I started with an exclusive raw workflow when I switched to Hasselblad H1 with Leaf digital back which only worked in raw thru their proprietary capture software. At that point I didn't have any choice but to adopt the raw workflow, but now I suppose I could select between shooting raw and jpg on my projects.

More than anything raw offers non-destructive editing on a number of aspects to refine a file. It goes far beyond making mistakes in exposure. Day to day I use aspects of the raw workflow for precise color control on color-critical projects, highlight suppression to modify the exposure curve--not because I don't know how to expose a file, but because I want to enhance detail capture to suit my clients needs, specifically in highlights. I like and need the ability to re-ouput different refined files without generation degradation.

The criticism of storage and render time is a bit pedestrian in my view. I typically save all my raw file. I do not render every file to TIFF as well which is what I think is what Northrup was suggesting. I'm not sure why anyone would do that. You can keep the raw files and only render the selects to TIFF. I typically output everything to proof-size jpg for selection and then output only the selects to full sized TIFF for later retouching in Photoshop. I use Capture one for most color control. 75% of the time or more I am shooting tethered into Capture One where raw workflow make considerably more sense than any other.

RAW workflow preserves options. I have never given Ken Marcus' misguided observations any weight. In fact I believe quite the opposite, in the studio raw workflow is without question the far more sensible method for me.

William Howell's picture

Yeah, I think your right, why would he under them in TIFF?

I think I get what he is saying about jpegs, if you are good enough with your gear and you know you are not going to post-process, sure why not just bake the files right in camera.

I use RAW all the time, just because that is the way Scott Kelby and his team said to do it. And I most always to some post to my keepers.

Shawk Parson's picture

great points!

and imo, you're talking professional, while many others who do consider themselves to be pros in this business, don't even know about these facts!

long story short, if some job (or client) calls for JPG files, ok, you can always give them JPG files generated out of RAW (or TIFF or almost any other format) but if someone does want RAW files, can you regenerate RAWs out of JPG files?

yes, theoretically you can save a RAW file of a JPG image in Photoshop or some other programs, but that wouldn't be a true RAW file, would it?

btw, now that you're doing everything so correctly, from the choice of image format to editing software etc, what monitor do you use for editing? i'm sure it's a really high resolution best quality one, is it?

Dan Howell's picture

yes, a file saved as Photoshop Raw would only have the information included in the source file which would be different than a native raw capture. I am not qualified to speak about all of the differences.

As far as my set-up, in my studio I shoot into MacBookPro attached to Apple Cinema Display (not the current generation, maybe 1 generation ago). I also shoot in a client's studio where they have similar. Generally my digital tech does the color control and render out to TIFF on to their hard drives. I keep the .NEF raw files. At my office I have iMac (also maybe one generation old). On location I will often shoot into the MBP, but I prefer to keep it in raw form and go to the Cinema display or my iMac to do the color in a more controlled environment. We rely on color checkers for virtually every shot, but I find that the highlight/shadow look can be effected by the environment as much or more than color.

Once committing to raw workflow it is really not much more difficult than JPG workflow and preserves options for the future.