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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118 Comments
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Stefan Van Theemsche's picture

It all depends on how optimized the processor in your camera and computer is.

Read and write access to disk is often more important than in memory processing as that is or should be lightning fast. So in theory a smaller file would end up faster in memory and written back to disk but again it all depends on how optimized the code and your processor is.

So having the right (read + write speed!) sd card in your camera is key.

Deleted Account's picture

I've seen a few videos on Tony Northrup's YouTube channel and I have to say he seems like he's almost always talking to people who have no idea what they're doing with a camera. I understand the need for very basic and dumbed down instruction but most of the time he's just wrong. In his video on CPL's he said that its best not to use them because you can get the same look in post and that they make photo's worse which isn't an objective fact.

The RAW v JPEG debate is one that I thought was dead. Why on earth would you limit yourself when you have safety net of being able to adjust WB and have more information in the highlights and shadows? If file size is really a problem then why are you shooting on a DSLR anyways? I can understand that if you're at an event and know that you'll need to turn the photos over right away and will be shooting nonstop JPEG just makes sense for time and space. But if most photographers had a choice without worrying about time and space I'd think they'd go with RAW

jared polin's picture

The reason I made the video in the first place had to do more with a beginner happening upon information on what to shoot that I didn’t agree with. I am very opinionated and yes a big proponent of shooting raw and i think it’s improtabt to educate beginners and not flat out dumb it down because that could cause an issue for a newcomer who could have shot raw but shot jpeg small by accident or had the wrong picture style settings. What if they shot it all in mono chrome in jpeg?

Deleted Account's picture

RAW also offers a lot of learning situations about how light temp works and how curves adjustments can enhance an image. I also love the point someone earlier mentioned saying that you can turn a RAW into a JPEG but you cant go the other way.

jared polin's picture

I’d like to clear up the thing about me not knowing what it’s like to shoot something other than a d5. I don’t own a d5 so I can shoot 188 raw files in a row. I use it because of it’s low light capability, build quality and quick bursts when I require them.

The first canera I ever shot sports with was a Fuji discovery 1000 point and shoot film camera. I had to anticipate the action and capture it in one shot. My first slr was a canon eos Elan 2 or whatever it was called and I shape sports at 3 frames a second because that’s what it did.

I don’t need to shoot 188 shots in a row, I don’t need to shoot 20 in a row I at most take a quick burst of 2-4 shots and then the action is over.

When I teach begginees to shoot sports I suggest they try one frame at a time and not motor drive at all. I want people to start to anticipate the peak action and capture it without relying on spraying and praying.

I get the canon t6 shoots 6 frames before the buffer fills but what’s it shoot, something like 3 frames a second? I don’t know what situation calls for mashing the button for two straight seconds. That’s the point I was making, take a quick burst and by the time you’re ready for the next shots the buffer has already cleared.

I personally shoot everything raw, that’s my choice and suggestion for everyone from a begginner to a pro. It’s just a suggestion, I don’t care what someone shoots as long as they are shooting. I do advocate that beginners shoot raw plus JPEG so one day when they learn how to edit they can go back to those Raws.

I’ve also said to some beginners before that If they don’t shoot raw that’s fine, just get out and shoot, have fun and learn.

All our words in our videos can be broken down and ripped apart. We both share our opinions and hopefully can start conversations. But what people need to understand is these are our opinions, neither of us are right and neither of us are wrong regardless of which side of the ball you’re on. There’s no need to call us names or tell us we suck or anything just because we share our opinions.

Thanks for engaging in the conversation. Jared Polin aka the Fro

Karim Hosein's picture

I first shot sports on a Pentax K1000; manual focus, manual exposure, manual advance. I was taught to shoot sports by anticipating the peak of the action, (and knowing your camera's shutter lag time), and I became very good at nailing the winning shot.

I also learned tricks like slow shutter shooting at the peak of jumps or right after a turn, so the star is frozen and sharp, while the other players are blurred, adding depth and motion to a shot. Most “Pros” I know, shoot at high shutter speeds with f/2.8 glass to freeze every action, and, while there is nothing wrong with that, I sometimes wish they would consider not sticking to the 1/2000s Tv priority mode spray & pray, and getting back to basics.

Fritz Asuro's picture

Well, when I saw Tony's video, I was puzzled as well. I'm not sure why would you recommend for beginners to use RAW. When I started out, RAW was difficult for me to understand how to utilize its potential so majority of me beginner days are on JPEG. It took some time and research how I can fully utilize RAW files.
And since then, I only use JPEG on my phone, because shooting RAW on it defeats the purpose of a "point-and-shoot" ease of use.

It doesn't matter who's in the industry longer or who has written more books and tutorials. They both share information, but always keep in mind that both of them has their own quirks and "personal" approach to photography.

jared polin's picture

Good points.

Fritz Asuro's picture

Really? Well back then, after my dad bought me a Nikon D60, internet tutorials and YouTube videos are either scarce information or non-existent.
I just want to shoot [over saturated] photos and print them. I've seen the NEF feature in the manual, tried it, opened it with View-NX, didn't understand a thing. And that just ruined the "joy" or photography for me. So I skipped that part.

After a year or so, with a better camera (D300s), there I started to explore the capabilities of my camera and there I discovered what raw files are capable of.

TLDR; Shooting RAW at plain start is a complicated thing. It will be something that a photographer will learn about eventually.

Dallas Dahms's picture

Tony Northrup is just a dazed and confused personality looking for any reason to draw eyes on his channel. This is the same guy who introduced the ridiculous notion of "equivalent aperture" when comparing 35mm lenses with lenses from smaller formats. Clueless. Just clueless.

Avoid him and his commentary at all costs.

Thanks for calling out this latest BS, Jared Polin.

Brian Johnson's picture

People dont watch Tony and Jared for advice about how to shoot with a T6 unless they own a T6. Its for people who want to become professionals. If you are using a Rebel then odds are no one cares about what your pics look like except you anyway so shoot however you like. Your camera is severely handicapped in so many ways that you arent going to want to shoot in a high fps anyway and if it locks up or bogs down...you got what you paid for. Tony made a video about how to shoot with terrible cameras and failed to mention that. The video should have been called JPG or RAW with a T6 or Nikon D3400.

By the way my 1st camera was a Canon Digital Rebel. I wish I would have shot in RAW instead of JPG. Most people with a T6 dont even know how to open a RAW file anyway. But dont speak to the masses about RAW or JPG then use a T6 as your reason to handicap anyone's shooting who owns a better camera. I wasnt worried about a buffer bc when you have a terrible camera you should probably only be shooting 1 pic at a time anyway. Had i sprayed and prayed with my rebel this pic most likely would look extra horrible.

Brian Johnson's picture

RAW vs JPG. Which do you think is the RAW? I changed batteries in my flash and forgot that it had reset my settings. Knocked my shutter speed down from 1/640 to 1/250 bc HHS was deactivated. Both pics edited with same settings.

-3 EV
-40 Highlight
-30 White
-40 black

RAW saved the picture. Just think if this had happened on a truly important picture. You never know when you may take the best picture of your life. SHOOT RAW.

Paul Topol's picture

Kill the background music!

ron fya's picture

Shut up & create (not only capture) great pictures.

Deleted Account's picture

Always shoot RAW, occasionally will shoot both if I want to upload quickly to social media but even then often find I don't like the in camera jpg so end up doing a fast edit on laptop and uploading my conversion

Mick Ryan's picture

The RAW v JPG is quite irrelevant and up to each person how they want to shoot. But I don’t like people who misrepresent others and provide obvious misinformation.

Anonymous's picture

The title of this post hits it straight on. Why is this even a debate? Let people shoot whatever they prefer. I shoot RAW, my girlfriend shoots JPEG. And nobody cares.

B Moore's picture

There is a time and place for both in my work. Tony has found both useful in his. Gordon Laing has published "In Camera" a collection of excellent out of camera jpgs. So Tony and Gordon shoot both jpg and raw, have impressive portfolios, published books and are well-educated, articulate gentlemen. It seems wise to pay attention to photographers whose work you have seen and respect. I have no interest in the tiresome, juvenile, attention and click seeking antics of the Ken and Jared.

Tamas Nemeth's picture

Working on Capture One (not with, on), I understand the differences... So I shoot RAW, even when I'm spraying and praying.

J.M. Kariuki's picture

My biggest problems with both videos is the subjective views being presented as objective fact. There are good reasons to shoot jpeg, RAW, RAW+jpeg and I don't feel either of the two photographers did a good job presenting those reasons. I just shared the videos with my friend whose getting into photography and she's even more confused than before.

Instead of focusing on making hit piece videos, the photographing community would be better served with simpler, clearer tutorials i.e. 'why you should shoot jpeg' rather than 'why so and so is wrong'

And let's not forget, it's the image that counts not the recording format. I don't think I've looked at a photo and thought, "Wow, what a jpeg!". If a photographer, beginner or experienced can produce great images from jpegs, so be it.

Bill Peppas's picture

I shoot RAW only.
I do not side with Jared, neither with Tony, there are a gazillion of variables that might push someone towards the one or the other, or both, different times different types depending on the situation and circumstances.

Photographic-wise I side more with Tony because he has a much better work ( in terms of portfolio ) compared to Jared, however neither of the two can "strike" me with their photos.
Actually, no internet persona is even remotely close to the skills and photography work of even newcomers to the photographic world, think Ryan Dyar, Ted Gore, Daniel Laan, Daniel Kordan, Sean Archer, etc.

Karl Taylor's picture

Wait a minute you left me out and I've been around a while www.karltaylorportfolio.com :)

Bill Peppas's picture

Sorry haven't seen your name or your videos until now ( actually, I just looked at your portfolio website ).

Nice work buddy, there are plenty of awesome shots in there, I like ;)

Karl Taylor's picture

Great shipwreck B&W and milkyway shots in your collection too.

Bill Peppas's picture

Cheers bro :-)

Dave Kavanagh's picture

I'd personally shoot RAW in every scenario, simply for my own workflow I don't see any disadvantage of RAW outweighing the benefits of increased dynamic range. Saying that one of the my all time favourite photographers shoots only in jpg and his work is leaps and bounds ahead of most photographers I've seen (including the two involved in this debate). Ultimately it comes down to whatever works best for your own workflow. Raw works for me, but if jpg's are a good fit for somebody else's workflow then they're not wrong in doing so.

Vincent Alongi's picture

"When I teach begginees to shoot sports I suggest they try one frame at a time and not motor drive at all. I want people to start to anticipate the peak action and capture it without relying on spraying and praying."

This.

I'm a street shooter, and have taken to portraits recently. I've also become the "team photographer" for my son's youth football team, using nothing more than a 70-300 lens. I used to burst the shots, then realized I didn't want to cull through 600 pictures when I got home. As mentioned, I learned to anticipate the moment/shot. Now, I go home with a relatively more manageable 300 pics. I try to take the film approach to think before you shoot... even though, yes, 300 images is a ton to go through.

But... RAW is where it's at. For the life of me, I could never shoot JPEG again. It's a sin, in my mind. You're potentially limiting an opportunity to really fine-tune an image. Why let the technical aspect hinder the final product?

Niels Veeneman's picture

im with theFro i also shoot RAW and proudly ware my froknowsfoto t-shirts when i do so

Matt Murray's picture

I'm with Northrup purely because that "FroOOoOoONoooOoOs PhotoOooOoos" tag line does my nut in.

Mike Stern's picture

Gosh! What did I miss here during my sweet 10 hours sleep. Why is Jared screaming? And going mad at Tony. Because he was not invited to prestigious Sony event or did he fall in love with Chelsea or something?
:)

I see and understand all points Tony making in his video. He has decent reasons. But why all this anger from Jared? His t-shirts are already screaming out loud with the size and selections of fonts and colors. No need to criticize people publicly about what they do.

T&C Northrup are great at what they do. Their podcasts, reviews and books are very successful. I wonder if that’s the problem here.

Somebody, (who cares) chill the fro.

Rick Starr's picture

Hmmm. Reasoned, contextualized, and well-supported discussion or sanctimony and sniveling? Tough decision.

[JK: Polin ftw]

Dan Donovan's picture

If processing raw files takes too long in Lightroom, switch to Capture One Pro. Its fast and creates a better looking file right out of the box.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

A moot debate imo, shoot whatever you want, who cares ? :-)

Now for Jared Polin, i might not agree with everything he says, but I admire the work he puts out and the way he does it.

Ryan Cooper's picture

He didn't attack another photographer, he attacked a statement and claim that he did not agree with. Nowhere in his video does he make any statements attacking Northrup personally. This was entirely the criticism of information that he did not agree with. Which there is nothing wrong with.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

No personal attacks in this video, Ken Rockwell... really ?

Ryan Cooper's picture

No I wouldn't, I couldn't care less. If he was accurately correcting something I published that was wrong then I would learn. If he wasn't then I'd debate. Sticks and stones my friend. Anyone who is regularly creating content in the public eye should get used to criticism pretty fast or they are in for a pretty rough ride.

I've been on both sides of this sort of thing before, many times. (Though usually in comment threads or response articles as I'm a writer and don't compete in the video space) Sometimes it gets heated, sure, but that's just the nature of the beast. Its never personal though, just as this isn't.

Anonymous's picture

Pointing out inconsistencies isn't a personal attack when those inconsistencies actually exist.

jared polin's picture

Yes, exactly!!!! This is the thing that baffles me about the people attacking me who came from Tony's video. I did not say TONY SUCKS I countered his statements with my thoughts and shared examples on why I think that way. And on the flip side he did the same exact thing when he took my statements and gave his opinion. Yet his minions think I attacked their leader and they must defend his virtue.

On the Ken Rockwell being Dangerous to photography, I stand behind that 100% because he is. The missinformation that people just starting out find on his site is dangerous. He started in 1999 or so which means GOOGLE has him ranked hi for everything. So someone coming along might think shooting JPEG small might be the best thing to do.

Anonymous's picture

Both are looking for clicks, but to me the difference is that at least Fro was a photographer before becoming a YouTuber and Tony is just a guy who found a business opportunity in Youtube. I don't take any of the channels to serious since the main scope is to increase viewers to gain more $$$

chrisrdi's picture

Jared Polin is a pretty alright dewd. He's a dude I'd high five. He can be a bit over the top at times I guess, but that's his brand. He means well and truly seems to want to educate his viewers on photography. We shouldn't compare photographic industry social media personalities. It just creates division. Northrup is good and so is Polin. If you don't like Polin go watch Northrup. If you don't like Northrup go watch Polin. If you don't like either well I guess surf youtube until you find someone you do like. I don't think you should waste your time talking about your subjective view of two photographic educators. Go learn and shoot instead of complaining.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

For the record I think Jared and Tony are both pretty nice folks, from the short time I got to speak with each of them when I was working for Canon in the industry, and both make some good points in each of these videos.

jared polin's picture

thanks

Rob Swackhamer's picture

I'll shoot RAW+JPG... but I will say that the reasons for doing so came from a few different factors. When I first started doing concert photography I was shooting on a Rebel T3i. And given that a lot of venues around Austin aren't that great about lighting I pretty much had to shoot RAW to get anything usable. The smaller buffer size on the T3i gave me an idea of how many shots I could fire before I hit the buffer limit and therefore adjusted how I shot. Also with shooting performers over time I started to figure out fairly fast within a set just how active performers would be on stage and that helped me shoot accordingly in line with tech limit at the time.

Now that I've moved to the Fuji X-T2 (and higher speed cards) I get more leeway in what I can do. A lot of the time I don't tend to hit my buffer limit so I can do both with no issue. But being able to do that came with experience in anticipating how to shoot. As an aside one nice thing about having the JPGs at the same time is that it allows me to bounce a particularly cool shot to places like Instagram via my phone while I'm there.

There are some points that I think both Tony and Jared should have called out in their videos that would have helped (though it may render the whole argument moot): know your gear, pay attention to your shooting situation, and have a good understanding of what your editing end goal is. If you're just starting out then the first two are most important. Understanding the third point will come with experience.

Konstantinos Gamvroulis's picture

+1 Polin

Christoph .'s picture

I'm a professional, in that I take photographs for my main job, full-time, and also my own business on the side.

Sometimes I shoot JPG, sometimes my workflow is RAW and 16-bit TIFFs. Is there room in this "debate" for the fact that you can do both where applicable? This absolutist fanboyism of it must be one way or the other is just absurd. I'm on raw maybe 90% of the time, but JPG has it's place.

What's bizarre is that so many people arguing "Oh real photographers only ever shoot in RAW" undoubtedly sit in front of LR/C1/etc (that don't understand the Adobe/etc profile is different to your camera's profile) for hours on end to achieve the same look the camera profile would have achieved in a JPG to begin with. Or worse, they get overly heavy with the clarity slider and call it "art".

Daryl Hunter's picture

RAW for me. Each year my post processing improves, each year software improves. I often revisit my old RAWs to see to see if I left color, shadow or highlight unrevealed. Once in awhile I'll come across a misplaced JPG in my lightroom filmstrip and not expecting a JPG I wonder why the adjustment sliders of notheing, the n I look to see if it is a damn JPG. Once per year I do an 18 hour PR shoot that requires hundreds of gigs of memory. One year I decided to shoot JPG to save time, both in post processing and download time. Afterward I decided that although quicker, it wasn't nearly as good. I again shoot the event in RAW. More work but better results; hence, my article - Post Processing Hell ~ http://daryl-hunter.net/post-processing-hell

William Wilson's picture

I’m set in my ways and my mind can’t be changed by either. I was never satisfied with my point and shoot cameras even with their “fine jpeg” setting. RAW is why I got into DSLR photography and that opened me up to so much more. I’m stuck on RAW shooting.

Martin AYORA's picture

I am with the Fro, RAW always

Timothy Turner's picture

no one method is universally correct, they both are appropriate in there own way.

Timothy Turner's picture

jpeg or raw? or does it matter?

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