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
Previous comments
Timothy Turner's picture

I much prefer 500px, there is no debate over raw vs jpeg, simply admiring each other's work. instead of spending so much time arguing, go out and create your art your own way, and who cares how.

John Hembree's picture

I like both of them and have learned a lot from them along with Joe Edelman. When I first saw Tony's post, I disagreed with the premise . Jared's response summed up my feelings exactly.

jared polin's picture

thanks. And then the attacks started.

filip Mulder's picture

Polin all day long. Ever since i started photography ten years back ive gone raw. I can not relate to any of Tonys points, for me there is never a good reason for jpg.

Steven Sandler's picture

Hate to take sides, but I'm with Polin. Always RAW. Even so called "unimportant" shots can turn out to be important, and RAW is just so much more obedient to edits. And with Lightroom, you can export your RAWs to JPG in seconds anyway. I just acquired a DSLR with WiFi, so I'll be adding in a small JPG along side the RAW for instant preview on my laptop, and I'll be writing both to both cards. I've never had a card fail, but that doesn't mean today is not the day.

nikufoto's picture

Generating traffic huh? Good article, keep up posting great content.

Mark Tollefson's picture

I shoot raw as it allows me to to set sharpening at maximum to view the image on the lcd without baking in that sharpening in the raw file. I also set the camera to Adobe RPG to maximize the histogram as at present there isn't a raw histogram available.

S G's picture

I have total confidence in the fro. I really feel that this is going to be a personal choice thing. How it fits into YOUR workflow. Personally, I don't see an issue with fro telling people to shoot in RAW because if they shoot in JPG now, this is a change that gives them more flexibility later. Telling someone who shoots in RAW to start shooting in JPG, instead of showing them how to maximize the potential of the RAW files is just silly IMO.

I say shoot how you want. Educate yourself on the pros/cons of each and make your own choice. If it doesn't work for you, then change it.

Lee Bushen's picture

I’d love to shoot just jpg but I’m just not good enough to nail my settings in camera. I also have time and no pressure being an amateur so raw for me. I ran a conference though the other day and the photographer shot brilliant jpgs all day long. A VIP wanted a picture of himself on stage for social media right away and the photographer was happy to oblige. She also provided a running montage for the closing keynote with very little effort. Harder to do with raw files. Social media and camera phones have set a new expectation for the delivery time of images for the client so jpg has a place too.

Mikael Sundberg's picture

Im with Polin,,,RAW is preferred and sometines RAW+JPG, but always RAW

Rick Hyde's picture

I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT THIS SUBJECT IS EVEN BEING DISCUSSED.
I'm with Polin.
SOOC hasn't existed since Polaroid. Everything else is processed in someway. I know there are those that think they have total control by choosing a few setting from a menu, but the truth is every manufacturer adds or subtracts data as the file is written to the card.
Those who think it takes too long to process raw files....DON'T KNOW HOW TO USE THEIR SOFTWARE.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

Tony Northrup usually is well-balanced and very thoughtful in his opinions while Jarid Polin usually takes the short cut.
Jarid has probably not used a low-end camera in the recent past.

jared polin's picture

Hmmm, Canon M5 Real World Review, Canon 80D Real World Review, Nikon D5500 Real World Review, Nikon D1X from 15 years ago shooting RAW getting awesome photos with it. Nikon D3000, Nikon D70. Yup, plenty of Real World Reviews on my channel with cameras that are basic beginner cameras. Still shooting RAW no matter what.

Anonymous's picture

Jared does use low end cameras regularly for review purposes, so that would be a misconception on your part. Now as for whether he uses them for his personal work, I have no idea.

As for Jared taking short-cuts, yes, he does do so at times, but nobody can be expected to sit there explaining everything to absolutely everyone's satisfaction. You either get him or you don't—different strokes for different folks—but I've found that he seems to be a pretty straightforward and genuine personality, which is fairly rare in this age where everyone is so concerned about maintaining their artificially constructed social image. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that there's more than a bit of performance involved, but if he makes a click-bait headline for something, he's the type to just straight up tell you that it's a click-bait title and he'll explain why he chose it (often in a joking manner). I do think with some audiences, his approach works against him as they have a set view of what an educator or authority figure should look like (Tony pretty much fits the bill here) and they can't really take Jared seriously, but I also think it's a mistake to dismiss him because of the approach that he chooses to take because he does actually know what he's talking about most of the time and when he has an opinion about something, I find that he usually has pretty good reasons for them even if I might disagree with him at times.

Be it Tony or Jared, I respect both of them for putting their faces and personalities out there, though. Try as hard as we might, nobody is perfect, so putting your name, face, and opinion out there on the internet while positioning yourself as an educator takes a level of guts that I imagine most of us wouldn't have.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

I know. I am subscribed to his channel. I like his videos but I also know that Tony Northrup always makes really balanced and well thought through videos.
In this discussion I think Tony is right and Jared is wrong. I own a Sony 6300 which wasn't the cheapest consumer camera. I rarely shoot sports or action but the few times I do, the small buffer was the reason I switched to jpeg which I normally never use. I shoot raw most of the times.
But the small buffer in lots of consumer cameras is frustratingly small and so switching to jpeg can be a necessity.

Thomas C's picture

I am with Jared; any magazine from the small guys to BBC Wildlife want the RAW format

Richard Keeling's picture

I shoot RAW. I prefer to have maximum available image information from the beginning. What comes later is another matter.

Shawk Parson's picture

yes, there are all those negative sides to shooting RAW: larger file sizes, slower to shoot, longer to process etc, but if we're after image *quality* then RAW is the only answer now! (and believe it or not, even RAW is not exactly 'it' yet, simply because RAW's a compressed format just as well! read below for more please if still interested...)

want even better quality - as well as much larger file sizes, too? then either shoot directly in TIFF if your camera does that, or convert your RAW files into TIFF, which is the much higher quality format! (TIFF is the superior format for scanning negatives and slides as well as artworks too btw ...)

hint 1: even with JPG or any other smaller size formats, you still have to spend some time in post to get a 'perfect' image quality out of your shots, don't you? then why not spend the same amount of time on RAW (or TIFF) files and get even better quality when the job calls for it?

hint 2, for those who still think RAW is useless or anything: if you're one of those photogs still using a laptop with its mediocre quality screen (or even a desktop with a 2K monitor at its best) for editing your shots, then even JPG files are probably too much for you!

why? glad you asked: get yourself a little more educated on how resolution, pixel pitch, color depth, and related topics work in digital photography because if i were to explain it to you here, it'd take ten more comments to just scratch the surface! in fact, if you're not already aware of such 'basic info' in the industry, i wonder how you'd call yourself a *professional* or even advanced amateur digital photographer in the first place!?

in the end though, if you have clients who are happy with your results, in JPG or whatever, and if you're making good money, then don't even bother at all and just keep up doing the good job the successful way you've been doing so far! ;-)