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HELP! JPEG files look so vibrant while RAW files look so lifeless!?

Discussion in 'General Technical Discussion' started by josh99ta, Jun 13, 2007.

  1. josh99ta


    Mar 13, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    I'm getting desperate here. I shoot in RAW + JPEG Fine. I've noticed this problem before and it seems like on my past 3 or 4 shoots its been consistent that once I get my images onto my computer the JPEGs look good but the RAW files look flat and lifeless, the colors are off, etc. No amount of white balance adjustment saves them. What is going on with my equipment here?

    Here is an example, both pictures pulled straight from the camera. The RAW file was opened in Adobe CS2, left the white balance as "As Shot" to keep things equal between it and the JPEG, then both were resized equally. No other changes were made so this is as straight-from-the-camera as it gets. This is becoming increasingly frustrated as I'm doing paid shoots and this is just unacceptable to me.

    Untouched JPEG

    Untouched RAW

    The contrast and saturation is +1 on my camera so I dont know if that effects the JPEG and now the RAW file but even with the settings leveled out I still get this same effect. The JPEG is exactly as the scene looked to my eye. The RAW file looks nothing like the car actually did on that shot.
  2. Josh99ta,

    I am no expert by any means, but I have been having the same problem ever since I starting shooting RAW with my D50 a month ago. I even have a couple threads currently open, but the have not seen much action. I use ACR and then open the RAW file to CS2. By Default the D50 shoots in sRGB so I have left the in camera settings alone since I am shooting RAW+JPEG and the color space for the RAW file is determined when opened by the converter, while the JPEG has the sRGB profile attached which is no big deal.

    I just recently shot a party for a family member which they generously gave me some money for. I was concerned because when there is money involved then I feel that I have to give them the best prints possible. Not sure if CS2 is set by default to open with aRGB but my install was and so thats what I was using since I read it has a wider color gamut than sRGB. A couple of nights ago when I sat down and started sorting and editing through 150 pics that I took, it occured to me that maybe I would open them in the sRGB color space. It was weird that when I opened the file in ACR using sRGB, it closely if not exactly matched the colors of the JPEG, most times even better (I know this is the best format for veiwing on the web and for some labs or printers). I decide to just go with that and open them all in sRGB, did my editing in CS2 and sent them online over to Costco and they came out great! Who knows how much color quality I am losing by going with sRGB instead of aRGB, but I was very happy with the results.

    Sorry for the novel, but you might want to open that RAW file in sRGB assuming you have been using aRGB, leave it untouched and see if it suits you better. Maybe some of the more knowledgeable members will comment on the color spaces. Thanks for allowing me to rant about some of my similar frustrations.

  3. Josh,

    I checked the info on these files...your file posted as the JPG has an sRGB embedded profile and your file posted as the RAW file has an aRGB embedded profile. This may be causing your problems. Web browsers don't really like aRGB profiles...it's much more consistent to save any files that will be posted to the web with an sRGB profile. I process all of my files in either aRGB or ProPhoto...then save the files to go to my printer with an embedded aRGB profile, while the images destined for the web are saved with an sRGB profile. NOTE: Not all printers accept aRGB profiles...some printers (like your Costco) will probably only take sRGB.

    Also, the saturation and contrast settings will affect your JPG files, but not RAW (unless you're using Nikon Capture, which it doesn't sound like you are). Those settings are not read by ACR, so that's contributing to your problems as well.

    JMHO, of course.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 14, 2007
  4. josh99ta


    Mar 13, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    So check my save file data and make sure it's saving the RAW files as sRGB? I dont know how my camera went from the RAW and JPEG files matching to one day deciding to save them as different formats. I'll definitely check on it though.

    I left one step out. I actually transfer the photographs to my computer through Nikon Picture Project then open and edit them in Photoshop. I checked my Picture Project settings and it is set to save in NKsRGB settings. I'll check the camera tonight when I get a chance.
  5. What body are you using? My D200 has a setting where I set color space...in my case I use Adobe RGB. You can set this to sRGB if you'd like.

    I don't know about Picture Project and whether or not it honors the in-camera adjustment settings with RAW files. I know that PS does not and NC does, but outside of that, I'm not sure. You'll have to check the documentation.

    FWIW, I've never had my RAW files match my JPG files. That's kind of why I shoot RAW...I want to have a record of the scene exactly as the sensor saw it without any processing...I do that on my own. I like the control it gives me...plus, I'm not that good, so I need all the flexibility I can get.
  6. Scotty_R


    Jan 1, 2006
    Certainly you know what I'm about to offer, but I'll put my 2 cents in anyway. aRGB/sRGB aside, both of these images are significantly under exposed and until the exposure is correct, in camera, I think you're going to have difficulty deciding what the actual color of the automobile should be.

    Also, remember, that a JPEG image comes out of the camera with a huge amount of "development" or processing already done to it. The camera will see RED and do its level best to determine what RED should be after it determines what WHITE and BLACK are in the image, (once the camera knows what white and black are, all the other colors follow accordingly). In a RAW image you have to decide what white and black should be and then make minor adjustments to the rest of the colors through levels, curves, color balance, contrast, saturation and lightness tweaks, not to mention sharpening adjustments.

    So, all that said, what was the color of the car when you took the shot? The JPEG image makes it a hot, sexy, rich red. The RAW image has more yellow in it (make the first levels adjustment to smooth out the histogram and then look at the color of the smaller of the two, well lit, red doors--more yellow in the RAW image). So, what was the color of the car when you took the picture? As the old commercial says, only you and your hair dresser know for sure.:wink:
  7. BigPixel

    BigPixel Guest

    Totally agree with Scotty.

    From my perspective in not knowing the actual car color, I'd say the second raw image as presented is much more believable a photograph. Doesn't have that artificial pumped-up jpeg coloration thing going.

    In fact when I shoot jpeg (rarely) I intentionally open up the hue/sat adjustment in PS and usually dial in a +5 hue and a -12 saturation to the reds to bring them down to earth.

  8. josh99ta


    Mar 13, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    I'm using a D80 and the lens in my signature. Thats my GTO in the picture is my GTO by the way. The car's color is as you see in the first picture (the JPEG file). Its a Pontiac color called Spice Red Metallic. The metallic flake is very subtle so it doesn't show up in pictures but its a very rich red. Not at all like a typical bright red color but a little darker and it almost glows. The color you see in the JPEG that Spice Red takes on in brighter light. The shade you see it in my signature picture is what it looks like in more overcast lighting (a darker shade but a similar hue) and a night it looks like glowing hot metal almost.

    I know the picture is a bit underexposed but I tend to shoot 1/3-1/2 stop underexposed and lighten the image in PP to prevent blowing out highlights (which even in this shot I didn't pull off as the lower portion of the hoop of the front wheel's lip got blown out).

    Here is the same picture completely PP by me from the initial JPEG to this JPEG...


    The front of the car could have used a little more light but I shoot in natural light so you work with what you've got.

    Thanks baseballer for the compliment and everyone else for the input. I'm always trying to improve.
  9. josh99ta


    Mar 13, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    The red of the car is a very rich red. The dark grey of the brick on that wall and the bright red door are reasons I chose to shoot such a rich colored car there because all the colors of the scene were so rich. The RAW image looks like washed out garbage, nothing at all like what the scene looked like to the naked eye.

    The manual is telling me this...

    At settings other than Custom:
    * The sRGB color space is used. To use the Adobe RGB color space, select Custom and shoose II (Adobe RGB) for Color Mode

    And I'm shooting in Normal or Vivid "optimized image" modes so it should be using sRGB which would translate to close to the rich colors I'm seeing in the JPEG shot in Vivid "optimized image" mode rather than the washed out look of the aRGB color mode of the RAW image (and how it got to aRGB I still dont know).
  10. if you put the raw file into nikon capture then it will look very similar to the JPEG,. if you bump saturation in camera to tweak the jpeg then you will need to so something similar in raw editor to create same look to the image (which is nikons editor will make this slightly easier as it reads the extra settings info in the raw file)

  11. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    If you plan to proof on the Web, forget aRGB and shoot sRGB. Why gain every disadvantage of aRGB by doing it this way by default? If you shoot RAW, you can switch it up to aRGB and do special adjustments on a per-needed basis, rather than defaulting to what is effectively (not technically) a poorer color space. The reason is that most people's browsers in the world (Internet Explorer) cannot read ICC profiles. So, it is going to look extra junky on most people's machines as of today. (do the math, there is no disputing this when 90% of the market uses an icc profiless setup :)  )

    I've always found aRGB to be a bit yuckier for most renditions compared to sRGB. Just my personal preference whenever I switched the modes in Capture NX. I hear it is better for particular colors though.

    RAW is meant for tweaking and adjustments. JPEG is just a "realization" of a particular set of RAW combinations. (It is not always easy to find the magic combination though). You can surprisingly do a lot with curves on JPEGs. RAW is greatly overrated in this regard. Although, using different RAW converters can give you significantly different results (bibble's poorer sharpening vs nikon nx's superior sharpening as an example). RAW's biggest advantage to me is switching color spaces and fixing white balance (it's just so much faster to do in RAW for me).

    Try readjusting your black and white points. You might have to redo some curves in the particular color channels as well, but I'd start off by stabilizing your color space.
  12. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    You must have switched to Color Mode II somehow either in the camera or in your processing software.

    D2+ bodies have it in a "Color Mode" section in the shooting menu.

    My D70 has it in the "optimize image" -> custom -> color mode.
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