Usually I shot all my images in RAW format, the RAW file allows you to capture a wider dynamic range and to work on it more precisely when you post-produce your images. It must be said that also JPEG files have their conveniences as the file dimensions are much smaller and the images are “already ready to use” rather than a RAW format. For this purpose I was interested in understanding which of the two formats would be more “accepted” by Photomatix. When loading images, would the yield be better in JPEG or RAW exposures? Wich are the Photomatix images merging differences?
In order to convert a RAW file in JPEG format and to get a top quality I use Lightroom. After you import the images to the Lightroom library I select them all together and I select “Export” from the menu “File”.
This will open a form where you can check some of the items, after you rename your files select the JPEG output and quality 100%.
Once you will have the two different series of images you can check, through the loading of Photomatix, how the two different formats are processed by the software. I uploaded all the exposures first in RAW and then in JPEG, setting the “Default” mode of the “Tone Mapping” in Photomatix settings for both images.The results are quite different, as the images resulting from RAW exposures appear more contrasted while JPEG images are more neutral. So let’s see the images merging differences:
Conceptually the conversion using RAW files would be better in the 32-bit image that has been produced and the luminance values contained in the RAW format are definitely better than a JPEG. Despite that this conversion in Photomatix is, in my opinion, the same as the one used in Lightroom or Photoshop, where you definitely get better results.
The choice to use a RAW file converted into a JPEG is due to the final image, which even if at a first glance it may appear less fascinating, it is definitely the one that allows you to manipulate photos with higher amounts of customization. In conclusion, the importance of shooting in RAW is crucial for the proper management of white balance, and to better manage the values of luminance. However a good conversion is just as important as getting a final image with more balanced values . In confirmation of that, I tried (not just because of the loss of quality) to convert the exposures we saw before into a TIFF format rather than a JPEG and the result was the same as JPEG. Below the TIFF file after conversion.