Master in-camera jpegs
Get the maximum quality from jpeg files, by customising them in-camera
It is generally accepted that, to guarantee maximum image quality, it is good practise to shoot in RAW format. This provides the greatest degree of flexibility at the image editing stage and there is no loss of image data through compression. Once a jpeg image has been taken, it is advisable to keep post-processing to a minimum to avoid file degradation. There are big benefits to jpeg shooting however, notably increased storage capability, higher burst rates, longer continuous image sequences and fast workflows. Many wedding, wildlife and sports photographers favour the format for these reasons. In order to ensure there is little trade-off in image quality, the in-camera jpeg handling settings must be finely tuned so that images are as close to print-ready as is possible out-of-camera. Almost every enthusiast-level camera features multiple options for changing preset contrast, colour balance and saturation, which is applied to images as a camera profile. Beyond this it is necessary to take control of in-camera noise reduction to strike a balance between graininess and detail, while sharpening also needs to be decided before images are taken. All of this is amended from within your camera’s menu and since all settings are ‘locked in’ during capture, exact settings must be decided on an image-specific basis.
Since you need to be sure about your settings now, rather than in software, a test shot will help you assess the scene specifics and the requirements for a polished out-of-camera shot. Keep this for reference.
Exposure of RAW files can be modified later, but we need reliable exposure that is perfected in-camera. Use your histogram to avoid blown highlights, then switch to Manual Mode so your exposure won’t change
Different manufacturers use varying terminology, but you can choose a style preset for your jpeg image. Choose an option suitable for your subject. Here we switched to ‘Vivid’ to boost colour saturation
Depending on your camera, there are often options for customising the contrast, saturation and colour balance of each picture style, to suit every scene. Further test shots will help find the correct balance
Use a White Balance preset for speed, such as Daylight or Shade, or alternatively select a specific colour temperature for tailored tonal control. Use live view to monitor the changes as you make them
Since RAW shooting has more noise control and sharpening possibilities (jpeg over-sharpening/NR can’t be undone) select these levels based on intended output – for printing more is needed than for web use.