While raw offers significant advantages over JPEG, it also has some limitations. For the majority of work, I believe that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the downsides. So in the interests of full disclosure, let's look at the limitations of raw.
Perhaps the biggest limitation is also the main strength of raw filesyou gain a huge amount of control in the conversion process, but you have to take the time to process the raw file to obtain an image. Camera Raw lets you convert raw images very efficiently, particularly once you learn to use it in conjunction with Photoshop's automation features, but each image still takes some timea few secondsto process.
If you digest and implement all the techniques, tips, and tricks offered in this book, you'll find that the bulk of the time spent on raw conversions is computer timeyou can set up batch conversions and go do something more interesting while the computer crunches the images. But any way you slice it, raw files aren't as immediately available as JPEGs, and they require one more step in the workflow.
Raw files are larger than JPEGstypically somewhere between two and four times as large. Storage is cheap and getting cheaper every year, but if you need to fit the maximum number of images on a camera's storage card, or you need to transmit images as quickly as possible over a network or the Web, the larger size of raw files may be an issue.
In most cases, a modicum of planning makes file size a non-issuejust make sure you have enough storage cards, and leave yourself enough time for file transmission.
Two small cards are better than one large one. High-capacity Compact Flash cards command premium prices compared to lower-capacity onesa 4GB card costs more than double the price of a 2GB one, which in turn costs more than double the price of a 1GB one. But using two smaller cards rather than one bigger one lets you hand off the first card to an assistant who can then start copying the files to the computer, archiving them, and perhaps even doing rough processing, while you continue to shoot with the second card. Multiple smaller, cheaper cards give you much more flexibility than one big one.
There's one other issue with raw files. Currently, many camera vendors use proprietary formats for raw files, raising a concern about their long-term readability. Hardware manufacturers don't have the best track record when it comes to producing updated software for old hardwareI have cupboards full of ancient orphaned weird junk to prove itso it's entirely legitimate to raise the question of how someone will be able to read the raw files you capture today in 10 or 100 years time.
Adobe's commitment to making Camera Raw a universal converter for raw images is clear. At the same time, it's no secret that some camera vendors are less than supportive of Adobe's efforts in this regard. If you're concerned about long-term support for your raw files, you need to make your camera vendor aware of the fact. You can also support Adobe's .DNG initiative, which offers an open, documented file format for raw captures, and, if necessary, use your wallet to vote against vendors who resist such initiatives. I'll discuss .DNG in much more detail in Chapter 7, It's All About the Workflow.