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Testing testing 123 – Actions & Presets RAW vs JPG

Q. “You mentioned running actions on RAW files, I think I must be missing a trick here as I shoot in RAW (& mostly process in LR) but would convert to JPEG before running an action.  Does it really make a lot of difference running an action in RAW rather than JPEG?”

A. Well…yes and no. First, I’ve got to say that this question was in response to me saying recently that Florabella actions work best on raw files. I was mistaken. I even did some testing today with raw vs jpg and they looked exactly the same when treated with Florabella actions. So rawk on jpeg users!

Now…when you buy presets and actions, the maker usually specifies if they work best with RAW or JPG (or both). There are certain controls you miss out on when editing a JPG such as white balance changes and so if your preset or action contains any commands which aren’t available because your camera has compressed all the information into a JPG (or you converted it to a JPG first) then it won’t work as intended. I did some tests on presets and actions I have and this is what I found:

One Willow Presets for Lightroom and ACR truly do work best on RAW and she has said quite clearly that her presets are for raw files. You can see below the difference when using the ‘Tocca’ action from the new Timeless Collection on a RAW vs a JPG:

As I said previously, Florabella actions worked beautifully with both raw and jpg as did the MCP Actions I tried. Florabella doesn’t say in her FAQs if the actions are meant for any specific file types and MCP didn’t specify either. As you can see below, the MCP Actions I ran on the image below worked exactly the same with a raw vs jpg:

I think that where you will find that automated plugins work best on a raw vs jpg is going to be Lightroom. I find far more often that presets are meant for one or the other and so you’ll need to check with the company you’re buying from first.

  • http://www.oldpolicehouse.blogspot.com grace

    have just left a comment but it was on a post from about a year ago so not sure if you will read it, have just spent ages enjoying your images and learning so much from your very helpful and generous comments. I also love your photos of Elbrie (who always looks gorgeous anyway but you have captured something so special with those shots, they are amazing in so many ways!) Thank you very much for all your help, I will be back..

  • http://Www.imenesaid.com Imene

    I edit my pics in LR then open them in Ps where they are opened as tif files. Do actions run well on tif or am I missing something?

  • elizabethhalford

    @Imene: Yes that’s a great way to do it

  • Shannon

    I use florabella and mcp actions. I’m beginning to shoot in raw and I’m trying to learn what to do with them after that point. I’ve heard that tiff is better than jpg because it keeps more information. I work in PS5 and I haven’t made the change to LR, I’m just not comfortable with the change yet. I’m more comfortable in PS. Anyway, my question is, have you noticed a difference between running actions on a jpg and a tiff? I’ve been converting my raw images to tiff images and then when I’m all done it ends as a jpg. Am I just wasting a bunch of time with all of these steps? Help!

    Thanks so much!

  • http://twoscoopz.com Jan

    Just wanted to add (for newer LR users) that most presets for RAW images will work on your jpgs as long as you make a few adjustments, usually brightness, exposure and contrast. Those are usually the biggest differences.
    So you CAN use them, just make your adjustments.
    That’s the nature of presets anyway :)

  • http://www.andreamatone.com Wedding Photographer Italy

    As a rule of thumb is to try to work in raw or uncompressed mode as much as possible. I try to export and compress in jpg at least as possible; possibly only once for final image delivery.

  • islandriverbabe

    If you watch Florabella’s instruction videos, she works with jpges. It is best to shoot in RAW, do any necessary white balance changes, crops, etc.. in Lightroom, then export and edit jpegs with Florabella actions. Much quicker to apply the actions to a jpeg when batch processing than to a bunch or RAW images. At least that has been my experience. Can’t speak for other actions, as I have been pretty happy with FLorabella’s :D
    Thanks for your article though – it’s very good!!