A long time ago (as in 2005, when I got my first DSLR), I routinely shot RAW+JPEG when I traveled. The big reason for this was because at the time, most laptop computers were just not capable of rendering RAW previews fast enough to make browsing lots of images feasible. Since then, computers got faster, and software got better, and a RAW-only workflow became a viable option for travel.
Fast forward to today, and I find myself considering circumstances where RAW+JPEG might not be a bad idea when traveling. The proliferation of tablets and smart phones and their on-board editing apps creates a situation where you might consider shooting RAW+JPEG combined. (Continued after the jump)
Leaving the Laptop Behind
If you want to travel light, as would be the case on sightseeing trips or family vacations, a laptop computer isn’t really something you want to tote around. Even a small laptop, like the Apple MacBook Air, is still larger than a smartphone or tablet such as an iPad. Plus, there are lots of situations where I like to have my iPad along for Internet connectivity so I can post images to social media sites or email them to friends and family via a cellular connection. In these situations, I’m not looking to do major image processing, and even a modest size JPEG has more than enough resolution for sharing on the web. But while there are some RAW conversion apps available for tablets, JPEGs are a much smaller and completely universal file format.
Transferring Images to your iPad or Tablet
The easiest way to get images onto your tablet is via a camera connection kit. Apple’s camera connection kit, for example, includes a USB connector and a SD Card Reader. If your camera supports SD cards, then you can just connect the card reader to your tablet, insert the memory card, and the JPEGs will be easily transferred to your tablet. From there, you can use any number of photo editing apps to tweak the images; my personal favorite is Google+ Snapseed (formerly Nik Software). The controls in Snapseed give me everything I need to fine-tune or even highly stylize an image and then post it to your social sharing site of choice.
Dual Card Slot Cameras Make RAW+JPEG Easy
If you are using a camera like the Nikon D800, which has both a Compact Flash and an SD card slot, you can set the camera to capture RAW+JPEG and send the JPEGs to the SD card. In most cases, a 16 or 32GB SD card will be more than enough for your entire trip, and then you can process the RAW images when you get home. If your camera does not have dual card slots (most don’t), then make sure you have enough memory cards on-hand to support the RAW+JPEG files.
Camera Settings Matter
Remember that if you shoot JPEG, your camera becomes your initial image processor. Try to get WB correct whenever possible, and use settings that aren’t overly vivid or high-contrast. For Nikon shooters, try using “Standard” Picture Control. That setting delivers images that look good out of the camera 99% of the time. Of course, you’ll still have the RAW images to work on later, so it’s not a big deal if the JPEGs aren’t perfect.