The ambiguity and inconsistency of JPG

The ambiguity and inconsistency of JPG "produced in camera" as support of original file

The camera always produces a JPG even if shooting in RAW mode only. The preview on the LCD screen after any camera shot is a provisional JPG generated from the RAW information, which is immediately processed, adjusting the color, tone and sharpness, and compressed to a JPG file (8 bits per channel) according to the processing algorithm of the camera model manufacturer.

A verifiable fact in the most recent camera models introduced by most manufacturers, is that we can find many more options of “camera profiles” (Picture Style or Picture Control), being these much more aggressive in the final result produced with respect to the neutrality of the RAW from which they emanate.

That is a clear trend in the current SRL cameras or modern mirrorless, where the user can find multiple options of filters and creative effects, thus allowing to obtain a wide range of JPG images on camera for the same scene, which emulates any “App” of mobile devices that provides psychedelic filters.

If we enter the menu options of the Nikon Z7, we can see how it has evolved from the old shooting modes “Standard”, “Intense”, “Landscape”,… to surprising options of up to 20 modes of “Creative Picture Control ":" Dream "," Pop "," Dramatic "," Melancholic "," Binary ", .... besides having precise controls on the level or amount of the effect.

On this respect, the following images are nothing more than a limited example of many possibilities of obtaining a direct JPG from camera to which no subsequent processing has been performed on PC. View of RAW file against different options of originals JPG produced in camera:


It is therefore evident that the possibilities of editing or processing existing today to generate a JPG on camera (badly called "original"), with respect to the original or neutral image of the RAW from which they start, are as wide as by means of digital editing software outside the camera.


Each photographic contest of nature or photojournalism thematic, publishes its rules according to its own criteria, although it is important to point out that:

- In those photo contests where no original file is requested as proof of veracity of each photograph, the images in competition may not even come from a camera.

- In those others where the RAW file is requested, but also the submission of a JPG produced in camera is allowed, as guarantee of authenticity for the JPG file submitted (which can also receive additional processing on PC), we find two profiles of participants:

1• Those who concur with a RAW as original support - whose JPG photographs will be evaluated according to the processing limitations of the rules with respect to the original RAW.

2• Those who concur with an original JPG camera as original support - whose edited JPG photographs submitted to the contest will be evaluated with respect to the original JPG, which surely contains an unlimited processing load on camera with application of creative filters. And that processing work in camera will not be evaluated by the competition since that file is assumed as reference of the original base.

It is obvious and reasonable to think, where the admission of RAW file and original JPG from camera is allowed, that the photographer who does not use the original JPG to participate in this kind of photographic contests, will be losing infinite options of digital production of his image on camera not using "creative filters", compared to those who participate with RAW support.

Although whatever competition have a legitimate right to admit photographs based on original JPG together with photographs based on RAW file, it is ambiguous and inconsistent to publish in their rules those limitations such as “editing limited to moderate contrast settings, tonal values , gradation, white balance, color and saturation ”, since the competition leave out of control all the editing load pre-applied to the JPG produced in camera.

And all of this in a context of supposed "effective control" on the originality of the JPG camera file, which may be susceptible to a higher level of manipulations with respect to a RAW file.

If the legitime target of these nature photo competitions, is to increase the level of participation by the admission of “Original JPG” as support file, it would be reasonable to classify them in different categories with respect to participation with original RAW, because the reality is that there are two contests in one.

IRCC also certifies photographs whose support is a Original JPG direct from camera without subsequent editing, although it is aligned with the criteria of the vast majority of reputed photographic contests, which only support the original native RAW or DNG file, as an authenticity of the photograph.

Obtaining certifications based on an original JPG camera file, proves that the edited JPG image corresponds to the aforementioned original camera file, within the established development limits, although it might not be admitted in most of the contests of photography, according to their rules, when there is no RAW or native DNG camera file as support.

Only through the knowledge and understanding of the process of building an image, it can be concluded that contribution of RAW file is the only way of accreditation of authenticity of a photograph, assuming that from the neutral state that involves RAW (lacking pre-edition and post-editing settings), the level of processing for an image can be measured effectively.