Jim Goldstein writes in If I Only I Knew Then What I Know Now:
The art of improving is by harnessing ones frustration, dissatisfaction and/or curiosity. Pushing oneself to not just practice, but research and experiment is the key to mastering photographyâ€¦ technically in camera or with post-processing. With that in mind the one piece of advice I will give is technical mastery will go a lot farther giving your earlier work a longer lifespan. One can always rework post-processing years down the road.
Frustration when looking back at past mistakes is something we all go through as we improve on our hobby, art or profession – no matter what that might be. The hardest for us in the Digital Photography realm is that in many cases we can’t go back and use our learnings… but only because of the mistakes we’ve already made.
When I made the move to digital, I — like most people, if forum postings are accurate — shot in JPG mode. Not a big problem, though the compression does hurt. But then I committed the ultimate sin. I edited my original files. Now that I know more about post-processing and want to go back and start from scratch, I can’t. The originals are gone. Ouch.
So here’s my advice to every fledgling that asks about getting a digital camera: Shoot at the highest resolution and lowest compression your camera will allow, learn as soon as practical to work with the RAW format, and above all else… When you pull your images off the card (a job for which I recommend Photo Mechanic, at a minimum for its automatic renaming and tagging capabilities), be sure to save a copy off to CD or another drive before you start any editing. That way you will be able to “rework post-processing years down the road,” and you’ll end up kicking yourself a lot less too.