Which Should You Use: RAW or JPEG?

What's the Difference Between RAW and JPEG?

One of the many options available to photographers nowadays is whether or not to shoot in RAW or JPEG format. In my case, JPEG was the file of choice when I first started photographing digitally. It's the default setting on the most majority of cameras, and these days even point-and-shoots are capable of producing high-quality JPEG images. Even so, there are a number of compelling arguments in favor of shooting in RAW. It's easier than ever to shoot RAW now that more and more cameras, even certain smartphones, can do it.

What's the difference between RAW & JPEG?

What is a RAW file, and how does it differ from other formats? out-of-camera jpeg vs raw (jpeg vs jpg is the same)

There is no post-processing done to raw images when they are taken from the camera. When unprocessed, they tend to seem a little dismal. It's important to note that both of these photos come straight from the camera. Raw files, also called "digital negatives," contain all of the information that your camera sensor has collected during a single exposure time. Jpeg files, on the other hand, have been compressed and processed significantly. The outcome is a far greater level of detail, finer tonal gradation, and dynamic range than JPEGs. The data from the sensor, a JPEG preview and thumbnail, and a sidecar with important metadata and header information make up the three primary sections of a RAW file. Since you can later make non-destructive adjustments to the image sensor data without affecting the settings you applied (such white balance, brightness, contrast, etc.), this is an important consideration.

It's very uncommon for RAW files to be somewhat huge because they're uncompressed and contain all of the sensor's data. They're 3-4 times as large as JPEGs on average. (A 16-megapixel camera will output a RAW file of 16 MB.) When compared to JPEGs, RAW files will look drab and lifeless right out of the camera. Due to the fact that they are unprocessed by the camera, unlike JPEGs They haven't been tweaked in any way to make them appear polished. It's necessary to post-process RAW files, because the camera doesn't process them, i.e. they must be processed in a sophisticated editing tool capable of handling the file type (Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One, etc.).

When it comes to processing RAW photographs, each editing application has its own "secret sauce," so don't be shocked if you see big variances between them. Also keep in mind that different camera manufacturers identify their RAW files in different ways, such as Nikon uses NEF, Canon CR2, Fujifilm RAF, and Sony ARW, while Sony uses ARW. Secret Fun Fact: JPEG stands for "Joint Photographic Expert Group.

Examples of jpeg and raw files

When photographing at the beach, JPG photography limits your post-production options because the exposure can be adjusted in this JPG, but the white balance adjustments won't be as precise. However, JPEGs are smaller and compressed files created by your camera. Saturation, contrast, vibrance and/or sharpness can all be adjusted before the RAW file is compressed to 8 bits (from a 12-bit or 14-bit data file). Images are crisper and more contrasty than RAW files, but they have a lower dynamic range. Actually, a well-shot JPEG is ready to use right out of the camera: sharp, properly contrasted, and generally quite bright in its output.

However, the in-camera procedure loses a significant quantity of data – data that can make a huge difference in the quality of your final image. These three areas are the most impacted: color, resolution, and dynamic range. That's because your camera's software has a feature called the Discrete Cosine Transformation (or DCT) that eliminates the colors it deems unimportant, then reassembles the image with only four or five new shades. The more information you lose while compressing your files, the more compression you use. This means that while you'll obtain a crisp image that can be used right away in most cases, you won't have much to work with when making modifications.

What's the point of shooting in RAW?

Using the memory card's raw data to make edits. raw files take up more space than jpegs. It is possible to alter RAW files without affecting the original. Luminar's Accent AI filter was used alone to alter this image. When compared to jpeg files, which "bake in" the majority of adjustments in-camera, shooting in RAW provides you significantly more control over the final look of the image. When you photograph in RAW format, it's as if you're switching from automatic to manual mode on your camera. Making all of the decisions in post-production rather than relying on the camera's settings.

As a result, there will be a lot more work for you. If you're working with RAW files, you have a lot more creative freedom than you do with JPEGs. You may say "just about" because each RAW file processing tool has its own unique way of processing the images.

It's worth noting, though, that there are many advantages to shooting RAW over JPEG.

You're allowed to:

  • Make changes that don't compromise quality. It's easy to make modifications because there's so much data in a RAW file to work with. There isn't much wiggle room with JPEGs. Posterization and other undesirable effects are likely to occur if you make any significant adjustments.
  • Get a much broader selection of hues. Only 16.8 million colors are possible in an 8-bit JPEG image. Up to 68.7 billion colors can be represented in a 12-bit RAW picture. That's a major accomplishment! 16-bit RAW photos, which can be captured by some high-end cameras, produce a staggering 281 trillion hues.
  • Increase the dynamic range of your image. JPEGs have a relatively limited ability to recover details in the highlights and shadows, but RAW photos contain enough data to allow for reasonable recovery on all levels. There are many professional photographers that shoot with the intention of preserving dynamic range, whether that means intentionally under or overexposing (as evidenced by this shot of a young child on a beach, or in a dark theater).
  • White balance may be easily adjusted. Whether you choose the manual or automatic white balance settings, there will be occasions when you'll want to go back and make some adjustments. When photographing in JPEG format, the camera automatically sets a white balance that cannot be changed afterwards without impacting the overall quality of the image. RAW files, on the other hand, are incredibly forgiving and safe to tinker with no matter what settings you used when taking the picture. It is simple to alter the image's white balance because the information is saved independently from the actual image.
  • After capturing an image, adjust the color space. You can simply modify the color space (such as sRGB or Adobe RGB) of your RAW photographs later on, as the color space is not saved in RAW images.
  • Edit your photograph without erasing its data. When editing RAW files, you don't actually alter the original data when you make edits. By establishing a collection of instructions, you're not actually creating a new file. Always keep the original file intact, no matter what happens to it. This means that you can go back to the original file and fix any mistakes you've made, or you may use the RAW version to experiment with different editing techniques without having to worry about changing the image permanently. JPEGs, on the other hand, degrade in quality each time you make an alteration, save it, and go back and tweak it again. When working with RAW files, you have complete access to the actual image data.
  • Improve your ability to sharpen your tools. It's possible to employ more complex sharpening algorithms in post-processing because RAW images have already been sharpened by the camera.
  • Make greater use of your ability to reduce noise pollution. With a RAW file, you have more options for reducing noise in post-production than with a JPEG.
  • Own and authenticate the item in question. Images captured in RAW format can serve as proof of ownership as well as proof that your camera saw what it saw because the original information is tough to modify. Nobody would be able to claim that you modified the image in Photoshop if you had a RAW image of the Loch Ness Monster.

Simply put, shooting in RAW gives you complete creative freedom and the option to go back and fix any mistakes you made during the session. You also have the advantage of using your computer's processing capability instead of your camera's. That's not to imply that you shouldn't occasionally photograph in JPEG mode.

When it comes to photographing today, JPEGs are far better than they were in the past, and it isn't always practicable to do a lot of post-processing. Until lately, I've always taken my photos in RAW format. At the very least, when I'm just taking snapshots with my Sony A7C, the JPEGs are nice enough to utilize on their own.

What's the point of JPEG?

Why use raw files instead than Jpegs? The jpeg image format is an adjusted version that is smaller than a raw image file. There are no raw camera files . It's amazing how much in-camera JPEG processing has progressed in the previous several years. When you shoot in JPEG, it's like leaving your camera on Auto. It's quick and simple, and it usually yields good results... Indeed, there are situations when a JPEG is the better choice. A quick picture of the youngsters for social media would be in order. Or perhaps you only need to keep track of something and don't want to spend a lot of time on it.

In addition to these factors, JPEG is a great choice for photographers. Post-processing isn't necessary for JPEGs. Occasionally, a JPEG does not require any post-production processing. Most of the time, a minor change is all that is required. In contrast, if you want a decent-looking image, you'll need to work with RAW data.

You're trying to save space on your hard drive. RAW files are enormous in comparison to the size of a single JPEG image. Because of this, JPEGs may be a good option if you're short on storage space and don't need high-quality images.

JPEGs are a universally supported file format. As long as it supports JPEGs, virtually any program on the market will do the job. On the other hand, raw files necessitate the use of editing tools capable of handling proprietary formats. Your camera will process JPEGs faster since they take less time. When using burst mode, your camera's buffer will fill up less fast. If you shoot at a rate of 10 frames per minute or more, JPEG is the best option for you because RAW slows down your camera. Fujifilm cameras have the strongest and most vociferous fanbase for their JPEG quality, which is why so many people use them. If you plan to shoot largely in JPEG and are looking for a camera, bear this in mind.

Only when the image quality is not critical do I use JPEGs, and my Sony produces superb JPEGs (at least to my eyes), thus I have little intention of switching anytime soon.

However, shooting in RAW will always provide you the most editing options, even if you can get more out of a JPEG file.

What's the best option for you?

What's the point of shooting in jpeg? The raw image requires more data, hence the raw file is larger.

For street and documentary photography, JPEG is a good choice. What type of photographs you require, how much time you want to spend editing, and occasionally how much storage space you need will all influence your final decision (storage space is quite cheap these days).

When to Use JPEG as a Format

If you're taking a lot of photos, use JPEG. When time is of the essence and you have a large number of photographs to post but don't want to tie up your buffer because you're shooting in burst mode, you'll want to use the rapid, no-fuss procedure described above.

However, JPEG is an excellent choice when you need to handle images quickly and the quality isn't critical. Alternatively, you may be content with the JPEG quality captured by your camera and don't want to bother with any additional post-processing. Jpegs are smaller and easier to modify than raw files. The raw format is a more substantial and unedited version of the final product.

When image quality is critical, shoot in RAW.

When shooting in RAW:

You care deeply about the quality of your images; you desire complete creative freedom; you are willing to invest time and resources in post-processing; you intend to print your images; you aspire to professional status; you have enough room on your memory card to accommodate large raw format files; and If you shoot in RAW, you have complete creative control over the final image and can overcome many of the issues that come with shooting in low light.

Final Thoughts on RAW vs. JPEG

Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a "unedited" or "unadulterated" picture. There are two ways to process your photos: Either the camera does it for you, or you use a separate piece of software to do it. The primary distinction is your desire for final product control. Having second thoughts about making a major shift in your life? Try using the RAW + JPEG option on your camera to capture both types at the same time. Then you won't have anything to lose and can experiment at your leisure.