Unless you’re a professional, the question of shooting RAW vs. JPEG may never have entered your sphere of reference. Yet, if you journey on to become a pro, it is a question you will often face. While each shooting format has it own advantages and disadvantages photographers need to understand what those differences are.
In the least complicated terms, a JPEG file is one that is processed within the camera, each camera model varying in the way it handles the process. Some things are set by the person using the camera and come things are “automatic.” For example, color temperature and exposure are set based on your camera settings when the image is shot. The camera will add blacks, contrast, brightness, noise reduction, sharpening, etc., and then render the file to a compressed JPEG. It’s almost instant gratification as the images are finished and can be viewed and printed immediately.
The good part is the instantaneousness of the process. The downside is that you lose some of the “dynamic range” of the image, although beginners rarely notice. Dynamic Range is very noticeable, though, to professionals as they will see detail from the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights. Dynamic Range detail in JPEG files is significantly reduced as compared to RAW.
To contrast, RAW files are uncompressed and unprocessed snapshots and include all of the detail available to the camera sensor. The RAW files may not look good to the undiscerning eye because as unprocessed raw files, they come out looking flat and dark. So, while the image shoot is fast and accurate, one must wait until the image is viewed and processed using your camera’s software or within a software product like Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, etc. prior to being ready for display or print.
The good news is that most RAW conversion software available today allows you to either batch process for similarly lit or exposed images, or you can “process as previous conversion” making it that much quicker.
Benefits of RAW Shooting Format:
- – Information is never lost from the “digital negative” when saved as JPEGS or TIFF files. This means you can process, play and save the images to your hearts content.
- – Much more information is recorded at the time of shooting meaning more chance of “saving” an image that was poorly exposed.
- – RAW processing software provides more adjustments with more flexible options.
- – “Mistakes” made during the capture such as exposure or white balance, can normally be corrected during processing with little or no hassle.
The Downsides of RAW:
- – Slower, more complicated processing.
- – Larger file sizes taking up more space.
- – Needs specialist software.
The Benefits of JPEG Shooting Format:
- – Highly compressed with great flexibility of quality, file size and storage space.
- – Quick processing with most editing programs. Images come out “almost” ready.
- – All “in-camera” adjustments save time doing it later in post-processing.
- – Easy to share via email.- Excellent print quality at high resolution.
- – Most software these days recognizes this format.
- – Although not that important, images have a “lossy” aspect
- – Any information lost at the time of shooting (blown highlights/ dark shadows) is lost for good and cannot be recovered
There you have it. The shooting format you use is, of course, up to you, the happy photographer. But if you want to offer a broader scope for distributing your work, it’s a good idea to learn to shoot RAW as well.
Feature image and post image courtesy Flickr.com
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