Should I shoot in RAW or in JPEG? This is one of the frequent questions in photography world.

Let’s explore more about these terms.

RAW? What is RAW?

RAW files are “Digital Negatives” that contains all image data recorded by the camera sensor. RAW is a typically a proprietary format that is associated with the camera manufacturer and sensor, hence is not supported by all software products. RAW files preserve the most amount of information about an image and generally contain more colours and dynamic range than JPEG images.

Advantages of shooting RAW

  1. Highest Quality : When we shoot in RAW, we get the highest quality that our camera can provide. The reason is that, camera is recording all the information from the sensor without any compression. We are able to do the processing ourselves and can make the decisions on how the image should look. On the other hand JPEG is compressed format, that means camera does it’s own processing to convert the RAW information into a JPEG.
  2. Post Production Flexibility: If we shoot in RAW we are having more freedom to fix any mistake we did while shooting. It’s obvious that we can’t fix unfocused images. But exposure can easily adjusted by many stops with shadows and highlights can be quickly recovered. We can correct the white balance, which we forgot to change in-camera on every location and light change.
  3. Sharpness and Noise Reduction: RAW Format gives us flexibility to adjust the sharpness and noise reduction at great extent.
  4. Future Proof: After doing post production on our image and saving them, we can go back on our RAW image and make further changes, if we think that we needed. But On JPEG files as the more we open them, adjust components and then save again, the image loses it’s quality more and more.
  5. Better Prints: Because we have control on the tone and colours, we can create amazing images and we will get better prints from RAW format files.
  6. Professional Level Options: Professional photographers should be providing their clients with the highest quality possible. By shooting RAW we take control, and are able to manage exposure, colours and other issues to create the best results possible.

Disadvantages of RAW Format

  1. Need Post Processing: RAW files require post-processing before they can be normally viewed, which means a significant amount of time to workflow.
  2. Require More Space: RAW file have more uncompressed information so these files takes up much more camera memory and space than JPEG images. This means that memory card can store fewer images and camera buffer can quickly fill up, causing the camera frame rate to drop down significantly. We will also need more RAM and much more disk storage on our computer to keep and process RAW images.
  3. Proprietary issue: RAW files are not standardized across different camera manufactures. Nikon RAW file format is .NEF, whereas Canon files are .CR2. In addition, not all image-viewers and editors can open RAW files. If we have a brand new camera that just got released, we might need to wait for a while for software companies to catch up and update their software so that our RAW files could be opened and worked on. 

What is JPEG?

JPEG is known as JPG also. It stands for Joint Photographic Expert Group, a joint working group of International Standardization Organization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). It is a standard method of compressing graphic images.

JPEG is the most popular compressed file image format for photographs today. The compression method JPEG uses is “lossy”, which means that certain information is removed from the image.

Advantages of JPEG format

  1. Ready to use: JPEG images are fully processed in camera. White Balance, Color Saturation, Tone Curve, Sharpening and Colour Space are already applied to the image. Hence we do not need to post-process the image. It is ready to use.
  2. Smaller Size: JPEG images are much smaller than RAW images so it take less storage and less processing power. Due to the smaller size, cameras can write JPEG files much faster and require less camera buffer space. This means that compared to RAW, we can shoot at higher frames per second and for longer periods of time.
  3. No Proprietary issue: Mostly all devices and software packages support JPEG images.
  4. Flexibility on Size and Quality: Digital cameras provide different compression and size options for saving JPEG images, giving us the flexibility and choice over image quality and size.
  5. Less Storage: Smaller size also means faster and more efficient backups.

Disadvantages of JPEG format

  1. Less Details: JPEG use “lossy” compression algorithm which means that some details will be lost from image.
  2. Less Colours: JPEG photographs are 8-bit, which puts a limitation of 16 million possible colors. This means that all those other colors that your camera is capable of recording are essentially discarded, when the image is converted to JPEG format.
  3. Less Dynamic Range: JPEG images also contain less dynamic range than RAW images, which means that recovering overexposed/underexposed images and shadow areas will be extremely difficult and sometimes impossible.

Should we shoot in RAW or in JPEG?

Now, let’s move to the topic of this blog – Should we shoot in RAW or in JPEG?

Well, now it’s all depend on your photography need.

For me, being a candid wedding photographer, sometimes we have very less time to change the camera settings from one scene to another, shooting in RAW format is the life saver, it help me to fix my mistakes after the event during post production. Definitely it takes time to process the RAW images but for us, every single finessed image which we deliver to our client is more important.

In my views, if we are serious about our photography and want to be able to sell or showcase our work in the future, we should shoot in RAW format. If we are just taking pictures of our family for fun, then shoot in JPEG.

Please feel free to let us know, your questions or feedback in the comments section below.