Have you heard the terms RAW and JPG when it comes to photography?
Quite simply, they’re different file formats, and we have the choice to shoot in one or the other…. so which do we choose, and is one better than the other?
1. What is JPG and RAW?
JPG is the format type produced from your camera, phone, tablet, etc. It is the most convenient image format in that it’s recognisable by most image viewing and editing programs, and web browsers. It is a compressed version of the image, so it’s a smaller file than RAW and slightly lower quality. The camera makes simple processing decisions, so it’s a finished file, ready to go straight out of camera. (SOOC)
A RAW image is unprocessed by the camera and so it’s a much larger file and allows us to make the processing decisions. The RAW file records a lot more data about the image and this is why it’s so large… but because it’s unprocessed it can look flat or less sharp or vibrant than compared to a JPG once out of camera. A RAW file requires us to open, and “process” the image out of camera, and so we need a software program to do this, such as Lightroom.
2. Should I Shoot in JPG or RAW?
So you’re probably wondering if JPG results in a loss of quality, why would you choose to shoot in JPG at all?
Or if RAW files are so big and we need special software, is it worth it?
Smaller than a RAW file in megabytes, therefore takes up less room on your card and your computer
Already edited and can be viewed and printed as is, straight out of camera (assuming you got the exposure and other basics right IN camera!)
Writes to the card faster than a RAW file and therefore is sometimes recommend by sports photographers as preferable to RAW because they tend to shoot in high speed burst mode]
Limited scope to adjust exposure and white balance out of camera
Can be viewed on any image viewer and editing program – no special software is required
Has a smaller dynamic range, ie. less detail in the highlights and shadows which in practical application means you have less control when attempting to edit those areas of your JPG image
Cannot use presets to process
Contains the full dynamic range (data) to work with when processing
Has a larger scope to adjust exposure and white balance than a JPG
Can use both presets and actions to process
Is a large file size in megabytes and takes up more room on your card and your computer than a JPG
Comes out of camera with a slightly duller and flatter appearance than a JPG and will require some minor editing
Cannot be viewed or printed as is, needs to be exported into a printable format such as JPG
Requires a RAW image converter to be viewed or processed
Writes slower to the card than JPG so can be unsuitable in situations when shooting in high speed burst mode is required
3. We Recommend
When you’re advancing in photographing and learning the art of processing and editing then I absolutely recommend shooting in RAW! It gives you the full scope of potential in processing the image in the way that you desire… compared to a smaller jpeg which will limit what you can achieve!
For printing, art images, creative processing, or blowing up big… then use RAW for beautiful, high quality results!
But sometimes I also shoot JPG!
I use jpg files for personal use as they’re a smaller file size but still great quality and fine for printing for albums and medium sized wall prints. When I’m taking pics of my kids at home, traveling on holiday etc.
I always shoot in RAW if I intend to print large, or if I’m taking photos I KNOW I’ll want to play with in editing… such as macro or abstract fun type images. I also shoot RAW for special occasions or client because I want those files to be as high quality as can be, and because I know I’ll be processing them for a finished, polished image!
4. Watch RAW Files Being Edited
Lightroom is my favourite editing tool! I use it for 99% of all my edits, and I find it quick, easy and perfect for creating simple, effective edits that enhance an image!
I put together a behind the scenes video to show you exactly how I edit my RAW files in Lightroom!