What is the difference between RAW & JPEG? In essence, RAW is the uncompressed unprocessed image data for a captured image and JPEG is the same thing only processed through your camera’s processor and compressed for best storage capacity. RAW contains all the image data, while JPEG contains only the vital data while clipping what your camera processor feels is unnecessary. While sometimes correct, many times the clipping is too much.
Old Arguments for JPEG (with counter argument in red)
– More available image bursts (buffer doesn’t fill up as fast.) Today’s cameras do not have this issue as they did in the past.
– Less time processing. Once loaded, if your images were shot correctly, all you need to do is hit “export” and you are done.
– Need more space to shoot RAW (not enough CF card space or hard drive space.) Hard Drive space and CF cards are really inexpensive.
Arguments for RAW
– Higher dynamic range.
– Better final image quality.
– Uncompressed image = no data loss.
– Ability to decide later if you want an AdobeRGB image or an sRGB.
– Shooting JPEG lacks ability to correct white balance.
– Shooting JPEG lacks ability to bring back highlight detail.
Can you correct a JPEG image in a RAW processing software? Is it the same as if you shot in RAW? Yes and no. You can import a JPEG image into a RAW processing software such as LightRoom, however you will be just masking the problems, not correcting them. If an image was shot over exposed and your highlights are blown out, you will not be able to recover them, only hide the highlight loss making your image look plasticy.
What format should I be shooting in? Whatever format you feel most comfortable in. If you have never shot RAW before feel free to shoot in RAW + JPEG for a couple times just so you have the feeling of a “safety blanket.” Once you try it, all your fears will go away when you see how easy it is to process the imagery and how fun it can be; not to mention how much better your work will look.
Is there a preferred method? Most professional photographers are now shooting RAW. There may be the occasional sports shooter out there who needs 40 shots in a row, continuous burst, but other than that, most are shooting RAW.
If I choose to shoot in RAW is there ever a reason to shoot JPEG? Yes, when you need to show your images right away to clients for a preview you will want to shoot RAW plus small JPEG. This is especially useful when a bride and groom want the earlier part of the day projected on a screen at the reception. No need for large files as the small ones are much easier to quickly edit and load for the show. There are also great little printers coming on the market where you can transmit your imagery right to the printer (no PC required) and it will print out as you shoot. Think of the possibilities! One more area would be for anything you do not care too much about. Examples might be: images of items for sale on the web, quick mug shots for reference and casting, copywork of documents. I am sure you can think of a few more such things.
All in all, RAW is the way to go. Try it, you will like it!
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