Entering the field of photography is a daunting, yet very exciting challenge. The rise of social media platforms like Instagram has created an online competition of sorts with every image trying to outdo the other. As exciting as it is to step foot into this, there are initial hurdles that every person must step over. One problem to figure out initially is what format to use when taking a photo. Different manufacturers have developed different formats for their cameras that go along with their color science and hardware. For Canon cameras, this format is CR2, which is also their preferred extension for RAW image files. Users have the option to choose from the CR2 or the JPEG format. Each format has its own advantages and drawbacks, and each format has a different usage in different circumstances. Thus, the final choice falls upon the user’s preference.
JPEG Format


JPEG is the workhorse of both photography and printing. Since its introduction in 1992, it has been the most widely used photography format, allowing seamless interaction with many popular websites and browsers. JPEG in shooting mode means different advantages for photographers.

Over the years, cameras have gotten significantly better at image processing. Digital SLRs are extremely smart at figuring out the technical aspect of a photograph. With just a click of a button, white balance, saturation, and noise reduction are adjusted for you in the camera and presented as a JPEG image, which is extremely handy for a beginner photographer who does not yet understand the technical aspects of photography. For seasoned photographers, this saves them a lot of time while working in busy environments.


File size and JPEG format:

The JPEG format is sometimes recognized as a lossy format because of its compression algorithm; however, this compression algorithm means that the image files are very small, and a smaller file size has a huge advantage in file storage and in file sharing. A professional photographer who works continuously around the year on different projects needs an efficient file management system, and JPEGs smaller size allows you to store large amounts of data in relatively smaller hard drives. Another advantage is that when you are in the field during extensive shoots, you do not have to swap memory cards every so often. This smaller file size is also handy when sharing photos on the web since uploading a photo means transferring to a new web server, and the larger the file, the more time it takes to upload. A professional photographer’s true delight is seeing the prints of the well-crafted images they have taken, and JPEG is a true reliable format for printing because of its familiarity with various third-party software and hardware.


CR2 images are on Canon cameras and in RAW files. Shooting in CR2 format renders maximum quality image files. The CR2 format for Canon users means that the sensor utilizes its full potential. You do not have to sacrifice anything in the processing. Moreover, this is the maximum amount of detail that the camera sensor can produce in a given environment.


Advantages when it comes to choosing CR2 or JPEG:

Different formats record different levels of brightness for images. The JPEG format records 256 levels of brightnesswhile the CR2 format records anywhere from 4,096 to 16,348 because JPEG captures in 8 bits while CR2 captures in either 12 bits or in 14 bits. These additional levels of brightness come in handy when capturing a gradient sky or any backdrop with lots of gradually changing colors. As you increase the bits, the posterization decreases, rendering a smoother and overall sharper image.

JPEG images store 24 bits per pixel; therefore, they store more than 16 million colors. However, CR2 files can store more than 68.7 billion colors, and a large color space means vibrant and lively images, which is perfect for landscape photography that depicts a vast amount of colors in nature.

Higher dynamic range is another factor when choosing between CR2 and JPEG. A higher-dynamic-range photograph gives a more accurate representation of what the human eye sees. In contrast to JPEG files, CR2 files have a very high dynamic range, which is why professional photographers tend to use this format more often.

CR2 files are straight out of the sensor images, not processed, which means the photographer has complete control over all of the aspects of post-production. Using software like Photoshop and Lightroom can save dimly lit or overexposed photos since the photos are untouched. Another reason why photographers prefer the CR2 format over the JPEG format is because it allows for a non-destructive editing process. You can always redo any change made to the original file later.

Raw or JPEG

Limitations in choosing CR2 or JPEG

JPEG is known as the lossy format since its compression algorithm sacrifices many details in colors and brightness for a smaller file size. JPEG files also store information in 8 bits meaning they have significantly less dynamic range and color representation ability as compared to RAW formats.

On the other hand, CR2 images are notoriously large files, which can eat up file space very quickly on a busy shoot day; therefore, you need to fully prepare for extra storage. In addition, since the images are straight out of the sensor, the files are very flat in color representation. Although it stores colors in the file, they need some sort of boost during the post-processing stage. During the post-processing stage, the software can only recognize CR2 files if they are compatible with it. Moreover, opening CR2 files on third-party software can cause issues.

Conclusion – Choosing between CR2 and JPEG:

The final choice of whether to use CR2 or JPEG rests on the type of user. If you are a professional photographer who has been in the field for some time and are aware of the technical aspects of photography, then choose CR2. For a novice user, JPEG is a very reliable choice. CR2 gives more power over editing in software, such as Photoshop and Lightroom; however, you can only use this format to its full potential if you know how to use these software programs. In order to become a professional in this aspect, the best solution is the Photoshop and Lightroom courses offered by Lightroom and Photoshop tutorials. Now you know which to choose when it comes to CR2 and JPEG.
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Have a nice photoshoot!

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