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Raw or JPEG Format

Should I take photos in RAW or JPEG? 

RAW or JPEG format? In this photo tutorial we will learn the differences between these two formats and compare their advantages and disadvantages. It will then be up to you to choose whether to take you photos in RAW or JPEG format. 


Raw or JPEG

The raw format 

The RAW file, as the name suggests, is the native format containing all the raw information from the camera sensor. 

This digital file contains all the camera settings (white balance, contrast, saturation, etc.) and we can modify it indefinitely and without loss of information during photo editing via software such as Lightroom or Photoshop

The extension of a RAW file varies depending on the manufacturer: .NEF at Nikon, .CR2 at Canon, .ARW at Sony, .PEF at Pentax, .RW2 at Panasonic, .ORF at Olympus, .RAF at Fuji, or .X3F at Sigma. 


The advantages this format: 

  • It contains a large amount of information, and does not suffer data loss as it is not compressed. It therefore offers a great possibility of correction during photo retouching and above all without loss of quality compared to the JPEG format. 
  • A high dynamic range - the RAW file allows to display a lot of details in high lights and shadows. 
  • You can make changes on the file without any alteration on it because the RAW format is not editable. When you return a RAW photo, a small information file of a few kilobytes called XMP is automatically created. It saves all the changes made to the photo. So it’s easy to go back as far as you want without degrading the photo thanks to processing software such as Lightroom. If you save changes to a JPEG photo, the change is final and you cannot be undone even if you made a mistake. 
  • You can convert the file into several formats depending on the intended use: JPEG or PNG for use on the internet, or TIFF or PSD for modifying in Photoshop or Lightroom. 
  • Then, the white balance can be adjusted in postproduction. [click here to read the full article on white balance] 
  • Photos can be processed in 16 bits which is an advantage for photographers who need significant color depth in their retouches.

The disadvantages of the RAW format:

  • Very large files. A RAW photo taken with a D850 at 45.7 million pixels is not far from 100MB. So you’ll have fewer photos on the memory card and more space on the hard drive. It will therefore be necessary to provide a consistent storage system. The computer must also be powerful to allow retouching of photos in the RAW format. 
  • The number of photos in bursts is limited because of their size. 
  • Not all software can read RAW files
  • Sharing photos is not easy because the files are large and you will have to convert them to JPEG before sending them by email. 
  • It is less flattering than the JPEG. RAW photos are dull compared to JPEGs. This is called a raw sensor image. It is up to you to correct the color saturation according to your tastes in a photo processing software. 
JPEG Format

The JPEG format 

A JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) file offers the best ratio between size and quality.  Furthermore, the JPEG is compressed to reduce its size, and this results in a loss of information and quality. 

The advantages of the JPEG format: 

  • It is a universal standard format, it is used on all digital cameras and can therefore be read by all computers, mobile phones, and software. 
  • It is small. The size is an important advantage because it allows you to have a higher amount of photos on a memory card and store more photos on your computer’s hard drive. (A RAW file is usually 4 times larger) 
  • It is easy to share photos because the files are smaller. 
  • It allows you to take more photos in bursts. Due to the smaller size the number of photos that can be taken in the burst mode is higher and the cadence is more sustained than in the RAW format. 

The disadvantages of the JPEG format: 

  • A dynamic range limited by its compression. So, it will be difficult to obtain much detail in high lights and shadows. 
  • Photo editing amplitude is low. As the file is compressed, the volume of information is lower, so you will not be able to optimize the photos without degrading them. 
  • Image styles are not editable. If, for example, you decide to take a black and white photo, it will be impossible for you to return to its color version in post processing. 


Should we take photos in RAW or JPEG? 


Choose the JPEG if: 

1. You don’t have much storage space 

2. You don’t have time to retouch the photos 

3. You don’t like to complicate your life 

4. You need to make a lot of bursts 

5. You want to share your photos immediately. 


Choose RAW if: 

1. You like to retouch the photos 

2. You are patient 

3. You want to have photos of the best possible quality 

4. You want more possibilities to make up the exposure. 


Choose the RAW + JPEG if: 

… you are a perfectionist. 



You now know whether to take photos in RAW or JPEG format. 

Give us your opinion and share your experience in the comments. 

And if you think that this article helped you, share it! 


Have a nice photo shoot! 

Lightroom and Photoshop Tutorials 

February 16, 2020

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