RAW vs. JPEG what are they??

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Raw vs. Jpeg
The edited RAW file.

This is not an article about the RAW vs. Jpeg debate. Instead, it is for a beginner photographer or someone that is not sure exactly what these file formats are.

What are they?

Raw and JPEG are file formats that cameras take. For example, if you have a cheap point and shoot camera more than likely you are shooting with the jpeg format. If you are shooting with a DSLR or a higher end point and shoot you may have the option to switch the file format to RAW. Both file formats have ups and downs and I will try to point out as many of them as possible.

RAW vs. JPEG The Debate

Over the years there have been countless posts on which file format to use while taking pictures. If you do a google search for RAW vs. JPEG you will be blown away by all the articles and forums that talk about the subject. Yet no one ever seems to win because both formats have a use and function.

Jpeg

So we will start off with Jpeg. Like I said earlier in the article most point and shoot cameras only have this option. Normally the people that have these types of cameras do not know or care what file format it shoots. Do you think Grandma really knows what Jpeg means? No probably not. Why should she? She bought the camera to capture memories of vacation and her grandchildren.

So let’s go over the pros and cons of shooting Jpeg.

Pros.

  1. Smaller file sizes so you can get more images on your memory card
  2. Faster burst rate. Gives you the ability to capture multiple images at one time without filling the camera’s buffer as fast.
  3. It can be opened on any computer, phone, or tablet without any special software.
  4. You can upload or print them online right out of the camera.

Ok, so those are a few of the pros of Jpeg. Now for the Cons.

Cons.

  1. The Jpeg is “baked” so if something like the sun or someone’s face is blown out it will be much harder to save.
  2. Limited depth. Jpegs are 8 bit and can record only 256 distinct tones in each channel while Raw files can record at least 4096 per channel.
  3. If the white balance is wrong fixing it later in Photoshop or Lightroom can not fully correct it.

RAW

Now onto the RAW format. Raw is like having a negative. You take the shot in the camera and when you get it on the computer it is basically flat (I’ll add an example at the end). You must have an editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom (there are others) to be able to open and edit the images. Without that, your images will look dull and faded in some cases.

So here are the pros and cons of RAW.

Pros.

  1. Raw records all the data in the shot at a high quality.
  2. You can easily correct over or under exposed images.
  3. You can adjust the white balance in post to make you image look like how you saw it.
  4. You can get more detail from RAW files
  5. In post, if you make a mistake you can fix it because it is non-destructive.

Ok, so those are a few of the pros of RAW. Now for the Cons.

Cons.

  1. File size is much larger. For example, my Nikon D800 files can be 36+ megapixels. You will need bigger or more memory cards, and hard drives to store the files.
  2. The files MUST be processed. They will be flat so you will need to use an editing software to make them pop.
  3. Slower burst rate. Due to the size of the files, you will fill your camera’s buffer fast so it will slow down your shooting.
Final Thoughts

Now there are more pros and cons to RAW vs. Jpeg, but really it will be up to you and what you plan to shoot. Take me for example. I like to take pictures of landscapes. So for that, I shoot RAW to get the most detail I can out of the image. If I was shooting sports I would shoot Jpeg for the faster burst rate.

There is no right or wrong way to take photographs. Do what you enjoy and makes you happy, in the end, that is what matters.

If you want to read more about the Raw vs. Jpeg debate just give it a Google search.

Example RAW images.

Raw vs. Jpeg
The unedited RAW file.
Raw vs. Jpeg
The edited RAW file.

Also published on Medium.

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