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Understanding JPEG vs. RAW

Understanding JPEG vs. RAW
jpeg vs raw

JPEG and RAW represent more or less the main digital image format used by a digital camera.

Most of the modern cameras support both JPEG and RAW version of images, but in the past JPG (or JPEG) was more widely available than the RAW version.

In present, mobile phones got the ability to take RAW images but still not all on the market have this capability. Indeed, this can be obeyed with just a simple camera app which allows you to shoot in RAW.

JPEG went first released in 1992 and the RAW file was introduced under the name of .DNG (digital negative) in about 2004.

I am not going into many technical details, but I will try to make it as simple as possible to understand by anyone.

What are the main differences between JPEG and RAW, and which version should I use?

JPEG VS RAW

JPEG (PROS)

  • Is directly processed by the camera.
  • The standard format all the cameras use
  • Immediately suitable for use
  • Takes up less space on any memory storage units
  • Smaller in size
  • Used mainly for internet posting (e.g. your photos on Facebook or Instagram)

RAW (PROS)

  • Is an uncompressed format which gives you the ability to post-process it.
  • Gives you extreme control over exposure, shadows, sharpness and many other settings
  • Allows you to fine-tune your image as you like.
  • Is more like having the digital negative of a photo.

What about the cons?

JPEG (CONS)

  • Unable to post-process the image (at least not good quality)
  • The photo you took is the photo you are going to have.
  • Compressed format, it doesn’t store as much information as the RAW file.

RAW (CONS)

  • Large in size
  • Have to be post-processed in software such as Lightroom and Photoshop
  • Not usable without being processed

It is easier to understand as I compare JPEG as being cook meat and the RAW as being… raw meat. The cooked meat is ready to eat but cannot be cooked further, whilst the raw meat has to be prepared, cooked and so on… but you do it as you like.

The RAW version of the image allows you to create a piece of art by altering and post-processing the photograph beyond your imagination

The JPEG version does not allow you to post-process. You can actually try to do that but you may not be able to get a usable photograph.

JPEG vs RAW – When to shoot?

Shoot in JPEG format when:

  • You don’t do post-processing.
  • Want quick photos to be done or take burst shots
  • You don’t have enough space on your memory card
  • Your light condition are favourable
  • Need direct compatibility with a computer or phone
  • Want to send the photos to your smartphone directly from your DSLR

Shoot in RAW format when:

  • You want to process further the photograph
  • Want to create a portfolio.
  • You are a pro photographer. You definitely know then why
  • Shoot in difficult light conditions
  • You are aiming for large format prints
  • Have plenty of space on your memory card or hard drive

Photographers with a DSLR tend to shoot more in RAW format than JPEG for the simple fact that the image can be further post-processed

But with post-processing comes a price: money and time

The greatest photographs you’ve ever seen are most probably processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.

I still do recommend to shoot in both JPEG and RAW if you have plenty of space (two memory cards for your camera)

At least with Nikon, if you have two memory cards in your camera, you are able to set the first card to capture the RAW image with a JPEG backup on the second camera (should be something like RAW+JPEG in the bank menu)

Also, keep in mind the fact that you are not able to send your photographs from your camera directly to your mobile if they are RAW.

Sweet&love my camera! Conclusion on JPEG vs RAW

In the end, is really up to you what you are going to choose.

But I lovely recommend (if you are able) to shoot in both formats at the same time.

Aim for JPEG if you are just looking for quick snapshots with no headache, or RAW if you are more serious about photography.

Want to read some other posts?? You can check the links below:

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JPEG and RAW represent more or less the main digital image format used by a digital camera.
There are advantages and disadvantages for both RAW and JPEG versions
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