RAW vs JPEG: Which File Type Is Best?

RAW compared to JPEG: Which File Type Is Best?

RAW vs JPEG: Which file type is best?

Which is right for you, NATURAL vs JPEG? For beginners, it is one of the toughest questions around – but I’m right here to help you make a confident, advised decision, one that you will not regret five, ten, or even twenty years down the line.

Specifically, I’m going to clarify:

  • Exactly what RAW and JPEG files actually are
  • The benefits (and disadvantages) of UNCOOKED over JPEG
  • The advantages (and disadvantages) associated with JPEG over RAW
  • Software to consider to get RAW and JPEG images
  • Much more!

So if you’re ready to determine the perfect extendable for your photos – and put this pesky question in order to bed, once and for all – after that let’s get started.

RAW vs JPEG: What is the difference?

These days, pretty much every camera – which includes smartphones – has the choice to shoot in RAW, JPEG, or both. These are file types , simply various ways of rendering and keeping your image after you hit the shutter button.

However , while both RAWs and JPEGs will do a decent job of faithfully capturing a picture, they aren’t equally capable and do offer different functionalities, benefits, and drawbacks.

So let’s look at some quick definitions prior to doing an in-depth evaluation:

What is a NATURAL file?

FRESH files are unprocessed, unfiltered, raw data that arrives straight from your image messfühler.

Therefore , a RAW file cannot be viewed by the human eye (it’s not a visual display! ), and must be converted to another file format such as a JPEG or a TIFF for actual viewing.

Due to the fact RAW files are natural, they have zero sharpening, chromatic aberration removal, saturation, comparison, etc ., applied to them. Actually when RAW files are usually initially rendered for viewing, they tend to look quite unimpressive, with low contrast, lower saturation, and a touch associated with softness.

Note that different cameras produce different RAW files, such as. CR2,. NEF, and. CR3. Then when processing a RAW file, your software must be suitable for the specific RAW format.

What is a JPEG document?

A JPEG is a standard image file format that’s readable by pretty much every image program on the market, and also internet browsers. In other words, the JPEG is an essentially common method of displaying images.

However , unlike a RAW file, a JPEG is a processed edition of an image. In fact , a JPEG image always starts as a RAW file, however undergoes various modifications, often including:

  • Compression (where some image data is deliberately discarded)
  • Sharpening
  • Increased saturation
  • Increased contrast

This processing occurs in your camera, incidentally, not on the computer (though you can certainly further process a JPEG in a program for example Lightroom). So as soon while you put your memory card into your laptop and pull up a JPEG, it’s already been edited in camera.

camera and memory cards

The benefits of shooting in RAW

The reason why shoot in RAW over JPEG? Here are the most important factors:

1 . FRESH files are higher quality

Remember how I stated that JPEG files are usually compressed and are missing information, whereas RAW files are usually, well, natural ?

This particular comes with a serious consequence: ORGANIC files can be converted into lovely, large, detailed images. Even though JPEGs can look great, you might end up with unpleasant compression artifacts such as banding, halos, lack of detail, and more.

2 . RAW files permit greater highlight and darkness recovery

FRESH files contain information with dynamic range extremes – the brightest highlights and the darkest shadows. So even when an image appears totally taken out or underexposed, you are able to often recover detail in clipped areas.

But JPEGs discard these details, so if you blow out the sky and want to bring back some detail, you’re probably out of good luck.

3. UNCOOKED files allow for extensive image adjustments (i. e., post-processing)

RAW documents are uncompressed. Therefore , you might have plenty of latitude when post-processing your photos. You can modify contrast, change colors, adjust tones – and a RAW file will take it all within stride.

JPEGs, on the other hand, cannot be modified thoroughly. And when pushed or drawn too much, JPEGs will start to display banding and other problematic artifacts.

The benefits of taking pictures in JPEG

Why shoot in JPEG over RAW? Let’s have a look at the primary JPEG pros:

1 . JPEGs are usually small

Remember how RAW files consist of all of the information captured by your camera, whereas JPEGs are compressed? Well, it majorly reduces JPEG file size – so while the RAW file might take up 20 MB of storage space (or more), JPEGs use up substantially less.

This is a big deal for 2 reasons:

  1. If you’re working on a computer along with limited space and you don’t want to spend lots of money on external hard drives, JPEGs can be a lifesaver.
  2. You are able to fire off bursts of shots without stopping because your camera can record JPEGs much faster than RAW data files. Here, the specifics is determined by your camera; for reference, the Canon EOS R5 can shoot around three hundred and fifty JPEGs at 12 frames per second, compared to 180 uncompressed ORGANIC files.

2 . JPEGs require absolutely no processing time

Don’t want to spend plenty of time behind the computer? No problem; JPEGs are instantly watchable and are processed in camera.

Yes, you can process them away from camera’s sharpening, contrast, and saturation adjustments, but it’s not a requirement, and you can share JPEGs to social media without stopping for a lengthy Lightroom edit.

So which should you choose, RAW or even JPEG?

That depends on you – on which you like to shoot and how you love to shoot it.

If you want to create high-quality prints, or you want to spend time post-processing (i. e., enhancing and correcting) your photos, or you desire the ability to do either of these things just in case, then you definitely must be shooting in ORGANIC.

In fact , if you’re on the fence about capturing in JPEG or FRESH even after reading this far, then I highly recommend you just switch your own camera over to RAW and leave it there. RAW files are just too darn useful to give up unless you have a really good reason to capture JPEGs.

And when it helps, nearly all professionals and serious hobbyists shoot in RAW, specifically those who picture:

  • Landscapes
  • Wildlife
  • Flowers
  • Insects
  • Architecture
  • Cityscapes
  • Weddings/events

Of course , as I emphasized above, there are reasons to shoot in JPEG. I’d recommend going the JPEG route if you absolutely hate post-processing and don’t think you’ll ever want to operate Lightroom; that way, you’ll have effortlessly shareable images that require no extra work. And if you don’t have the storage for FRESH photos, then JPEGs are the way to go.

I’d also recommend using JPEGs if you’re photographing on a quite tight deadline (self-imposed or even otherwise) and you need to get your images uploaded and viewable, fast. If you’re shooting a family party, for instance, you could work in JPEG then immediately share all the images on Facebook without a significant delay for editing.

Finally, you might consider using JPEGs if you want to use your camera’s burst mode without restraint. The other choice, however , is purchasing a camera with a very deep buffer, and I’d urge you to definitely go this route if at all possible (that way, you can take indiscriminately and you can catch RAW files).

So to recap:

Unless you have a serious cause to shoot JPEGs, then shoot RAW. And by the way: many cameras have the option to take both RAW and JPEG files (the RAW+JPEG mode). So if you need shareable JPEGs but also want the option to accomplish in-depth processing or printing, it’s a great mode to test.

What software is good to use with RAWs?

If you do choose to shoot in RAW, you will need some form of post-processing software program; that way, you can convert your own photos from RAW in order to JPEG for viewing and sharing.

Here are a few of my favorite RAW editing programs, both free and paid:

  • Adobe Lightroom Classic
  • Adobe Lightroom CC
  • Adobe Camera Raw
  • Catch One
  • ON1 Photo RAW
  • Darktable
  • ACDSee
  • DxO PhotoLab
  • RawTherapee

RAW vs JPEG: final considerations

Now that you’ve completed this article, you’re hopefully ready to pick your file format and start shooting.

As I emphasized above, RAW has become the better way to go, unless you’re really drawn to the JPEG format.

Plus RAW+JPEG can be the best of each worlds, assuming you can handle the extra storage requirements.

The above write-up on RAW vs JPEG files was submitted by Richard and Rebecca through Finn Shows . You can see their Flickr account right here .

RAW vs JPEG camera menu

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