Sunday, January 23, 2011

The RAW vs. JPEG debate {24}

Most photographers (like me) started out shooting in JPEG and eventually switched to RAW and will never go back. Others are still shooting in JPEG because they haven't yet discovered the freedom and possibilities of shooting in RAW :)

To put it simply, JPEG files are processed by your camera, compressed, small in file size, and immediately suitable for printing. RAW files are uncompressed, have the complete data from the camera's sensor, larger in file size, and not suitable for printing directly from the camera  without post processing.

Can a photographer shoot and edit an amazing JPEG? of course - But they may be working harder than they need to to get it. Shooting in RAW is something I highly recommend. Yes, making the "switch" from JPEG to RAW will change your workflow. You may need to get more memory cards, get more storage, and get different photo editing software like Lightroom. It's 100% worth it. 

 Look at these examples:
This first photo is straight out of camera.
moore mansion pasco wa
This photo is the edited JPEG
moore mansion pasco wa
This photo is the edited RAW file, converted to JPEG
moore mansion pasco wa
Do you see the difference? I hope so. It may be a small change, but RAW gives you the power to make a "good" picture a "wow" picture. Since RAW files are uncompressed, you have all of the image's information to manipulate later. You can bring back details in blown out areas, and make dark areas brighter while still keeping the integrity of the image. With a RAW image, you can take the photo and edit the image's different layers later. With a JPEG, you take the photo, it's compressed, and all of your post processing is done "on top" of the image later, versus RAW where nothing is flattened so you can work with it's "insides". 

Shooting in RAW can also save your behind in sticky situations. Even though I try to evenly expose images out of camera, RAW gives me the ability to drastically change the color and exposure of an image after the fact. Wedding days are fast paced, and if I don't nail the exposure, there's no going back to those moments. It's nice to know that as long as I'm nailing the focus, almost anything else can be fixed later. Here's another example:

Image out of camera: (flash didn't fire)

RAW saved this image's exposure and made it a printable picture.

My other favorite thing about RAW is that you can make changes to the file and JUST the changes are saved in a separate file, called an XMP. So I can open up some images in Lightroom, mess around with editing some of them, close the program, come back the next day and keep edited them or reverse my changes. In my past life of editing JPEG images, I would edit them in photoshop and there was no going back. If I changed my mind about them and didn't save the PSD file I'd have to go back and start from scratch. Lightroom & RAW files are also beneficial if you have others helping you with editing.... because they can make changes to your images that you can still modify or change later.

I like how Gavin Seim said it as well, "JPEG tosses out information that you might need later in order to make a smaller file. It keeps that the camera “thinks” it needs. RAW keeps it all. And with today’s direct RAW editing and localized adjustments using software like Lightroom, the power of using RAW data has become crystal clear."

If you're an amateur shooting in AUTO and have no intention to do post processing, shoot in JPEG
If you're a photographer that wants to take your images to the next level, shoot in RAW :)

{This post simply contains my own thoughts, ideas, and insights. Each photographer is different, and everyone goes about photography differently. This blog's content is copyright of Memory Montage Photography. Please do not copy or republish this text without written permission to do so. If you would like to share this post, please include a link directly to our blog's URL. Thank you!}   Pin It Now!


  1. Thanks for posting about jpeg vs raw I've always wondered about the difference. I have always shoot in jpeg, But with my new camera I plan to experiment with RAW.

  2. Ah I get it. Thanks Amy!


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