Another one of the big questions that comes up when I am teaching is “Do I use JPEG or RAW for shooting images in”?

There is sooooo much information out there and most of it is either slightly off or very misleading. Few people have ever experimented for themselves to see what the differences are.

Well I have tried both formats extensively. I can say 100% that what is the common opinion out there is WRONG!!!

Here is a quick rundown of the differences.

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Shot in JPEG, still fine details

So to start what is the difference between JPEG & RAW?

There are two big differences between shooting JPEG or RAW images.

The first is that when you shoot your image and save it in JPEG it slightly compresses the image. You will loose some of the data, but it is not a lot.

I heard I will loose a lot of quality – Is it a lot?  NO! 

With today’s cameras having such large megapixel sensors it is not needed to shoot RAW to keep a larger file size for most work.

Sure for those once in a year massive prints that you want to crop 95% of your file away you may want a RAW file. But that is the exception rather than the rule.

I shoot 99% in JPEG and I have lots of pictures on the wall at the Lethbridge studio that I can show you. They were shot in JPEG and they look amazing. 

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24″ x 60″ print shot in JPEG!

The second difference

The second difference (still the biggest thing that affects pictures today) is that when you shoot JPEG the camera applies an algorithm to the image. Before saving it applies contrast, saturation, white balance, sharpness, etc.

With RAW it does not do this. 

If you are not able to get your image correctly exposed or properly in focus shooting in RAW may help you save the image. You can work on the RAW image on your computer to fix the issues.

If the image is saved in JPEG you are still able to correct the image. But in JPEG it is not as much as if it was saved in RAW.

Big Drawback

The biggest drawback is that with RAW you need to correct ALL your images to make them look their best. This can be a lot of work if you shoot a lot of images. For everyday pictures like a 2 week vacation, most people find that shooting in RAW takes too much time to edit their pictures when they return home.

One smaller drawback to RAW

One final difference between JPEG or RAW is that RAW takes up a lot more space when stored. But with today’s relatively inexpensive high capacity storage mediums this should not be a huge issue.

Best of both JPEG or RAW

One great thing about today’s cameras is that you can select to save your files in either JPEG or RAW. OR You can save both RAW & JPEG. This way you can cover all your basis if you need to when shooting. Then you can select later which image format to use.

The only problem with shooting in JPEG & RAW is that it will use up a lot of storage space. Make sure you have big enough cards or multiple cards with you.

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So with the above information what should you be shooting in JPEG or RAW?

If you are shooting everyday family images and don’t want to spend a lot of time processing your images then stay or switch to JPEG. It will save you storage space and processing time.

Yes some images may be beyond saving. Honestly when many images are messed up even RAW cannot save them.

If you are taking once in a lifetime picture then I suggest that you either shoot it in JPEG & RAW or just RAW. Sure you will need to edit more if just shot in RAW. But if there is no chance to reshoot it may be worth it.

**Remember that you can change the format you are shooting in from picture to picture if you want to. So you do not have to shoot in only one setting.

For more information on photography courses and workshops in Lethbridge, southern Alberta or online visit my course at Paterson Photography

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