Should I shoot in JPEG or RAW?
The choice between shooting in JPEG or RAW depends on your specific needs and priorities as a photographer.
If you prioritize storage space and ease of use, shooting in JPEG may be your better option. JPEG is a widely accepted industry standard file format that uses lossy compression to reduce the size of an image. This makes it a convenient choice for storing and sharing photos online or on a computer.
What is a JPEG?
JPEG, or Joint Photographic Experts Group, is a widely accepted industry standard file format for storing digital photographic images. It uses lossy compression to reduce the size of an image by removing some information that the human eye cannot perceive well, such as minor shading details and light and dark details. This compression works best for photographs with a smooth variation of tone and shade.
JPEG is a widely accepted standard for image file format on the internet. This is because JPEG uses lossy compression to reduce the file size of an image without significantly impacting its visual quality. This makes it an efficient and practical format for storing and sharing pictures online, where file size and load time are important considerations. Additionally, JPEG is supported by virtually all web browsers and image-viewing software, which makes it a widely compatible format.
JPEG is also the most common format used by digital cameras and smartphones, contributing to its widespread internet use. For example, when you take a photo with your digital camera or smartphone, it is typically saved as a JPEG file by default. Most images people take and share online are in JPEG format.
What is RAW?
On the other hand, if you prioritize image quality and want more control over your final images, then shooting in RAW is a superior option for you.
RAW is an uncompressed file format that retains a high level of detail in the photograph. It is typically used by professional photographers, including myself, who want complete control over their images, and save their images in TIFF format. RAW files are larger and must be converted and processed in programs in a RAW processor before they can be viewed or printed.
I process all my RAW files in Adobe Lightroom.
While RAW images require more work to be done before they can be used, they offer more control over the final image and result in higher-quality photographs.
JPG vs. RAW for Image Editing
Everything that I shoot is always in RAW - including on the iPhone! Regarding image editing, shooting in the RAW format offers more flexibility and better quality results than JPEG.
With RAW files, you can access all the information captured by the camera's sensor, including the full-color range and a wider dynamic range. This means you can adjust the exposure, white balance, and other settings during the post-processing stage without losing image quality. Additionally, you can make more precise adjustments to the image, such as recovering highlights and shadows and reducing noise.
On the other hand, JPEG images have already undergone lossy compression and have a narrower color range and dynamic range. This means that editing JPEG images can result in a loss of quality, especially if the image has been edited and saved multiple times. This is because each time you save a JPG, the image quality degrades. Additionally, JPEG images have less information to work with, which can limit the adjustments that can be made to the image.
Which is better depends on your needs
The camera or phone manufacturer's settings influence the appearance of a JPEG image straight out of the camera. For example, many cameras apply a set of default adjustments to the image, such as sharpening, contrast, and saturation, to produce a more visually pleasing appearance. These adjustments can make the image appear of higher quality, with more vibrant colors and higher contrast.
If you do not generally do any post-processing, the JPG format is your better option.
However, these default adjustments may only sometimes produce the desired result. They can sometimes result in an over-processed image that needs to represent the scene as it was captured accurately. Additionally, the settings applied to the image can vary depending on the camera manufacturer and model, resulting in inconsistent image quality.
It's important to note that these settings are applied to the image before it is saved as a JPEG file, so they are not adjustable later in post-processing. Shooting in RAW format allows you to bypass these default camera settings and adjust the image yourself during post-processing to achieve a more accurate representation of the scene and better image quality.
In summary, photographers who prioritize image quality, print fine art photography, and want maximum control over their final images should always use RAW, while those who do not generally edit (post-process) their images and are happy with the quality of the JPEG straight out of the camera, then they should choose the ease of use of JPEG.
Should you choose to shoot in RAW and want to learn to use Adobe Lightroom, my easy to understand how to articles is a great place to start.