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By Jesse Blake on | No Comments
What's the difference between shooting RAW and shooting JPEG? This is a very common question that many photographers have, especially new ones.
Many think the ONLY benefit of shooting RAW is the ability to "rescue" an image. This, however, is just the beginning. There are several other fantastic benefits to shooting RAW that are less known, and we will explain all of these below:
To understand this concept, it is helpful to understand both RAW and JPEG files themselves.
Now, as many photographers may already know, the information contained in RAW files grants the ability to:
As you view the comparison photos included in this post, the difference in the photos will be subtle. Look specifically for the increased contrast and saturation in the JPEG versions. You will also note changes as you compare the highlights and shadows of the images.
Now, let's take a closer look at the differences between RAW and JPEG:
When using a JPEG file, information in the brightest and darkest areas of your image is lost, and in a case of under or overexposure, the detail in these areas is not recoverable.
This is not the case with RAW files, and most exposure issues can be easily corrected. While it is always ideal to achieve the best image in camera, every photographer will take an under or overexposed image from time to time.
The white balance of RAW files is easily adjusted. This not only allows for the correction of an undesirable white balance but also allows for a multitude of creative options in post-processing. In contrast, a JPEG file has a set white balance and is difficult to adjust. This means less control over the colors seen in your image.
For more information on adjusting white balance in Lightroom - click here!
Another benefit worth considering is the wide range of artistic freedom RAW files grants to the photographer. Consider this: A JPEG file records less than 300 levels of brightness. A RAW file, on the other hand, can record anywhere from 4000 to over a whopping 16,000 levels of brightness!
The brightness levels recorded directly affect the adjustments you will or will not be able to make in post-processing. The multitude of brightness levels recorded in a RAW file grant creative control to the photographer, namely you or me!
For instance, because my images are bold, colorful, and creatively edited, shooting in RAW is very important to my workflow.
RAW files come out of the camera with less contrast and saturation than the image you see on your camera viewscreen. When using RAW, your camera manufacturer assumes that you will be developing this photo with software, like Lightroom or Photoshop, leaving the image development to you.
On the other hand, JPEG files come out with the same saturation and contrast as you saw on the back of your camera. This file type works great for those who like to print or display their shots straight from the camera without post-processing.
Another notable feature of a JPEG file is the appearance of sharpness. While JPEG files APPEAR sharper than RAW files, this is not necessarily the case.
The sharpness seen in a JPEG file is the result of your camera's processing system. The processing systems available for a computer are far more advanced than the system your camera is utilizing. The highest level of detail and sharpness will be achieved by processing RAW files using software such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.
Finally, one of the most significant benefits of shooting in RAW format is the ability to edit non-destructively. When processing a RAW file, the original file is not directly affected. Essentially, the RAW file you are editing is a reference file, with the edit being a set of directions that will be applied when your image is exported.
When processing a JPEG file, you will experience a loss of quality. This loss of quality occurs each time a JPEG file is opened, edited, or saved.
As I previously mentioned, RAW files contain MUCH MORE camera sensor information than JPEG files, so naturally, RAW files are SIGNIFICANTLY LARGER than JPEG files. You will need to keep this in mind when considering your storage requirements.
When importing RAW files into Lightroom, you will initially see the JPEG preview that was captured by the camera. As Lightroom creates previews of the RAW files, the preview will change so that you see a preview of the RAW file. Many mistake this as Lightroom "editing" or "changing" their image. This isn't the case. Lightroom just takes a few minutes to generate those RAW file previews.
Is shooting in the RAW format right for you? Only you can say what works best for you and your workflow!
But this information is well worth considering and, hopefully, answers a few of your questions concerning RAW and JPEG files.
Do you have any questions or comments about RAW vs. JPEG? Leave us a comment below - we would LOVE to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE our tutorial using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!
My name is Jesse Blake and I am a photographer based out of Billings, Montana. I believe life as a photographer is about finding and celebrating the good in the world, in ourselves, and in others. Find me on Facebook or visit my website. Let's be friends.