RAW vs JPEG/JPG Files

August 28, 2017

This is a topic of discussion that has gone on since the introduction of digital photography. Should I be shooting in RAW? What is RAW? RAW doesn't actually stand for anything, as it's name suggests, it refers to the raw data that comes out of the camera. The significant difference is that RAW files are uncompressed and untouched, whereas JPEG file formats are compressed and edited within the camera itself. RAW files capture data using the whole camera sensor and then the image is output as it is also leading to larger file sizes. JPEG files are usually output at a lower quality because the camera processes the information, adds colour then compresses it all into the final image.

 

RAW files are pretty much useless unless you plan to edit them afterwards. They are meant to be as detailed and flat as possible so this can all be changed as you wish. With JPEG files, you can use them as soon as they are exported from the camera. Because they are already edited, changing colour and exposure levels can be a lot more tricky than if you had a RAW file. 

Editing JPEG files is regarded as destructive editing. This is due to the fact you are overlaying previous information which is overwritten with new information. With RAW files, the original data isn't actually being edited. You are manually going through the process of exporting the raw data into a JPEG, that the camera would usually automatically use. Having RAW files give you a lot more potential and flexibility in editing that you would have with a JPEG file.

 

There isn't a right or a wrong when it comes to which file format to use. This depends on how much work you want to put in to the images and how happy you are with the look. File sizes, I mentioned it briefly earlier and this is a reason why some might choose to use one over the other. Because there is no compression with RAW files, the sizes tend to be far larger than JPEG files. However, if you are serious about photography, you should be choosing having quality and detail over saving space every time. Think of it like this, with RAW files, you can convert them in to JPEG at any point but you can't do it the other way around. 

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