The delightful little secret about the .jpg

SOOC (straight out of the camera). No editing. Shot as a .jpg file.

I hate making mistakes.

Especially when I’m in a time crunch and can’t go backwards.

Last week I was shooting/filming for a fabulous new class I’m hoping to release soon when I made the discovery…

I had just been shooting the last hour in .JPG instead of RAW!


I know the perception of that “tradegy” will likely only be appreciated mainly by professionals out there 😉

But if you’re new to the debate, here’s an ultra fast run down:


What is RAW?

RAW is the largest file type and as such records the most information for your image.  It compresses nothing.  All the information is there.

JPG is a smaller file type and compresses the information available into what the camera thinks is the most important information.

How does this effect your images?

The only benefit to shooting a RAW file type is in the ability to edit your images later with more flexibility.  Think of the RAW file like a film negative.  Because so much information is there, when you go to the darkroom to process the photo, you have much more flexibility in the development of the image.  Want to really bring up the contrast or exposure?  Since you have all that information available to you, you can.  You can push those elements much much further in editing before distortion or artifacting may take place.

Think of the JPG like a film print.  You could scan the print and do some editing digitally to it later, but since you’re not working from the negative there isn’t a whole lot of information there to work with, and as such, you will see distortion in editing much sooner than if you were working with the negative.


1.  Very large file size.  You won’t be able to fit as many images on your card.  On my typical 4 gig card I can fit only about 200 images, vs. about 600+ JPGS on the same card.

2.  You need an editing program that will specifically handle RAW images.  Photoshop will open the RAW file, but it won’t save it as a RAW, it saves it as a .tiff or .psd file.  Lightroom WILL indeed edit RAW photos and keep them in RAW format.

3.  You can’t print a RAW file.  It must be exported as a JPG.

4.  Flat images.  In most cases, JPGS actually look better straight out of the camera (the camera will add a little contrast to the images when it makes those compression decisions to the information it records in JPG format).  RAW images do look a little flat, but the allure lies in the amazing editing power that comes later.

5.  Can take up TONS AND TONS of space on your hard drive:)


1.  Editing power on steroids!  You will notice a HUGE difference editing a RAW file rather than a JPG file.

2.  If you missed your exposure (a stop or two under or over exposed?)  its easier to bring the image back to where it should have been with the amount of information recorded.

RAW image straight out of the camera. It usually looks a bit flat and needs a boost in contrast--but the benefit is that you have so much information embedded in the file that your editing control is certainly superior.

RAW image edited in Lightroom.


1.  Not as much wiggle room in editing.


1.  Takes up much less space on your cards and hard drives!

2.  Looks better straight out of camera

3.  You can print JPGS.

Personally, I shoot almost everything in RAW.  I usually reserve JPG shooting for sports related images that I anticipate taking tons of photos and dread the thought of editing them all, but absolutely keep my professional work in RAW at all times.

jpg file SOOC with no editing

All in all, if you can nail your exposure correctly in the camera, shooting JPG can be a huge boost to your workflow and save tons of time.

Sometimes mistakes aren’t all that bad 🙂  Especially if they free up your time to do more of the things you love 🙂

Brooke Snow is a Lifestyle photographer in Cache Valley, Utah.  She lives in a quaint hundred year old house that is charming and has squeaky stairs.  Its the little quirks of life that she finds the most interest in–and the story and meaning they bring to everyday living.

Brooke teaches inspiring online photography classes that bring you confidence in your skills and creativity.

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13 Responses

    1. Thank you Vivi! I would have shot these with the 50mm 1.4—BUT… mine is currently broken. These are all shot with the 85mm 1.8 🙂

        1. In your opinion, 85mm 1.8 and 85 mm 1.4 have differences in the quality and sharpness of the picture? I want to buy one … but with doubts …

  1. When you nail the exposure and WB like that, Brooke, you can get away with it 🙂 Lovely pics…as usual.

  2. Ok – this was actually an AHA moment! I always shoot in RAW – still learning, so I need the power of being able to edit! I also do equine shows though – and have a show jumping show on Sunday that I was absolutely dreading due to having to edit all those pics. Its quite easy shooting – so I think I should maybe consider those JPGs!

    1. Henriette! Asolutely try jpg for something like a sporting event that you know you’ll be getting SO MANY IMAGES from 🙂 It saves a ton of time and makes more room on your card to boot!

  3. Thank you, I couldn’t understand why my raw images were so flat when printed at Costco, compared to previous photos I shot in jpg and printed at Walmart. Do you recommend that I flatten the images before I convert to jpg, although I’ve increased the contrast and they look great on my laptop, they look dead when Costco prints them. It’s like they lack “punch” even after they have added additional contrast on their machine. (same problem when printed as shot) Super frustrated!

    1. hi Sandy! Yes, RAW images need a little boost to make them look better. I usually edit the RAW shot, convert it to a JPG and then print that. What happens when printing has nearly everything to do with the actual lab you use. I don’t have a Costco here, but we do have a Sam’s Club (similar) and they make my photos look horrible. I print everything through They have amazing quality and they’re practically the same price as Costco. Smugmug is incredible for a lot of reasons. Print being one, but an ability to back up your photos online is another. I recommend smugmug to both pro’s and hobby photographers. You need a place to back up your work and store it, other than your home computer. This is a great option.

      1. Thank you so much for the prompt response, will try smugmug, hope I can handle the turn around time, patience, unfortunately, is not one of my virtues.

  4. Brook, I just happened upon your website. I wish that you had room for another person in your photo class. I love
    how you inspire and give other’s the desire to ” try.”

    If you have any ideas for me, please let me know. I have the vision for photography. I lack the confidence to do anything about it. I was wondering if I have to have photoshop cs2 or above for editing, or does elements 6.0 work in addition to lightroom 3 ?

    1. Hi Shelley!

      I use LR for practically all my editing. I am not familiar with PSE. I use CS5 on occassion, but rarely. Thats just my style though. Some photographers would die without photoshop. I think you just make it work for what you have and if you have LR (which is mandatory for me) then I think you’re set 🙂

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