Magic Monday: RAW vs. JPG

A common question I’m asked in my classes is to explain the benefits of shooting RAW images vs. JPG.

This is the file type of your images, and to change it, you’ll usually find the option located under the “Quality” button or menu item on your camera.  Its referring to the quality of the file size of your images.  (fine, norm, basic, etc. are all JPG images and just vary in the size of quality of the image).

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 main 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 pull 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.

CONS of RAW:

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 :)

PROS of RAW:

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.

CONS of JPGS

1.  Not as much wiggle room in editing.

PROS of JPGS

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 everything RAW.  I have exclusively for about 2 years until last week!  I was covering an event, I was confident in my exposure, and just decided for fun to try JPG.  Half the event was RAW and half was JPG.  My JPGS needed no editing whatsoever.  They downloaded faster and took up less space.  My RAWs needed a little boost still with contrast, downloaded slower,  took up more space, and still need to be saved as JPGS before I can do anything with them (print, email, upload to a gallery, etc.).

There’s certainly a place for both :)

avatarBrooke Snow is a Lifestyle photographer in Cache Valley, Utah. She is a proud new mother to a perfect baby boy. During the day she uses her BM and MM in Music Composition to write silly songs to make small people smile and laugh. During the nights and select mornings Brooke teaches private photography lessons as well as monthly photography classes in Logan, Utah. During the weekend she dreams up crazy and fun photo shoots for her fabulous subjects. Brooke welcomes comments, questions, new friendships, new clients, and new coats and hats for her growing collection.

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