RAW vs JPEG: Which Format To Choose While Shooting Images

Last Updated: October 12, 2018

When I began photography, I was so confused between which format to shoot in from RAW and JPEG. Took a lot of time figuring this out. And I am sure there are many of you who wonder the same. Let me clarify everything unique in RAW vs JPEG as much as I can. And yes, you will need something more advanced from your normal smartphones as they are incapable of shooting in RAW format.

Difference Between RAW And JPEG Photography

1. Metadata

Basically, the RAW image contains all the information and the settings which were there when you were shooting images. The raw image is just a digital negative of the images you are taking. This metadata can be anything from lens attached, focal length at which the image was taken, ISO setting, Aperture, Shutter speed, white balance, exposure and many more. These settings will be saved along with the image so that you can anytime recall this data whenever needed.

Metadata - RAW Format

Unfortunately, JPEG images do not save metadata.

2. Post Processing

Ask any professional photographer and they all will answer the same which I am telling you here. Always shoot in RAW format so that you have much more freedom when editing in Lightroom or Photoshop. You can significantly change temperature, tint, exposure, clarity, vibrancy, hue, saturation, contrast, shadows, blacks and whites and many more without damaging the quality of the image.

Post processing - RAW Format

Whereas, if you perform the same operations in JPEG file then you risk losing the image quality. It may result in grainy or noisy images.

3. Image Quality

Shooting in RAW format allows saving the image in the highest quality possible. You can save those images in 12 or 14-bits of data per pixel quality. The difference won’t be visible until you zoom in to 100% for checking the sharpness of the subject.

RAW Image Quality

While you can only save the image up to 8 bit quality in JPEG format.

4. File Size

The biggest drawback when it comes to shooting in RAW format. RAW images can vary from 10 to 20 MB easily. It doesn’t sound too much but it is a big deal especially if you are not carrying extra memory cards or storage device when you are on vacation.

RAW Image Format File Size

On the other hand, JPEG images file size ranges anywhere between 2 to 5MB. You won’t be worrying so much as compared to shooting RAW. Imagine you are shooting a timelapse of 2 minutes which will need at least 240 images. Approximately, 240*15 MB in RAW and 240*3 MB in Jpeg. You do the math.

5. Preview

So you can view RAW images on your camera. But you won’t be able to do the same in your smartphones and Desktop. You will need a third party app or software to preview and open the Raw images. Personally, I use Adobe Lightroom. You can also use Photoshop And Apple aperture in case you are an Apple user.

Preview RAW

JPEG can be easily viewed on every device possible without any involvement of other apps or software.

6. Sharing

You will need to process Raw images to JPEG in order to use them in the day to day use or even social media. Directly sharing RAW images is impossible. I like Adobe Lightroom for processing and converting RAW images to JPEGs whether if they are in bulk or even individually.

RAW vs JPEG - Sharing

You all know about JPEG. Share them any time you want.

7. Extension

RAW images are saved but the .NEF extension. And JPEGs are saved by .jpg or .jpeg.

Final Words

I like to edit tones and curves in post processing, therefore, I always prefer RAW over JPEG. But when I am on a trip with friends then I like to set my camera to RAW+JPEG so that I always have a RAW copy and also JPEG image to share at the same time. But this results in faster memory storage consumption which is not an issue for me. Which setting works best for you? Do let us know in the comment section below.

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