Process Raw or Shoot JPEG? - Dreamstime

Happy New Year Everyone!

I often pondered this question and write this because I have a sneaky feeling that I may not be the only one to have faced this dilemma.

Like some other people out there, I thought the choice was simple. You either do everything in camera - like I suppose the professionals out there do - or you shot in RAW and process letter. Surely it was better not to process at all - so I thought the answer was obvious. If I shot in JPEG my photographs will be original and will never be processed – making me more like a pro. Right? Actually, wrong...

The simple truth is that our JPEG photographs are ALWAYS processed – “automatically” by the in-built software in our digital cameras, e.g., DSLR cameras, compact cameras, mirror-less cameras, etc. So the decision we face is actually a slightly different one.

The question is, should we let the camera guess the best way to process our shots or should we take full control of our processing ourselves? If you chose to take control - especially if your desire is to accurately recreate the image you originally captured - then shooting RAW is a very compelling option.

If your camera has the option of shooting RAW files, this format would save the full dynamic range of data captured by your camera's sensor. This would allow you make all the required adjustments to get the image looking like you saw it at the scene (or as your would creatively prefer it to look) - using either proprietary software (like Adobe’s Light-room) or free stuff (like software shipped with your camera on a DVD or CD).

It is obviously true that JPEG files can be adjusted to a certain degree but they certainly do not offer the same level of flexibility. This is because JPEG is a compressed file format. Given this constraint, what the camera software does is to select the data required to process the image you capture - using the presets in your camera settings - and discard all the remaining data.

There are however some downsides to shooting RAW (yes there are some - ha ha). First, RAW files are a lot bigger than JPEG and so they would require more space on memory carding (meaning you either need more memory to take the same number of shots or you would only be able to capture fewer shots). Second, it could be slightly slower and so if you were in a situation where you required the quickest continuous shooting speed your camera can offer (e.g., at a sporting event or whilst capturing dynamic wildlife), then RAW may not be appropriate for those situations.

I hope this helps!

Thanks for listening!

Keep shooting!


Photo credits: Edosaodaro.

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January 14, 2014


Absolutely right Nelson!

And I certainly think shooting both RAW and JPEG is a good option... Best of both worlds... Ha ha... Whilst, this does come with a slight additonal space penalty, I do think it could indeed be a good compromise...

Uruese tenvhen... Ogbe magba ro...

January 14, 2014


Having an item in an "original" form is better than a "second-hand" item. Although, a "second-hand" item can be cheaper. I think if you have the space, you can shoot both in RAW and jpeg formats. It saves you time in post-processing. You only fall back to RAW if you are not satisfied with the jpeg.
Iselogbe Edos.

January 14, 2014


Too right - on all accounts - Luvemak!
The possibilities are truely endless - in so far as you capture sharp and useful images... Ha ha...

I have lots stored too - from the past - but haven't had a chance to go fishing and cleaning up... Might be some good stuff in there... Ha ha...

Many thanks!

January 14, 2014


Raw is so much better, but does take up a lot of your storage space! I used to hold on to so many old photos just for the sake of keeping them, and finally had to go through and pare them down for the sake of space. But yeah, the quality and the improvements you can make in post are unbelievable with raw!

January 14, 2014


Ha ha... Spray and pray... Good one!
Thanks Peanutroaster...

January 14, 2014


I doubt any "pro" would accept the limitations of JPG. Memory is cheap. I saw this guy on vacation shooting like a machine gun. I suppose if you spray and pray then maybe you'd want to use JPG.

January 14, 2014


Thanks Davidwatmough... They do - indeed - take up a fair amount of space... But storage is getting cheaper and cheaper these days... Plus, I don't archive anything that comes out of my lightroom workflow as rejected...

Do you use a similar workflow tool and/or process?

January 14, 2014


Ha ha - Alvera... Yes - it does indeed take a little more time... But if JPEGs don't come out as we expect, we would need to spend some time trying to fix them too...

January 14, 2014


RAW is best but I have 6 external hard drives !

January 14, 2014


As I work only for stock (and part time game designer and illustrator) I have TIME to post-process RAW files. So my advice is to shoot RAW if you can. Good luck.

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