Raw vs. Jpeg
Raw vs. Jpeg? If you are starting out in photography, then you may have asked yourself this question.
Firstly it is important to realise that RAW and JPEG are file types.
RAW is an unprocessed image or, digital negative. It has not been adjusted either within camera or external software.
On the other hand, Jpeg is considered a photograph.
But before we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of either file, let’s take a closer look at them separately.
Camera manufacturers assume that most “newbie” photographers do not want to burden themselves with the task post-processing images. For this reason, Jpeg is usually the default file set in camera by the manufacturers.
When you shoot in Jpeg, the camera automatically makes a few adjustments like applying contrast and sharpening to an image.
As mentioned above RAW images receive no in-camera processing. The photographer now has the task of processing the image using software.
Most manufacturers will include a raw processing application software disc when you buy the camera. (Imagebrowser EX – Canon, and ViewNX- Nikon)
There is third-party image processing software available too.
Incidentally “raw” is not an acronym. Raw is merely the term used to refer to an unprocessed image.
The file formats for raw images vary between manufacturers.
Canon use .CR2, Nikon .NEF, Pentax .PEF, Hasselblad 3FR, and the list goes on.
If we were to compare the two forms to, let’s say a pizza….
Jpeg is a ready-made pizza you get in a box. Sure you might be able to add a little extra here and take a little bit off there. However, no matter what you do, you are still be stuck with the same crappy ready-made frozen pizza in a box.
Raw, on the other hand, sets you up with all the ingredients. You decide how much pepperoni, onion, mushroom, and tomato you want on your pizza. In other words, you are in control of the flavouring and outcome of your pizza.
With that out of the way, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of both file types.
Raw vs. Jpeg face-off:
Jpeg – Advantages
The photograph is processed and suitable for print. The image is ready to post on the web, FaceBook, Instagram, etc.
Jpeg files are much smaller than Raw files. You can fit a whole lot more Jpeg files onto an SD card or hard drive than you could raw files.
Because files are small, it takes less time to buffer. Smaller files mean more shots fired in continuous or burst mode.
No time lost post-processing images.
No need to learn about post-processing.
Canon and Nikon make great cameras. The processing software included when purchasing the camera, however, needs work. Standalone editing software products like Lightroom and Photoshop are far superior. When shooting Jpeg, you have no reason to buy expensive third-party programs.
Jpeg – Disadvantages
Little or virtually no control over the look and feel of an image.
That’s it! But it’s a HUGE one….
There is always a reason why we take an exposure. In most cases, we already process the image in our minds; this is usually the reason why we take a photograph in the first place. Why? Because it is that vision that draws us to a particular scene or subject. We already picture the outcome, the look we want to achieve, the feel of a photograph.
The camera can’t do that! It is like, how can I put this delicately ….a German, meticulous, beautifully precise yet devoid of any creativity (ok, maybe that wasn’t delicate at all, but that’s ok, Germans have a wonderful sense of humour)
One advantage is bypassing the often undesired adjustments made by the camera.
Higher image quality.
The Photographer chooses and sets the colour space.
All the changes made on a raw file are non-destructive. The original information remains intact. The only difference is the metadata controlling the rendering to produce different output versions.
Allows the photographer control over white-balance, lightness, saturation, etc
Greater flexibility in post-processing.
Raw files contain more information like higher dynamic range.
As I mentioned, earlier camera raw files are typically 2-6 times larger than their Jpeg counterparts.
Raw images are unfinished. A raw image needs processing. You cannot print, or post, a raw file on the web.
Processing an image is time-consuming.
No standardised raw format.
Raw vs. Jpeg – And the winner is?
So in conclusion, which is better?
Well, each has its usefulness. The format you choose to shoot will depend mainly on your motivation or reasons for taking an image.
If you are taking a landscape destined for the cover of a magazine, or you want to enlarge and print a photograph to hang on your wall, then the superior quality of a raw image makes a choice a no-brainer.
If on the other hand, you are taking snapshots of your wife mowing the lawn or taking out the garbage (I swear I have never done that), or taking photos of the family at the beach, then my suggestion would be to shoot in Jpeg.
I personally always shoot in raw. Why? Because that is just one less thing I have to think about, and I prefer to control the overall look of all my images rather than letting the camera decide.
If I am lucky enough to get a snapshot of my wife walking around the garden picking up dog doo-doo (she loves it, it’s her time to be alone, to reflect….so I don’t get involved), that’s ok. Processing an image can take less than two minutes, once you get the hang of it.
If the image destined for a magazine or gallery, then the process can take up to an hour.
So, Raw vs. Jpeg?
The choice is yours.