RAW vs JPEG (JPG) – The Ultimate Visual Guide

November 2012 9:42 AM 199 Comments

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RAW vs JPEG Overview

Shooting RAW vs JPEG is a question that every photographer faces at some point. There are many articles out there that cover the topic from the basics of size and quality, to all of the advanced technical details regarding color bits per channel, compression, firmware DCT processing, etc.

So, here is the disclaimer, if you want the technical details regarding RAW vs JPEGs, Digital Photography School has a great technical primer discussing the basic technical differences, a brief Google search will also unearth loads of additional more in depth technical resources as well.

This article is designed to teach you the differences between RAW and JPEG (JPG) from a pragmatic real world point of view. Thus, we will be using a lot of actual image examples to help show the exact concrete differences. In addition, we are going to leave out most of the technical mumbo jumbo that won’t really help you beyond being exceptionally proficient at speaking “nerd.”

[Reminder: Be sure to check out our 1) Lightroom 4 Presets, 2) Lightroom 4 Tutorials and 3) Vintage Photoshop Actions]

We will be using images shot from the Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens for all of our examples. Also, let me thank Justin Lin of Lin and Jirsa Photography ahead of time for being our helpful model. Keep in mind that, while you may be shooting on a different camera, be it a DSLR or an advanced point-and-shoot with RAW capability; the principles discussed here apply to all cameras although the differences may vary slightly from model to model.

General Details Regarding RAW and JPEG

JPEG – JPEG files are processed right within the camera. How exactly they are processed varies from model to model. While color temperature and exposure are set based on your camera settings when the image is shot, the camera will also process the image to add blacks, contrast, brightness, noise reduction, sharpening (which you can see in the example above) and then render the file to a compressed JPEG. These files are finished and can be viewed and printed immediately after shot.

Remember, because the image is compressed and saved to JPEG which is a “loss” file format, much of the initial image information and detail is discarded and cannot be recovered. You may hear the term “Dynamic Range” used a lot when discussing RAW files vs JPEG. Dynamic Range is simply the amount of tonal range detail from the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights. Dynamic Range detail in JPEG files is significantly reduced as compared to RAW.

Example 1 – The image below was shot at 1/80th shutter, f/2.0 aperture, ISO 200 and is shown as shot straight from the camera. Notice that the shot is usable directly from the camera. It has a good amount of blacks, decent contrast, and has good brightness. While we could do additional post production work to soften highlights, smooth skin, this shot is good -to-go straight from the camera.

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RAW – RAW files are uncompressed and unprocessed snapshots of all of the detail available to the camera sensor. Because RAW files are unprocessed, they come out looking flat and dark. RAW images need to be viewed and processed using your camera’s software or in more robust commonly used software like Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, etc prior to being ready for display or print.

Example 2 – The image below is the RAW version of the exact shot above as it was shot in RAW+JPEG mode. Notice that the image is flat, it lacks contrast, blacks and is also much darker coming straight from the camera. While programs like Lightroom may be setup to automatically add blacks, contrast and brightness to a RAW file, this is what a “zeroed” RAW file actually looks like straight from the camera.

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When Do I Use RAW vs JPEG?

Is each format useful, yes. But, is there clearly one format that is superior? Absolutely. Don’t let anyone tell you that JPEGs are just as good as RAWs because the bottom line is that they are not! There is a vast difference in the amount of information retained in a RAW file compared to a JPEG as you will soon come to see.

Being that RAW is a clearly superior file format, does that mean that you should always be shooting in RAW? Absolutely not. Both formats have their uses, and we use both formats frequently. So, here are some guidelines of when you would want to shoot RAW versus when you would want to shoot JPEG:

1) Journalistic shooting (RAW) – If you are shooting journalistically, meaning you are shooting in fast moving situations that are constantly changing in terms of lighting, scenes, backgrounds, subjects, etc then you need to be shooting RAW because nobody has the ability to shoot the “perfect exposure” every time. You can’t stop a person from shedding a tear, smiling, laughing, just so you can dial in just the right amount of exposure compensation, or manually set your settings. Shooting RAW allows you to quickly shoot while having enough information to fix possible exposure issues in post. If you are a journalist, a wedding photographer, event photographer, then you need to be shooting RAW.

2) Need additional range and tonal detail (RAW) – If you are shooting landscapes, nature, or virtually any scene that has a high Dynamic Range, then you want to be shooting in RAW to allow you to have additional post production flexibility to darken (burn) the highlights, while raising (dodging) the shadows, and properly tone-map an image.

3) Shooting for immediate display (JPEG or RAW+JPEG) – If you need the images for immediate display, say you need to display a same-day slideshow for a client, or you want to have them available for immediate proofing, then you want to be shooting JPEG. If you need post production flexibility and the ability to immediately use the files, then switch to RAW+JPEG so you have both. But, make sure you have extra cards present, cause you are going to burn through those things candles on Hanukkah.

4) Shooting for web or lower quality uses (JPEG) – Often times when I am shooting images for the web, I don’t need perfect images. I don’t need to have the post production flexibility of a RAW file. After all, is a small 500 pixel image selling a car on Craig’s List going to do a better job if it were a RAW file? Most likely not. Understand your audience, and if appropriate save time and shoot these types of images in JPEG format making sure that you properly set exposure and temperature while shooting.

5) Restricted space (JPEG) – OK, with the price of storage being so cheap, this definitely should not be a heavy factor in your reason for shooting JPEG over RAW. But, there may come a situation when say you are on a trip and you left your CF cards back at the hotel while you are out on a 8 hour travel excursion with only a 4GB card in your camera. In this situation, by all means, switch to JPEG. If you don’t, you are going to run out of space just as you walk into the Sistine Chapel (which by the way wouldn’t matter as they don’t allow photos inside, how lame eh?).

6) Personal use (JPEG and or RAW) – Hey, I am a professional photographer. But, I don’t need to have crazy tonal range and post production flexibility for every event in my personal life that I shoot. So, in more casual situations such as a small BBQ party, I shoot JPEG. When I am out vacationing in China or Europe shooting landscapes, cityscapes, people, etc, I shoot RAW. The rule here is that you don’t want to be spending crazy amounts of time processing images when the differences are going to be negligible and go unnoticed. Know your audience, know your situation, know your use for the images, and select appropriately.

7) Rapid succession burst shooting (JPEG) – One of our readers Benjamin D Bloom brought up a great point which I totally forgot to add to this list. If you are shooting live action sports and are shooting burst sequences in rapid succession, your buffer will fill up very quickly if you are shooting RAW. This means that your camera will stop to process the buffered images, thus making you unable to continue shooting while the camera is transferring those images from the buffer to your memory card. Shooting JPEG will allow you to shoot a lot more shots prior to filling the buffer. So, in this situation it is best to switch to JPEG, dial in all of your exposure and temperature settings in camera and fire away.

Image Comparisons Between Original RAW and JPEG Images

The following sections will now show detailed visual comparisons between several different RAW and JPEG images. All shots were taken using the following camera and file settings:

Camera: Canon 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.4
File Settings: SRAW + Medium JPEG
Picture Style: Standard
All Processing Settings: Default

Brightness, Contrast & Blacks

The most obvious thing you will notice when comparing a RAW image to a JPEG image is that the JPEG image will have a significant amount of Brightness, Contrast and Blacks added to the image during camera processing. If you are a Lightroom user, the added amount is approximately as follows (varying slightly on camera model). The images used above, as well as this shot below illustrates this difference.

+50 Brightness, +25 Contrast, +5 Blacks

Example 3 – Both files below have been zeroed out in Lightroom prior to being exported. This means that there are no additional post production settings being applied. So, what we are seeing is both files as shot directly by the camera. Notice how the zeroed RAW file is dark and lacks contrast compared to the zeroed JPEG.

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Sharpness

JPEG files are also slightly sharpened in camera. While this may sound like a good thing, there are many circumstances where you are going to want to have exact control over the amount of sharpening applied to an image. For Lightroom users, the approximate amount of sharpening added to an image processed in camera is

+25 Amount, +1.0 Radius, +25 Detail

Example 4 – The RAW file below was zeroed and then had +50 Brightness, +25 Contrast and +5 Blacks added to be able to easily compare the two files without noticing differences in exposure. Notice how the JPEG image comes out just a bit sharper than the RAW. This is most noticeably visible around the eye and eyebrow area, as well as by Justin’s whiskers and lips. While this additional sharpening makes the JPEG image look better, that sharpening cannot be removed from the original file (if needed) as it is built into the JPEG after being processed in camera.

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Noise

JPEG files will have additional noise reduction applied during in camera processing. For images not intended for professional use, this is not a big deal. However, if you intend to use these images for professional use, you are doing your images a big disservice as software based noise reduction found in Lightroom 3 or Noiseware Professional give you not only much more control, but also do a better job of reducing noise while maintaining sharpness and detail.

Example 5 – The next image is the exact same composition and exposure as the previous shots, however we exposed the shot at 6400 ISO so we could have a decent amount of noise for comparing. Again we have matched all settings on the RAW to the JPEG image. The noise levels in both images are shown as shot without any additional reduction. Notice how the RAW file displays quite a bit more noise than the JPEG, however more noise also equals more detail and sharpness as well. The easiest place to see these differences are in the shadows, like in his eyebrows, hair, whiskers, shirt and the gray background.

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Example 6 – This next image shows you the difference in sharpness and quality that can be achieved using software based noise reduction versus in camera noise reduction applied to JPEGs. On the left we see the same RAW file as shown in the image above shot at 6400 ISO. That shot was adjusted for brightness, contrast and blacks to match the JPEG file, then it was taken into Adobe Photoshop where we first used Noiseware Professional to reduce the noise, then a Adobe Photoshop Unsharpen mask to enhance detail. Notice how the finished RAW file on the left not only has more detail, but is also completely free from noise. While you can continue to smooth the JPEG image on the right, you won’t be able to recover the detail lost from the in camera noise reduction which is significantly inferior to software based noise reduction solutions.

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Dynamic Range – Overexposure

One of the biggest differences between a RAW and JPEG image is the amount of dynamic range and tonal detail captured. This means that you will see huge differences in quality when post processing images that are underexposed, overexposed, or images that simply have a high Dynamic Range; such as a landscape with a super bright sky against a dark ground.

Example 7 – The image below was shot at 1/40th shutter, f/2.0, ISO 400 and exposed to be 2 full stops overexposed. Below you see the zeroed RAW compared to the zeroed JPEG. Notice that because JPEG processing adds around +50 Brightness to the image, it is significantly more overexposed than the RAW image on the left. In the next example, we will show that this amount of additional brightness, plus the fact that much of the images Dynamic Range and image detail has been discarded, will make it impossible to repair the JPEG in post production.

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Example 8 – For this next comparison, we have taken the exact same overexposed RAW and JPEG shots used in Example 7 and reduced the exposure by -1.50 in Lightroom. Notice how the RAW image retains all of the tonal detail regardless of the image being 2 stops overexposed. With the RAW file we have a completely usable image despite it being 2 stops overexposed when shot. On the other hand, the JPEG image clearly shows that much of the facial detail is unrecoverable leaving large blown highlight areas on the forehead, cheeks, nose and lips.

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Dynamic Range- Underexposure

RAW files are much more forgiving when it comes to brightening underexposed images. There is enough tonal detail in a RAW file to bring up the exposure by +2 or more full stops of light (so long as the image wasn’t shot at a super high ISO). Conversely, there is not enough tonal range in a JPEG to do the same thing without virtually destroying the image. See the image examples below.

Example 9 – The image below was shot at 1/500th shutter, F/2.0 and ISO 400 and was shot to be 2 full stops underexposed. Once again, both files have been fully zeroed to allow us to see the unaltered files straight from the camera. At first glance, it may look like the JPEG image does a better job with underexposed shots being that it adds +50 brightness during camera processing. However, you will soon see that the additional blacks and contrast added to the JPEG image during in camera processing are going to clip the detail in the shadows. This clipping of the shadows will not be recoverable.

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Example 10 – This example shows the exact same underexposed images used in Example 9 above. This time, we took the images into Lightroom, zeroed them out completely, then added +2.5 Exposure. Notice that the RAW file retains much more detail in the shadows where as the JPEG file begins to show where the shadows are clipped as they are fully black. Once again, the RAW file proves that it is more forgiving and allows you to retain more tonal range despite the shot being 2 full stops under exposed.

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Conclusion for our RAW vs. JPEG Comparison

By now, you should have a strong understanding of the in practice differences between RAW and JPEG file formats. Use this understanding, along with our situational advice to decide which file format best fits your needs for any particular situation. While the RAW format is a super format, that doesn’t mean it is the best format for all situations.

If you have any comments or additional insight, please feel free to share below in the comments. Thanks!

All images copyright Lin and Jirsa, Wedding Photographers in Los Angeles

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Pye

About

Pye (AKA Post Production Pye) is a founder and the Managing Editor for SLR Lounge. Pye is also a Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography, an Orange County based wedding, engagement and portrait photography studio. Connect with him on Google Plus

199 Comments

  1. Benjamin D. Bloom

    Nice comparison of formats.

    Out of curiosity, what camera picture style were you set to? Were all the sliders zeroed out in camera?

    And an addition– I frequently use JPG when I need fast response when shooting sports. I get longer bursts and the buffer frees up faster.

    Beyond that, storage is cheap so it’s RAW for me.

  2. admin

    Ben,

    Picture style set to Standard, camera process settings all set at defaults.

    You are right, when you are shooting a lot of burst shots and need every bit of buffer space (i.e. during sports, action shots) JPEG is definitely the way to go. Good call with that bit of advice. In fact, I will add that into the article, it should be one of the points as well.

  3. Brian Calabrese

    keep in mind that when shooting raw there is an embedded jpeg preview. in the case of the 5d MKII it is a full size jpeg using the chosen picture style… It can be extracted using software such as photomechanic…

  4. Rich D.

    Storage is indeed cheap, and thankfully gets cheaper everyday, as I’m well beyond 200,000 RAW files in my archive.

  5. Colleen

    Well done comparison!

  6. Michael Medina

    Great comparison, thanks for the examples now my fellow photog can see the difference instead of my talking. Thank You

  7. Paula J

    Amazing article, well written, super informative. Thank you guys so much! This site is amazing.

  8. Julie Cahill

    Sweet comparison minus all the nerd info. Thanks!

  9. Dexter

    Shoot in RAW, if you shoot in JPEG is like you have a paper print of your photo, and, each time you process it is like scanning it.
    If you shoot in RAW is like having a negative, each time you process it is like processing a negative and having a new picture, it worth the post processing time.

    • Spencer

      This is not right. If you shoot JPG, why would you save over the original? You wouldn’t do this with RAW and you shouldn’t do this with JPG.

    • Dev

      No, you misunderstand how JPEGs work, I guess. Every time you re-render a JPEG in an image software, it clips a bit of its data. It does this even if you don’t save over it.

    • RC

      As long as you don’t save over the original JPG, it will be the same JPG file that originally came out of your camera when the photo was first taken. Viewing it will not affect the original file.

    • Big W

      RC and Spencer, what they mean is that after you tweak a jpg, and save, even if not over the original jpg, you’re losing some detail on top of the detail already lost in the original jpg. Because saving jpgs means going through another stage of compression. It’s quite a simple concept really. Think of it as copying a Music CD by recording it being played through a pair of speakers. No matter how good the speakers or the recording device, you always lose a bit of quality.

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  11. Jason Harris

    Great post, will have to come back to it..

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  13. Travis * Johansen

    I’ll definitely be referring people to your page for it’s great explanation of Raw vs. JPG!!! Thanks :)

  14. Jerry Ebenkamp

    Nothing explains a complicated subject like a simple demonstration. I’ve persued an understandable differentiation of this subject for years and never found an explanation this consise.

  15. ricky

    i always shoot raw, just incase i fluff up the exposure of an image. raw allows me to go back and make that image usable if need be

  16. red

    If you have real experience in a darkroom with film on an enlarger, you want to shoot RAW. Shooting JPEG is like have the camera doing the film developing for you. If you were a serious film photographer, you never took your film to Walgreens. You developed it yourself in a darkroom or took it to a professional who would take care in getting the correct exposure. Same thing applies in the digital age.

    • Brian

      And yet, most real photographers use JPEG most of the time because they shoot so many photos they don’t have time or want to deal with the time it takes to process RAW file.

    • Dev_mos

      It doesn’t even really take much time to process a RAW when using a program like Lightroom. If all you want is a well exposed image to look, well, well exposed, it takes all but 5 minutes and three or four sliders to achieve this.

      Any pro who uses the excuse of saving time or space is making excuses and being cheap and lazy. Considering that the masters and pros of the film era put so much time and dedication in their craft, the lack or dedication in the digital age is shocking and sad.

    • Brian

      I disagree but it also depends on the photographer and what they are taking photos of. I work in the IT of one of the biggest, if not the biggest, stock photography coma oh in the world. Nearly all of our photos we have is shot in JPEG. Now maybe a wedding photographer will do RAW but most types of photography is is strictly JPEG.

    • Waynette Bailey

      This is not true. Most professionals shoot RAW! Stock photography is low-budget photography…any and everyone shoots stock photos. Anyone with in-depth knowledge of photography (professionals), is going to want the best quality image possible and would therefore shoot RAW!

    • BrianBB

      lol… “real photographers shoot JPEG” … you’re clearly not a REAL photographer…. saddens me we share the same name.

      If you’re a REAL photographer and you don’t have time for post-processing, you’re not much of a photographer.

      That;s like saying back in the 80’s/early 90s… yeah I shoot film… but I don’t have time to take my photos to the darkroom and develop them… see how little sense that makes?

    • David Lac

      Hilarious “saddens me we share the same name.”

    • BrianBB

      I also have a hard time believing you do stock photography.

      As that is a continuing source of income for me, as a photojournalist. I can tell you 100% that shooting in RAW and having both an original file and post-process file with a certain look, contrast, saturation,, cross-processing, etc. is necessary

    • Sam

      I know several photographers who shoot stock photos on iStock and they shoot in RAW and edit in Lightroom then output a JPEG to upload as a stock image. I am a photo-journalist and I ONLY shoot RAW.  I have way more control over the final image and it actually takes less time to edit in RAW than to try to FIX the problems with a JPEG.

    • Kevin

      I agree with red, if you are a professional shooting important shots or events in JPG you are really shooting the event like with a poloroid letting the camera interpret data and printing it out for you.  

      As for professionals “shooting lots of images” other than a wedding I don’t shoot more than I have to at any time even a wedding.  I shoot like I am using film and what wedding photographer before digital shot 500 images of a wedding hoping to get the perfect shot.  More doesn’t = better it just means you are not sure of what you are shooting and hoping that out of x number of images shot you will get 10% usable.  Definitely NOT a professional.

      Processing time in any post production program is not time consuming if you know what you are doing and have in mind the result you are looking for.

    • Ricardo Galvão

      Thats a misundertanding here
      raw IS THE NEGATIVE
      jPEG IS THE cHROME

    • Mark

      I see what you’re saying but I don’t think that I’d compare a modern camera JPEG to Walgreens 1 hour film processing.

    • A virtual photographer

      Lol. You are all wrong from the first principle of only dealing in absolutes. There is no such thing as a REAL/FAKE photographer. So much rubbish, so many opinions! Jpg and no time to post produce is like using film and not developing it. LOL. What a stupid anology. Sounds like some of you cannot get it right in the camera. That is the most important thing to get obsessed about. Wasting time criticising the methods and workflow of FAKE photographers, boring! I’ve been taking photos for 58 years. I make between £100-£8000 for my images. I get paid for meeting the requirements of the person paying me. Jpg raw film negatives. Who cares? Maybe the ones not delivering………

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  18. Corporate photographer

    I have heard this going around and around for years now. I have always shot high end jpegs and supplied corporate clients with these since 2002. I have never had any complaints about quality and have only been asked to shoot raw once! And guess what it was another photographer that needed me to cover something for him. I can understand it if you are big into post production but as part of a commercial process supplying clients- cant see the point.

  19. Spencer

    While I’m primarily a JPG shooter, this is a great artical.

  20. Adrian

    I’ve 95% shot jpeg, and although a wedding photographer did not fully consider the subtle differences until I recently had to blow up an image for a huge wall print, and I was not happy [client was] so I converted to now 85% RAW [jpeg for happy snappy and sports/action] and the results are noticeably different.

    Especially now I have a super set of actions, I convert RAWS only for exposure and white balance, then run a droplet which runs the action, and can walk away and come back to a folder of psd’s then I use an AutoLoader which opens an image [hitting a hot key] in order, fine tune, hit the hot key again, it automatically flattens image and saves to jpeg in new folder, so shooting RAW does not slow me down post processing, but sure as heck gives me better details, especially in the white wedding dresses.

  21. Lindsay

    Wow…I’m just starting out as a hobbyist photographer and this is exactly the explanation I was looking for.  Thanks!

  22. ivy

    the only thing that this article is missing, is a shot of the end result RAW file, vs the end result Jpeg. i woudl really like to see the actual difference when allis said and done.

  23. Sai

    You can export Raw into JPEG, but you can’t do the reverse. So why would you bother shooting JPEG?

  24. Sv

    i always work with Raw. after all the jpeg is a compressed version of the raw that your camera creates. Ill always work with the highest quality and can tone the quality and stuff down with better tools than what the camera offers

  25. Hbj

    Thank yoy, perfect and clear explination!

  26. Hbj

    Thamk you for the clear and good explaining

  27. Marcy

    This is the best comparison I’ve seen yet– really, really nice to have the side-by-side shots (both processed & SOOC).  I shoot mostly JPEG right now simply bc of time constraints (have almost no time for post processing) but will eventually switch to RAW, I’m sure (and have used it in the past when I really wanted the extra flexibility and CYA options).

  28. Kristopher

    This is brilliant and beautifully explained. The use of visuals is always a plus, and a must, when explaining aspects of photography. Superb!

  29. Anonymous

    Fantastic article, really useful! Luckily, I have enough memory space that I always shoot RAW+JPEG :)

  30. Dharrigan1

    What would you say is the better soaftwaer? Photoshop or Lightroom and WHY?

    • John MacLean Photography

      If you don’t need to do retouching, then get LR. If you do then get both! LR for cataloging and processing, and PS for retouching.

    • Les Leventhal

      Doesn’t Photoshop allow you to process raw?

  31. Christina

    Wonderful easy to understand explanation.  thank you!

  32. Kputt4

    Awesome article thank you!  I really had no clue what the difference was now I feel pretty confident about which to use for different events.  FYI, I am a newbie, just moved up from a point and shoot camera.

  33. mach1

    excellent…. as a newbie, i could follow and understand the comparative information as presented; the side-by-sides really help!

  34. Jim Huisel

    Thank you, thank you..THANK YOU! Now I clearly see and understand the difference. So long JPEG!

  35. Daisy 180

    So do you shoot on manual when shooting RAW just like when your shooting JPEG? Are you adjusting your ISO as you go? Like for a wedding?

  36. Daisy 180

    So do you shoot on manual when shooting RAW just like when your shooting JPEG? Are you adjusting your ISO as you go? Like for a wedding?

  37. Sir Drewski

    This is an excellent article that compares the two shooting modes in an easily understood format.  Thank you for this!

  38. Aswin Adirono

    great stuff!

  39. Zubin C. Watchmaker

    FANTASTIC COMPARISON……AS I ALWAYS SHOT IN JPEG, NOW ACCORDING TO ME, RAW IS A SUPERIOR FORMAT TO WORK WITH. HAVE STARTED SHOOTING IN RAW + JPEG NOW AND AM SEEING THE DIFFERENCE NOW. THANX A TON……..

  40. Sundeep

    Up until now i was shooting JPEG (which I post -produce the shit out of!!! ) , just out of the fact that i didn’t want to take pains of shooting RAW and that without the update my Photoshop wouldn’t recognize it (Canon’s propitiatory format). Yesterday after much effort and self encouragement, I decided to give it a try and Viola!! straight off the bat i could see the HUGE difference in quality and flexibility in post production RAW accorded. 

    All my photos (2 years worth!) which I have shot in JPEG now seem a waste, specially because I now understand what service shooting in RAW could have done to them. 

    Not too late though, I am a born again photographer :) .

    Guys trust me , this tutorial is an eye opener and perhaps, one of the best articles outlining step by step of why RAW IS the format for people who really are serious about their photography. 

    If you do post production on your photos, please, please shoot RAW.

    • Jerard Neal

      You can download an update for Adobe products to support new RAW file formats. Just do a search for Adobe camera raw update or something along those lines.

    • Nienke Nijenhuis

      If you’re using windows, you can install a codec pack, so you can view your RAW files in the regular explorer: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=26829

  41. Big W

    It’s amazing to see how many people either are still not convinced or still just does not get it after such a fine and detailed explanation…

  42. Fotograf Nunta Bucuresti

    RAW is better in so many ways for professional work. I think the use of JPEG is limited to personal photos and quick snapshots.

    • RADU

      Asta pentru ca esti prost si nu stii sa setezi aparatul, “Fotograf Nunta Bucuresti”.
      Esti neamul lui “Fotografiez cum o fi, si vad eu dupa aia”.
      Ti-am vazut desenele animate cu care te bagi in seama.

      “Those are not wedding photographys, there are ” CARTOONS “. When you can’t make a good wedding photography, you’ll make a “pictures of the groom holding a miniature version of his bride in the palm of his hand “.
      REMEMBER MONTE ZUCKER !

  43. Fotograf Nunta Bucuresti

    RAW is better in so many ways for professional work. I think the use of JPEG is limited to personal photos and quick snapshots.

    • RADU

      Asta pentru ca esti prost si nu stii sa setezi aparatul, “Fotograf Nunta Bucuresti”.
      Esti neamul lui “Fotografiez cum o fi, si vad eu dupa aia”.
      Ti-am vazut desenele animate cu care te bagi in seama.

      “Those are not wedding photographys, there are ” CARTOONS “. When you can’t make a good wedding photography, you’ll make a “pictures of the groom holding a miniature version of his bride in the palm of his hand “.
      REMEMBER MONTE ZUCKER !

  44. carlos

    great article!

  45. Jason Charles Picard

    This article misunderstands RAW files quite a lot. Your RAW files are not flat and dark – your processing of your RAW file is what is flat. Whether it’s by ignorance or by choice. Since RAW is a capture of all of the image data that your camera’s sensor has seen, the JPG versions are essentially made from RAW files and processed inside the camera.

  46. Dangerous Variable

    The majority of my shots are in Jpeg but I will take note on when to use raw. I just do not have the time processing. 

  47. Lmcolbert27

    How do I know if I am shooting in JPEG or RAW? Can someone help me?

    • John MacLean Photography

      Look at your file name extensions. If you shoot Canon, the RAW is CR2. Nikon is NEF. If you shoot JPG, it’s typically JPG. 

    • Helpful Guy

      If your files end with “.jpg” you’re shooting JPEG.

      I shoot RAW+JPEG, with the jpeg at a lower resolution (2MP) and white-balance usually on auto. I only use the jpegs for fast-loading proofs to decide which RAW images to process (or delete) or to have handy smallish files to send the folks quick shots of my kid. Though even in the latter case RAW can be handy if I change the white-balance and forget about it later, say if I set it to the sensor’s native balance for better histogram readings when shooting-to-the-right.

      I can see where a photojournalist whose job it is to get the pics in quick for a newspaper or online news site would shoot jpeg, as opposed to one shooting for a monthly magazine, say, with time for more careful processing to get the most compelling image on the page. But even the short-deadline news photog could benefit from also having a RAW of that one great shot that comes along every so often, and with memory sticks being so big and cheap these days there’s no reason not to shoot RAW+JPEG.

  48. Bob

    I am a JPEG shooter because I haven’t wanted to spend the time to process RAW images.  I have experimented shooting RAW+JPEG, but haven’t (as yet?) developed the skill to do other than general processing.  I have had in mind the idea of becoming proficient at capturing a good image (composition, DOF, etc.) and when so able then to  use RAW selectively create great images.  This article adds the justification to do so. 

  49. Welshphotoguy

    Great article explaining about where and when RAW should be used , but can I just say my experience about Journalistic shooting ….

    The fast moving and ever changing situations also transfers to sending the image

    You don’t have time to tinker with the image . Big jobs usually involves plugging your cam into a laptop / Ipad and getting the image sent off to the pic desk asap ( Usually on a 3g dongle or somewhere with limited shared wifi ), tinkering and Sending large raw files is just not practical ..

    Exposures and lighting may not be perfect so you just have to think ahead and have a good Idea of conditions before photographing ( High ISO and flash may mean grainy images but sometimes its all you can get ) Perhaps just time for a crop ( More for lowering file size than anything ) and small light adjust before hitting send … I have had literally seconds to get an image to press before they had to run the paper without it ….

    However not all jobs are as time specific and you have more time to play with images afterwards ….. Some of my colleagues like to use RAW then

    • BrianBB

      I’ve been working for a large news organization here in Toronto as a photojournalist, and I can say with confidence that I can ONLY shoot in RAW because when I send the photos back to the office, there are people there waiting to convert and edit my file so it’s ready for print, otherwise the photo wouldn’t be able to be properly grayscaled.

  50. John MacLean Photography

    Thanks for the good descriptive article with photo examples. One very important detail you left out was improper WB and how difficult that is to correct in JPG captures. Of course it’s a no-brainer with RAW capture because it’s irrelevant, and easily correctable!

    Also, the noise reduction in LR4 would probably eliminate the need to convert the file into PS to apply the Noiseware Professional software. 

    I have been shooting since 1972 and RAW since 2002 (never JPG), when I switched from film to all digital. I used to process/convert RAWs thru Photoshop Camera RAW and keep all sorts of versions of PSDs, TIFs, and JPGs, with different sizes depending on the need (web, printing, client files, etc). That all changed when I started with Lightroom. Now my DNG is my master file and I only export out other versions for clients or my own web usage. This streamlining has helped my workflow and conserved lots of HD space. I highly recommend LR4 if any of you are starting to shoot RAW. And don’t reimport those exports back in to your catalog. That’s my tip of the day!

    Best regards,
    John
    https://www.facebook.com/JohnScottMacLean

    • Les Leventhal

      For processing raw, how does Lightroom 4 compare to Photoshop Elements 10?

    • Cynthia

      I would love to talk to you about your work flow. I use Lightroom, but I feel like it is a bit disorganized…and for someone who has OCD tendencies, that’s not good.

  51. Lists

    Well this is a no-brainier! I mean the points you list for shooting either RAW or JPEG or both should be obvious to anyone who has been shooting for awhile with a serious camera! And I would suggest using a subject who is a little more appealing photographically than this scruffy looking unshaven bedraggled man! 

  52. When You Should Shoot Photos In JPEG And When You Should Use RAW | Lifehacker Australia

    [...] JPEGs? SLR Lounge performed several tests to come to a (mostly) definitive conclusion.Photo by SLR Lounge.As you can see from the image comparison above, the JPEG is naturally a nicer-looking image. This [...]

  53. Test

    this isn’t right at all. jpg’s and raw’s don’t look different out of the camera. however, you can edit a raw after it’s come out of the camera better than you can a jpg. this post just seems to want to portray raw as creating crisp noise free shots. they will be after you pull the noise out with lightroom, but the amount of noise on a jpg or a raw is no different before post processing.

  54. Bill Vargas

    It is true, if you goof in proper exposure, you can sure save it in RAW.   What happens if both RAW & Jpeg both have the correct exposure.  Does this make us sloppy photographers?   Do we spend more time in Post and less time shooting?  Something to think about.  I have shot many weddings, only using Jpeg and then sending only the images, Bride wanted in her album, to a professional lab.  They corrected and bound my albums.  Never did the lab said to use RAW and the customer never complained and was very happy with our service.  I have been doing weddings for over 40 years.  I have attended seminars by Monty Zucker, Gary Fong, David Ziser etc.  They were at that time only using Jpeg.  I guess time has changed.   Bill Vargas 

    • BrianBB

      I was going to give you credibility until you mentioned Gary Fong. what a hack. Ken Rockwell shoots in JPEG only too, I guess that mens I should shoot in JPEG?? Hell no. Not unless I’m snappy happy dandy photos of me and my friends at a cottage, but even then I’ll want to shoot with JPEG PLUS Raw just so I can have creative freedom with my photos in post, instead of having Nikon/Canon’s system telling me how my photo should look. 

  55. Roger M Olson

    An extraordinary software program is produced by DxO labs which will allow for batch processing of RAW files as well as significant individual tweaks.  Resulting images can be further processed in Lightroom or other software.  Noise is individually reduced in each color layer of the sensor and lens issues are corrected for thousands of combinations.  This is just one example of a way to shoot raw and still save time while getting great images. 

  56. torwag

    One important point not covered so far is repairability. Corrupt JPG are almost lost due to the fileformat . JPG does not have checksums or any other saftey feature. Furthermore, the data part consist of a single byte stream. The compression makes it more or less impossible to map pieces of data to picture informartion easily. Thus, a single bit flipped at the wrong place destroys your complete image.
    More save are file formats which e.g. map each pixel. An error would only effect one pixel and could be easily corrected. I think Tiff is doing this for example.

    So how about RAW images. Could they be easily fixed in case of data corruption? That would be a real win as everyone know who ever had to deal with a defect SD card or corrupted data transmission.

  57. why should i always shoot in the raw

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  58. Yomamma

    i’ve shot weddings in large JPG since 2006 and not one single person has ever complained…stop beings such dorks people…every image shown here looks better in the jpg version. The best part of this article is the statement “shoot raw when its needed”. Use the right tool for the right job…yes, I can use a sledgehammer to hang a nail in my wall, but a regular hammer will work just fine and quite possibly produce better results, even though the sledgehammer holds more mass/data.

  59. Kat Clay

    Excellent article, when I made the switch to RAW a couple of years ago the differences were recognisable instantly. Never gone back! 

  60. Joe Bowers

    The main reason I shoot raw is so I never have to worry about color temperature. With a raw file you can always change it after.

  61. August Christian Manapat

    Great post! Just exactly what I needed to know.

  62. Amien

    Great article! I’ve never shot RAW until this article and the way I see it, we almost always are going to post process an image regardless of how great the original is, so you are better off shooting RAW and have more to work with.

  63. Carlo Parducho

    I always shoot RAW (even for craigslist car ads lol) cause I’ve shot jpeg for not-so-critical work before and forgotten to switch back to RAW. Thank goodness I manually meter to a 1/10th of stop all the time. White balance was another issue though lol

  64. Kevin

    I have been shooting for more than 35 years and in 2003 I added digital to my options of shooting although until 2005 I took both film and digital cameras to most shoots.  Today other than my Mimiya  I shoot strictly digital and I shoot 95% of the time in RAW.  Not always did but since 2007 I started shooting raw and jpg together (jpg in medium format) but today I shoot almost exclusively in raw.  My work is editorial, journalistic, weddings and some web images for destination websites or magazines.

    I discovered RAW and MAC at the same time, I was always a Canon fanatic for SLR and now SLR Digital but before I was a PC man to the end.  We were giving a black and white photography course in Mexico City and when another photographer and I were comparing computer and image processing performance between MAC and PC, Mac blew me away.  

    If you shoot professionally you shoot RAW, there is no doubt, post production software is a personal choice although I have Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperature I use only photoshop and Lightroom.  The control over image outcome in RAW is amazing and has without a doubt changed the professional digital photographer and the way he / she presents his work.

  65. Kevin

    I have been shooting for more than 35 years and in 2003 I added digital to my options of shooting although until 2005 I took both film and digital cameras to most shoots.  Today other than my Mimiya  I shoot strictly digital and I shoot 95% of the time in RAW.  Not always did but since 2007 I started shooting raw and jpg together (jpg in medium format) but today I shoot almost exclusively in raw.  My work is editorial, journalistic, weddings and some web images for destination websites or magazines.

    I discovered RAW and MAC at the same time, I was always a Canon fanatic for SLR and now SLR Digital but before I was a PC man to the end.  We were giving a black and white photography course in Mexico City and when another photographer and I were comparing computer and image processing performance between MAC and PC, Mac blew me away.  

    If you shoot professionally you shoot RAW, there is no doubt, post production software is a personal choice although I have Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperature I use only photoshop and Lightroom.  The control over image outcome in RAW is amazing and has without a doubt changed the professional digital photographer and the way he / she presents his work.

  66. Nancy Smith

    without a doubt, there are factors when choosing what camera format to use. each situation should be evaluated and the best choice made. as others commented, RAW files are post processing joys with a ‘way back’ if you ever need to recover or ‘create ‘ something new. don’t get cornered by one method, let the situation guide your choices, and always remember, most photography is subjective, as each person who views it has different criteria for their opinions.

    • Luki Pa'a

      Best post I have seen thus far on this thread. Use what works for you. I tend to shoot primarily in JPG and switch into RAW for more challenging lighting conditions so I can adjust exposure later if need be. Probably 80/20. But I dig what you are saying, “let the situation guide your choices.” Most people here get what the tradeoffs are, and we are all rational individuals  so let’s not get into fanboyism, eh?

  67. Karasu

    I love shooting in RAW. While it does give me more post- ability, the reason I like it is simply: it makes me more selective about the pictures I choose to keep. I don’t want to go through and process each raw, and having to pick and choose encourages me to be more critical of my own images (vs. the time I’m willing to spend on them).

    That said, I wouldn’t shoot RAW for casual picture-taking.

  68. friendzis

    FIY, JPEG is already post processed. And camera allows only a little control over processing parameters.

  69. Brian Allison

    When you process your RAW images how are you importing them?  If you are importing through Lightroom or Photoshop or any other non Nikon or Canon program you loose the color settings for your camera and that is why they turn out dull and lacking that vibrancy.  If you are shooting Nikon use ViewNX or if shooting Canon, use ImageBrowser to import your raw files and then convert them to JPG.  When you are shooting in JPG on your camera you are only getting 256 colors.  When you import using your manufactures import software and then convert to JPG, you are getting 67 million colors or so.  Your file size and quality of the image remain the same.   

  70. Kerry Garrison

    Excellent article, one of your best ever and easily one of the best that shows the latitude you gain with over/under exposed images. Nicely done.
    Kerry
    http://cameradojo.com

  71. Candid45

    I’m sure it’s just me,  but I would rather see a beautiful woman’s face as samples to all the test shots.

    • Denzo

      I am pro-women and not homosexual.. but does it really matter for this article?

  72. Ritabonita

    Is the man in those pictures Justin Lin?  I went to high school with him!

  73. Machina777

    I also have to agree with one of the other posters here in that all my past Jpegs seem inadequate now that I switched over to Raw. And I never really understood the benefits of Raw until reading this article. Thank you!

  74. Joe Barnet

    Thank you Pye! For taking the time to explain this issue in such detail… Illustrations and all! We always tell our students that RAW will produce a higher quality image, especially in the  wedding photography environment, where you don’t always have the time to nail the exposure or choose the perfect light. I’ll be suggesting this post in our workshops… I don’t know where you guys find the time to run your businesses and still give back so much to our industry. Great job!

  75. Guest

    What a wonderful article, thank you for your practical and to-the-point advice!

  76. Jussi Panula

    One important point was left unmentioned: Client need. Some situations require RAW for heavy post processing while others need rapid publication of JPGs. Client need is the number one factor for me when choosing the file format ;-)

  77. Duncan

    Pye – as much as I like your writing, I think this article is misleading.

    The ‘RAW’ files you are showing are in fact processed jpegs just as the ‘jpegs’ that you show are. What you are doing is the equivalent of showing a print that has been dodged and burned to showing a print that has not been dodged and burned and then saying that the non dodged and burned print is somehow a ‘negative’ simply because it has not been treated. Similar to a negative, a RAW file is a collection of data that can be interpreted in a number of ways, and again similarly to a negative you cannot just do a straight print/processed jpeg from it and claim that this is how it is in its unprocessed version as you fail to show all the potentially unprocessed data. This is a complex subject that cannot be explained away so simply, and reading from the other comments I think people still fail to fully understand what RAW files are. Personally, it’s now so easy to process out RAW files into jpegs in Lightroom that there should *never* be any reason to shoot jpegs in camera unless you have absolutely no other option as you’re throwing away so much data…

    Duncan

  78. Sandkastle

    Thank you for your explanation. I am struggling with exactly what you are showing in Example 4 and have been extremely frustrated with it. I did not realize that I might need a different workflow to get the image detail you show in the left side of Example 6. I thought Lightroom was able to do everything. Looks like I will be learning some new software.

  79. Ericgon123

    What I take from this is if you have nice post software, shoot raw, if you are just shooting pictures and have little to no post software, shoot jpeg.

  80. Clearmountain

    I am a total newbie. Got my first DSLR 6 months ago and started shooting in jpeg because it was easy and instant despite photographer friends advising me to shoot in raw. I started using Photoshop for the first time two months ago so thought I must take the plunge and started to use raw. (My camera doesn’t have back up so I shoot in raw and jpeg.) I can’t do much with the jpegs but the raws give me so much flexibility over the final image that I’ve never looked back. I now only use the jpegs as thumbnails for quick selection only.

  81. Marchi

    Thanks for article Pye.
    I have web gallery. I shoot RAW+JPG. JPG goes (almost) strait to gallery, RAW on HD and then procesing them if there is a costumer order some foto. If someone developing firmware for 7D or other EOS and reading this, there is need for seting up JPG resolution manualy. Now, the smalles JPG resolution is 2592×1728 which is way to big for some purposes. In web gallery I would need JPG 480×320, so my workflow will be way faster then now, when converting to smaller size is essential and take a lot of time and processing power. Any idea?
    For RAW processing I use super usefull and user friendly and not confusing Canons Digital Photo Professional which I don’t give away for any LR or PS etc. DPP has exactly that much function that users need to safely post process their fotos. No extra filter, no extra possibilities that from my experience leeding to cartoon look like fotos at the end of processing.

  82. Ricardo Galvão

    A Enginnering said:

    http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/raw.htm

    • Brian Sallee

      Quoting Ken Rockwell is only going to show how little you know.

  83. Ricardo Galvão

    I only shoot Jpeg

    http://ricardogalvao.tumblr.com/

  84. Ricardo Galvão

    4K will make raw turn into History….

    • Brian Sallee

      4K is a resolution, not a file type

  85. Ricardo Galvão

    wHY loose sugh enough time discusting these
    shoortinh what you want..
    as camera do not do the Jod, so do a file…

    The photographer is who makes the difference not the camera neither the files (raw or Jpeg)

  86. Chucky Bucky

    that dude got a eff up nose

  87. Carmon Williams

    This cleared up some things for me, I recently started shooting in RAW + JPEG and I found it really strange when I looked at the photos in windows photo viewer (JPEG’s) they’d look great, then I’d open light room and look at the RAW files and they’d suddenly look a lot worse. Now I know why this is haha

  88. Sakeenah

    That was a good reminder/tip on learning and knowing your audience. I tend to spend alot of time editing simple pics that could have just been shot in jpeg. Also, great article in terms of comparison. Very easy to follow and pretty thorough. Thanks!

  89. missy

    great tutorial/explanation for a beginner.Thanks!

  90. Lindsey

    I love JPEG. When I was first starting out people kept telling me how superior RAW is and so I would try it out, but I kept coming back to JPEG. My opinion is if you can capture a well exposed image with the correct white balance IN CAMERA then what’s so special about editing a RAW image? That being said, I do shoot RAW when needed (ie: low ight or other wonky lighting situations). Maybe someday I’ll change my mind, but for now I love me some JPEG.

    • Joanie Granola

      The reason so many say that RAW is superior is because of the amount of editing they do post production. Yes, you should get it right in the camera, but EVERY image can benefit from some sort of adjustment – however minor. It also depends on what you plan to do with your images — if you plan to make composites, RAW is the best way. If you just want to share your images on a monitor then JPEGs are fine.

      The other, most important, different between RAW and JPEG is how large you can print your images. There’s a definite loss of quality in a JPEG versus a RAW image when printed at sizes over 8×10.

  91. Mark Adams

    RAW RAW RAW 99% great article thanks

  92. Omar Spence

    When I shoot weddings or portraits, I shoot raw. I would rather have the additional image data than have to try to scavenge it from a JPEG. It takes more time, but these applications are both “results first” and I refuse to lower my standard to save a few minutes of processing time. For quick turnaround events like live performances, carnival road march and parties I use JPEG. These often require very little adjustment if any and can be put through a batch processing work-flow before being published.

  93. T R

    Thank you so much you answered it best i have seen via google.. This was a great article.. I am a beginning photographer with a Sony Nex 6 and being trying to learn Photoshop and Lightroom on my Mac.. thanks again.. i hope i can find more aritcles from you..

  94. Arnal Photography

    Very nice, concise article. Since you asked about things that may have been missed, perhaps a deeper discussion about white balance and colour correction which are a breeze in RAW but can be a nightmare in JPG.

  95. tonyc0101

    Just curious, why “SRAW + Medium JPEG”?

  96. Noel Kerns

    Generally a good article, but how can you write a piece on RAW vs JPG without mentioning what is arguably the most significant difference…the ability to manipulate white balance in post-production?

  97. Kim Terry

    Great article. The situational advice was superb! I learned a lot!

  98. Bill Vargas

    You show the differences of improper exposure. Now show the difference with a Raw versus a Jpeg, properly exposed exposure. Is there that much difference? BV

  99. ABC Fotoguiden | ABC fotoguide

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  100. What is so bad about RAW? - Page 9

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  103. RAW versus JPEG | Welcome to Pairodox Farm

    [...] images in RAW format, the D600 is. So, what? The following is from a piece which appears at the SLRLounge and it is presented here in an edited form. JPEG files are processed within the camera. While [...]

  104. Melanie

    Shoot. I thought I was going to get away with still being convinced that I can always shoot in JPEG and have my photos be decent… But then I got to examples 6 and 7 and I knew I was done. Congratulations, you’ve converted me to being a believer in RAW. :)

  105. Part 2 – Colour Management in the ‘real world’ | Colour Management

    [...] Depending on what you are going to do with the image will decipher what colour format to use. Print – CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) web – RGB  (red, green and blue) multimedia -RGB photography – RGB Usually the print technician will give the particular specifications they require prior to printing.  It is worthwhile going to a printer that can assist with editing as you may need some additional colour correcting on their computer before they send it to get printed. The paper or textile you choose may also altercate the final  printed product.  Some textiles or textured papers may have difficulty in producing particular shades of colour so again it is very important to choose a print technician who can advise the best paper for your desired outcome. References – http://dpbestflow.org http://www.slrlounge.com/raw-vs-jpeg-jpg-the-ultimate-visual-guide [...]

  106. RAW vs JPEG | Ψ Φ Ο

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  107. How to Color Correct a JPEG Landscape Image in Lightroom 4 - From the Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD | Photography Tutorials and Lightroom Tutorials by SLR Lounge

    [...] In this video from our Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD, we will demonstrate how to color correct a JPEG landscape image in Lightroom 4. We will also demonstrate how to convert the color corrected version of the JPEG landscape image into a black and white image. In this tutorial, we will also briefly explain the differences between shooting in RAW and JPEG. For a more in-depth explanation of the differences between RAW and JPEG, visit our article, “RAW vs. JPEG (JPG) – The Ultimate Visual Guide.” [...]

  108. JFM

    From general conversations with other camera owners, I knew RAW allowed for ‘more adjustment’, but I never really looked into the details of what *exactly* was ‘more adjustable’ until now.. Great info, nice and concise – and the visual comparisons help a ton – thanks for putting this together, awesome post.

  109. Vernon Chalmers

    Good article and great comparison. Still deciding what post software to use… Canon software or LR?

  110. MDW

    I’ve been shooting jpeg for many years (Nikon D300) qand spending untold hours in post-processing with Picassa. I think the results, in my opinion, are excellent. Now I know Picassa is free and not exotic, but it seems to satisfy. The questions are twofold: first, if I’m spending all that time anyway in post processing , shouldn’t I be shooting raw? Secondly, if I decide to stay with jpeg, can’t much of the difference between raw and jpeg be narrowed with better jpeg software – and if so, which program is superior to Picassa?

  111. Jackson

    Great article! Added. Thank you!

  112. Harry

    Some photographers told me that JPEG file from high megapixel camera will be the same or better than RAW from low MP camera because the high MP camera will capture more data. For example, fine JPEG from Nikon D800 (36 MP) will have 12 MB, the same size as RAW taken from Nikon D3100 (14 MP). So, you may not need RAW in the high MP camera because the high MP, the bigger sensor, etc will already produce superb quality. Agree? Disagree?

    • Studiogroup

      Hi… well, there are many point in question. For example, the pre-processing and equalizing from the camera is different from post production by your own. And, the noise reduction from jpg for compression process will be different from noise reduction in PS, but in the jpg you cant add original noise or grain. Also, there are not only tree point in equalization (see curves equalization in PS), than the jpg from cam will distort in some point this intermediate points. Further, as the level of compression reducts to a catalogue of pre-colors, not the real combination of all channels, the real colour will be different. IF, this make any difference in the case, depending of the object and purpose.

  113. The F Stops Here: JPEG vs RAW (and Why RAW Wins Every Time)

    […] argument for capturing images in RAW format is solid, and well-documented: in terms of technical specs and the ability to preserve the most data in your […]

  114. Matt

    For 10 years I’ve been shooting raw. Now with my 7D I shoot raw + JPEG and as the JPEG is so much smaller than the raw file my buffer and memory cards are virtually unaffected by the JPEG. The reason for shooting both is simple. When I’m snapping and not interested how it looks, I’m just after a visual record of something, the JPEG is perfect. But if I want to take a photo and spend some time working on it and getting it perfect the raw file gets used.

    Never let anyone say one is better than the other. It’s like saying a Ferrari is better than a transit van. It’s not better if you want to move a sofa! Use the correct format for the correct final product, shoot both. Is your 64gb card going to fill up noticeably faster shooting jpegs aswell? No. Shoot both.

    Raw has uses but so does JPEG.

    Good article though!

  115. Mark Gillett

    I like the article and is probably the best explanation I have read.. I come back to RAW out of guilt every few years but I must say that jpeg is given a bad rap most of the time… I have had a few exhibitions with prints over 1m. I have always shot my images in jpeg except when I have those guilt moments every few years.. All I do then is play with a few test shots then get back on with my jpeg life as a professional photographer..

    Essentially what is is important is what is the viewer looking for in an image.. pleasure. Twice had people come up to me at an exhibition and tell me how obvious it is I shoot RAW.. One also said he could see I used Adobe RGB settings too.. In fact everything was jpeg and sRGB.

    I think it is important to shoot what you love and do what you love.. If you love playing and tinkering and techy stuff, shoot raw and play tinker and get techy… If you like simple and to simply create great images with your camera, use jpeg.. Far simpler, far nicer out of the camera and with Lightroom you can do everything you can with RAW but will a bit less latitude..

  116. eurocameraman

    Each time I am reading this kind of article it makes me feel that the actual generation is totally ignoring the work done by previous generation of photographer, the one who worked without digital cameras and without post processing error correction capabilities in RAW format.
    From your point of view, in this article, it sounds like it was impossible to get the right shot before digital media bring you the assistant you seem to be in need for.
    Sorry to tell, I am 50 yo, and I did a career as Photojournalist in motorsport magazine from 1989 to 2005 and before going digital, I was able to do my job with manual camera, manual lenses while shooting ISO100 slides (no post processing capabilities and no headroom for errors compare to negative + printing process). Lighting conditions were changing as fast as today and Formula1, Rallye, 24h Le Mans, MX or speed motorcyle races had never been slow. I thinks the biggest difference between film vs digital area was how photographer in the past needed to master their craft before to call themselves professional.
    Considering RAW as a correcting exposure error tool is not a good start to improve quality of anyone work.

    • Stephen Williams

      I agree, I have been shooting for a considerably fewer number of years than yourself, and I also come from a photojournalistic background. On the other hand, I think that I am one of the few photographers on this blog who started shooting with film, and therefore know that digital photography is actually not the holy grail of photographic technology as others make it out to be.

  117. nikond800e

    At these age where in-camera jpeg processing is so good, it’s just plain silly to shoot raw

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  119. Mac Power Users 171: Photo Management | Mac Power Users

    […] RAW vs JPEG (JPG) – The Ultimate Visual Guide | SLR Lounge […]

  120. Ujwal

    I stopped shooting JPG after 2004 – 2005, back then – 256MB was my largest CF card :)

    Even when I can nail exposure, I cannot tell what will be the perfect WB by just looking at the scene – and custom WB is just too time consuming for me and that is the most important reason to shoot RAW.

    The only time, I would not bother shooting RAW is when I am using olympus or fuji X series cameras.

  121. JPEG Gets A Major Update - Now A Rival For RAW & TIFF?

    […] [REWIND:RAW vs JPEG (JPG) – The Ultimate Visual Guide] […]

  122. 新型 9.1 版 JPEG 無損壓縮演算法,影像細膩度直逼 RAW 檔格式 | MENSHK.com

    […] ▲RAW格式與現行JPEG直出的影像比較。照片非9.1版JPEG。(圖片來源:slrlounge) […]

  123. RAW vs. JPEG

    […] of comparisons and videos on this subject showing the benefits of shooting images in RAW format. CLICK HERE for an especially comprehensive comparison. The only comment I have to add is that the benefit of […]

  124. MENSHK.com

    […] ▲RAW格式與現行JPEG直出的影像比較。照片非9.1版JPEG。(圖片來源:slrlounge) […]

  125. Makenna

    This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something
    which helped me. Many thanks!

  126. Tipos de arquivos de imagem « Gabriel Bud.

    […] Comparação imagem RAW (reprodução) […]

  127. Stephen Williams

    I have been a professional photographer for five years, which means that I have been earning a living through my photography for that amount of time. I stopped shooting RAW a long time ago. In my opinion, there are a lot of myths and theories out there, but very few people who really know what it means to shoot in RAW or JPEG.

    I shoot weddings and corporate stuff, and I shoot it all in JPEG. The reason for this is that I come from a photojournalistic background, especially daily publications, where the photographer does have time to worry about editing the picture into something useful. Instead the photographer has to be proficient enough to get the exposure correct before taking the photograph. When you have learned to do that, the extra exposure latitude that RAW files give you over JPEG is superfluous.

    Which is why whenever I get the stare of shock from a photographer when they discover I dont shoot in RAW, it is normally from less experienced photographers.

  128. Nik

    Shoot RAW for important photographs. Why would anyone climb up a hill for 2 hours with a DSLR and tripod, then shoot the landscape with jpgs?

    I mostly use Jpgs for street, and indoor including weddings because it is mostly a controlled environment.

    Unless you post-process your images heavily or not experienced enough, use RAW to make adjustments.

    Or.. just shoot Raw+Jpeg if you can’t decide.

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  131. Charles

    On the other hand, we spend untold thousands for our camera bodies and yet shoot raw which is bypassing all that technology in image processing that is in the camera software – where engineers who know more than we do, invent and put in the camera. I shoot raw at times and jpegs most times. Shooting jpegs teaches you to be more careful of exposure, white balance, etc and not just spray the scene with the finger down on the shutter getting 10 shots of the same scene and praying one will be good to process. Photoshop ACR can also process jpegs better than you think and you can make a preset to even change the white balance in a jpeg so shooting that format is not as bad as this article makes it out to be. ACR brings out more detail and does more with exposure than you would think impossible.

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  133. MasterWhite Photography - Page 2

    […] sure if that camera will shoot raw, but either way, this should help you: RAW vs JPEG (JPG) – The Ultimate Visual Guide Reply   Reply With […]

  134. Ricky Cain

    I have found SD card wise to overcome the buffer bottleneck is to use UHS I 45 megs & 95 Meg speeds. I have never hit the buffer when the card is faster then the buffer. In which I shoot with a T3

    • Joe Martin

      yes but once you step up to a Pro body and shot 6+ frames a sec you will for sure be running out of camera buffer if you just hold the shutter down. I find that a few short burst work just as well and almost never fill the buffers on either end

  135. Michele Saldo

    I’m at total amateur, using Canon 60D and Apple Aperture. So far I have used to shoot RAW to keep a better chance to post-process my pictures. However, as far as I understand this article, RAW not only give me this better chance, but also requires me to do the post-processing, that the camera otherwise would do for me, creating the jpeg. Otherwise I will only get very boring “negatives”.

    A friend of mine told my always to shoot RAW, and then make the jpeg on the computer, since it would have a much better processing power than the camera.

    So my question is:
    In order to get an even better post-processing, than the Camera can offer me in the cameras jpeg, can I just press the auto-enhance-button in Aperture? Or is that not the same thing?

  136. Mazie

    Hello! I realize this is sort of off-topic but I needed to ask.
    Does managing a well-established website like yours take a massive amount work?
    I’m brand new to writing a blog but I do write in my diary every day.

    I’d like to start a blog so I will be able to share my personal experience and views online.
    Please let me know if you have any kind of suggestions or tips for brand new aspiring bloggers.
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  137. Alex

    i’ve shoot with both and i realize there is nothing wrong using any of them and its useless to fighting because of it.

  138. Lilian

    Hello, this weekend is good in support of me, because this occasion i am reading
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  139. JOHN G

    Thank you for the great article! I think the issue of space is glossed over, however. Yes, we have lots of very cheap memory card space nowadays but that isn’t the whole story. It’s just the start. When the large files are loaded onto your computer disk the RAW files consume a lot of space. Multiply that times a lifetime and/or career of shooting fast and loose and you have a giant disk and backup problem. Who has time to go through and delete all of the unwanted images? And how about the performance of file managers like iPhoto or Aperture, and so forth? If we shoot RAW+JPEG that doubles the number of files and quadruples the amount of space. Multiply that times 10,000 or 50,000 photos and things slow down on your computer. How many people have listened to their backup disks rattling while the system is slowing way down, and anyway forget about cloud backup. I think efficiency should be a bigger consideration.

  140. Christine Einarsson

    Truly one of the best articles I’ve ever read.
    I can and will mark this article as a true aha moment in my photography lifer without hesitation. Thank you for this.

  141. Jeff Lopez

    Just took the RAW or JPEG quiz and I’m pretty surprised that only 64% shoot in RAW… I realize some people just simply don’t have the time for any processing or the files may be too big for a particular project, but in my opinion you can always turn a RAW file into something “web ready” or you can always compress them down to something smaller, but you can never do the opposite so just shoot in RAW!

  142. Joe Martin

    sharing this one in my fb photo group. thanks

  143. Mark Mirandilla

    enlightening article…thanks for sharing, cheers!!!

  144. Getting the Sky Right by shooting in RAW | Evolutionyst's Weblog

    […] To contend with clouds, wind, shadows and other tricky lighting situations, I’ve taken to shooting in RAW.  For most photographers and enthusiasts, this is not new territory.  If you’re new to photography,  you can learn a bit about RAW vs. JPEG formats here: http://www.slrlounge.com/school/raw-vs-jpeg-jpg-the-ultimate-visual-guide/ […]

  145. Daniel Gibson

    So I pretty much do photography as a hobby, I really enjoy it and have taken the occasional good shot but otherwise there is no pro in me. What is the best to use if I am looking for good quality photos? I do remember that both can be useful.

  146. Tiffany Bonnell

    Definately cleared up this issue for me, I always thought the same not much difference. Now I can see the difference, i love post production because there is so much you can do with it now a days. As long as you get the photo you want and good lighting/quality etc etc… Post production much easier with raw then Jpeg. I have found a couple images I love on my camera didnt turn out quite the way I wanted or post production just destroyed the image quality. Raw is a good way to go and then just save new file in Jpeg format, and never save over original image. Learned that one quickly too :)

  147. Rafael Steffen

    Thanks again Pye for providing us with a very detailed explanation of RAW vs JPEG files. Now I understand why raw files look flat when comes out of the camera, but to compensate, there is a lot of shadow details that you can pull off.

  148. Kayode Olorunfemi

    Cant remember the last time I shot only Jpeg…

  149. Anthony Hall

    Why would you shoot anything other than RAW, gives you so much more control over your photography!

  150. Iancu Cristian

    Many thanks for the details and explanations offered. At the moment I can see the differences. Thanks a lot. Regards.

  151. Stephen Caserta

    What if you shot with an extremely flat style jpeg such as cinestyle? Would that be beneficial or detrimental to post processing?

  152. Jeff Morrison

    thanks for sharing, Great read

  153. Derek Bailey

    As a semi-pro photographer, who has trained under some real pros I find the RAW debate just un believable. Are there some cases where you may want to shoot raw +JPEG. Certainly. High fashion, product photography. Maybe wedding if it is a real tough shoot lighting wise. The RAW file might save your bacon. But as a few journalists have stated here, get to know your camera, set your colors and exposure. Film photographers did not spend 5-25 min per image “post-production” not do the pro print shops. You have been sold a lie.
    *this is how I read this article after seeing the light of “photography” and getting away from post production.
    *
    Welcome to modern photography.
    Buy photoshop then spend more time learning how to fix images.
    Then
    Buy the best lens / glass you can afford and the best camera body.
    Now set it to auto for everything,
    For every image you keep, spend 5-25 min correcting.
    *you are now a “modern raw photographer
    We let the camera capture the image, then we fix it, because we don’t trust cannon, Nikon, sony, Olympus , Pentax … To make good image software in there camera. Nor do we learn the fundamentals from those who went before us.

    Those of us who have seen the light, learned our camera bodies, and metering, white balance, grey scale, and the classic art of photography choose to spend more time capturing and less time processing.

    Enjoy your laptop, I’ll enjoy photography. Thanks.
    If you need to pixel peep an image that may not be acceptable at 2′ x 3′. You might want to move up to medium or large format cameras.

    We do post process: straighten, possibly brighten, crop. Done.
    No one has ever commented since we switched.

    *We do use raw when needed, but that represents less than 100 photos out of the last 10,000.

  154. Sathiaseelan Pitchai

    While shooting friends and families it’s always good to shoot in RAM+Jpeg mode as we can give the Jpeg pictures immediately for them to view , where as while shooting Landscape I prefer to just use RAW mode as I can take my own time to EDIT them to the fullest capacity.

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