We’re teaming up with Adorama to bring you a new series of photography tutorials called “Master Your Craft” to be featured on their YouTube Channel. Subscribe to see more of our videos on their channel throughout the next couple of months that will cover photography, lighting, posing, and editing education to help you hone your skills and master your craft.

In this episode, we’ll teach you when to shoot RAW vs. Jpeg using the popular photo-editing software, Adobe Lightroom and our Visual Flow Retouching Kit. Edit along with Pye and download the RAW file used in the video here before starting the video tutorial.

1. Understanding Differences in Quality

Raw doesn’t necessarily mean “better”.  In fact straight out of camera, a RAW file may actually look worse than your in camera Jpeg. What it gives you, is more information. And that’s where that quality comes from, because we get much more information and flexibility to work with in post.

2. Shooting in Jpeg Will Limit Your Dynamic Range

When compared to RAW files, you’ll have difficulty lifting shadows and retaining highlights in your image, if you intend to do any post processing. A Raw file, when exposed properly is just going to retain a lot more information, allowing you to balance out your image much easier and better.

Highlight Shadows Comparison
Raw vs Jpeg – Highlights & Shadows

3. White Balance

When shooting in Jpeg, you don’t get a true “white balance” when compared to a RAW file. What you get is effectively a filter that adobe is using inside of lightroom to apply a warming and cooling function to the image. While it can work well, it’s not the same thing as true white balance as you’d work with in RAW, thus limiting the amount of changes you can make.

4. Picture Style Matters When Shooting Jpeg. Not When Shooting RAW

When shooting in Jpeg, the in-camera picture settings are applied to the image, effectively already making it “processed.” Every camera has their own line up of “presets” that are applied to a jpeg when you load them into your processing programs like Lightroom. The difference here is with RAW, while these profiles or presets are applied to the preview on the back of your camera, none of that get transferred into Lightroom. When it comes in, all it does is keep the underlying exposure and white balance.

5. Dial In The Exact Exposure and White Balance When Shooting Jpeg

When you’re shooting in jpeg, it’s very important you get things precise! Raw gives you much more flexibility to “fix things in post”

The Decision Tree

  1. Are you going to process the images?
    • If you intend to process, then use raw! If not, then save yourself some space and time by shooting in jpeg. Just make sure to get your exposure and white balance perfect in camera!
  2. Do you want flexibility in post down the line?
    • Do you need some of the images right now? But you still want to work on the post to get to the best images possible later? Then shoot in RAW + Jpeg. This will slow the camera down a little bit and obviously use up more space on your memory card, but what this will give you is processed jpegs in camera so if you need to send these off right away you have them available, and you also have the RAW files so you can process them later for your portfolio or printing purposes.
  3. Is Size, Speed, and Workflow the Ultimate Priority?
    • In situations like Associated Press function like news or sports photography, the ultimate goal is to get the images into the library as quick as possible so they can be “printed” as quickly as possible. Speed and efficiency is the most important thing in this situation, so shooting Jpeg makes the most sense here. But keep in mind, they’re dialing in the white balance and exposure settings precisely as needed so all they need to do is cull and export!
  4. Are You Shooting The Family BBQ?
    • It could be any function or setting, but you don’t _need_ to create all that workflow stress when you’re just shooting images for your friends or family dinner/event. Do you really need 40-60Mp of data to bring out all the dynamic range of the bbq sauce on the children’s faces?


There’s a function and use for raw and jpeg functionality. It’s not always best to only shoot raw, and there are scenarios when you don’t want to be shooting jpeg but there are uses for each! So we hope this video helped dial that in for you guys.

adorama slrlounge raw vs jpeg exercise fileadorama slrlounge raw vs jpeg exercise file 2

Whether you are new to Lightroom or you’ve been using it for years, there is always something to learn about this software that will make your post-production process more efficient and help speed up your workflow. This is why we created our Mastering Lightroom Course, designed to help you post-produce with ease and efficiency. Catch our next episode of Mastering Your Craft on Adorama’s YouTube channel next Friday!