The choice between RAW and JPEG is one that comes across a digital photographer’s mind continually throughout their career. Coming from a point-and-shoot that shoots JPEG only to a DSLR that can shoot RAW, can be daunting, trust me I was there once; so were most professionals. RAW image formats are like Plasticine, they are pliable, reactive, and can be picked up years later and still be flexible. JPEG files are like Play-Doh: they are more popular, less work is required to get them in shape, but after use and abuse the medium starts to degrade.
Digital cameras convert images on the fly with specialized hardware to take image data from the sensor and create a ‘cooked’ product easy for consumption. Sometimes the camera gets overzealous with the contrast or sharpening and there is no way to fix that easily. Photo-progressing software like Lightroom, can finesse RAW images to your liking and can compress them with more powerful hardware.
The RAW file retains all the information from your camera’s sensor that would otherwise be thrown away in compressed image formats, like JPEG. In the video below, Karl Taylor shows what information can be recovered from a raw file and how much information is actually lost, especially in the highlights and shadows.
Taylor’s example only touches briefly on this highly debated subject. If you are looking for a more detailed real-time example it would be difficult to find a better source of information than our RAW vs JPEG – The Complete Visual Guide. Its purpose is to fully explain the uses of shooting JPEG – other than having a great looking image SOOC (straight out of camera) – and the benefits of RAW in real-world situations, with direct side-by-side comparisons.
Source: Karl Taylor