RAW vs JPEG (Which is Better)

January 22, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

TLDR;  RAW is better than JPEG.

I started my photography with a film camera and my entry to digital was with a basic point and shoot camera.  RAW was not an option in my early digital path.  Once I started getting more serious and purchased an entry-level DLSR I still did not make the switch to RAW.   I think that is a normal progression for an enthusiast.  Some may be happy with JPEG only and I was for quite some time.

So, what made me move to RAW.  To be honest, I did not need RAW until I started taking more photos and started looking for editing programs to use.  I started with PhotoShop Elements and was upgrading most every year for about 100 dollars for each upgrade.  I hardly scratched the surface since I was only editing JPEG files and I was happy to this point.

At this point, I was still in discovery mode, but the number of photos I was taking was increasing to a volume that I needed a program to help catalog my work.  This is when I found Lightroom and began using it only for its cataloging feature.  The cost of Elements was more than the annual subscription for both LightRoom and PhotoShop making the decision to switch an easy decision.  Little did I know, Lightroom would become my main editing tool.  As I started using PhotoShop to edit my photos, I found it very powerful but cumbersome.  PhotoShop is much better than LightRoom for some tasks, but Lightroom is great for adjusting exposure, lighting, cropping, and other minor edits.

It was after started learning the power of editing a RAW.  With RAW photos I could adjust white balance after the fact, I could change exposure, I could pull part of the photo up from underexposure, or pull it down from overexposure (be aware if it is too overexposed there is nothing to recover).  You may think you can do the same with JPEG and you can.  But understand that a JPEG is a compressed version of the RAW image.  This means there is data loss to get the compressed version and trying to recover information from an image with missing information is not going to be as good.

So what should you shoot?  RAW?  JPEG?  Well, it depends.  For my puzzle timelapse projects I shoot a low-quality JPEG because I may have 2,000 to 4,000 photos to compress into a 30-second timelapse.  For about everything else I shoot in RAW.

There are some drawbacks to RAW and that is mainly the file size of the images.  A JPEG on my camera is about 5-10MB while the RAW images are 30-40MB in size.   To store my photos I have several large external hard drives to back up my photos and also subscribe to backblaze for my online backup solution.

There are more options to consider.  When I first started shooting in RAW I discovered my camera could capture both RAW and JPEG.  I went with that option.  I mean, why not let the camera create all the JPEGs for me.  So, while I was shooting in RAW I rarely even looked at them.  I was still just doing minor edits on my JPEGs and sharing.

My final step was to stop saving JPEGs and had my camera set to only capture RAW images.  This actually saves a lot of disk space for me.  If you recall above I was increasing the number of photos and storying both RAW and JPEG was not necessary.  I now cull through my images and may only export a few images out of a 500 picture photoshoot.

As with many of my blog posts my YouTube channel has similar information.  This time they compliment each other.  Here, I do not go into much detail about file sizes and image quality.  And the video, I show how to set your camera to RAW, JPEG, and choose the quality level of the images.  Be sure to check out my YouTube Video.

The video will be posted Thursday, January 27th at 8:30 AM.  I will update this post when it goes live.  For now, here is the first video in that series.

Update with link to the video:  Click here for video.



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