PetaPixel

Why You Should Shoot Photos in RAW

Shooting in JPG mode is convenient because you instantly have a file you can throw onto the Internet, but if you’re serious about photography, you might want to think about shooting in RAW if you aren’t already. The reason is that only shooting JPG is the equivalent of letting the camera make a print for you and then tossing the negative — something film photographers would never do. Here’s a simple diagram by Haje Jan Kamps and Reddit user jannne to help you understand the differences.


 
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  • http://www.flickr.com/avaviel Avaviel

    This is also a reason to buy a few of those 2TB HDs.

  • http://www.flickr.com/avaviel Avaviel

    This is also a reason to buy a few of those 2TB HDs.

  • Blablabla

    Dang right!

  • http://www.benjacobsenphoto.com Ben Jacobsen

    if you want to make a film analogy, fine, but please use a better one.  JPEGs = chromes, RAWs = negatives.  There are good reasons to use both options actually, if you can’t understand the merits of one OR the other, you’ve got an issue of your own.  There are times when speed is crucial and the added speed of JPEGs are a must.  In these situations, the photographer’s skill must be able to overcome the challenges JPEGs (and chromes in the film days) present.  Nail your exposure and pick the right film/WB&contrast settings and there isn’t really an issue with them.  If you don’t have a time crunch, then shoot either RAW and spend the time later, or shoot RAW & JPEG and only spend the time on the images that need more work or more latitude.  For the record, I shoot a lot of both, I use RAWs when I’m working, but when I shoot for myself or shoot anything where I’ll be shooting large QTYs of images, then JPEGs come into play.  Sometimes the camera can actually surprise me with it’s out of the camera processing. 
    $.02
    YMMV

  • http://www.benjacobsenphoto.com Ben Jacobsen

    if you want to make a film analogy, fine, but please use a better one.  JPEGs = chromes, RAWs = negatives.  There are good reasons to use both options actually, if you can’t understand the merits of one OR the other, you’ve got an issue of your own.  There are times when speed is crucial and the added speed of JPEGs are a must.  In these situations, the photographer’s skill must be able to overcome the challenges JPEGs (and chromes in the film days) present.  Nail your exposure and pick the right film/WB&contrast settings and there isn’t really an issue with them.  If you don’t have a time crunch, then shoot either RAW and spend the time later, or shoot RAW & JPEG and only spend the time on the images that need more work or more latitude.  For the record, I shoot a lot of both, I use RAWs when I’m working, but when I shoot for myself or shoot anything where I’ll be shooting large QTYs of images, then JPEGs come into play.  Sometimes the camera can actually surprise me with it’s out of the camera processing. 
    $.02
    YMMV

  • Jim

    I agree 100% with Ben. the JPEG is not a bad tool, you just have to know when and how to use it correctly.
    Jim Landers
    San Antonio, Texas

  • http://www.photoblog.com/smbunation Mike

    If you scratch your head and wonder why… then just shoot JPG…

  • QJ

    I agree with Ben as well and also shoot one or the other or the combo depending on the situation.

  • QJ

    I agree with Ben as well and also shoot one or the other or the combo depending on the situation.

  • Ed

    Like everything else, just pick the right tool for the right job. If you even know you have an alternative to JPG, then the chances are good you know enough to make the decision.

  • http://twitter.com/pete_boyd Pete Boyd

    I don’t see why any of you would ever choose just to shoot JPEG. If you’re intending to use the JPEG, you should still shoot JPEG+RAW in case you get an image that’s really good and you may want to use for other things later on than the current intention.
    If you don’t know what a RAW file is you should _still_ be shooting RAW+JPEG because later on in time you likely _will_ learn to work with them and you’ll handily have RAW files of all your old photographs.
    Surely the niche situation of needing maximum fps is the only time to just choose JPEG. Disk space is cheap.

  • http://twitter.com/pete_boyd Pete Boyd

    I don’t see why any of you would ever choose just to shoot JPEG. If you’re intending to use the JPEG, you should still shoot JPEG+RAW in case you get an image that’s really good and you may want to use for other things later on than the current intention.
    If you don’t know what a RAW file is you should _still_ be shooting RAW+JPEG because later on in time you likely _will_ learn to work with them and you’ll handily have RAW files of all your old photographs.
    Surely the niche situation of needing maximum fps is the only time to just choose JPEG. Disk space is cheap.

  • http://twitter.com/pete_boyd Pete Boyd

    I don’t see why any of you would ever choose just to shoot JPEG. If you’re intending to use the JPEG, you should still shoot JPEG+RAW in case you get an image that’s really good and you may want to use for other things later on than the current intention.
    If you don’t know what a RAW file is you should _still_ be shooting RAW+JPEG because later on in time you likely _will_ learn to work with them and you’ll handily have RAW files of all your old photographs.
    Surely the niche situation of needing maximum fps is the only time to just choose JPEG. Disk space is cheap.

  • Anonymous

    With Microsoft’s new codec pack, there’s no need to shoot in JPEG at all.

  • Anonymous

    With Microsoft’s new codec pack, there’s no need to shoot in JPEG at all.

  • Corros
  • Guest

    For sport photography and fast action, I prefer using JPEG.

  • Peter van den Hamer

    http://peter.vdhamer.com/2011/05/09/technical-tips-for-amateur-photographers/

    This contains test images from a Canon 5D Mark II that were saved by the camera in both formats. You can hover over them with the mouse to make the images switch back and forth between formats.

    The summary is that, apart from the well-known loss of dynamic range, the difference in image detail under pretty ideal conditions is surprisingly visible – providing that use have pretty good lenses. I expect that other brands will give similar results, but I haven’t checked. Whether you care about the differences, is up to you.

  • http://twitter.com/corrosphoto Cor Oskam

    because of faster writespeed? That’s only working when all auto-editing of the jpeg’s is turned of. When shooting with for example the Canon EOS 7D with the correction (like distortion, CA) turned on, it only shoots 3fps

  • http://twitter.com/corrosphoto Cor Oskam

    because of faster writespeed? That’s only working when all auto-editing of the jpeg’s is turned of. When shooting with for example the Canon EOS 7D with the correction (like distortion, CA) turned on, it only shoots 3fps

  • Seriesrover

    I agree – the *only* possible reason to use JPG is if you have to do a lot of bursts a lot of the time and even then thats an edge case that the vast majority of people can ignore.  The Canon 7D can sustain a decent fps in RAW for a couple of seconds.  I’d be interested what use cases there are when you need more than that.  For everything else there is no advantage to JPG.

    RAW doesn’t force you to *have* to post-process manually – it gives you the option.  If you need to get things out quickly then you can batch export to JPG with a bunch of presets in a few mins; and you also get to chose a bunch more export parameters too.  But more than that, any time to process a RAW -> JPG is dwarfed by the time one spends sorting out the shots in the first place.

    I often hear from people in the RAW v. JPG that JPG has its uses, but I must admit, I’ve yet to hear any specifics.

  • Seriesrover

    I agree – the *only* possible reason to use JPG is if you have to do a lot of bursts a lot of the time and even then thats an edge case that the vast majority of people can ignore.  The Canon 7D can sustain a decent fps in RAW for a couple of seconds.  I’d be interested what use cases there are when you need more than that.  For everything else there is no advantage to JPG.

    RAW doesn’t force you to *have* to post-process manually – it gives you the option.  If you need to get things out quickly then you can batch export to JPG with a bunch of presets in a few mins; and you also get to chose a bunch more export parameters too.  But more than that, any time to process a RAW -> JPG is dwarfed by the time one spends sorting out the shots in the first place.

    I often hear from people in the RAW v. JPG that JPG has its uses, but I must admit, I’ve yet to hear any specifics.

  • Seriesrover

    I agree – the *only* possible reason to use JPG is if you have to do a lot of bursts a lot of the time and even then thats an edge case that the vast majority of people can ignore.  The Canon 7D can sustain a decent fps in RAW for a couple of seconds.  I’d be interested what use cases there are when you need more than that.  For everything else there is no advantage to JPG.

    RAW doesn’t force you to *have* to post-process manually – it gives you the option.  If you need to get things out quickly then you can batch export to JPG with a bunch of presets in a few mins; and you also get to chose a bunch more export parameters too.  But more than that, any time to process a RAW -> JPG is dwarfed by the time one spends sorting out the shots in the first place.

    I often hear from people in the RAW v. JPG that JPG has its uses, but I must admit, I’ve yet to hear any specifics.

  • SDMarshall

    I think that in the battle against RAW, JPEG just got *puts on sunglasses*
    a Smackdown!

  • http://twitter.com/zeptom Joakim Bidebo

    If you just use the default sharpness you also need to turn off the PP sharpness in your RAW converter (LR/ACR apply some default settings to all RAWs) if you going to compare those two.

    It’s not that easy to be able to compare a RAW and JPEG side by side.

    What you are comparing is not RAW Vs JPEG tho, it’s more your PP application Vs Canon 5D Mark II.

    Don’t get me wrong tho, I always shoot RAW, don’t see no point of letting the camera do my editing when applications like PS CS and LR exist that do the work a lot better.

  • http://twitter.com/Soiden Sebastián Soto

    You may not have a compatible camera, though.

  • Peter van den Hamer

    > need to turn off the Post-Processor’s sharpness in your RAW converter

    Note that the camera also does (somewhat adjustable) sharpening on JPGs. So using the manufacturer’s default settings on both seems fair. Especially given that sharpening comes at a cost: you can both under- and over-sharpen. Furthermore, the camera hardware (notably the AA filter) was presumably designed with the assumption of some degree of “capture” sharpening.

    > the result will always be different depending on what application one uses to view the RAW-data

    Indeed. But the differences between Raw convertors seem more subtle than the difference between Raw and JPG.

    Thanks, Peter.

  • Jim

    Here’s one use that I use jpg exclusively for:  Events where the organizer needs to put the images online immediately for PR purposes. Here is what I do in this instance: I photograph in jpg, as soon as the event is over I go to my stand alone CD burner and burn them a CD. Within five minutes of the end of the event they have a usable CD. (If I gave them RAW, they wouldn’t know what the heck to do with it, and lets just say they did, it would take extra time to convert them for web-use.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=570832408 Stefan Heymanns

    But then, why not shoot both RAW+JPEG? You can still download the JPEG images and burn them to a disk. 

    However, let’s say you shoot only JPEG and you took an underexposed shot that was otherwise really amazing.  Your event organizer loves it so much, he would like to use for a magazine print.  Without RAW, you have a much harder time to fix up the image to an acceptable quality, if it is possible at all.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=570832408 Stefan Heymanns

    But then, why not shoot both RAW+JPEG? You can still download the JPEG images and burn them to a disk. 

    However, let’s say you shoot only JPEG and you took an underexposed shot that was otherwise really amazing.  Your event organizer loves it so much, he would like to use for a magazine print.  Without RAW, you have a much harder time to fix up the image to an acceptable quality, if it is possible at all.  

  • http://sljonesdigital.com SLJonesDigital

    I know several photographers who should never be allowed to shoot RAW.

  • Jim

    PLEASE NOTE: This is a general reply (not directed to Stefan)

    Stand Alone CD Burners: You cannot take out the RAW images – so their CD would have the RAW images also. I do not want to confuse my clients, my job is to make it extremely quick and easy for them.

    Why is everyone trying to “FIX” images after the photography? I waste enough time not to have to “FIX them in Photoshop, lightroom, etc” – I have a digital artist on staff, this is what he told me just last week, “your exposures are 99% spot on. I have never worked with anyone who gets exposure so consistently right!”
    Generally speaking, if we as photographers will take classes and really learn and become comfortable with our equipment, then we will spend less time “fixing” things.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=570832408 Stefan Heymanns

    Good point about the standalone CD burners.  I always burn straight from my laptop, so never considered that.

    In regards to fixing photos.  I am not saying that I expect photos to be fixed.  I am worried about that one time they need to be.  I mostly shoot weddings and things happen in the matter of seconds.  Most of the time everything works out perfect, but there are always the moments when I don’t get to plan my shot. I hate not being able to give the clients the heartwarming shot of grandma hugging the bride, just because I didn’t shoot RAW.

  • http://twitter.com/corrosphoto Cor Oskam

    and why is that?

  • http://twitter.com/corrosphoto Cor Oskam

    and why is that?

  • Just another photographer

    Who cares, most mortals won’t even notice or care about it.

  • Anonymous

    I shoot RAW 95% of the time for the benefits, but here’s an example of RAW being overkill:

    I shot a timelapse with my D700 and a 14-24mm lens while driving. Total shots taken: about 2000. In fully uncompressed 14 bit RAW, that’s about 25mb each file, equaling roughly 50 gigs of 12.1 megapixel shots at a resolution far greater than required for 720p HD video.

    So what did I do? turned off the RAW and shot at the lowest resolution (3 megapixels), and then I STILL had to reduce them in Lightroom, but the Hard disk space used was minute, and the batch processing time for all 2000 shots was super fast. After some exposure contrast and saturation adustments, i exported them all and popped them straight into Adobe Premiere Pro.

    Here’s the final product: http://www.youtube.com/user/NasKarasPhoto#p/a/u/0/oq3g_HhmywQ

  • Pasquale Caminiti

    there were millions of amazing photographs produced in jpeg format, not to mention film, before RAW came along. I’m guessing the world of photography can get along quite nicely without it.

  • James

    Apart from 2mb file compared to 18mb file? For the average photographer that just wants decent photos from a decent camera set on auto, and not having to post process every photo from the last 2 months when finally getting around to clearing out the memory card, I’m sorry but last thing I want to do is post process 200 photos at 18mb a time! I brought a decent camera to take quality photos on auto, not to mess around with it! All these examples, really no-one can tell unless you put them side by side, which no-one does anyway. Bunch of presets in a few minutes? Sorry but how is that easier than connecting a camera to your laptop and copying photos to your photo folder? I’m a graphic designer so I understand the difference. The arguement of RAW or JPEG is simple: want to take good photos on any camera – DSLR, Compact, shooot JPEG. Want to take better photos and post process? RAW.