RAW vs JPEG

The RAW vs JPEG topic seems like a never ending debate in photography. Some photographers say shoot RAW, while others say shoot JPEG. What is RAW format in digital photography? What are the advantages and disadvantages of RAW versus JPEG and why? Should you shoot in RAW or JPEG? Will shooting in RAW complicate your post-production and workflow? These are some of the most common questions that people ask after they buy their first DSLR camera and go through the camera options. Having a thorough understanding of advantages and disadvantages is essential for photographers to make the right decision on whether to use RAW format for their work.

RAW Sand Dunes

Sand Dunes - Shot in RAW

I remember my first time going through the camera options and reading the Nikon D80 manual, wondering about what RAW does and why I should consider using it. JPEG is a no-brainer – it’s the default image format that is used in most point and shoot cameras and we all got used to it and know it very well, seeing and sharing JPEG images online and downloading/uploading them from and to our mobile devices. But there was something about RAW that I wanted to find out about immediately. Maybe it was the word “raw” that sounded intriguing, maybe it was the immediate desire to get the sharpest, highest quality and best pictures ever without knowing much about the camera…whatever it was, I went ahead and changed my camera settings to RAW and tried to take a picture. The first thing I noticed, was how small all of a sudden my memory card became. Wait a second! How come the number of pictures went down from over 700 to under 200? The image looked exactly the same on the LCD and yet it consumed more than three times more memory? Bummer. Then, I took the memory card and inserted it into my laptop. To my surprise, I couldn’t even open the darn thing! Worthless, I thought and changed my camera settings back to JPEG.

Sounds familiar? If you are in a similar situation, do not make the mistake of abandoning RAW as I once did and read on. You truly need to understand all advantages and disadvantages of both formats before making the decision, because you might be sorry that you didn’t later.

1) What is RAW?

RAW images, also known as “digital negatives” are virtually unprocessed files coming directly from the camera sensor. They are truly “raw”, just like your food ingredients that need to be prepared and cooked before they can be used. Unlike JPEG files that can be easily opened, viewed and printed by most image-viewing/editing programs, RAW is a proprietary format that is tied to the camera manufacturer and sensor, and therefore is not supported by all software products. RAW files preserve the most amount of information about an image and generally contain more colors and dynamic range than JPEG images. To allow digital cameras to display the recorded image on the rear LCD, RAW files typically consist of two parts – the actual RAW data from the camera sensor and a processed JPEG preview. Many image-viewing applications, including the camera LCD, then use this JPEG preview embedded into the RAW file to display the image to you.

1.1) Advantages of RAW format

  1. Compared to 8-bit JPEG format that can only contain up to 256 shades of Red, Green and Blue colors (total of 16 million), 12-bit RAW images contain the most amount of information with 4,096 shades or Red, Green and Blue (equivalent of 68 billion colors!) and higher. On my Nikon D700, I can record 14-bit RAW files, which equates to roughly 4.3 trillion possible colors. That’s a lot of colors compared to 16 million!
  2. RAW files contain the most dynamic range (ratio between the maximum and minimum measurable light intensities of light and black) and can later be used to recover underexposed/overexposed images or parts of an image.
  3. When a RAW image is generated, all camera settings (also known as metadata), including camera-specific and manufacturer-specific information, are just added into the file. This means that the image itself remains unmodified – the settings are only provided as a reference and you can make any changes to them later in post-processing applications like Lightroom and Photoshop. This is a huge advantage of using RAW, because if you accidentally use a wrong setting (like White Balance) on your camera, you will still have an option to change it later.
  4. Due to the number of colors stored in RAW images, the type of in-camera Color Space (sRGB or Adobe RGB) is also not important when you shoot in RAW – you can change it to any color space in post-production.
  5. Unlike JPEG, RAW files utilize lossless compression, meaning they do not suffer from image-compression artifacts.
  6. No image-sharpening is performed on RAW files, which means that you can use better and more complex sharpening algorithms for your photos in your PC.
  7. RAW files can be used as evidence of your ownership of the photograph and authentic, non-modified images. If you saw an alien and took a photo in RAW, nobody would be able to say that you used Photoshop to add the alien to your picture :)

1.2) Disadvantages of RAW format

  1. RAW files require post-processing and conversion before they can be normally viewed, which adds a significant amount of time to workflow.
  2. RAW takes up much more camera memory and space than JPEG images. This means that memory card can store fewer images and camera buffer can quickly fill up, causing the camera frame rate to drop down significantly. You will also need more RAM and much more disk storage on your computer to keep RAW images.
  3. RAW files are not standardized across different manufacturers. For example, Nikon software cannot read Canon RAW files and vice-versa. In addition, not all image-viewers and editors can open RAW files. If you have a brand new camera that just got released, you might need to wait for a while for software companies to catch up and update their software so that your RAW files could be opened and worked on.
  4. You will have to convert RAW files to a compatible format like JPEG or TIFF before you can give them to your friends and clients, as they might not have the tools to view them.
  5. Because RAW files cannot be modified by third party software, your settings will have to be stored in a separate sidecar (XMP) file, which again means more storage and tougher file management (unless you convert your RAW files to DNG).
  6. Due to the size of RAW images, archiving/backup procedure takes much more time.

2) What is JPEG?

JPEG is the most popular image format for photographs today, capable of displaying millions of colors in a highly compressed file. The compression method JPEG uses is “lossy”, which means that certain information is removed from the image. Different levels of compression (in percentage) can be applied on JPEG images, which impacts the quality and size of the image. The more details are preserved, the larger the file.

2.1) Advantages of JPEG format

  1. JPEG images are fully processed in camera and all settings such as White Balance, Color Saturation, Tone Curve, Sharpening and Color Space are already applied to the image. So you do not need to spend any time on post-processing the image – all you need to do is extract the image out of the memory card and it is ready to use.
  2. JPEG images are much smaller than RAW images and therefore consume a lot less storage and need much less processing power.
  3. Due to the smaller size, cameras can write JPEG files much faster, which increases the number of pictures that can fit in temporary camera buffer. This means that compared to RAW, you can potentially shoot at higher frames per second and for longer periods of time.
  4. Most modern devices and software packages support JPEG images, making the format extremely compatible.
  5. Digital cameras provide different compression and size options for saving JPEG images, giving you the flexibility and choice over image quality and size.
  6. Smaller size also means faster and more efficient backups.

2.2) Disadvantages of JPEG format

  1. The “lossy” compression algorithm means that you will lose some detail from your photographs. This loss of detail, especially in highly compressed files, will show up in images as “artifacts” and will be quite visible to the eye.
  2. JPEG images are 8-bit, which puts a limitation of 16 million possible colors. This means that all those other colors that your camera is capable of recording are essentially discarded, when the image is converted to JPEG format.
  3. JPEG images also contain less dynamic range than RAW images, which means that recovering overexposed/underexposed images and shadow areas will be extremely difficult and sometimes impossible.
  4. Since cameras fully process JPEG images, any camera setting errors will be practically irreversible. For example, if you apply too much sharpening to your images, you will not be able to “unsharpen” images later.

3) Should you use RAW or JPEG?

Let’s now move on to the most important question – should you be using RAW or JPEG for your photography?

For me, shooting in RAW far outweighs the advantages of using JPEG. Storage is cheap nowadays and the file size does not bother me, even for backups. Since I already spend a considerable amount of time taking pictures, I do not mind spending a little more time and effort working on them in the digital darkroom. True, if I had to process one image at a time in Photoshop, I would have abandoned RAW altogether, because I wouldn’t have the time to go through tens of thousands of pictures. Thanks to such wonderful post-processing tools as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, I can work on my images in batches and I can spend very minimal amount of time on individual post-processing (when needed).

But time and size are small issues, compared to my ability to recover details from a RAW picture. Like many other photographers, I have been in situations where the light was not ideal and I either trusted my camera and had no time to correct the exposure or made a mistake, which led to a badly exposed image. If I shot in JPEG, those details would be gone forever and I would end up with a trashed image. But since I used RAW, I could easily adjust the exposure and change other settings and still have a good shot. This makes a huge difference, especially for rare, special moments that cannot be reproduced ever again.

Take a look at this image:

Hawk - Underexposed

Hawk - As Shot, Underexposed

Basically, I screwed up and underexposed the above image about 1 – 1.5 stops lower than it should have been. Gladly, I shot in RAW and I was able to almost fully recover the otherwise lost details. The below image on the left was recovered from a RAW file (I added +1 Exposure and added +15 Fill Light in Lightroom), while the image on the right was recovered the same way from a JPEG image:

Hawk - Recovered from RAW Hawk - Recovered from JPEG

As you can see, the image on the left contains a lot more color and detail than the one on the right. The change in colors is especially noticeable in shadow areas and this is all due to the fact that the JPEG file is an 8-bit image and contains much less information for full color and detail recovery. If you take an extreme example where an image is underexposed by 2 or more stops, you will see that recovery from a JPEG file is almost impossible, whereas a RAW file will give you some colors and details to work with. And on top of the above underexposure problem, what if I had my white balance set incorrectly on my camera? That’s right, it would have been a trashed image. Try it yourself – set your camera to shoot RAW+JPEG, then underexpose an image and try to recover the details – I’m sure you will see a similar result.

Here is another example of an image that was processed in RAW and JPEG:
Original Image - No Processing

The above image is how it came out of my camera with standard settings.

Processed from RAW Processed from JPEG

And here are the results after some heavy processing in Lightroom. The image on the left is processed from RAW, while the image on the right is processed from JPEG. As you can see, the highlights on the stones in JPEG image look horrible in comparison to RAW – look at how much detail I was able to bring out of shadows from the RAW file. The sky looks too blue and gradiented and the rest of the colors are way off.

Another great example can be seen in an article that compares dynamic range between Nikon and Canon DSLRs. I gave two examples in that article that show what a 14-bit RAW file can do compared to a JPEG file when recovered in post-processing. Take a look at the below images (Left: RAW +5 Stop Recovery, Right: JPEG +5 Stop Recovery):

Nikon D800E +5 EV Nikon D800E JPEG +5 EV

That’s a drastic difference in the ability to recover colors and details!

Anyway, here is my conclusion on the RAW vs JPEG debate: if you are serious about your photography and want to be able to sell or showcase your work in the future, you should shoot in RAW format. If you are just taking pictures of your family for fun, then shoot in JPEG.

Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback in the comments section below.


Avatar of Nasim Mansurov About Nasim Mansurov

is a professional photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. He is the author and founder of Photography Life, along with a number of other online resources. Read more about Nasim here.

Comments

  1. I loved this post, really, it’s incredibly helpful! It’s the first time I see the advantages and disadvantages of RAW vs. JPEG so clearly put and believe me, I’ve tried to do some research on the net before. Funny that I found it arriving at your wife’s recipes from Tastespotting… congrats on your blog!

    • Miriam, thank you very much for your feedback! I’m glad that you enjoyed the article and found it useful :)

      I will be posting a large article that I have been working on for a couple of days later today or tomorrow about post-processing and file organization in Lightroom. So if you use Lightroom, I hope you will give it a read and let me know what you think!

  2. 2
    ) Alisher

    Nasim, thanks for another great article. Frankly, I am shooting in JPEG at the moment, since don’t really have time for processing pictures. However, after reading this article I might switch to “RAW+JPEG” mode and in case of under(over) exposure or using wrong white balance will use RAW one. Thanks again!

    • Alisher, you are most welcome!

      I personally do not use RAW+JPEG because it uses a lot of card memory and slows down the camera. What I would do, is shoot in just RAW and do some very basic post-processing in Lightroom. Once you switch to RAW, you will never want to go back to JPEG :)

      • 24
        ) Dvorjets Abraham

        For D700 NEF file uses about 10 MB, JPEG Basic – about 1 MB. Why JPEG slows down the camera?

        • Abraham,

          What do you mean by ‘slow down’ the camera? NEF is supposed to slow down the camera, because the images are much larger.

          • 26
            ) Dvorjets Abraham

            I mean that JPEG adds only 10% memory thus about 10% time and not much “slow down” the process.

            • 90
              ) Hayley

              JPEG’s are also a ‘lossy’ file – they lose information each time you open and close them. They aren’t a good choice for storage. RAW is best, even though it takes up more space. You can, afterall always buy more storage cards for your camera. You can’t, however bring back the quality and, eventually the lost image. if you dont want to keep the images you take, then by all means use JPEG but the quality is horrible compared to RAW.

  3. 5
    ) Tair_gt

    Indeed a good post, one question , you said ” I can work on my images in batches and I can spend very minimal amount of time on individual post-processing (when needed).” but using Lightroom for a while i didn’t find the way to process my RAW photos in groups, maybe you could help me with it)??

    • Tair, sorry for a late response.

      Here is how you work in batches in Lightroom. Process an image, then simply right-click on it, go to Develop Settings, select “Copy”, select all options, then click OK. Next, select a bunch of other photographs that you want to apply the changes to and then right-click again and select “Paste”. This will copy-paste all settings from one picture to a group.

      I find this very convenient and easy to use :) Let me know if you have any other questions.

      • Nasim, when you do batch processing in Lightdroom (I have done it on Canon’s processing app), are the altered images saved as JPEGs? Does it change the RAW image permanently?

  4. 7
    ) syafiq

    both of nikon and canon RAW files can be used in lightroom?

    • Syafiq, absolutely! Lightroom fully supports all Nikon and Canon DSLRs and can even read point and shoot RAW formats from many other cameras.

  5. 10
    ) CJ

    Help Nasim! I have hundreds of pictures taken in Africa on a Nikon in Raw format. I was given them on 2 CDs, however, I have a PC and it can’t read them (note: I would like to enlarge and frame some). What can I do? A friend has a Mac which has a built in converter – can he convert the pictures on his Mac from Raw to Jpeg and burn new CDs (or flash drive) for me? If so, how difficult and time consuming is this?
    Thanks for your help.

    CJ

    • CJ, do you have Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom? You could easily convert the files yourself…

  6. 11
    ) gmillione

    an excellent comparative analysis of these two formats and done with the average photographer in mind. since i don’t “need” RAW this article helps me decide which type of basic camera i may choose. if it turns out that raw is part of my purchase it wont be because i thought i needed it. thanks. gerald.

  7. 13
    ) myke

    Hi Nasim! been reading thru your article a whole lot this past couple of days. I forgot how I ended up here but Im glad I did. Your articles are really fun and enjoyable to read and it really helps especially me as a beginner person. I have one question in mind right now. I have a HP desktop and when I view my picture there is button that says auto fix, what can you say about this? like in windows when you view using their built in picture viewer there is also a button that say fix photo something like that. Is this a good button especially for me just a one click guy or any thoughts on this? tia

    • Myke, can you take a screenshot of the window and send a link to me? Or could you provide the exact text as you see it on your screen?

  8. 15
    ) Raghav

    Thank you for such a wonderful article :)

    i’ve just subscribed to your feed.. hoping to learn a lot from you…

  9. Bit late to see this but thanks. I’ve posted this to some places for other people to read :)

    Great post and spot on with the pros and cons. I switched to RAW only a few shoots into getting my first DSLR (a 50D no less). I never went back. I too agree that if Lightroom or Aperture didn’t exist, of which I use the former, I would probably have gone mad trying to do it all in Photoshop.

    The other great thing about RAW which wasn’t mentioned is the ability to create multiple treatments from a single image, such as with the Virtual Copy method in Lightroom.

    • Thank you Nick!

      Recently, I had an incident when I accidentally switched to 8-bit TIFF on the camera and I was so frustrated, that I deleted most of them. I will certainly never go back to JPEG :)

      And thanks for pointing out about the non-destructiveness of the RAW format – I forgot to mention it in the article.

  10. Spot on with this article. I’ve read about 5 other articles on the topic, but find this the most ideal reference. I use Adobe Bridge and Camera Raw for my workflow, converting to DNG format. Unfortunately, Adobe Photoshop sticks it to you by making you upgrade to process RAW camera data from newer cameras. Have to use CS4 for my Nikon D700. On the plus side, photomerge function on CS4+ removed the vertical banding problem…

    Perhaps favorite feature on Camera Raw, post crop vignetting. Great for food photography.

    • Thank you Chris!

      Yes, I personally do not like that marketing strategy by Adobe…it is stupid that you have to upgrade to be able to use the latest version of Camera RAW. But it is Adobe and they are pretty much a monopoly…what can we do? :)

      And yes, post crop vignetting is very nice – Lola and I use it a lot too.

      • 23
        ) Dvorjets Abraham

        There is alternative program – Paint Shop Pro, al versions – also old’s. For old’s I use Nikon ViewNX 2 for NEF -> TIFF transition/

      • 87
        ) Ravi R

        Nasim,

        That’s why I bought Apple’s Aperture. I have an iMac anyway so might as well stick with Apple. I know Aperture is getting old and is due for an update compared to LightRoom. But I like Aperture interface for some reason and I also added Nik’s Plugins and am in heaven tinkering with pics on my 27 ” iMac!

  11. 18
    ) Nikki

    Thanks for this article! My husband was trying to explain RAW vs JPEG to me, but for some reason it just didn’t click until you explained it! :)

  12. 27
    ) photo lover

    hi Nasim,
    I think you’ve extragerated the difference in your last comparison. I tried a little editing (5 minutes) on your original jpeg file and I can get better result than your sample.

    • How could you have gotten better results, if you don’t even have the original RAW file to work with? The above example was to show what I can get out of a RAW file versus JPEG. You can try this yourself with your camera, just shoot a scene where there is a 2-3 stop difference between the bright area and the darker area in RAW and JPEG and then try recovering both images and see for yourself.

    • 58
      ) Paul

      Why is there always sum “Dud” that has to try to prove someone wrong? It was a great article, and very insightful! Good job and thanks for explaining things. By the way “Photo Lover”, you did nothing but make yourself sound like a fool!

  13. 29
    ) Jrob

    Great article Nasim! Again, crystal clear and to the point. ‘m officially a RAW dawg.

  14. 31
    ) dean

    Man, you convinced me to shot RAW, now. I screwed up a lot of images in the past and you gave some good examples of how you can recover that. I was shooting JPEG, like most of the people, since I’m at the first DSLR camera and you know, not time or nerve for to much post processing, but is clearly worth it. I used to lost a lot of colors from landscapes !…..bad bad choice, JPEG. You can process RAW, faster, using lightroom, your computer will just work a bit more for that, processing that amount of colors, though.

    • Dean, I agree – RAW is the way to go. I was stupid to convert my old images to JPEG back in the day – now there is nothing I can do with them.

  15. 33
    ) Sandeep Sulakhe

    Hi – I came across your site yesterday while looking for a way to arrange photos in lightroom3 library.I eventually ended up looking at other articles and I would say you have done a very good job..

    Regarding this article, I was thinking about the importance of the first advantage of RAW : its ability to store 68 billion of colors. Are our normal LCD monitors/printers capable of displaying so many colors?

  16. 34
    ) RudyF

    Hi Nasim,

    Thank you for sharing your expertise with us. Just a clarification on your comment re batch processing in lightroom; In your workflow does it mean you apply the SAME correction to a WHOLE batch of pictures? Seem incomprehensible to me.

    • Rudy, I apply the same default correction (such as copyright/metadata information, sharpening, etc) to all pictures, then work on them one by one. So it is not like one template works for everything, no.

  17. 35
    ) Anthony

    Hi Nasim,

    Great blog, I found you for the DNG vs RAW, but I guess my question would be more related to this title.

    My question is more specificy to Lightroom and wonder if you can help me here. I used to shoot Jpeg until recently. I have aquire Lightroom 3 and love the raw possibilities, so I shoot in both format. With my Nikon D90 I select RAW and small Jpeg so I can have Jpeg files ready to publish in batch over to my Flickr account without converting RAW to Jpeg manually. In doing so, I end up having duplicate of pictures that I, again, have to manually delete the Jpeg after. Would you know if I can set Lightroom to automaticly import the RAW only when I insert the SD cards and not the Jpeg format? I tried to look up the import settings but found nothing of such possibilities.

    Thanks

    • Anthony, your best bet would be to sort images by extension and delete them before starting the import process. I do not think it is possible to limit the import by extension in Lightroom.

      Sorry for a late response.

      • 45
        ) Anthony

        Hi Nasim,

        Thank you for answering. It was a bit late, but as we say: better late than never. :)

        My issue is now solve with an SD card named, Eye-Fi. With the Eye-Fi center it send my Jpeg files directly to my Flickr and sends the RAW format in my hard drive under the Eye-Fi folder and without the need to take the SD card out of the camera, it transfers over your private wifi network. And when I turn on LR3, the import comes directly from the eye-fi folders. all this instantly.

        hope this can help other users out there looking to do the same.

        • Anthony, glad you found a solution! The Eye-Fi is a great tool; people even find ways to stream their images to the iPad while shooting :)

  18. 36
    ) Raden A. Shauki

    Dear Mr. Mansurov,

    I am a long time reader of Ken Rockwell and Thom Hogan and I recently came upon your blog. I am adding you as a must read! I find your writings very down to earth and extremely informative to enthusiast photographers like me. Keep up the good work and I wish you all the best!

    • Thank you for your feedback Raden, sorry for a late reply.

    • Same here, great article, Nasim. Very helpful. I have just begun shooting in RAW + JPEG L. Since I am not generally shooting action stuff, it should work fine. You are doing excellent work here. Now, you will be my go-to expert, along with Ken Rockwell on camera equipment. I just got the Canon 70-200mm L IS lens, after selling the Canon 70-200mm L IS lens on EBay, and I want to maximize the output. The problem with shooting RAW + JPEG L is when I am on the road in Spain, I can be up until far too late downloading photos.
      I have two 32GB cards in my Canon 5D Mark III and one 32GB in my Canon 6D, so it looks like I had better get some 64GB cards.

  19. 37
    ) jayatu das

    many many thanks. i have a nikon d500.i have the same experience like u. just now i will change my camera setting to raw. but how will i process a raw file to jpeg. i have only adobe photoshop 7.0

  20. 38
    ) Nicole Louis

    Thank you this is a great article and the most comprehensive and clear that I have read. I am just wondering if DNG files lose any colour? I purchased a Canon 1000D a few years ago, and recently discovered that all programs and updates including Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom does not recognise it’s RAW files. I’m incredibly disappointed at the false claims by both Canon and Adobe, who are claiming the programs and updates are compatible with my camera. Some Canon users have problems and some don’t which is strange to me. Since I haven’t been even able to open my RAW and with some images can’t even convert them to DNG, I haven’t had the pleasure of working with RAW. Does Nikon have these compatibility problems with Adobe as well? I am less keen on Canon, now. Any advice or feedback would be appreciated. This article shows me what I have been missing out on! Thanks again. NLouis

    • Nicole, you need to update your Camera RAW to the latest version. Download it from here. Once you update everything, both Lightroom and Photoshop will be able to open all RAW files and you will be able to convert them to DNG.

  21. 39
    ) Michael Knight

    Hello,
    My post shoot workflow has generally been as follows. After shooting in RAW (using my Nikon D90), I process my photos in Adobe Raw (which came with PSE8). I then convert to a jpeg and further post-process in Nikon’s Capture NX2 (levels and curves, mainly). Would I be better off not importing a jpeg file into Capture NX2, i.e. work only in RAW in Capture NX2? Have I been losing overall quality by doing what I’ve been doing?

    • Michael, you should reverse the process – first do it in NX2, then take it to Photoshop for further tweaking, if necessary. You are losing 90% of information when working on JPEG files in NX2.

  22. 47
    ) Scott

    Just found your website and i have been glued to it ever since. Love the info and pictures. Thanks so much.
    I am writing because Windows now has an update to view RAW files which makes using RAW all that much better. You can get it at the link below.

    http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=26829

  23. 48
    ) from Russia

    I’m very glad I found your site. Thanks to you, I know a lot of useful and valuable information about the photo.

  24. 49
    ) Janna

    Finally! Thank you for that well written article about RAW vs. JPEG pictures. It’s all good now that I know the difference between the two. Thank you so much! I can finally produce best pictures like a professional photographer. Thanks for sharing this! Good job!!! What a big help for a newbie like me. :-) I’ll explore your website for more helpful basic tutorials.

  25. 51
    ) Antonio L

    This was actually the BEST raw vs. jpeg explanation/examples I’ve seen! thanks, was just great.

  26. 52
    ) Erick A.

    ciao Nasim…i was looking for a resource about RAW vs JPEG for a beginners photography workshop that my group(KALIPI) here in Milan, Italy are hosting this coming sunday..i had been tasked to handle this topic and im so glad i came across your blog..this is exactly what i was looking for..straight forward and no non-sense way of explaining what the 2 formats is all about!..i hope you won’t mind if i use this blog in my presentation…will definitely put the credits to you man…more power to you!

    • Thank you Erick, sure you can use the material on this website, as long as credit is provided. Have a wonderful day!

  27. 54
    ) Dennis

    Nasim,
    You write very interesting blog articles….interesting to me anyway.
    I have a question on RAW vs JPEG.If you shoot in RAW,process it in PS or Lightroom,and then convert it to JPEG,wouldn’t you then lose a lot of information like if you originally took the photo in JPEG?

  28. 55
    ) Endri

    Great article, great page Nasim

  29. 56
    ) Julie

    I always shoot in Jpeg because I haven’t had the courage to shoot in RAW. I still process my photos in iPhoto and not yet familiar with Lightroom, Elements or Photoshop. I’m going to Vietnam and Russia soon and can only imagine the shots I could get shooting in RAW vs Jpeg and processing my photos with something other than iPhoto. Any recommendations? Love your website, btw!

  30. 57
    ) Mike Watts

    I am still learning and have recently decieded to take the plunge into shooting in raw. I shoot with the nikon d60 and shoot sports and wildlife. Because of unexpected shots and lighting conditions, I have discovered another way to edit my work. Also I am looking to move to the d300 and becasue of cost, will have to buy used equipment. What is your opinion? Thanks, Mike

  31. 59
    ) richard

    hi nasim,
    i enjoy your tutorials and your clear presentions. I understand the advantages of of raw,however ,with the respect to color , if the human eye isnt able to detect the trillion shades of red or other colors what does it matter. ?
    thanks,,
    richard

  32. 60
    ) Marisa

    This was so helpful! I didn’t know the difference between them really, I was just always told that raw was better quality. I never got to see them compared until now. I’ve decided to try your comparison trick with a photo of my own.

  33. 61
    ) Gene

    what i can say!? truly informative article nice job dude it helps me a lot!

  34. 62
    ) Alex

    Hi,
    What about shooting in RAW (Nikon D800e), processing the pictures with photoshop (to check white, balance, contrast, density, etc…) and then, save the pictures in JPEG (high quality) ?

    That will save alot of space on the HD, by shooting RAW I can do better post processing vs shooting JPEG.

    What do you think ?
    Thank you.
    Alex.

  35. 63
    ) Anup Tabe .

    I loved the article like anything . All the information is really helpful & easy to understand . Thanks a lot for sharing your knowldge & experience , Sir .

  36. 64
    ) Sankalp

    Great Artical and comparison between Raw and JPEG. A great website too. Thanks

  37. 65
    ) Bruce H

    Nasim,

    Amazing site you got going here! Helped me in the past and continues to help me today!

    So, i’m planning to attempt this RAW business, and thinking of shooting in RAW + jpeg incase i’m unsuccessful with my RAW images and then i can at least fall back on my jpeg. Anyways, my question to you is when i shoot the photo in RAW, do i still set my camera’s settings such as aperture, shutter speed, white balance, exposure compensation, etc? as i would shooting in jpeg? or do i forget about all that?

  38. 66
    ) Julie R

    I LOVE your website! Thank you for the great reviews, help, and information that you provide! I just subscribed to your e-mails and look forward to learning more from you. Thanks again!

  39. 67
    ) Ileana

    Hi thank you for your post! Very informative and helpful. I’m two shoots in to working with RAW and have been familiarizing myself with LR4. What I really need info on and can’t seem to find anywhere is when I go to export for a client and the window comes up asking me how many pixels I want the JPEG, and other info that I am just not familiar with. Is there a standard format used when exporting for clients to create their own prints/ enlargements? My concern is that I’m saving the file too small.

    My other question is when processing a RAW image, is it necessary to crop to a specific size, say 5×7 or 8×10 or can it remain in its format (unless cropping is needed aesthetically) and then enlarged by client? Again I don’t know enough about the program at this point to make those corrections without finding out more about them. Thanks!

  40. 68
    ) tim

    Excellent article. Easy to read and understand. I appreciate your insight and professional knowledge. May I ask you a question unrelated to the article. Are you familiar with the Cannon 7 D camera and the Cannon T3i? If so, do you believe that Cannon D7 is a worthwhile upgrade?
    Best Tim

    • It depends what your purpose is. I have used both cameras and own a Canon 7D. The sensor in both cameras is essentially the same. Between identical pictures taken on each camera, you will not notice a difference between the camera’s pictures that is worth the upgrade alone.

      The Canon 7D has a more rugged body and is more durable of a camera. Also the Canon 7D is rated for 100,000 shutters and the Rebel is rated for 50,000 shutter. If you find you are harder on your equipment, I would consider getting the Canon 7D.

      Are you doing sports photography? The faster burst, frame rate, and focusing points would be a significant advantage with the 7D. If you are looking to just take portraits under controlled situations, I don’t think the differences of features will make much difference.

  41. Great article. I did have one clarification. RAW files are technically not Digital Negative files (.DNG). Each camera model has it’s own RAW encoding. This means RAW conversion software in the distant future may not support an older camera’s RAW encoding. Adobe developed the DNG to give a standard for a software program to read the various different types of RAW files. The advantage is it helps photographer’s be assure they can access their digital RAW files long into the future.

    http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/extend.displayTab2.edu.html

  42. 71
    ) Rue

    Hi, thank you so much for posting this information. I am just a mom taking pictures of my family but I want to take some nice pictures of my boys at the beach to frame and know that RAW is way better to do this. I have a PC but was wondering if you know why it can’t be downloaded to a Mac? Is it because of iphoto? Also, where can you get RAW images printed if everyone caters to jpeg? I usually go through Costco or Snapfish? Sorry I am so clueless, but your expertise is greatly valued:-)
    Thank you-

    • 72
      ) Pravin

      You need iPhoto 9 or later to import RAW files on a Mac. This may be your issue or if you have a recent camera you will likely need a more recent iPhoto version. For more info see http://support.apple.com/kb/PH2417?viewlocale=en_US. Having said that I would recommend investing in Aperture or Lightroom as they are both designed with excellent RAW import tools and easy but sophisticated editing tools. Aperture can share its library with iPhoto so this might be a better (and slightly cheaper) option for you, though again you will need iPhoto 9.3 or later to share your library with Aperture.

      When printing just export to jpg. All of iPhoto, Aperture and Lightroom make selection of photos for printing easy via their album features.

      Whatever route you choose, upgrade iPhoto to the latest version to see if this solves your file import problem first.

      • 78
        ) Chris Shaw

        iPhoto 08 imports and converts RAW files on my iMac. With well-exposed images there appears to be no differences between JPEGs produced from RAW files using iPhoto 08 and Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 – onscreen at least.

        As a point of interest, would Nassim know whether a commercial publisher would prefer RAW files for reprographic purposes?

  43. 73
    ) AMman

    Really helpful. Thank you very much…

  44. 74
    ) Bob

    Great article!even for a beginner like me..thanks Nasim!Now i shoot in RAW!

  45. 75
    ) Ochi

    I was laughing while reading the first part of this post. I had the same experience with RAW, I was curious and shot with it then found out I can’t open it easily. I was such a hassle downloading a software that can open the file and eventually switched to JPEG. Lol.

    But this is a good comparison. I think I’ll go back to RAW now. Haha

    • 83
      ) Rick B

      Good luck with your format choice. A big part of the problem seems to be that different camera manufacturers have their own distinct format for RAW and that there are no standards.

      But PLEASE don’t use a term like “a software”. You would no more say that than, “I’m going to Home Depot to buy a hardware.” or, “I think I’ll invest in a gold.”

  46. 76
    ) Chris Shaw

    How things move on! Most of the applications that will import images on my Mac will only pause briefly before turning a RAW file from my Lumix G1 into a picture on screen. E.G. Photoshop Elements, Pages, TextEdit, Preview, iPhoto. iPhoto displays masses of picture information including exposure details and the exposure mode (e.g. shutter priority). Which is helpful.

    CS

  47. 77
    ) Arun

    I am a novice in digital photography and also new to your blog. I enjoyed reading your past post on RAW vs JPEG. For photographing paintings for high-resolution images, does it matter which format to use, RAW or JPEG?

  48. 79
    ) nicholas merton

    I have just upgraded (I think) from a Bridge Camera to a Four Thirds camera.
    I have never played with RAW before. The camera has three shooting options.
    JPEG, RAW with JPG, and RAW with fine JPEG. Which RAW option do I choose?
    A question about RAW. I noticed that when I downloaded the images to my PC that the RAW results, look totally different to the JPEG images. I understand that from your article, but if I make certain changes such as adding Sepia that the RAW image shows the image without the “creative” add on. So what is included in a raw image and what is left off?
    Tools like Photoshop look very difficult (for the time being, as I am a novice). I used to use Picasa, as my production environment as it was very easy to use. Is there something out there with an easy to use interface that I can work with, or must I persevere with Photoshop?

  49. 80
    ) ma

    now i want shot in raw..:)

  50. 81
    ) nilesh pilankar

    I’m using canon 650D and I want to shoot monuments that may be illuminated with light under low light conditions i.e at dawn so please advise me.

    rgds

    Nilesh

  51. 82
    ) Rick B

    Being a collector of scanned images, I have, for quite awhile, had a hate-on for jpeg. Especially those naive people who will edit a jpeg file, save and close it, then reopen it and save it again. And I can’t get through to people how a high compression ratio does not show off how powerful one’s computer is but only that the user needs a more power cpu himself! Personally, I’d like to strangle the inventor of jpg. He has a special place in hell along with those who invented those portable signs on wheels in front of stores and restaurants and which invariably contain spelling errors.
    JPEG was designed for old computers having limited hard disk storage and slow dial-up internet connections and is now a technological dinosaur. I’ve often tried to educate people on its horrors. So I’m very pleased to see an article like this which outlines very well the differences. Personally, I’m a fan of the PNG (portable network graphics) format; although I believe it’s limited to 16 million colours, it has no degradation and is not “lossy” and has reasonable compression for its fidelity. And it’s well accepted by most software. But you can see the time delay during saving it because it needs some complex algorithms. What we need in cameras are much higher-speed processors and much larger RAM, possibly with the ability to offload to cheap flashkeys or tiny hard disks like WD Passports. That ability should be easily achievable technically and ought to be around the corner in the next year or two. I have to wonder if the designers of cameras are holding out on us on purpose so we’ll upgrade again in a few more years.
    Personally, I’m a fan of an older version of Paintshop Pro, a very well designed image editor — at least before it was bought out by Corel and ruined. But I believe it doesn’t handle DNG or any format which has over 16 million colours. If anyone knows of a cheap or free piece of software to convert DNG to PNG or from any of the proprietary RAW formats (like Nikon) to a TIFF or compressed BMP or any other bridge format, please let me know. Cheers, Rick

  52. 84
    ) Michelle

    Hi! I’m currently using a Nikon D5100, may I know which converter should I use to convert my RAW photos? Please advice! Thank you!

  53. 85
    ) Rick B

    Hi, Since my origianl post on Nov. 25, I’ve found out a little more. This should answer Michelle’s question.

    I now have a D5200 and it comes with a software CD. From it, one installs ViewNX-2. That can convert xx.NEF files (camera-raw) to xx.TIF files which are also raw but with not quite the same detailed colour depth or, alternatively to xx.JPG files again with less depth and also “lossy”. If you didn’t get a CD with your D5100, try the Nikon website. Whatever you do, if you do convert (i.e. resave) your originals to another format, keep the originals archived somewhere in case you want them in the future.

  54. 86
    ) Patrick

    This, like so many other articles that I’ve read on the JPEG/RAW subject, explains the différences very well. Then it goes it on to denigrate, in a very subtle way, anyone who is perfectly content with JPEG as a final product for anything other than “family snapshots!” I’m not picking on this author. Many others do the same.

    One can read about this debate and find a number of professional photgraphers who shoot mainly in JPEG. If you like to spend even more time on the computer than I would ever wish, you can certainly sit down and tweak improvements into your photos that were shot in RAW. But unless you’re going to be sending those photos in for publication when you get done post-processing, I see no earthly reason why one should be browbeaten into shooting in RAW and spending all the extra time with extra software. As other pros on the Internet have pointed ot, your photos will be just as sharp in JPEG as RAW and if you apply the settings correctly before you take your photo, they’ll never be a reason to waste a lot of time with RAW later – UNLESS that’s something you enjoy doing! That’s up to you.

    In difficult shooting situations, you can use exposure compensation, you can even use auto bracketing. If I think the shot is bit complicated, I’ll simply check it on the LCD and, if not happy with it, shoot it again. It’s a lot faster than the post-processing work later.

    I spent nearly 40 years shooting slides before moving to digital some five years ago. When I shot slides I sent them off to the best lab I could find. I didn’t do any darkroom work then and got smashing photos, why should I do digital darkroom work now? The photos that come out of my Fuji X-E1 or just about any other modern digital camera in JPEG are perfectly gorgeous. Modern cameras in-camera processing is as good as or better than anything the best labs were doing with slides. You don’t have to complicate your life to shoot perfectly lovely photos.

    I’m certainly not telling you that you shouldn’t shoot RAW and do the extra work. If you you enjoy sitting at a pc to do that work, then by all means do so. But don’t think that you won’t produce great photos – of EVERY kind, not just family snapshots, in JPEG alone – because you will.

    • 92
      ) Gerry Dawes

      Patrick, I agree with much of what you are saying about the extra work on RAW photos. However, as someone who has always primarily shot JPEG, but who recently switched to RAW + JPEG, IMO the RAW shots are far superior technically to the JPEGs. Sometimes the JPEGs are easier to adjust if need be, but I think they just don’t have the depth of detail that RAW does. I wish they did.

  55. 91
    ) Mike

    Hello Nasim, read your article. Very nicely explained.
    I do have a question about raw after processing it. I believe raw is 16 bit and
    then after has to be down sized back to jpeg 8 bit format. It then becomes a rather smaller
    Compressed file. Am I losing any real image quality after going thru all this
    Process. Example my 15 MB raw file after processing it and down converting it now becomes 5.3 MB after all my work on it.
    I’m not an expert, but feel kinda ripped off with my Megabytes if ya know what I mean?
    Thank you for your time. Great write up!
    Cheers Mike.

    • 93
      ) Rick B

      Hi, Mike,

      Well, I do NOT know what you mean when you say, “ripped off with my Megabytes”. If you think your original 15 Mb raw file is accurately represented as a 5.3 Mb jpg, I’m afraid you’re wrong. It is, after all, jpg.

      The actual depth of colour (number of bits) for raw format varies with the image sensor in the particular camera model. In my Nikon D5200 the image sensor is “only” 14 bits so whether or not RAW records it as 16 bits, 15 bits or 14 bits is moot. You are right, however that JPG is only 8 bits although it’s a “lossy” 8 bits. The software that comes with the camera can convert the raw format to TIFF which is 8 bits but at least it’s a faithful 8 bits unlike JPG. If all you’re going to do is convert your raw to JPG anyway, there’s no point, and even a drawback to shooting only in raw since you have to spend all that time sitting at the computer later. Personally, I leave my camera at JPG-fine (the best of 3 different jpg setting) and occasionally at JPG-fine+RAW where it records every image in both formats.
      Unless you’re a professional photographer — the type who will wait for 45 minutes for the sun and clouds to be just right for a single shot — and also a master technician with software for post processing, raw format seems like too much overhead and work. But if you’re going to use your photo as a basis for a finished product (say you have a full-body shot and, later, you want to zoom/crop to a close-up on only the head and shoulders) then raw is probably a good option. It’s also a good place to use as the basis if you’re going to resize or stretch or rotate your image to the final form. Raw is a good form to suck into software where image manipulation is going to be done in a memory matrix. But once you’re completely done editing, jpg is a reasonable format for display on a computer monitor since most of them can handle only 8-bit colour anyway.

  56. 94
    ) Mike

    Hi Nasim. Thankyou for the quick response.
    And thankyou for your advise on raw vs jpeg.
    Always learning day by day!
    Cheers Mike!

  57. 95
    ) Mike

    Ps: I apologize Rick for getting your name wrong.
    Cheers Mike.

  58. 96
    ) Abbey

    This is really a great post, Nasim..

    I am just starting to get interested in photography’s in and outs. Having taken a lot of photos with all the wrong settings and waste photos as I can’t recover them…

    Thank you

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