You’ve probably heard many photographers tell you to either shoot in JPEG or RAW. Most photographers will tell you to ALWAYS shoot RAW, no matter what. But, there are still a few that are devoted to JPEG and ONLY JPEG.

So what’s the big deal about this whole JPEG vs. RAW ordeal?

Let’s break it down.

What is JPEG?

JPEG stands for “Joint Photographic Experts Group.” What does that mean? I have no idea. (Seriously, if someone knows, please educate me. 🙂 ). JPEG images are processed within the camera itself. Once you take the initial shot, the camera will automatically add contrast, add noise reduction, adjust the brightness levels, etc. The camera will then compress the image file into a JPEG. The image can be printed right away and be ready for viewing. However, the drawback with JPEG files is that since the image is being compressed, there is a loss of detail that is available in the uncompressed file. Basically, the details that are being lost is the dynamic range of the file. ‘Dynamic range’ is the amount of tones available in the image, from the whitest white to the blackest black. In JPEG images, this range is significantly less compared to RAW files.

What is RAW?

RAW files are uncompressed and unprocessed. All the detail that is picked up the by camera sensor is available in the file. In most cameras, the LCD automatically adds the same processing that it does to JPEG while previewing the image. However, when uploaded to a computer, you’ve probably noticed that it does not look the same. It is flatter, with much less contrast, brightness and saturation. The pro of using RAW images is that it allows you to have much more control when editing the pictures. You can dramatically adjust exposure and other factors because of all the detail that is available in the file.

There is no rule that you should be choosing one over the other. In my opinion, it all comes down to personal preference. However, if you are after the superior format, it is definitely RAW, simply because it has so much more detail available for you to play around with. But that doesn’t mean JPEG is not worth using. Both has its uses for different circumstances. Sometimes I enjoy shooting just in JPEG when I am trying to get the image right in camera and not rely on post-production. I use JPEG a lot for personal projects and everyday photography. However, when dealing with professional work and client shoots, I ALWAYS shoot in RAW to ensure that I give them the best result possible.

What format do you shoot in?

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