Why You Should Shoot RAW Over JPEG
What is the difference between a RAW and JPEG image?
There are two different formats you can take images with, either RAW format or JPEG format. So what is the difference between them? A RAW file format captures all of your images data that's taken in by the sensor. While on the other hand, in JPEG format, all of that information and data is compressed by your camera in order to make the file size smaller and take up less storage. While taking up less storage may sound like an attractive idea, this is not always the case when it comes to photography because you want as much data of your image as you can get. I will be summarizing the basic pros and cons of shooting RAW over JPEG in this post. As there is a lot more technical reasoning why RAW is the preferred format to professional photographers, I will only be covering the most basic of reasons that anyone without prior photography knowledge can understand.
Pros and Cons of Shooting RAW over JPEG
Pro: Higher Quality Images
Like I mentioned previously, whenever you shoot in RAW format your image has more data, and that additional data allows you to do more to your image. For example, RAW images contain more "bits". Bits is the amount of colors in your image, the more data, the more bits, the more bits, the more color. For JPEG's, they usually have 8-Bit while RAW has anywhere from 12-16 Bit. Why is this important? This is important because it allows you to make more adjustments to your exposure, contrast, blacks, etc. with little to no consequence to your image because of how smooth the color tones are.
This will allow you to bring underexposed or overexposed images back to life. When you shoot in JPEG underexposed or overexposed, it is hard to correctly expose the image in post edit without getting a lot of noise in your image, but with RAW, you will see little to no consequence in your image quality depending on the severity of the under/over exposure.
Con: Takes Up More Space
As mentioned in the last section, a RAW file takes up considerably more space than a JPEG file. This is mainly due to all the original data being stored into the file rather than being compressed like a JPEG. This means that they will also take longer to process when taking a lot of images. For example, when I take rolling shots of vehicles, I have my camera on continuous shooting mode and I can be taking up to 1000 pictures in a short amount of time. With doing this method it can sometimes bring about the problem of my camera stopping to allow time for the SD card to process the images and store them as they are such large files. This is why I also recommend buying professional SD cards that process a lot faster than the average SD card to avoid that situation. With it taking up more space, that leads to the next con.
Con: Harder to Share
The reason RAW files are harder to share is because one, their files are quite large, and also because at times you need special software to be able to process and open up the RAW file. Luckily, with the advancement of technology that has been less of a problem as current phones are able to open RAW images and even sometimes take RAW images themselves!
Pro: Never Lose Image Quality
Whenever you are done editing your RAW image you typically export it into a JPEG so you can easily share it to anyone. Let's say you actually didn't like how that image came out, instead of putting that JPEG back into an editing software and diminishing the quality even further you can just go back to the original RAW image and edit it without losing any type of quality. You can completely restart the edit and it will incur no consequence on the quality of your image. This is one of the main advantages that photographers love because with a JPEG the image quality diminishes every single time the file is imported or exported into anywhere. RAW files on the other hand do not.
In conclusion, the main reason reason professional photographers prefer to shoot RAW over JPEG comes down to keeping the quality of the image as high as possible. As artists we don't want our images to look pixelated or bad in any way, shape, or form. Shooting in RAW is the first step in making sure that doesn't happen. Like mentioned in the beginning of this post, my plan with not only this topic, but all the topics I cover is to keep them as simple and straight to the point as possible so anyone who is just starting out will be able to understand the content. As always if you have any further questions don't hesitate to ask me by either e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM'ing me on Instagram @stevenk_media.