JPEG vs RAW: Choosing the Best Image Format

Singlehandedly the first thing that I usually check when I’m about to start a photoshoot; I make absolutely sure that my images are saved in both JPEG and RAW format. This is because I’ve went through the shame of shooting a commercial gig only to notice that all of the images were shot in JPEG – which isn’t inherently bad if your client wants images that are

First of all, a lot of it depends whether you’re going to use the images for example in prints or as thumbnails somewhere online. Choosing the right format will make a significant difference in the quality of your final images. The two most commonly used formats are JPEG and RAW-files (NEF if you’re using Nikon), and both have it’s advantages and disadvantages.

In this article I will explore the differences between these two formats and help you decide which one you should be choosing for your photoshoots.

Discover the difference between RAW and JPEG file formats, learn why shooting in RAW can enhance the quality of your images and find out whether switching to RAW is the right choice for you.
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What is JPEG format?

JPEG originally stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, which was the name of the committee that created the format. JPEG compresses an image to make the file smaller. JPEG files are some of the most popular and widely used image formats in the world. One of the advantages of shooting in JPEG is that it’s supported by most editing softwares and devices.

If you’re looking to reduce the size of your JPEG files, you can always choose to edit their dimensions or compress them, but it’s important to note that you cannot make them into RAW files after you’ve shot them in JPEG.

What is RAW format?

A RAW file has all the uncompressed and unprocessed image data captured by the camera’s sensor. Unlike JPEGS, RAW files are not processed in-camera while you capture your image, which means that you have more control over the final result during post-processing. RAW files contain more color information and detail, which makes the option ideal for professionals who require high-quality images. The main disadvantages of the RAW format is that it produces larger file sizes compared to compressed JPEG files. RAW files are also not universally supported, so you would have to convert them into JPEGs or such in order for others to easily view them.

Discover the difference between RAW and JPEG file formats, learn why shooting in RAW can enhance the quality of your images and find out whether switching to RAW is the right choice for you.
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The difference between RAW and JPEG files

File Size

Most RAW files are sized between 20 – 40 MB per file, while JPEGS are anywhere between 0.5-10.2 MB. Generally, a RAW file will be between two and six times larger than a JPEG file. A RAW image file roughly works out to be around the same size as the number of megapixels of the camera – so for example, a 20 megapixel camera will save a RAW file of around 20 megabytes. JPEGs compress large images into much smaller file sizes, making them easier to share and upload online.

Image Quality

When it comes to image quality, RAW files are generally considered superior to JPEG. This is due to the flexibility behind a RAW file. You can adjust the exposure, white balance, and other settings without degrading any aspects of the quality. When you edit a JPEG file, you are working with a compressed image, which can result in a loss of quality if you make significant adjustments to the images.

If an image has a resolution of 300 DPI, this means that every inch contains 300 dots of ink. Photographers typically use 300 DPI as a benchmark for printing high-quality images.

Changing the DPI of a JPEG file does not necessarily result in a reduction in image quality, as DPI refers only to the intended print size and does not affect the actual pixel dimensions or quality of the image.

Usually, cameras produce RAW files with a bit-depth of 12-14 bits per pixel, allowing for up to 16384 potential values. In contrast, JPEG files are limited to 256 luminance values per RGB channel, resulting in significantly less data compared to an equivalent raw file.

Post-processing Flexibility

Shooting JPEGs adds convenience, but it limits how much you can edit an image. With a RAW file, you have complete control over white balance when editing the image. Lost detail in overexposed highlights cannot be recovered in a JPEG files, which is the main reason professionals choose to work with RAW; there is more room for post-processing and delivering quality results.

Do professional photographers use RAW or JPEG?

Yes, the majority of professional photographers choose to shoot in RAW format as it provides maximum flexibility for post-processing at a later stage. Many photographers use contact sheets to send out multiple images at once, so that the client is able to view images side by side. This option is available for both JPEGs and RAW files when working with Bridge.

Unlike photojournalists and sports photographers who usually need to transmit images quickly and directly to news outlets without the ability for editing, they may opt for shooting in JPEG+RAW combination – this way they have the smaller files that can be easily sent out.

Indeed, choosing between JPEG and RAW comes down to your specific needs and preferences.

Professional photographers who require high-quality images and post-processing flexibility, go often with RAW. However, if you are an amateur photographer who prioritizes smaller file sizes and ease of use, then JPEG might be the option for you. Finally, it is up to you to decide which format works best for you.

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