RAW vs JPEG
“Hey, do you click in RAW format or the JPEG format?” You must have come across this RAW vs JPEG question a lot since the day you started clicking photos using a digital camera. I too have come across many people who have the desire to know if the other person is clicking in JPEG or the RAW format. Well, it is always good to be a learner and discuss your doubts with a photographer who is well aware of technical knowledge about photography.
Did you know, initially when you click a frame on your camera, it is captured as the raw data. When you choose JPEG as the default file format, your camera converts the raw data into the JPEG format with the help of the hardware within the camera and throws away the raw data as it is no more required by you.
We are lucky that nowadays the DSLR cameras have the option to capture images in RAW format, which allows the camera to save the raw data in digital format. Basically, instead of the camera’s hardware doing the job to enhance the raw data, you have full control to post process the digital raw file as per your wish.
JPEG format always looks tempting for the reason that you can directly upload the image on your social media platforms or take a direct print out of your image. I too was fascinated with the JPEG format for quite a long time, until i realized the benefits of shooting in RAW format. I would not say that the RAW format is ideal in all the situations, sometimes JPEG can be a savior too.
The RAW vs JPEG discussion looks like a never ending debate, it is up to you to decide which format is ideal for your photography needs. But before you come down to a conclusion, it is important to know the basic details about JPEG vs RAW format, their advantages and disadvantages in details.
What is JPEG?
A JPEG format file is basically a digital image which is processed within your camera using the raw data captured by the sensor.
As mentioned above, the camera initially captures the image in raw format and then processes the raw data to provide a finished product which is ready to be printed or to be shared on your social media platforms. During this process, the camera retains only the required details and disposes of the other details.
During the processing stage, your camera enhances some of the key aspects such as:
- Noise Reduction
- White Balance
You must have noticed that your camera further provides you the option to choose variants of JPEG format such as FIne, Normal and Basic. JPEG Fine will preserve the maximum details followed by JPEG Normal and the JEPG Basic format will preserve the least details. So, the more you compress, the less would be the details in your file.
What is RAW?
A RAW format file is basically an unprocessed file captured directly through the camera sensor. The image captured in RAW format is usually dark and flat in contrast as the file is not processed at all, as in the case of a JPEG file.
While viewing on your camera’s LCD screen, you would hardly find any difference between the RAW and the JPEG files. But the moment you open the files on your desktop or the laptop, you might me disappointed by the look of the RAW file because of its flat color tones and contrast.
At the first look, you might fall in love with the JPEG file, but the truth is that the RAW file holds all the details ranging from the contrast to white balance. Using the RAW file, you can completely change the white balance, brightness, sharpness, contrast, etc., of the image, without degrading the quality.
In order to access the RAW file on Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom, you would need to download the free Adobe Camera Raw plugin. Unlike JPEG format, the RAW format is not dependent on the camera to automatically process the image for you. I personally love to process the image on my own using the Adobe Photoshop software installed with the Adobe Camera Raw plugin. It gives you the freedom to digitally process the image as per your requirement, no restrictions at all.
Benefits of clicking in RAW / Drawbacks of clicking in JPEG
- RAW format contain the maximum dynamic range which allows you to recover the overexposed or the underexposed image during the post processing stage. Whereas, if you try to recover an overexposed or underexposed image captured in JPEG format, it will completely ruin the image quality.
- One of the key reasons why you should be clicking on the 12-bit RAW format is that it contains 4,096 shades of Red, Green and Blue colors compared to the 8-bit JPEG format which contains only 256 shares.
- As the RAW file contains all the details, it is easy for you to change the white balance as per your wish even after clicking the image, without degrading the image quality. Whereas, changing the white balance of JPEG file will degrade the image quality.
- You can edit the same RAW file for multiple number of times, without loosing any details or the quality of the image. Whereas, the JPEG file looses its quality every time you edit the image.
Drawbacks of clicking in RAW / Benefits of clicking in JPEG
- The RAW files being heavy in size, ends up taking more space on your storage device. It is usually 2-3 times the size in comparison to the JPEG file, as it contains all the details.
- Clicking in RAW format might slow down your camera, which might result in missing out some important frames while shooting an event or a sport. As the file size is heavy, the camera tends to take some time to write the file to the memory card. Whereas, clicking in JPEG might save you a few seconds.
- A RAW format file can not be used for prints directly out of the camera, not can you use the file to share with your friends on your social media channels. The file requires some basic post processing in order to be made visually presentable. As the JPEG file is processed within the camera, it can be directly used for prints.
RAW vs JPEG: Which is the ideal format to click?
I would sum it up by saying that clicking in RAW format has its own benefits, which any day overpowers the advantages of clicking in JPEG format. The image file size and the requirement of post processing the image to make it look visually appealing should not stop you from clicking on the RAW format. Storage devices are affordable nowadays, so all you need to do is shoot, shoot and shoot in RAW format and take the power of post processing in your hands, instead of letting the camera do the processing for, as in the case of JPEG format.
Well, JPEG format has its own advantages for the photographer who click only for the purpose of uploading the images on social media to share among their group of friends. There might be a situation when your client asks you to simply click the images of an event and hand over the images the same day. In this situation, the client might not the familiar with the use of RAW files and you will have to shoot the event in JPEG format.
This video by Tony Northrup explains RAW vs JPEG in details with live examples.
So i would like to shoot a question towards you: Which format do you prefer shooting in?