Raw Files vs Jpegs?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by I AM THE MAN, May 20, 2011.

  1. I AM THE MAN macrumors 6502

    Apr 10, 2011
    I just purchased my T3 (which I will exchange for a T3i) and I do take both Raw and Jpeg pictures but what really is the difference between JPEGS and RAW Files? I really never did understand. Thanks for all the info in advance.
  2. philio32383 macrumors newbie

    May 20, 2011
    RAW is a "true light" capture, meaning that it is not a heavily compressed file, thus making the file more apt to post shooting changes with computer programs i.e. photoshop. A Jpeg shot is the regular needed for something you do not plan on doing much digital editing with, this would most likely be family events, where it was more for memory sake as opposed to quality pictures.

    This past Chinese New Year I chose to shoot some 3500 pics in RAW because I never knew which ones I REALLY wanted to edit. It took up a lot of space, but if you think -someday I might want to digitally edit these pics- then it is worth it. You can easily change a RAW to a Jpeg but you can never make a Jpeg a RAW.

    Of course knowing your camera and taking the best first shot, or snipe shot, is something that I have been working towards and is the number one thing you should concentrate on. The digital editing is to fix mistakes that may have been made while taking the shot and to to make color pop!
  3. fcortese macrumors demi-god


    Apr 3, 2010
    Big Sky country
    JPEGs are about 8 bits of data, whereas, RAW is 14 bits. A simple way of looking at it is if you look at a holograph of a photo the data that you see is about 8 bits with 3 bits of data (shadows) on the darkside (left) or "out" of the picture and 3 on the lightside (right) and "out" of the picture. By "out" of the picture I mean not seen in the photo you are looking at on your screen or even on your LCD on the camera. In other words RAW contains all of the color shades in the captured picture, whereas JPEG only has most but not all of the color shades. . Philio is correct in that this is invaluable when you try to post-process a photo. If you want to get the max out of a photo or manipulate the colors, mood, etc then RAW is a necessity. If not a JPEG will be good enough even if you enlarge a photo for printing. Hope this helps.
  4. Ryan1524 macrumors 68000


    Apr 9, 2003
    Canada GTA
    I always work with RAW if and when possible.

    JPEG post-processing just can't compare.
  5. I AM THE MAN thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 10, 2011
  6. Hankster macrumors 68020


    Jan 30, 2008
    Washington DC
    Like the other's said, RAW is better overall. Someone told me a while ago: "If you have the hard drive space use RAW, if you don't use JPG. That should be the only reason you don't use RAW". He was right.

    Just make sure your computer has software that can open RAW, or has the proper extension.
  7. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    As others have said, JPGs sacrifice data for a smaller file. RAW files capture more data, but at the expense of bigger files.

    If, all you do is shoot for online albums - and you are a competent shooter (i.e. all your important shots are well exposed) then JPG is probably a "better" format for you. You can fit more images on a card, the camera can shoot faster in "burst" mode. Most consumer monitors can't display much of a colour range, and online images need to be small. You can do "special effects" on JPGs, but the range of what you can do is very limited.

    However, you will never be able to do anything much more than this, with JPGs.

    With RAW files your camera shoots (typically) slower in "burst" mode, and you need more memory cards and HDD space. But you can make large prints, special effects are more easily done, the images can be "saved as" into different sizes and formats.

    RAW is for the future. For being able to do things with your images that you may not have thought about, or intended, when you took the photo. JPG limits what you can do, but may be perfectly adequate if that limited use is all you are ever going to do with them.

    One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet by the other posters is that JPG is a "lossy compression". Every time you save a JPG file (say, after some light editing) you lose data. If you open it up and do some more editing, you lose more data again. So, if you are going to use JPG as your main file format, also make a copy of the original JPG and make your edits on the copy. At least that way you are within one generation of the original.

    Hope this helps.
  8. tinman0 macrumors regular

    Jun 5, 2008
    I'll bite - don't bother with RAW in the short/medium term.

    Essentially its the raw capture from the ccd but it needs to be made into a viewable image afterwards like a jpeg/tiff/gif/etc. At the end of the day you'll make it a jpeg regardless.

    Trouble with a RAW file and something like a T3 is that the files will be huge and frankly - a waste of space.

    I've spent 4-5 years at my photography and it's only now that I've switched into RAW as my primary medium. However, in June when I get back on the road and take pictures during our events I'll flip back to jpeg. I'll only use RAW for high value shots.

    So my personal advice, contrary to everyone elses, is don't bother with RAW until you have all your photography has progressed and you need to explore that avenue. Until then, it'll just chew your drive up for space.

    Nice camera btw. Good choice ;)
  9. I AM THE MAN thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 10, 2011
    Thank you for your response. For now, I will capture images in both RAW AND JPEG (there is an option for that) so if in the future I would need to explore deeper, I will always be able to. Once again, thank you!
  10. VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    That's what I started with. However, I quickly dropped the JPEGs and started shooting RAW only after I got competent with Aperture.

    If you spend some just a bit of time learning the basics of a good photo post-processing app like Aperture or Lightroom, you'll find that RAW's are gold.

    RAW captures added dynamic range that can allow you to lighten shadows or recover blown highlights... something you will find is very limiting with JPEG. The other added benefit of RAWs is that you can easily remove color cast, which can be a dream when working with images suffering from white balance issues. RAW allows you to shoot in Auto WB mode all the time and easily correct it in post.

    The bottom line is that RAW is actually a lot more forgiving/flexible than JPEG and both beginners and pros can get better photos with RAW.
  11. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Whether you use RAW or JPG is a decision you need to make based on your needs. However, using RAW and JPG is, I believe, the wrong choice. This setting chews up more space than just RAW, it doesn't speed up "Burst" mode, and doesn't give you anything in return .... except that some software used to post-process the images afterwards will be able to show you a preview faster than having to create the preview itself.

    Do a MRoogle search in the forum.... there was a very complete thread on whether using JPG & RAW was a good idea (Consensus was that it was not).

    So choose one or the other, and keep in mind... it's not for life. You can change the file format any time you want. So experiment with both - all good photographers are constantly experimenting anyway - and see what works best for you, at this time. And the don't forget that you can change again in the future. Good Luck.
  12. johnnj macrumors 6502a

    Dec 11, 2008
    Not here
    When people ask me what the difference between shooting RAW and in-camera JPEG, I tell them that JPEG is like getting their film developed at the drug store and getting a pack of 4x6 prints back. In many cases they are good enough and are the fastest way to get a picture in your hand, but you don't get any input.

    RAW is like a negative that you make your own prints from. There are many more opportunities to improve or change the final image, but at the expense of time, effort, disk space, and a learning curve.

    Of course like all you guys have mentioned, there are many technical reasons why one is better than the other, but I find that people generally don't care about that stuff. The eyes start to glaze over about three words after "Well...."
  13. dyn macrumors 68030

    Aug 8, 2009
    In other words, RAW allows you to be ignorant about what you're doing because you can correct it afterwards. Jpg doesn't and therefore forces you to carefully examine what you're shooting and what the result will be. Sometimes a con isn't a con ;)

    That is also a curse. RAW is something you HAVE to edit. That means spending time on post-processing. Which also means you have to learn post-processing. Shooting RAW would mean that a beginner has to learn the camera, has to learn how to shoot photos, has to learn how to use the edit tools and has to learn how to edit the photos. That is an awful lot of things to learn and that is never the correct way to start out anything. If you start something new, use baby steps. When you get to post-processing you probably don't want to edit your old pics anyway.

    So yes, I agree with tinman0. Start at the beginning and move up slowly. Don't start at the end.
  14. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Actually, shooting digital means having to edit. With film you paid the lab technician to do the editing when they made the prints. Sometimes they were good, sometimes - not so much. With digital you are now your own lab technician, JPG, TIF, or RAW. So, any digital photographer still needs to learn post-processing.

    Where someone starts depends on their learning style, and how serious they are - and plan to be -about their photography. If Flickr is all they ever aspire to, then RAW is probably more than they need.
  15. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    You don't have to edit a RAW file. The camera will tag them with the same "decisions" it would bake into a JPEG file, and RAW software will "develop" the photo according to this data. If a picture looks good, all you need to do is click 'Save As JPEG'. If it doesn't look good, that's when you edit.

    I think johnnj's analogy of JPEG being like a print, RAW being like a negative, is the best so far. I'd expound upon that by saying JPEG is like an extension of the camera's auto settings. The camera will make a judgement on how it thinks you want the photo to turn out. As I said above, with RAW that is done too, but with RAW you can alter those decisions without damage.
  16. jtara macrumors 68000

    Mar 23, 2009
    There have been a lot of partial and inaccurate answers to what JPEG is. Why not start with the Wikipedia article?


    There are a number of disadvantages of JPEG for photos that will be edited:

    - It uses a lossy compression scheme.

    - It has some pretty nasty compression artifacts. e.g. "the jaggies". You will see, for example, a "halo" around objects. This depends to some degree on compression level, but the artifacts are always there to some degree. The artifacts in particular don't survive multiple edits well. JPEG 2000 has less objectionable, and different artifacts but we're talking classic JPEG here. (JPEG 2000 gets "the bluries", not "the jaggies".)

    - Yes, limited dynamic range, limited colors, but less of a big deal than the above.

    - It does color-space conversion. This leads you into situations of information loss, because in the process it can run out of range making it impossible to shift back. RAW just captures the output of the sensor, allowing you to do your own color-space conversion.
  17. trevis macrumors newbie

    Mar 14, 2008
    RAW to JPEG converter in a outside software may be better then the one in the camera. With the exception for the cases where fast shooting is required, RAW, in my opinion, is the way to shoot with nay camera that support it, be it P&S of DSLR.
  18. johnnj macrumors 6502a

    Dec 11, 2008
    Not here
    Wow, seriously? So everyone in the history of photography who's made a darkroom print with cropping/rotating/dodging & burning/contrast & exposure adjustment, or any other technique was ignorant about what they were doing when making the exposure because the negative wasn't perfect?
  19. bocomo macrumors 6502

    Jun 29, 2007
    New York
    i would humbly disagree with both points

    sometimes you have mixed light and shooting in raw will help with this immensely (and sometimes auto white balance doesn't do a good job, and you can forget to change the white balance)

    post processing raw files is fairly simple and can be rather streamlined. back when raw was new, you had to open one file at a time to work on and THAT was a huge pain. with modern software, you can output a whole folder or raw files to jpeg automatically
  20. dyn, May 25, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: May 27, 2011

    dyn macrumors 68030

    Aug 8, 2009
    That is incorrect. The camera is now developing the stuff for you. You get to choose settings like white balance and picture style. The camera creates a jpg which is the same as what the lab technician created.

    If you want the optimal result and control everything than yes you need to be your own technician and develop it yourself. In the digital era that means shooting RAW and editing it. However, without using all the post-processing you can actually get good shots. Most people wouldn't even be able to see the difference. Mind you, we're still talking about beginners, not advanced photographers!

    In the end is up to the photographer whether or not he edits.

    RAW is basically data from the sensor. You edit that data and export the edits to something like a jpeg file. You could opt software like Lightroom to export to jpeg immediately. In that case the software will do a specific set of (minimalistic) edits to it. You can create these kind of sets yourself and automate editing photos.

    If you want to compare it to film than this would be it.

    If you want to advise someone something you do it by listing both the advantages and disadvantages. Since people here only list the advantages I thought I'd list some disadvantages. The disadvantage by being flexible is the fact that you start to rely on it. That means you'll become a bit lazy "nah, no need to change, I can change it later on the computer". Obviously that also has an advantage. If you screw up because you forget a setting you can correct it but not everything (out of focus stays out of focus).

    For a beginner this doesn't count. A beginner will most likely need to throw away most of the shots. That is the process of learning.

    It can be but it doesn't have to be, especially for someone starting with taking pics. They just want to go out and take pics. If they also have to edit all of them it will put them off.

    The problem is that people are advising people who have never used something like a dslr with hardware and software they or people like Chase Jarvis use. They are not at that level yet so keep that in mind!
  21. johnnj macrumors 6502a

    Dec 11, 2008
    Not here
    Impressive how you managed to violate forum rules twice in only three sentences.

    I implied nothing. I made a direct statement.

    You said in a previous post "RAW allows you to be ignorant about what you're doing because you can correct it afterwards."

    RAW is the file containing an image with no in-camera processing done to it. In this regard, it is no different than a negative after it comes out of the camera and then processed in the standard method for that film type.

    To say that RAW enables the photographer to be ignorant because that file type has a greater capacity for editing/correction/creative changes is not something I agree with.

    I also did not say or imply that I believe that all photographers shot RAW throughout the history of photography. I was continuing with my analogy of a negative to RAW and a drugstore print to JPEG from a couple of posts earlier.

    Please allow me to spell it out:

    JPEG=drug store minilab print

    JPEG=not ignorant

    RAW editor=wet darkroom



    So since the beginning of photographic print time, negatives (with the exception of contact prints) required the use of a wet darkroom with an enlarger and there were many techniques, many (if not all) have equivalents in today's RAW editor functionality.

    To complete this thought:

    People who shoot film and use a darkroom=ignorant

    People who shoot RAW and use a RAW editor=ignorant

    People who shoot JPEG and use no software (except of course for the software running on the camera's computer doing all kinds of changes according to the programming)=not ignorant

    People who shoot RAW and make their own changes in the software of their choice=ignorant

    If all you have to support your position on this thoroughly unimportant issue is ad hominem attacks, then you have my sympathies.
  22. tinman0 macrumors regular

    Jun 5, 2008
    Interesting reading a blog the other week that Getty didn't even use RAW for the Royal Wedding.
  23. johnnj macrumors 6502a

    Dec 11, 2008
    Not here
    I can believe that. In a pro PJ or sports photog situation you need to have a massive amount of shots that can be sent back to the mothership ready for publication. Canon 1Dmk4 is designed just for that.
  24. Edge100, May 26, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: May 26, 2011

    Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    You are always shooting RAW, no matter what the camera is set to.

    If you shoot in JPEG mode, you're just allowing the camera to do the conversion for you.

    Why make that sacrifice? Wouldn't you rather be in control?

    Very few PJ's shoot RAW, for the simple reason that the image has to be taken, tagged, and uploaded within minutes. There's no time to detailed RAW conversions.

    It's a reasonable trade-off if you have a 5 minute deadline.

    It's not a reasonable trade-off if you actually have time to edit your images.
  25. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    Beyond that. In photojournalism, image integrity is paramount. Extensive editing may compromise the integrity of the image, or even compromise the appearance of compromising the integrity of the image- which is the biggest offense a PJ can commit (like the one PJ who lost his job because he accidentally released an edited photo of Tiger Woods). Because of the extreme importance on integrity, there is little need to shoot RAW because you are not supposed to edit them that extensively to start with. And, as others have stated, the time constraints of PJs is measured in minutes, so speed is #1.

    I can guarantee the photographer who actually shot the pictures for the royal wedding itself and not just reporting on it as a journalist shot in RAW (if they used digital).


Share This Page