Monday, February 27, 2012

RAW vs. JPG - Which do you like better?

First I will state, for the record, that in no way do I know what I'm talking about when it comes to photography. I am pretty clueless actually. OK, Now that I got that cleared up.... these are just my thoughts & opinions. Feel free to sneer or laugh at me.

I want to talk about shooting in RAW vs. JPG. Ever since I got my DSLR and started learning about photography, I have been hearing about RAW vs JPG. There have been tons of article & blogs published on this topic. Just google it and you'll see what I mean. So much confusion. So many opinions.

I won't lie - I have been scared terrified of RAW until I actually tried it a few weeks ago. I also read this blog post on "Click it up a Notch" which inspired me to attempt shooting in RAW.


Most digital cameras are set up, by default, to process and compress the pictures you take immediately after capturing the image (JPG) on the camera. This keeps the file sizes low (using JPEG compression) and takes care of color correction, including white-balance, tint, and exposure, so you don't have to. However, some people prefer to have more control over how each image is processed by shooting in RAW. Most DSLR cameras have the ability to shoot in RAW mode. This mode does not compress the images at all and leaves them completely unprocessed. {Unprocessed?? Oooh Scary!}  If you want to read up about some uber guru-technical stuff regarding RAW, go here.

Here's MY 'unprofessional Mama-razzi starter' view on things:

RAW Pros
  • RAW files are not processed on the camera like JPGs are.  Basically, you get to decide how the photo is processed, and not the camera. 
  • You have total control over what comes out of your camera. When I started editing my RAW shots, I could not believe the broad range I had over controlling the exposure, white balance, tint, hues, etc... etc... Wow! This is a keeper my friends! RAW has my vote for YES!  
  • Editing every file might take a little more time but I now see what the big deal is! I was a 'editing' freak before this, so what's the difference if I have to edit RAW now? Not a lot of change for me. And it's so much fun! 
  • Easier to fix "mistakes" in photos like exposure, lighting, colors, etc. 

RAW Cons 
  • These files are uncompressed & take up way more space on your memory card and on your PC. The average RAW file on my camera is about 22Mb per image, and the average JPG is about 6Mb. Yup, that is almost 4x larger if you are doing the math. 22Mb per image can fill a memory card up pretty darned fast. 
  • RAW images can not be viewed by 'any old' program. You need to open them with Photo-editing software that can process RAW files, then edit & convert them to a TIFF or JPG format for easier viewing, printing & file management. This can be costly & let's face it, time consuming to edit each shot. 
JPG Pros 
  • You can take an image SOOC (Straight Out Of the Camera) and print, upload to facebook, email, etc, without editing it first. 
  • JPG images are the most popular & compatible! 
  • JPG's take up significantly less room on your memory card & hard drive. 
  • Sharper straight out of the camera than RAW (unprocessed)
  • Let's face it, JPG's are just easier
  • Can do quick edits without having to process too much

JPG Cons
  • (JPEG) JPG's are compressed and you do lose some of your image quality & depth because of this.
  • JPG's are processed by your camera, including color correction, exposure, white balance... As opposed to RAW, which are "waiting to be processed" by you once you upload them.   
Camera Setting

 I'm sure most DSLR's have this ability now (I just found out mine does! Dooohh!) - My Canon T2i  has the option to shoot "RAW + JPG" at the same time. So in other words, I snap a picture, and my camera saves it as a JPG and as a RAW file together. When I upload to my PC, I will have one JPG & one CR2 file (Canon's file type for RAW).  This way gives you options. Pretty cool. Check your camera manual to see how to change this setting. 

Photo Editing

Everyone has their own way of processing/editing. I am still trying to figure mine out. 
But so far, I like to pull the images into either Lightroom or Photoshop Elements (PSE) organizer... and use Lightroom or ACR (Adobe camera raw) to adjust the exposure/colors... then PSE to finish editing. PSE 10 and Lightroom recognize CR2 Raw files. My Photoshop CS3 does not know what to do with CR2's, and I have to use DNG converter (Adobe's file converter that converts some proprietary camera files to editable RAW files)- What a pain in the you know what. So... I am trying out PSE 10 now and I have to say, I like this better than Photoshop CS3... so far. That can change tomorrow knowing me! 

Last but not least

Back your photos up! Do not fall victim to the "My PC just crashed and I lost all my photos" monster! Back your photos up somewhere other than on your own computer! I use an external hard drive that I back up to at least 2x a week. But there are many other methods of backing up. I don't care what you use, just make sure you do it... 


I thought this would be a fun topic to discuss only because I have just "seen the light" recently and wanted to shout it out - Try RAW if you haven't yet. See if you like it! I sure do!

Here are some shots I took at the park the other night. 
You can kind of (hopefully) see what I mean .... 

Here is the SOOC RAW below. 
Considerably darker & not as sharp with zero processing.                                                         

Here is the SOOC JPG below. 
I notice it's a little brighter right away.

I edited both files below (RAW & JPG) file in PSE and used 2 actions with the same opacity levels & cropping on both. 
I used CoffeeShop's "Sunny Pop" and then "Velvet Cream". By the way - I love the Coffee Shop blog's free actions
(I am a big fan of light & bright if you haven't noticed!)

Here is my Edited JPG ... Kind of bright and flat in my daughter's face and hair. 

Here is the edited RAW file. The action actually took care of her eyes too - brightened them up without me having to mess with much else- and defined her face very nicely. The image (to me) looks deeper. I was also able to sharpen this up much nicer than the JPG. 

I am sure there are other {better} ways I could have fixed these photos - but I just wanted to show quick a comparison for my post. 

What do you prefer for yourself? RAW or JPG?  
If you tried RAW, do you like it? 

Edit 2/29/12 - I had to add this as the most incredible find - Amazon is offering Lightroom today for $89. If you were holding off on pulling the trigger, here is an excuse to buy it ... This is a great deal. Check it out HERE on


  1. I have only just started shooting in RAW (because I didn't have a program to deal with RAW before mid January. I have been using Adobe Lightroom 4 beta trial and I LOVE IT! I also LOVE the fact that RAW has so much more clarity, colours, etc... I think that's the biggest "draw card" for me. Shooting in RAW has more colours and is so much clearer before you edit so your image isn't compromised while editing and converting to JPG.
    I have until March 30 with Lightroom 4 beta... then I have to buy Lightroom and I think I will also get PSE. (My son gave me a copy of Photoshop CS4 but I can't get my head around it)

    1. Liz... I get emails from Adobe and one day I got a great offer (one day only) to purchase lightroom for $99!! That is $200 off! I had to jump on that. Make sure you get their emails so you can get it for a good price! :) I am with you, I love lightroom! I started with PS CS3 and I took some online classes - and I really like it ... BUT then I tried PSE10 and I am in love with that... it does the same thing as CS3 but simolified. I might just continue to use PSE now. Ahhh decisions decisions :)
      And like you said, the colors in RAW are better and more of a wide spectrum!
      btw- love your blog :0)

  2. what a great post!!!! i am terrified of my RAW setting but i just might have to bust it out and see what i get. i really see what you are daying about the "depth" int he edited RAW image....and the color is much better too. amazing!

    1. thanks! Go for it Rach! I know you'll love it! :) It's fun. Let me know how you like it when you try it out!Try the setting that has both RAW+JPG, so you aren't forced to use RAW if you don't feel like it! And uh, make sure you have a big memory card lol.

  3. This was the BEST post on Raw vrs JPEG I've read! Even I understood it, thanks mama! I am just beginning my photography journey & sure does give me some goof stuff to think about!

    P/S both pics are BEAUTIFUL, but you can the difference! Happy weekend!

  4. Great job...I have never shot is RAW. I guess I should step out of my comfort zone.


  5. Brilliant post hun, I didn't know the difference between RAW and JPEG I can see that RAW come out alot clearer in your edits you can see her eyes better in the RAW pic x x
    New Follower here hun !


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