Should I Shoot In RAW or JPEG? Does It Matter?

DSLR for Beginners, DSLR Photography

should i shoot in raw or jpegChoosing between RAW or JPEG really depends on what you want to do with your photos.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

In this post, I will talk about what the basic differences are.

Should I Shoot In RAW or JPEG?

If you are just getting started with your DSLR, this is an important question.

While some compact cameras do shoot in both file formats, RAW is generally the domain of DSLR cameras. But if you have a compact that shoots in both, learning about the differences will  help you get more out of your camera.

About Shooting in RAW 

Shooting an image in a RAW file format means it is stored on your memory card without being processed. The image quality, with all its color and clarity remains intact to be processed later. It's definitely a better quality image than a JPEG!

The detail captured in a RAW file makes it more versatile to work with in photo editing software, you'll have more editing options than with a JPEG.

It's like having the raw ingredients to make a meal, as opposed to having the prepared meal. You can prepare those raw ingredients in many creative ways, combining them, adding spice and enhancing the flavor. Your options are wide open, allowing you to make a number of different meals with those same ingredients.

When working with RAW image files, you'll need a program like Photoshop or Lightroom to open and edit them.

Unlike food, when working on a RAW file you can save a copy and always have your high quality original image. We go back to original RAW files many times to process them for various projects.

RAW files take up more space on your memory card because of the detail they capture, they are more pixel-rich than JPEGs.

About Shooting in JPEG

With a JPEG file format the data is processed at the moment it's captured. When you click the shutter release button, the file for that image is compressed and sent to your memory card. That means you lose some of the detail in your image.

JPEG images are kind of like a prepared meal. It's yummy and ready to eat, but you don't have many options left.

A JPEG file is smaller than a RAW file, that's why you can store more of them on your memory card.

Unlike a RAW file, a JPEG loses data each time you work (open/close/share) with it on your computer. So with each action, the picture quality degrades.

A RAW file can be processed and saved as a JPEG, but it doesn't work the other way round.

JPEGs are easier to share because they are smaller files. You can process RAW files to be shared socially, but it takes longer.

How To Choose: RAW or JPEG

“Should I shoot in RAW or JPEG?” is a question I ask myself each time I plan a shoot.

Which one I choose depends on what I want to do with the photos from that shoot.

should i shoot in raw or jpeg

If I just want to share them socially, then a JPEG is a good choice. But if I want to use them for this blog or other projects then I always shoot in RAW.

Shooting in RAW, processing, and then saving a JPEG file is a good choice for bloggers. All the detail from the RAW file is better for creating gorgeous photos, and using the JPEG in your posts makes your site load up faster. The best part is that your original high quality RAW is there to go back to.

Shoot Both For Maximum Flexibility 

Capturing a file of both would give you the most flexibility.

This might be the best option if you want to share socially (on the spot,) and work with your photo in photo editing software. The down side is that it will take up more space on your memory card. You will also need to organize both file types when you offload your photos.

How would you answer the question: Should I shoot in RAW or JEPG? What are your determining factors? Please share by commenting on this post.

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Hi, I'm the Author!

I'm an amateur photographer and Canadian entrepreneur. Since moving to South America in 2009, we have made our living as content creators. I'm a partner at Storyteller Media, a content marketing company for Canadian travel brands. I am co-founder of this site, and our Nova Scotia travel site WiseGuides.ca.

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