Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday's Photo Tip - RAW vs JPG

Friday's Photo Tip - RAW vs JPG

raw banana bread dough in a baking pan

The debate to shoot RAW or JPG has gone on for years, and I believe it will always be this way.

Both sides have their pros and cons and the diehards for each side will continue to tout their way as the best.

For the most part, I shoot in the jpg format, but I have just had an experience that I think may have me changing my ways - but only on some photos.

When shooting jpg in the camera, the software in the camera compresses the file of the image, making it readable by most computer programs. It is considered the universal standard for photos.

When shooting raw, the file is saved without any compression. They are huge files, but they contain every exact pixel of info - no guessing going on with the raw format.

But every camera has a different way of processing raw files, and only one kind of software, designed just for it, can handle it most of the time. And when the firmware in the camera gets updated, it may need new software to process it. This makes old raw files obselete real quick.

A memory card will fill up extremely fast when shooting raw, and the processing of it takes longer too. If you are photoing action you need to wait for the camera to process the file before shooting the next frame.

Jpgs (also known as jpegs) allow you to fit more images on a memory card, and I have never had to wait for my camera to process them - it saves really quickly to the card.

Both types of files can be tweaked, but the raw ones need an extra step in the processing routine in order to make them tweakable in a program like photoshop. This is another program which just increases the processing time.

So, why would one want to shoot RAW when it makes more sense to shoot JPG?

I have been submitting images to a new stock agency, and they require the submitted file to be 48MB in size.

My jpg files are, on average, 28MB in size. This means I need to interpolate, or enlarge my file in order for it to even be considered for this agency.

When interpolating a compressed image, the program looks at the pixels and does its best to fill in the blank spaces to give this file 48MB of info. Since a jpg is compressed with a lot of guesswork to begin with, it is just more guessing which leads to artifacts and poor resolution when viewed at 100% in photoshop.

By using a RAW file, all of the info is there to interpolate with, not as much guessing going on as with the JPG. A cleaner and sharper image should be the result by interpolating a raw file as opposed to a jpg file.

Since I will only be sending certain images to this agency, I will shoot only the ones for them as RAW and will continue with JPG for all my other images.

But if one can afford the 24 megapixel DSLR, then none of this really matters - the JPGs will be just as gorgeous as the RAWs since the files will be so big to begin with.

It's always a numbers game!


  1. Thanks so much for explaining the RAW vs JPEG so clearly. I've tried shooting in RAW, but I admit, I'm too impatient--with the time both in and out of the camera. But the case is well made for the when and why a RAW file is a better choice! I love your raw batter....

  2. I'm like you, Kathy! If it's really counts - for certain orders - I do shoot in RAW format. Otherwise I do it in high res' JPEG.

    I know, it's longtime since I have visited your blog - sorry for that! Traveling is very time consuming for me, but beautiful!

    Thanks for your visits to my blog, very much appreciated.

    Sue's Daily Photography

  3. Thanks, Willoaks - and the bread was really good too!

  4. Hi Susanne - What an experience you are having with your traveling - enjoy every minute! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Thanks for this information. I hadn't yet bothered to figure out the reasons to (not) use RAW.

  6. I just ran across this very problem last night when setting up an account with a company.

    Wow, you live you learn. I never even thought about shooting in raw format and I should have known better too.

    When I was designing and selling graphics everything had to be very high resolution.

    Now I have literally hundreds and hundreds of photos that will have very limited uses.

    How uncanny that I chose today of all days to drop by. This information is exactly what I have been pondering on since last night.

    Oh Kathy this is all so so scary. We have already been out so much money and we have so far to go...whew!!!!!

    Thank goodness I have been blessed to get to know some top notch photographers such as yourself.

    Now I just need about $15,000 or $20,000 more dollars and we will be set.

    I hope you are doing well and that you had a great weekend!!

  7. Thanks for dropping by Kathy! Your post right here led me to search for my lost manual and that led me to . I am considering taking a course with them related to the fundamentals.

    I just wanted you to know that these tips are very helpful!

  8. Hi Kathy,
    As mentioned above in my other comments this tip has led me to seek out new alternatives when we upgrade to a new camera.

    I am currently surfing through Amazon to add things to my wish list. One being a new 24 megapixel DSLR.

    I have located a Sony at Amazon that shoots with this capacity but at &1,000+ it also lacks a few things I prefer such as auto sensor cleaning.

    If you get the chance to drop in and leave a comment? I would really appreciate which 24 megapixel camera you would go with.

    Or please email me your answer if you would rather not recommend a specific brand name publicly.

    I have learned enough now to know just exactly how limited my entry level camera is. But, would really love input from a professional photographer as yourself before I start building my wish list.

    I do so hope you will have the time and thanks in advance bunches for everything!

  9. No need now Kathy. I have viewed both the Nikon and the Sony. Although incredibly expensive, I do think I am liking the Sony much better.

    I am only finding 2 options at this time to choose from anyway....Nikon or Sony. Both are extremely expensive.

    So far I am really liking the Sony Alpha A900 24.6MP Digital SLR Camera. Wow but it is incredibly expensive and it too also comes body only.

    I must thank you again for these photo tip. They are helping me a great deal to know exactly what and how to research for.

  10. Hi Jackie - sorry about the delay in getting to your question - too busy for words these days!

    Both the Nikon and the Sony DSLR's are top of the line,and both will perform exceeding well for you.

    I am partial to the Sony as I have always been a Minolta fan and they took them over several years ago.

    FIY - the sensors in the Nikon cameras are made by Sony. That tells me a lot right there.

    The flagships of both lines are very expensive - I figure if I ever hot the lottery I will get that Sony. Until then the lower ones will work.

    As a famous photographer once said (can't remember which one) - it's not the camera, but the eye of the one holding it. I have seen some fabulous images with a simple point and shoot, so there is some truth in that.

    My biggest piece of advice - put your money in your glass - that's where the most difference will come in. Be very selective - some of it just can't deliver in sharpness, color, or handling.

    Before you sink tons of money in your glass - check online for comparisons of different lenses. Very time consuming but so worth it.

    What are you using for a camera now? And what are your lenses?

    You mentioned Betterphotos for some classes. I have never used them, but it can't hurt to try a course to see if it is something that will work for you. They have been around for a while and from I have read about them, they know their stuff.

    You must be so excited! Sounds like you are doing your homework in checking them out. Have fun, and let me know what you choose!

    Take care,

  11. I actually never shot in RAW, I guess never had the need, for what I use my images the JPG is just fine. I know what you mean about the size, I already have complains about some images that sometimes exceed 5 mb, especially the ones that have lot of green in them. Kathy this is one of the most resourceful post I ever read, so well explained. Anna :)


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment - it is appreciated! I will do my best to return it with a visit to your blog. Take care, and enjoy!


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