RAW v.s. Jpeg


Photograph by Daniel Hancock

The majority of professional photographers photograph in RAW. There are many advantages to this, which will result in better quality. However, there are also some disadvantages.This article will go through both to help you decide which you should use.

Two factors to keep in mind when viewing the lists of advantages and disadvantages:

A. Your current camera may not give you an option. Please check your camera manual for more information.

B. JPEGs are already processed by the camera and editing them again would result in significant quality reduction. However, when editing RAW files, the editing can be done for the desired results before exporting to a more fragile image format.


  1. RAW Uses 16 Bit Data Instead of the 8 Bits a JPEG Uses

This results in better quality, especially after editing.
  1. Non-Destructive Editing

When editing a raw file, the changes are not made directly to the file. Instead, an additional file saves these processing settings until the photographer is ready to export the image into another format for another use such as the web.
  1. Exposure Can Be Changed

If the exposure of a picture isn't “quite” right, it can be changed during processing of RAW files.
  1. White Balance Can Be Corrected

When editing a raw file, one can correct the white balance of an image (click here for more information on white balance). Adjusting the white balance can greatly improve an image by removing color tints that distract.
  1. Better Highlight Restoration

  2. Custom Sharpening and Noise reduction

This enables the photographer to choose which they need most, sharpness or noise-reduction – as noise reduction also blurs the details of an image (The rate depends on the strength of the noise reduction used).
  1. Chromatic aberrations and vignetting

Chromatic aberration can be corrected in most RAW programs. The same is true with vignetting, when a wide aperture or poor quality lens darkens the corners of an image.



  1. Takes Longer To Edit

This is obvious, as JPEGs are processed by the camera, but RAW is raw. It requires processing through image editors such as Adobe Camera RAW or Raw Therapee before it is published. This takes time and effort, but in my opinion, it is worth it.
  1. Requires Additional Storage Space, About 4 Times The Size.

This means memory cards and hard-drives will fill up at 4 times the rate. This can requires additional effort to compensate for – additional memory cards and hard-drives.

My recommendation is to use RAW. Unless you are really crunched with time, it is the best method. There are several free options available for RAW editors. If you use Mac or Linux, I would use Darktable. If you use Windows, you can use Raw Therapee. However, Raw Therapee would be difficult to use for a professional, which is why I use Darktable. If you do have heavy demands for image tagging and organization and still want to continue using Windows, Adobe Lightroom might be your best option, but you'll have to fork some dough over for it.


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