JPEG vs Raw - A Hot Topic

November 14, 2014  •  Leave a Comment
Everybody has an opinion and I'm no exception.  What I'd like to do is present the advantages and disadvantages of both shooting Raw and shooting JPEG and then let you form your own opinion.  There are times that each of these are valid depending on what you are trying to accomplish.  Hardliners would say it doesn't matter what you're trying to accomplish that only one approach is the required.  So suffice it to say that this is my opinion.
 
Early on, after the digital revolution when Raw files became available, many of the photographers preached that shooting Raw is the only approach that makes sense.  After all, the primary advantage of shooting Raw is that the file contains everything captured during the exposure.  A JPEG file on the other hand contains a compressed file that throws out information that is deemed irrelevant (much of this is Meta Data).  Therefore, the Raw file must be better.  Right?  Well maybe and maybe not.  The primary advantage for shooting JPEG is the file size.  Since the irrelevant information is removed the JPEG file is much smaller than the Raw file.
 
These are the two primary advantages for shooting either Raw or JPEG.  As mentioned above, the decision to shoot one over the other is primarily determined by what you're trying to accomplish.    My simple guideline is this.  If I need to shoot fast, and/or I do not have the flexibility to edit the image then I shoot JPEG.  Otherwise I will shoot in the Raw format.  When I have to shoot fast, such as with action sports, the file size of the Raw format will fill the camera buffer very quickly.  Especially with today's larger files sizes.  Once the buffer is full I have to wait for the camera to write to the card so I can continue.  If there's a lot of action, I can't afford for this to occur.  Another situation is if I have to deliver the files or prints immediately, or very quickly.  This means there will be very little or no editing.  When this is the case there is no reason to shoot Raw.
 
In my opinion, the only real reason to shoot Raw is if you believe there will be some editing required.  I normally do some finishing on my portraits and landscapes so these types of images are always shot in the Raw format.  Don't misunderstand, you can still do some great editing on JPEG images.  However, you're limited by the information you have.  In many many cases this is acceptable, but in some cases it's not and in those cases I want to be sure I can do what I need to do.  Thus the Raw format.
 
Hope this wasn't too wishy washy, or vague.  I'm sure there are other advantages and disadvantages to these formats, but these are the primary ones I have considered and what I use to determine the format to use.  As I have mentioned, some photographers are real hardliners on one format or the other.  And that's OK.  However, in my opinion I believe there is a  time and place for each format.  What do you think?
 
Hope this was helpful.  Happy shooting.
Solitary BoatSolitary Boat in the BayAll alone.

 


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