Chris J Wilson

Krakow Street photographer

Should I Shoot in RAW or JPEG? The Answer May Surprise You

As I mentioned before, I was lucky that my brother was a big photo nut before I picked up my camera. On day one I was asking him lots of -stupid- important questions like, what does P mode stand for (not professional as it turns out), what does the white balance actually do and many more. One of the things he encouraged me at the start, was to shoot in RAW.

“Okay.” I thought. “He knows his stuff, I’ve heard that RAW is good, I’ll do it.” and so I switched over to shooting in RAW and all was right with the world…Well almost. In fact, there are some downsides to shooting in RAW which I had no idea about and so it might be better to shoot in…JPEG [I know some people are already to pen a comment below before they continue but you can’t sucker! I have no comments. Instead you can contact me on social media if you want to tell me how wrong I am. (update: I re-added comments)]

The case for RAW

I always assumed “RAW” was a file formate like .jpg or .png, actually it’s not at all. RAW is actually a type of file which has “unprocessed” camera information. So just like RAW meat which you need to cook (even just a little, unless you’re French), you need to edit RAW files just a little.

The advantage of RAW is they are great for editing. Because the information hasn’t been processed or affected yet, you can adapt them pretty much to you’re hearts content. This is great if you are learning and get the white balance wrong, or you underexpose the image when you shoot. You can simply correct that in your photo editing program.

The case against RAW and for JPEG

The biggest issue with RAW is you have to edit RAW files. You can’t take a picture and instantly upload it to the internet to share with your friends or family. This can mean that RAW files of little family moments sit on your computer…waiting to be edited, neglected, never looked at. Forever alone.

This is particularly true of camera which have built in wifi functions for instantly sharing images, if you have taken an image in RAW, you can’t use that [this actually happened to me, I had no idea why I couldn’t access my latest photos on my smartphone from the olympus sharing app. It turned out that I had selected RAW for my shooting options and so couldn’t access the RAW files.

RAW files also take up more space as they aren’t compressed, they are the RAW data.

Using a file formate like JPEG means you can just download them from your camera, then upload them online, then share them. Simple and quick.

How I’m shooting now

So after all that, the way that I am shooting most of the time now is by saving both RAW and JPG files on my camera so that I can easily share images AND also really refine and edit those images that I want to craft. This also helps me not have to think about changing modes for whatever situation I find myself in but instead just thinking about the picture.

There are of course two huge downsides with this approach. Memory usage and duplicates.

By having a copy of every photo I’m taking up more space on my SD cards that could be saved for other photos. My only saving grace here is that I don’t save large JPG files but lower res files to use just a bit less space than I would with full res files (after all these are for instant sharing and quick moments. If I really want to make a great photo, I’ll edit the RAW file.

The other problem is dealing with duplicate files when I store and move my photos. After all, having two copies of a photo is a bit of waste of space and it can be difficult to sort your files in a way that shows you only the RAW or JPEG files. I am developing a solution but it was the final push I needed to download Hazel (I’ll talk more about it soon I’m sure) which can organise files. Now I can add a tag for JPEG or RAW on to each file whenever I import it onto my Mac.

It’s not perfect but it seems the best solution for now.

Contact/complain to me

If you have thoughts, feedback or criticism then you can contact me on Twitter or Google Plus (you can also follow me on Instagram and see my edited JPEGs)

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English as a Foreign Language teacher in Krakow, Poland in my spare time I love taking photos. This is my blog.

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