One of the main questions that pops out when we’re starting as photographers is which kind of file I should use for my shoots… and what’s the f* difference between RAW files and JPEG files? Ok, lets break down the differences and give you some tips on which ones will suit you best for each time you’re shooting.
First, lets talk about JPEG, this is the file we’re used to work with, as it is which most of the cameras we’ve worked with (until our DSLR) shoot on this type. This type of file is lighter, therefore, it keeps less information and the images go out slightly corrected and processed by the camera. Yes, that’s right. Lets be clear, every digital image has being slightly corrected and processed as it is, but RAW files.
JPEG would be great then if I am just… going around with my camera and my friends, on a nice day and just want to have so nice photos, but I have no intention on editing them, or I don’t need to edit them that much. Also, I know I won’t print them on a superlarge canvas, so I don’t have to worry about the size, neither of the file, nor the resolution.
On the other hand, we have RAW files. This are huge and heavy files that will need lots of saving space from you. On the plus side, they are so heavy because they have lots of information about the shadows, the highlights, the whitebalance… pretty much everything there is to cover there. This comes super handy when we are thinking on the editing purposes of our picture, or if we want to print something BIG.
If I am shooting on low light conditions, for example, I might need to pull up the shadows, or the blacks later on. If I am doing some shots to create something cool on Photoshop later on, I might want them to have the most information available to play with, from shadows, to colors, to white balance… If I am just going around town, and I am just planning on shooting something I find nice, but just that: “Look at that, what a cool sculpture! I am going to take a pic” no intention of editing, no intention to play around with it either… then, I surely can shoot in JPEG.
Another thing you’ve to know about RAW files is that you need an specific program to see them, it can be Lightroom, maybe Photoshop… but you won’t be able to see it just straight from the memory card. While, on the other hand, JPEG files are always working in whatever decive you are using, which can also be quite handy, specially when it comes to share pictures quickly (I am thinking here with family and friends mostly).
Summarizing, RAW files would have tons of useful information, but are also really heavy and they need a special program to work with, while on the other hand JPEG are lighter and you can see them in any device, but, they have less information to work with when editing.
And you? Which type of files do you usually use? Let me know in the comments below! Also if you have any question, or any doubt, don’t hesitate to ask!
Have a nice shooting!