Just about any camera that shoots RAW files will also offer a RAW+JPEG option where you get both; an in-camera processed JPEG image and a RAW file you can process yourself.
But why would you want both? Surely a RAW file is superior, as it has everything you need and a JPEG version is simply superfluous? Well maybe not, and here are 4 reasons why.
1. Shooting RAW+JPEG gives you an image you can share straight away
So sure, you might fully intend to process your RAW files to your own tastes later, but maybe you need to share an image right there and then with a client, colleague or friend? If you shoot RAW+JPEG, you get a JPEG image you can share straight away, without having to go back to base to process your images first.
2. A JPEG gives you something to aim at with your RAW processing
RAW files give you a lot of processing potential, but it’s good to have a baseline to aim at. Quite often you’ll find that you have to do quite a lot of work to a RAW file even to get it to the same level as the in-camera JPEG, right from the default color rendering through white balance, shadow and highlight tweaks, sharpness and noise control. Which leads on to the next point…
3. You may find the JPEG is all you need!
I shoot RAW files for two main reasons. The first is to get extra dynamic range ‘headroom’ for shadow and highlight recovery. The second is to have a higher-quality 14-bit original for heavy contrast tweaks and local adjustments. Very often, I don’t need to do either of those things. Often, the camera JPEG doesn’t have clipped shadows or highlights, and I’m not doing any heavy. tonal manipulations that might creating banding or other artefacts. In these instances I’m wasting my time working on RAW files when I already have perfectly good JPEGs ready to go.
4. You may find it hard to match your camera’s JPEGs
Surprised? Well I’ve spent years working with RAW processing software from every publisher, and while I can confirm that RAW files give you much more processing latitude, I can also confirm that it’s very rare for RAW processing software to come close to the camera’s balance of noise control and detail rendering. Occasionally programs like DxO PhotoLab and its DeepPRIME processing can go one step further, and Capture One is generally a little better than in-camera processing for noise and detail, but if you use Lightroom (or others) you will often find their processing noisier and softer at the finest levels of detail. Not by much, and you can get around it with some noise reduction and sharpening tweaks, but it’s not always enough and the extra work is a nuisance.
So next time you’re out shooting, if you don’t already shoot RAW+JPEGs, give it a go – and compare your processed RAWs alongside the JPEGs to see if you really have gained as much as you thought.