For many the answer will be obvious. If you want to do any serious editing later, then shooting RAW is a must, right? Normally I’d say yes, but here’s an instance where I decided to work from the JPEG rather than a RAW file, and I’ll explain why.
JPEG vs RAW
Most digital photos are shot as JPEG images. This is a universal image file format that uses sophisticated compression to keep the files small and manageable. JPEGs are created by processing the RAW data captured by the camera. Some cameras let you save these RAW files instead. The files are larger and you need to process them later on a computer, but they offer the potential for better quality.
Don’t get me wrong. I really value the processing headroom of RAW files, whether they’ve been shot on a phone or a full frame camera, but I’m starting to think the iPhone might be a special case.
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.
Almost any photographic expert will tell you that you should shoot RAW files not JPEGs, and that RAW files are innately superior. The trouble with this kind of wisdom is that it’s repeated and passed on without question.
White balance is an adjustment to correct and neutralise colors captured with different light sources. The color of light can vary considerably depending on the time of day and whether you’re shooting in natural light or under artificial light.
Dynamic range is the camera sensor’s ability to capture detail in very bright and very dark parts of a scene. Cameras (or sensors) with a low dynamic range record dark shadows as a solid black or bright highlights as a featureless white.
Digital cameras typically offer a range of ‘picture styles’ to suit different subjects or different tastes in color rendition. Canon calls these Picture Styles, Nikon calls them Picture Controls and other camera makers have their own names.
Bit depth is an important concept in digital imaging if you want the best possible image quality and if you intend to manipulate images heavily.
Most serious photographers prefer RAW files to JPEGs. They take more time and storage, but the payback is greater quality and flexibility. It’s not a one-sided argument – JPEGs have some advantages which are obvious, and some which are not – but here are six important reasons why RAW files are the way to go […]