“Should I shoot in RAW or JPEG?” This question comes up all the time and the answer is always “It depends.”
Both RAW and JPEG are image file formats, the difference between them is information.
JPEGs are a smaller and more compressed than RAW and are a finishing format. With JPEG you can upload straight to the internet, Instagram or print it out at Costco. Generally speaking JPEGs will look more colorful, brighter and sharper straight out of the camera vs a RAW image. This is because your camera is adding saturation and adjusting contrast to your image as it takes the picture.
RAW images are untouched by your camera which is why they will look muted and dull compared to JPEGS. They can’t be uploaded to Instagram and you’ll need a special program to even view them, but the benefit of RAW is the amount of information available in the image file. Where a JPEG might be 2MB in size, the same picture shot in RAW will be 35MB in size. That extra information allows you to fine tune saturation, contrast and number of other parameters in your computer as opposed to your camera doing the job. You can achieve a specific look without blowing out the highlights or losing all detail in the shadows. After you achieve your look, you’ll export that RAW image into a JPEG or other format to print or upload.
Ok those are the differences, so which should you shoot in? Firstly, RAW can be converted to JPEG but a JPEG can’t be converted to a RAW image. So if you have the hard drive space, time for editing and software, shoot in RAW. Editing your photos helps you learn more about the photography process and allows you to achieve a distinct look. If you’re just starting out or don’t have time to edit your photos, shooting in JPEG is perfectly fine. Your phone shoots JPEGs and I’ve seen a lot of amazing images shot with a phone.
So like I said earlier, It just depends on what your goals are. Personally I only shoot in RAW because I love editing my photos. The software I use and recommend is Adobe Lightroom, It gives you complete control over the look of your image. And if you really can’t decide between RAW and JPEG most cameras have a setting to shoot both at the same time. You can have your JPEG for today and if you decide to invest in software you can always go back and edit the RAW.
I hope that helps clear up some of the confusion. Let me know which format you shoot with in the comments below.