RAW vs JPEG Photos (Know the Difference)

After you’re done taking your pictures and you go back to look at them, you may notice that they are either in a jpeg format or raw format.

You can have the same image in both formats.

Both pictures look exactly the same, but there’s obviously a difference. There wouldn’t be two different formats if they weren’t different, right?

There is a difference between the two and it’s important to understand the difference.

Mostly for when you’re looking at your pictures when it comes time to edit.

Shooting your photos in jpeg or raw is entirely up to you. However, you should only make this decision once you understand the difference between the two.

RAW vs. JPEG Photos

raw vs jpeg

If you talk to photographers, you may learn that a lot of them are going to have different opinions about what you should shoot your photos in.

Choosing between raw or jpeg can sometimes be a difficult task.

It all depends on exactly what you’re trying to do with your image. You also have to keep in mind how you’re going to want to edit your photos as well.

There are going to be times when you might want to actually change between raw and jpeg.

What is the difference between the two though? When should you use one or the other? Does it even make that much of a difference?

RAW Images

A raw image is an image that contains very minimally processed data from your digital camera’s sensor.

You can compare this to raw food. When you buy meat, most of the time it’s going to be raw. You’re going to need to cook it to get that meat to a level of consumption that you really want.

This is like having your image before editing it. You are going to want to look into editing your image before you say it’s ready for viewer’s eyes.

A raw image isn’t going to work with any software either.

You can’t have a raw image and just try to open and edit it with anything. You’re going to need software that is compatible with the camera you used and the raw image files themselves.

With a raw image file, you’re going to be able to have more options with your highlights and shadows. This only happens in the post-processing of raw images.

You’ll also be able to recover a broader range of colors and more details when you compare it to a jpeg image.

All of that can only be seen when you are looking at the raw image in software outside of the camera itself.

When you’re looking at a raw image in your camera, you will actually be seeing a jpeg preview.

A raw image contains much more data than your typical jpeg photo. All of your raw images contain the raw data from your image, a camera jpeg preview with a thumbnail, and any relevant metadata information.

All of this information is useful because it’s what is going to allow you to actually sharpen details more, improve on colors, shadows, and highlights, and prove your ownership of the image if that is ever an issue that pops up.

Disadvantages of RAW

Although a raw image is going to have a lot of advantages, it does have some disadvantages that come with it.

All raw images are going to require much more storage. They contain more information than a regular jpeg so you have to have more storage for all of that information.

Raw images need to be edited and converted into a jpeg so that they can be looked at normally.

Because of this, your workflow is going to be extended. So, if you’re on a time crunch, this could be something that sets you back a little bit.

Having raw images means that you basically need to have the right software so that you can look at these images anywhere.

Certain software is unable to read the raw images of another software from a different camera.

Having a raw image can help you in the long run, but some of these disadvantages might cause you to rethink that a little bit.

JPEG Images

JPEG images are the most popular image format.

Most software is able to read jpeg without a problem. This is a reason as to why its the most popular image format.

Compared to raw files, a jpeg file has much less information. Because of this, a jpeg file is able to be compressed much more.

The file size isn’t going to be as big so you won’t need as much storage.

A jpeg is also already processed. You aren’t going to have to make any changes to the image to view it. There is no editing required.

Your camera is going to be able to store more jpeg files on it than raw files. With raw files your camera could have a bit of slowdown. There could be problems with how fast raw images are loaded with your camera.

However, with jpeg photos, your camera doesn’t have to process nearly as much information so the slowdown on photos loading is going to be minimal.

Drawbacks of JPEG

Just like with raw images, jpeg also has a few drawbacks that could deter you from using the format.

With a jpeg format, you’re going to be limited with the number of colors that you can see. You’re only limited to about 16.8 million colors.

I know that sounds like a lot of colors, but in the big spectrum of things, it’s really not. When you compare 16.8 million colors with jpeg formats compared to the 68.7 billion colors you can possibly get from raw images, you really see how limited you are with jpeg.

It’s much harder to retrieve some things that may have possibly been lost when you’re using jpeg. For example, if you have a photo that might be overexposed, you will have a much harder time correcting that overexposure when you do editing. Some of the details that could be in the background will be lost. The same goes for underexposure.

Which Do You Choose?

Choosing between jpeg or raw formats is going to mostly be a personal preference.

You may want to start with jpeg for its ease and convenience, but as you become a more advanced photographer, you may want to start using raw formats because of what they bring to the table.

Using jpeg will be slightly quicker in the long run, especially if you don’t want to worry about editing your photos and relying solely on your photography skills.

Using raw will take slightly longer, but you will get an image that could end up being much more high definition than jpeg.

As mentioned earlier, if you’re in a time crunch, jpeg is probably the best way to go.

However, if you have all the time you need and can edit the photos to your liking, raw is the way to go.

Raw is going to give you much more to work with. Personally, raw is the format I prefer to work with no matter what. The appeal of jpeg is still there, though.

If you never know exactly what you should use, take the same photo using both formats and see which one you prefer for what you’re looking for out of your images.

If you want to make sure you always have room for all of your images, RAW or JPEG, you should make sure you have a number of SD cards.

RAW vs JPEG doesn’t matter if you don’t take a good picture. So you need to know how to take a good picture no matter what camera you use.