Photography 101: RAW versus JPEG. What Does it Mean and Why is it so Important
When shooting in RAW, you can recover the image so it is not so blown out.
One mistake I make all the time with my clients is I talk the photography “lingo” forgetting that people might not always understand what I am saying. This blog is going to be geared toward the term RAW. You may or may not have heard this term before, but I will describe some of the benefits of shooting in RAW for JPEG. This way next time you hear me say it, you will know exactly what I am talking about.
First off, all photographers should ALWAYS be shooting in RAW format. RAW is the file format that captures all the data recorded by the sensor when you take a photo. When shooting in a format like JPEG, the image is compressed and lost. Since there is not any compression in the RAW format, you’re able to produce higher quality images, as well as correct problems that you can’t correct if you had shot it in JPEG. The biggest drawback to shooting in RAW is the pictures are much bigger. When I take the pictures off of my camera, the average picture is around 25-30 MB. A compressed JPEG is around 8 MB. It does ultimately cost more because you need bigger SD cards for your camera and bigger drives to back up your pictures, but the benefits are worth any cost. Another drawback is it slows down your camera a bit as saving more data for RAW takes up more time for each image. It take up 2 to 6 times memory than your normal JPEG files, and they are more time consuming. Raw files cannot be opened, uploaded or printed directly like JPEGs as they require a specialized software made especially to process RAW formats. Here are some of the top reasons to shoot in RAW:
The Quality is Better than Any Other Format
Every camera initially takes the picture in RAW format. The camera processes the picture internally and compresses/converts the pictures to JPEG. The processing applied by the camera is generic, and uniform across the entire image. In contrast, when you capture RAW images, you have full control over how much processing is applied to an image, and where in that image you apply it. Basically, any image you capture is much more forgiving than the corresponding JPEG would be.
Brightness Levels Are Much Greater
JPEG records 256 levels of brightness, and RAW records between 4,096 to 16,384 levels! The effect this has on your images is huge. Those additional steps of brightness let you make more adjustments (expoosure, blacks, fill light, recovery, contrast, brightness) to your image without a significant reduction of quality, because there’s more levels to work with!
Correct Under and Over Exposed Images Better
Obviously you want to get the best exposure in camera, but sometimes things move fast (especially with weddings!) and you wind up with a dramatically over or under exposed image. With RAW you have additional information in the file, so it’s much easier to correct the image without a drastic reduction in quality. You can also recover more blown highlights and clipped shadows.
Easily Adjust the White Balance
You may or may not have heard the term, “White Balance”. Cameras try and automatically detect their own white balance. Depending on where you are shooting, the white balance can vary dramatically and cameras aren’t good about adjusting accordingly. During my shoot, I have a card that I hold up and take a picture of. This card tells me what white is supposed to look like. When I go into editing, I tell the image to adjust the picture according to that being what is white. If you have never edited a picture before, you probably have no idea how much of a difference this makes. Great white balance and colour are essential to an awesome image, and shooting RAW lets you make the adjustments easier and faster, with better results.
You Can Edit in a Non-Destructive Way
When you edit in RAW, you are actually providing a set of instructions for compressing and saving the final file as JPEG. No changes are actually made to the RAW file and they can anytime be recovered to the original RAW file. So you never ever have to worry about ruining an image, accidentally saving over, or being unable to go back and make changes. You can always reset your adjustments, and start over again.
Gives My Clients the Quality They Deserve
If I shot my pictures in any format other than RAW I would be doing them a disservice. The last thing I would want to do is give a person a picture that was over exposed or under exposed, wrong white balance, loss of highlights, etc. As a customer/client you should demand the best picture quality available. When you are booking a photographer that is an assumption you should make, but should always ask.
Here is a quick story of how shooting in RAW really saved me. When I first started shooting weddings years ago, I was getting pointers from a friend of mine on how to setup the off- camera flash. They told me that you need to put certain filters over the flash depending on what kind of light is being used in the venue. I ordered a pack of filters and proceeded to cover each flash with these “orangy” plastic covers. When I was reviewing the pictures after each shot it look very orange, but I couldn’t tell if that is the color is was supposed to be or not. After the wedding I got home and uploaded the pictures only to realize how bad the pictures looked. If I had shot the pictures in JPEG I would have probably started crying because there is no way I would have been able to fix this issue. Since it was shot in RAW, I was able to subtract out all that orange and the pictures turned out perfectly fine. I will write a blog later about what I have learned over the years of photography because it is something you have to practice and learn from your mistakes over time. There is a big difference between a photographer who is just starting out and someone who has a lot of experience. Every great photographer will have plenty of stories to tell you about their earlier years of photography and how bad some of their work was. If they tell you otherwise, don’t trust them.
In summary, it is very important for any photographer to shoot in RAW. There are plenty of times I get home and upload my pictures and I am not completely happy with them. If I had taken the pictures in JPEG, I would probably need to redo the pictures because your capabilities of fixing the image are limited. With RAW, I can put the picture in Photoshop and increase the exposure, change the contrast, etc. to compensate to get the picture looking exactly how I wanted it to. Keep in mind, you can’t perform miracles with RAW though. You still have to be a general ballpark with the right settings to get the pictures looking decent. You will only be able to compensate so much. For the standard user just taking pictures and is not as picky as me, you are perfectly fine shooting in JPEG, but if you plan on editing the pictures and are picky like me, it makes more sense to shoot in RAW.
If you are interested in booking a session with me, you can check out the appropriate home page. Newborn, Wedding or Portraits. It would be an honor to allow me to capture your memories. For a limited time, I am offering $50 off for referrals. If you refer someone to me, you will receive $50 off your next session, it's that easy. If you have any questions, send me an email.
About Kerry Paradis
I was born and raised in Perry hall (Baltimore area) and have been living in Harford County Maryland for close to 15 years. I have two daughters that keep me very busy and a very understanding husband that helps keep me sane :) I love all kinds of photography including Newborns, Weddings and Family. For the past several years I performed shoots out of my house, but recently opened a photography studio in Joppa, Maryland next to the “The Great Hall” Wedding Venue at the Millstad. My studio allows the perfect lighting to capture the best pictures and it is surrounded by 40 acres of property that is used by a ballet studio and gymnastics facility. There are plenty of places to photograph! I also have some favorite beautiful spots in the area that I like to photograph at as well. Whether you are looking to capture the first days of your baby’s life, the important times with your family, Senior Portraits for your High School Graduation, or walking down the aisle on your special wedding day, I would love for you to consider me! I do not take any of my business for granted and feel blessed to do what I love for my career. I invite you to check out my website and subscribe to my email list for exclusive discounts and updates. I try and write these blogs in a way that might answer some questions you may have. If you ever have any ideas for my blog, shoot me an email and I will be happy to see what I can do. Feel free to check out my testimonials.