Most of the photographers these days capture images in RAW format. Capturing images in RAW format has its own advantage than capturing an image in JPEG format. The option to capture images in RAW format is available in most of the DSLRs and in advanced compact cameras (.NEF format in Nikon, CRII format in Canon etc). Images in RAW format are often described as digital negatives.

Raw format - image after editing

The images when captured in the RAW format are stored as-is with all the color information. When the images are captured in JPEG format, the camera’s built-in software compressed color information (permanent loss of color information in an image). The JPEG image has about 250 odd color information whereas the RAW image has few thousands of color information. The RAW images are then downloaded from memory card by the photographer. This image is then adjusted to get the right white balance, contrast, exposure, saturation, color, sharpness, lens correction etc. Some of the latest features include ‘Dehaze’ option in Lightroom while editing which is very useful. The final output of an image depends not just on the image that is captured, but also on the editing skills.

RAW Format - Pre and Post editing

Read more on Lightroom and Photoshop Dehaze option.

Note that the size of a RAW image is much higher, almost double that of a JPEG image. The size of the JPEG image depends on the type of JPEG format selected while capturing the image.

When do I capture images in RAW format and in JPEG?

  • Whenever I am on a photo assignment, project, paid photo shoot, photos that I plan to sell; I make sure that the images are always captured in RAW.
  • The not so important, casual shots of known and unknown friends, unpaid work is something that I prefer to capture in JPEG.
  • My memory card was almost full. It happened to me during one of my Himalayan treks and I will not be traveling to that place again (as I have many more places to cover). My memory card was almost full and If I were to capture images in RAW, it would almost double the space. I had two options – either to continue capturing images in RAW and ignore the important shots later in the trekking trail or capture in JPEG (which takes half the space) and capture all the photos. I opted for the second.
  • If you are lazy and fine with JPEG quality and with what your camera has captured, then go ahead with JPEG.
  • Go for JPEG if you don’t want to edit an image.
  • I have seen some of the photojournalists/war photographers capturing images in JPEG, where one of the conditions is not to edit images and the images are to be delivered in no time.

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