In this article we will be covering the differences between RAW and JPEG as well as the circumstances in which they are best used.
What is JPEG?
JPEG is the acronym used for “Joint Photographic Experts Group” which created the standard in 1992. It is a data compression system which causes a lot of data loss in order to minimize image sizing while maintaining the general image. This allows the image files to be small and easily uploaded onto hard drives and online. The key to small files is the discarding of information, leading to quality loss.
When is JPEG the right option?
For those taking pictures as a hobby, with smaller cameras or with very limited memory available or those who will do no editing and don’t own any editing software JPEG is a reasonable option. JPEGs can be taken directly off a card or camera and used immediately without any editing or formating. While quality will be lost, for the individual who is printing out photos in 4″x6″ or posting photos on social media JPEG is fine. That being said, you should chose the largest viable file size to preserve as much quality as you can.
What is RAW?
A RAW file is uncompressed data that can be used to create visible images in high quality. They include metadata about all aspects of the image as well as the device that captured the information. RAW files allow for much broader control over the final image but does require file formatting in order to be shared or used.
When is RAW the right option?
Almost all of the time. RAW will ensure the highest quality of image with the largest range of editable data. It is currently the most common and best option for photographers. File sizes are considerably larger, so keeping multiple cards in your camera bag is always a good idea. Exporting files in the field from SD cards to external drives that accept SD cards is also a possible solution when doing events or multiple day trips without a computer nearby.