The Difference Between RAW and JPEG

Whether you have been taking photographs for a few days or a few years you have probably already encountered the debate regarding the format you should use when taking pictures, RAW vs. JPEG.  Each person should decide for themselves so before you cave to peer pressure lets learn a little about their differences.


  • Requires special software to view and each camera company usually produces its own unique RAW file.
  • Lower contrast and sharpness.
  • Complete data from the camera sensor therefore the size of each raw file is HUGE (12 megapixel = 12 MB file).
  • Cant print or upload to the internet without some sort of post processing (it would look like garbage).
  • Higher dynamic range (more highlights and shadows)
  • Typically used by someone who wants to Photoshop the crap out of the image.


  • Compressed (12 megapixel = 2 to 4 MB file).
  • Standard format able to be read by any image processor without special software (computer, iPod, iPad, cell phone, etc.).
  • Able to print or upload to the internet instantly without Photo-choping post processing.
  • Sharper and higher in contrast
  • Lower dynamic range
  • Processed by your camera
  • Just plain easier to use

Remember that when shooting in RAW you are using up two to three times more space with your pictures so if space is an issue you may want to shoot JPEG.  If you have more space than you know what to do with then cover all your bases and shoot JPEG + RAW you rebel.  Either way it all boils down to your own personal preference.  A lot of articles and books you read argue that if you’re a true photographer you should be shooting in RAW format to get the most out of your camera.  I disagree, I think that to each his own and if you really know how to use your camera then you can get all you need out of it using its manual settings.  The visual difference between a RAW file and a JPEG would not be discernible by the human eye assuming you really know your way around your camera.  There are plenty of professional photographers that only shoot JPEG so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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