4 Reasons to Switch to JPEG

4 Reasons to Switch to JPEG

Last week, photographer extraordinaire Natalie Norton wrote a post here on DPS with 4 reasons not to write off shooting in automatic. And I totally agree that sometimes, as we climb the ladder (which never ends) towards ultimate knowledge (does it exist?) in our journey with photography (which also never ends), we can complicate things so much. Aren’t we all guilty of over thinking and forgetting our roots? The roots which made us fall in love with photography in the first place?

I would say (with complete confidence) that when we found our love for photography for the very first time, we all shot jpegs in automatic. And certainly, we need to move on, move up and learn learn learn. But don’t forget the joy you felt when you just shot because you loved it.

So following Natalie’s lead, here are my 4 reasons you shouldn’t underestimate the power of a jpeg (and why you just might want to go back to it from time to time)

  1. Instant Use – If you want to use your images rather quickly and don’t have time to convert your raw files, you’ll want to go jpeg.
  2. Less work – A well-exposed jpeg will be less in need of TLC than a raw file. The contrast is higher and the focus is sharper because your sensor has made all the important decisions instead of requiring time and brain power on your behalf. Sometimes a plus, sometimes not. You decide when it’s right for you!
  3. Space – if you have a small(ish) memory card or you’re very nearly running out and you HAVE to get in 10 more shots, you might want to quickly switch to jpeg rather than risking the chance of losing the shots. Jpegs take up substantially less space than raw files.
  4. Speed – if you’re shooting continuous (getting that perfect football goal) you’ll shoot faster in jpeg. Raw files take longer to store on your memory card and so the continuous bursts from your shutter will be slower. But switching to jpeg can mean the difference between getting the perfect shot and missing it by a millisecond.

Now, of course, my professional preference is shooting in raw. I’m a heavy editor type (and a control freak) and so I almost always shoot in raw because of the power and control it gives me. But don’t underestimate the times when shooting in jpeg could actually save your butt!

Challenge: If you have a camera that allows you to shoot in RAW + JPEG, give it a try! Take both images into your computer and see what the jpeg file compression did to help (or hurt) your image. This will help you understand the fundamental difference and envision the times you can picture yourself shooting in jpeg.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Elizabeth Halford is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

Some Older Comments

  • richardh September 16, 2012 08:59 pm

    Hi, Kimberly, interesting question. I've just converted a 3872 x 2592 (@300 dpi) raw photo to jpg using Photoshop CS3 (just saved as and selected jpg at 240 dpi) and it has reduced the file size from 14.93 Mb to 10.30 Mb, so not nearly as much as you're experiencing.

    A couple of thoughts - is Picasa reducing the dpi and perhaps also the physical dimensions of the picture? The sort of reduction in file size that you're getting is similar to prepping the picture for web page use.

    I've downloaded and tried Picasa, reducing a RAW file from 13.41 Mb to 1.3Mb. The height and width are still as before as is resolution, 300 dpi. I've looked through the options and cannot find any settings which control the output file size, so am just as puzzled as you! Sorry that's not much help...

  • Kimberly D September 15, 2012 10:14 am

    Thanks for the info. I've just starting using RAW files today. I was converting them to JPEG after editing in Picasso... and they were going from 16mb to 2... Any ideas why it is compressing SO much? Even when I export (instead of save as) I've moved everything to maximum and it's still compressing it by this much. I'm trying not to get frustrated but have run out of methods to try!

  • jeyv March 9, 2012 11:25 am

    im one of those post processing addicts ;)

    but i shoot in JPG most of the time - when i know that the occasion doesn't really need "booming" photographs, or when i test fire to see if my settings are right, and for practice too

    I shoot RAW when i know i dont have time to mingle with the settings-weddings,parties etc.

    but there are times when i shoot in JPG, then i'd encounter something that I would want to process further so i switch to RAW (such as sudden group photos, great scenery etc.) or better yet I get to switch to RAW + JPEG if I want the photograph to be a "booming" photo (in my part).

  • richardH April 6, 2011 02:14 am

    A photog friend of mine puts it this way: "RAW is like the film negative, and JPG's the print". So I keep the RAW and process a copy to jpg. So I still have both after processing.

  • Tess April 4, 2011 01:42 am

    WHO REALLY CARES WHAT A PHOTOGRAPHER USES TO GET TO THE END RESULT?? If you are in the business and the clients like the end result, you get paid, it looks great-THATS the important part. If you shoot automatic or manual, RAW or jpeg, it does not set you apart from being a great photographer or not.

    It's the artistic eye that makes us great photographers. A photographer doesnt need to get the approval of other photographers to justify their worthiness.

    If photographers just spent their energy on their artistic talent instead on the judgement of others, there would be less stress.

    So, just have fun and shoot away!

  • Jimsan March 23, 2011 11:35 am

    I would say (with complete confidence) that when we found our love for photography for the very first time, we all shot jpegs in automatic.

    Nope, some of us found our love for photography with black and white film, hand processed, on a manual camera borrowed from the school art department.

  • Michael March 3, 2011 09:31 am

    I now shoot in RAW+JPEG - I have a problem when printing JPEG images from Lightroom where they come out with very strong colours - if I process the RAW image and print directly from Lightroom I do not have this problem; viewing the images side by side on the screen shows them to look the same!! Has any one else had this issue?

  • Rich Copley February 20, 2011 04:19 pm

    I don't quite see why there needs to be a winner here, and actually I think Ms. Halford stated quite clearly there does not need to be. Saying you can only shoot in one format strikes me as somewhat akin to saying you can only shoot at ISO 400 or you can only shoot with prime lenses. If you do a variety of photography, different circumstances will require different formats.

  • Remi February 16, 2011 08:23 pm

    For a paid job, I will definitely shoot in RAW. For family photo or fun shot I will switch to JPEG or RAW depending on the level of editing that I will do later. I agree with the author, JPEG is easier. Finally it's up to the photographer himself which format he/she prefer.

  • Mindy February 16, 2011 05:48 am

    Come on, fellows. Your snide, arrogant and downright mean remarks make DPS less useful and fun for everyone else. No one is stopping you from starting your own "Ultra-Pro Tech Head" website/forum if you'd rather have a place to talk with only like-minded individuals. Here on DPS, why not offer your opinion and back it up with some data or instructions, and leave it at that? You might even like to throw in some kind words of encouragement once in a while.

    Hang in there, newbies and hobbyists! Photography is a wonderful, fulfilling pursuit and if you love it, you will learn what you need to know to make images that are meaningful to you.

  • Mark February 15, 2011 05:55 pm

    @ted -- You seem to have found a balance that works for you and that is great.

    I am working wildlife 95% of the time and landscape for the rest. RAW gives me adjustments +/- of exposure, and then individually +/- on highlights and +/- on shadows. For my use moving to RAW has been a major advance that I made last year. However, until I learned to use RAW I was strongly supportive of using JPEG since it was working for me at the time. I did not know what I did not know!!! Now I cannot imagine giving up the control that RAW places in my hands. The other advantages are the ability to control sharpening and then if needed to add noise reduction before dropping down to 8 bit JPEG and of course white balance, but that is one of the most rare uses that I have since that has not been much of a problem for me. Once in a while, I will even do a pseudo HDRI by outputting two exposures from RAW and layering them to expand the dynamic range and RAW is critical there as well. I won't go back personally, but I do wish I had longer bursts so I will continue to save for an upgraded camera.

    For those who are accomplished on both, what ever works for you. For those supporting JPEG who have not mastered RAW, you really don't know what you are missing but that said -- what ever works for you is OK also. Far be it from me to judge your decision and too many here are doing just that.

  • Ted February 15, 2011 01:47 pm

    I switch between the two all the time, usually use jpg for family photos and the like and RAW for client work.

    The exception to this rule is when I'm shooting a charity photo booth.

    I can get away with jpg here because of the following reasons:
    I use monolights and a fixed x-sync setting on my camera, so every shot is exposed well.
    I use an eye-fi card to transfer the images and the smaller size of jpg speeds up the transfer.
    At the end of the process, I'm only printing a 4X6 from my camera which is pretty forgiving.

  • DM|ZE February 15, 2011 08:47 am

    Wow, this article got everyone going. Not trying to fuel the fire anymore but as I said above I believe it is personal opinion. I also know that we are not all professional photographers and no one should feel like they need to shoot raw to be taken seriously. I am just now at a point where I'm no longer shooting everything in raw+jpg. Occasionally I will just shoot jpg for family events that are just meant to be snapshots and no real editing will happen. I like the control of raw but it does take more time to post process. I read this little article today (http://photofocus.com/2011/02/14/why-i-mostly-shoot-jpeg-by-joe-farace/) so I figured I would post it.

  • ian oliver February 14, 2011 02:51 pm

    nice article. i shoot jpeg most of the time, i only shoot raw if the client needs a large print or if i think i can't nail the WB. Reasons; 1, 2 & 4 did it for me...and if it need some tweaking Lightroom 3 do a good job.

  • Doug McKay February 14, 2011 08:23 am

    Wow! Who would have thought there could be so much discussion?
    Perhaps the article could have been titled differently so that people would have understood the intent a little easier. "When it is OK to shoot JPEG" might have caused less outrage.
    As to my opinion-see my big smile:
    a) people seem to have a miss understanding as to what RAW and JPEG really do.
    - JEPG= an image as seen by your camera's sensor that has been treated by your camera's programing as per the settings at the time of the shot. There by all the "DATA" that was not required to make save image was discarded, thus a compressed file. So the tinkering that you can do to correct the JPEG image into what you thought you saw or would like to see in a computer program after is limited to the quality of your program and the amount of "DATA" in your image file. As someone above has already stated the JPEG format is sound and stable, it does discard unused data every time it is adjusted. A JPEG file that is only looked at does not change-be careful of newer picture viewer programs that import and fix things to the programs liking.

    -RAW= an image or complete recording of all the Data that your camera's sensor was exposed to. Just that simple! Of course there are alway complications it is never so simple, but in this case all the complications could be your fault if you shoot on 100% manual or partly you fault if you shoot on one of the Priority modes. The camera has programing that is designed to best take advantage of it's hardware provided you had all the dials and switches set correctly - does read the manual come to mind? Actually if you own and are proficient at one of the high end image/photography programs a good computer the "RAW" file gives you loads of data to juggle around into the image you would like to have.

    b) To my way of thinking JPEG is closer to professional film photography than RAW. JPEG gives you limited data based on camera processing capacity and settings, you can only make particular adjustments in finishing the image-just as with film you were limited to the qualities of the developed film when making prints.

    RAW on the other hand is a whole new set of conditions that allow you to manipulate recored data after the fact that has not been available to the photographer until Digital and Camera Manufactures allowing users to the RAW data of their cameras. One can be come very proficient at processing recorded data from a camera which is indeed a skill and an art, but that is not the same as the skill or gift someone may have in recording a visual event in time so that it brings joy and understanding to others.

    c) I do wish people spent less time on what is or is not professional equipment and methods and more time on how to capture that magic moment.

  • Jim February 13, 2011 10:57 am

    "Now, of course, my professional preference is shooting in raw. I’m a heavy editor type (and a control freak) and so I almost always shoot in raw because of the power and control it gives me."

    That is me exactly. There are way too many advantages to shooting RAW that it does not make sense to do it any other way. I shoot strictly RAW images, even for my personal use. Another thing people want to consider, RAW is a lossless format, JPEG is a lousy format. Raw can be edited over and over again without a degradation of quality. JPEG loses a little bit of quality every time it is edited and saved.

  • tabletopdrummer February 13, 2011 02:08 am

    Boys & Girls Alike,
    Don't forget about us that use dps to learn, not everyone is a "professional".
    And we all have different needs, and likes. Also ones budget may only allow so much, and to each his own!
    When I first took photographs of my family, I was using a throw away camera, and it actually worked ok for what we were wanting to do. Once I decided to step up to a dsl camera, these same type of shots improved. And with dps now as a refference for me to use ,my photagraphy has improved as well (Thank You!). I only have 3 lenses,
    and a mid level camera, and that is enough on my plate, I spent about $ 1000.00 dollars by the time I bought the camera & lenses. And another $1000.00 on a computer, tripod, cards, bag, and external hardrive. Not alot by any means. And I will never say I am a professional. If I would have spent 10,000.00 would it make me a pro? or a better photographer? I don't think so. As for raw, I have not used it, the jpeg works well for me, and that's enough.
    I enjoyed the article, and will continue to read on!
    Thanks D.P.S.!

  • christopher February 12, 2011 09:19 pm

    I will try the difference between of raw and jpeg files.this will be a big help on my part as a beginners..

  • Erik Hansen February 12, 2011 07:36 pm

    Wow some strong views expressed for or against RAW vs JPEG, I think Elizabeth's article gives some good suggestions for when shooting in JPEG might have some benefits, and if you read it as just that, a suggestion not any more than that, Elizabeth herself admits that she is a RAW shooter and control freak by nature.

    Let's state what method we use and the benefit you, as an individual see in your own workflow and not denigrate or put down the methods used by other photographers.

    Let's continue to enjoy taking pictures without worrying about this way being better than that way etc.

    I shoot Raw+Jpeg both with my compact and the dSLR,most of the time except when doing weddings where I shoot the compact in Jpeg during the lunch gathering in the church hall after the ceremony, and then back to RAW for the official reception dinner at night. dSLR remains in Raw+Jpeg during the entire event.

  • Rashid Mukoon February 12, 2011 05:45 pm

    Thank you very much for your teachings,now i have a good understanding.I get it a try.Thanks.

  • Roger Monahan February 12, 2011 07:42 am


    Todays JPEGs are not the 640X480 pics laid down by a Sony Mavica. Today the resolution of a large JPEG surpasses anything Ektachrome film would deliver. If you are old school, and work to capture the image in camera, your work will at least equal anything you could have done using slide film. That being said, RAW format will give you more options for manipulating the image, and I usually shoot a RAW + JPEG combination.

    RAW allows you to keep the original? The very first thing you should do before any editing is to version your files. If I am editing IMG0615, the first thing I do is to Save As IMG 0615a, and my editing is done on the copy. What fool would overwrite their original?

    Burst rate? If the shot you are looking for involves a critical moment or a peak action, you should not be using burst. I have heard the complaint from many less than competent photographers that they would have had the critical shot 'if only they had a faster motor drive ....'. Sound familiar? If you want a series of shots showing a process, it is fine to shoot burst (or video). If you wish to capture a particular critical moment in time, that is the shot you take. Know your equipment and your subject, and take that one shot! Whether it is an eagle grabbing a fish or a clutch of groomsmen leaping to snag a bride's garter, it takes practice, and not every attempt is successful. With experience, the success rate improves dramatically.

    Polaroid? I have used polaroid backs on both Hasselblad and Sinar, and it was used to visually check lighting. Today the live view gives you the same thing, whether you are shooting RAW or JPEG. It all boils down to what you are using the shots for. If the photographs are going to the web, jpeg is preferred as a final format. If you are printing in proof size only, again JPEG is fine. If your shooting is standardized, and you are sure that the image in camera will require little post-processing, go ahead and shoot JPEG. In such a case, the RAW files would just take up space. If, however, you wish to print high quality display prints, or manipulate the image for artistic effect, RAW format is essential.

    Know your medium and what you are trying to accomplish, then shoot accordingly.

  • Darin February 12, 2011 01:43 am


    3. It’s 2011. If you still have a smallish memory card, you’re a cheap SOB. "End Quote"

    LOL - I'm up to a 4GB card. Thanks for slapping me. :-)

  • Bob February 12, 2011 01:16 am

    I think Mark has a good point, some of histories greatest image captures were done on a Brownie, no one would argue they are not relevant or artistic despite the simplicity of the equipment used. If you want to heavily modify an image then you should shoot raw. If you know what you are doing, shoot whatever you want! At the end of the day it's the photographer, not the format that makes the image.

  • Jez February 11, 2011 11:55 pm

    yeah....I used RAW+JPEG....I am in both worlds...

  • Evelyn February 11, 2011 04:11 pm

    I don't get why some people think that shooting in the RAW format makes them superior or a better photographer!...or belittle any photographer who doesn't!
    I am a freelance photographer, I always shoot JPEG and get many complements on my work from media pros (news journos/photographers) that have been in the business for over 20 years...I'm sure they wouldn't even care which format I photograph in, when I've had interviews for photog. jobs, the interviewer always asked if I shot in manual and there was never any talk of RAW or JPEG (so obviously it's a non-issue for most pros)

  • Rob February 11, 2011 08:47 am

    I set the camera correctly to begin with and shoot jpegs only. It's easy to custom set white balance and thats the only reason I'd have problems. Get your exposure correct which isn't that hard anyway and save yourself alot of time at the computer. I'm a photographer not a computer geek. Give me back my camera. I still get tons of detail and I don't print bigger than A2.
    I could understand shooting raw 7 years ago when camera jpeg settings were aggressive and left artifacts all over the show. I don't see that these days.
    There is a "snob" value to shooting raw but thats only personal observation...8-\

  • Mark February 11, 2011 08:30 am

    To all -- I have seen a really great photographer use a cell phone camera (that only takes JPG) capture fantastic shots that are much better than most professional photographers take with DSLR's and RAW!!!! Skill and talent are MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than equipment and capture format!!!!

  • Mark February 11, 2011 08:27 am

    @richardh -- I am really happy for you that you have such great equipment. Unfortunately not all of us have that. I shoot in RAW most of the time, but it has cost me some great captures of wildlife. The burst rate on a Canon XSi (450D) is slow and I don't have the option of Sandisk Extreme 4 since this camera uses SD cards. I use Sandisk's best SD-HC cards that are supported by my camera, but it is still much slower than your Extreme Compact Flash cards!!! I recently got a burst of an eagle catching fish on the river. I got just before the grab and just after the grab because of my slow card. If I had shot in JPG, I would have gotten the "grab" money shot!!! But I didn't because of RAW. I am saving for the Canon 7D which will solve much of this problem for me, but it is hard to afford such on Social Security Disability income! I do the best I can with what I have and I enjoy it. Some folks here sound so harsh and severe that they cannot be having fun with photography! They should get an old brownie and go back to basics for a while to find the fun again!!!!

  • Kristina Guzman February 11, 2011 07:33 am

    RAW helps me out when I mess up the exposure, or have a color cast, but since I hardly ever need to do very much post processing, I shoot jpeg. Although, I did use the RAW + Jpeg feature, and I would continue to use RAW if my memory card wasn't so small. I am planning to shoot RAW again when I get a bigger memory card. But for now, jpeg for me.

  • kirpi February 11, 2011 07:29 am

    @Cora Judd
    Do not be confused, Cora :-)
    Your camera shoots nice jpeg images and (unless you hack its firmware) does not export raw format
    So, enjoy your images and do not bother, really!

  • Craig Beyers February 11, 2011 06:19 am

    I pre-date JPEG, so I shot Kodak transparency film when I found my love for photography!

  • Concert Photos Magazine February 11, 2011 05:35 am

    I will stick with Raw images unless it's for selling something on Ebay or for an insurance company.

  • richardH February 11, 2011 05:23 am

    Use Instant jpeg From RAW (free download) to extract the jpg from the RAW file. Excellent program.
    I've tried to speed-read this long thread and haven't spotted anyone explaining that when you shoot jpg the camera uses the standard jpg compression "algorithm" to compress your capture.

    Once you understand that part of your camera's jpg compression routine is to THROW AWAY PIXELS FOR GOOD perhaps you'll shoot RAW in future!

    Given the current digital photography facilities available and their relatively low cost (in real terms) shooting RAW has the benefit of being capable of a far wider range of post processing capability for only a marginal increase in cost. Cards are not a restriction on shooting speeds: yes you need Sandisk Extreme 4 or better but they'll take RAW input at the rated fps speed of the body.

    I shoot basketball in the UK in s**t lighting using f/2.8 lenses at ISO 400, sometimes 800 at 1/250 in RAW with a Sndisk Extreme 4. No problem. And, as a result of shooting RAW, I can explicitly set the colour temperature in Photoshop (which my body, a D700, cannot get down to), which I cannot do in Photoshop with a jpg.

    I believe that those photographers who claim only to shoot jpg really don't understand the deeper technical implications of their possibly under-informed decisions, and that those who claim only ever to shoot RAW know what they're doing.

    In summary and IMHO, I don't believe there are any arguments for routinely shooting jpgs. You are welcome to disagree: it wont make the slightest difference to my way of doing photography business!

  • keenan February 11, 2011 05:23 am

    only time to use JPG is at sports or fast motion shoots,speed for jpg,RAW for anything else,use that for a rule u cant go wrong ever

  • sungoddess February 11, 2011 05:07 am

    i shoot mostly with a canon 40D and raw files from this camera will not open in photoshop cr2. i cannot upgrade to cr3 at this time not because i'm a cheap sob but because i'm a poor sob. i shoot in manual mode 98% of the time. i don't usually have a problem with post processing my jpegs with power retouche and other software/plugins/actions, etc. i do have lightroom cr2 but seems from a prior post that also has issues with raw files. a bit annoying that adobe would make two products like that and i just happen to have them. i have tried shooting RAW with my 20D and honestly couldn't see what I could do with those files that i can't do with the jpegs using the tools i have. we do what we can with what we have, and i think i'm doing pretty well.

  • Cora Judd February 11, 2011 05:03 am

    I'm confused. (I have a Canon Sx20is)

    I don't see an option on my camera for choosing either RAW or jpeg. I always open the shots I like in Adobe Bridge in RAW. Then I reopen them in PS for creative stuff and save the final as a jpeg. Is that the same as shooting in RAW???

  • Jeanne February 11, 2011 04:50 am

    I was feeling pressured to shoot in raw...it was all the rage...so I appreciate the 'permission' that I'm still ok if I shoot in jpg. I photograph killer whales in the wild and most often take more than a 1,000 images per encounter. Raw shooting was just too much. Shooting so many images gives my camera a greater potential of capturing 'that moment' and it works. I guess it's called getting lucky!

  • Michael February 11, 2011 04:48 am


    Whew. Jeff. Um, this is a discussion about RAW vs JPEG. Are you OK? Have you been drinking? What on earth would possess you to get soooooo riled at Kevin that you would post a comment like that? Or even feel like that about an opinion of a guy you don't even know?

    I'm here to enjoy the opinions of people who can conduct themselves with a bit of class. Get some perspective my friend. Life is too short to live life in a way that you can be so filled with vitriol because someone's opinion is different from yours.

    Heavens to Betsy.

  • Chris Baldwin February 11, 2011 04:42 am

    "I would say (with complete confidence) that when we found our love for photography for the very first time, we all shot jpegs in automatic."
    Only if you are under 35!

  • kirpi February 9, 2011 08:54 pm

    @Geren @Zoki
    As I stated before, jpeg loosely recalls to me the way we extensively used Polaroid film: no matter how “technically” less preferable, it still has its own reason of being.

  • Zoki February 9, 2011 07:40 pm

    Geren W. Mortesten.

    Shooting film is closer to RAW, then JPEG anytime. Did you forget all that time spent in the darkroom when you proces your films? Thast photoshop for RAW.. In RAW image you allso have sensitivity, contrast was controled with color gradients used on enlarger for film, now we use PS to do that.

  • Geren W. Mortensen, Jr. February 9, 2011 01:46 am

    This is a pretty simplistic analogy, but shooting JPEG is much like shooting film. Based on your camera settings, the JPEG has certain characteristics like sensitivity, color balance, dynamic range, contrast range, etc.

    When I shot film, I pretty much used two films -- Ektachome (and later, Fujichrome) for color and Ilford HP5 for black and white. I knew exactly what I'd get out of those films, and worked accordingly. Now that I shoot digital, I most often shoot JPEG. My Canon cameras allow me to tweak them to act a certain way, and save those settings (and even copy them between cameras!). Since I've tailored the camera's internal "film", I work within those parameters.

    BTW, I don't find this limiting at all, as I have 8 "slots" in which to store different settings, in effect, giving me eight different "films" at my disposal, each of which can be tailored to different situations.

  • adam February 9, 2011 01:44 am

    i don't understand why a professional photographer would ever promote shooting JPEG. shooting JPEG is like taking your film to the 1-hr photo, having them make 4x6 prints and throwing away the negatives. most consumer photo editing programs quickly process RAW files and memory cards are cheap. shooting RAW means that the files are captured uncompressed and any editing you do is non-destructive to the original file. if you're worried about time, space, speed and less work, get a point and shoot or shoot from your cell phone.

  • Ryan February 8, 2011 07:57 am

    Peter, thanks for clarifying. I think I need to add my own clarification too; the full TIFF specification does allow for saving layers, but (unfortunately) that feature isn't supported in every image editor. It is available in PS under "advanced TIFF options" but AFAIK is not available in GIMP or any other image editor that only supports the required "baseline TIFF" specification.

    I was wrong when I said, "So unfortunately, once the file is saved as a JPEG or TIFF after editing, you would lose the layered copy of the “original” as you describe."

    I should have said;

    "So unfortunately, once the file is saved as a JPEG or (baseline/basic) TIFF after editing, you would lose the layered copy of the “original” as you describe."

    Thanks again for pointing that out Peter!

  • Peter Frey February 8, 2011 05:49 am

    My apologies, I just tried and I guess you can't save layers to a JPEG, but you certainly can save them in a TIFF file.. you just need to make sure the settings are set to save layers.. either way apologies for posting without testing first.

  • Ryan February 8, 2011 03:48 am

    @peter frey, actually, you cannot save photoshop layers in either a TIFF or a JPEG.

    So unfortunately, once the file is saved as a JPEG or TIFF after editing, you would lose the layered copy of the "original" as you describe.

    Also, if you save in any "lossy format" that does support layers, those layers will also be compressed, resulting in the same hypothetical "degraded quality."

    The issue addressed here in this thread, is with loss of quality related to compression, not with changes that you may later regret.

  • Eric R. Wallace February 8, 2011 01:41 am

    Having reread my post, it sounded like I contradicted myself. I shot JPEG until I got digital darkroom software. I then switched to RAW and have been shooting RAW ever since.

  • Andrey February 7, 2011 11:15 pm

    Quote: " It’s 2011. If you prefer shooting in RAW, but you’re using a card that can’t handle the transfer speed needed for continuous shooting, you’re a cheap SOB."

    The fastest card on the market is rated at 30MB/sec and that's rating by the manufacturer, i.e. this was the highest they were able to get it during controlled-condition tests. In real life that card would be more like 15MB/sec tops, while a decent RAW image is around 25MB...

  • Karen Schwallie February 7, 2011 10:30 pm

    When I first got my DSLR in 2004 I always shot in jpg because I didn't know better (the pictures were fantastic in automatic mode). Today it is always in RAW. I shot a few times in jpg last year because I wanted to use the flash or it was an important shot I knew I had to have (motion) and didn't want to risk messing it up. I'm glad my camera, which is old now, can do both in a moments time. When I purchased my camera there were 256MB cards (no GB cards) so I have 256MB, 512MB, 4GB and 8GB cards that are all fast format. I still use the 512 every now and then -- I swear it is faster! I'm not a cheap SOB -- just couldn't use my camera for 5 years because of a disability with my hands and legs -- so I am slowly getting back into it. Six years ago I would get the best, the most up-to-date equipment...today I am wiser.

  • Peter Frey February 7, 2011 10:07 pm

    Also with a jpeg (or tif for that matter) when you make later corrections or heavy modifications to the file in Photoshop, if you make them in copied layers of the original background layer, you have an unmolested version or an "untouched master" copy to go back to anyway- one of the main reasons I shoot raw is the ability to go back and see the original, make changes, but not "modify" the original file.  

  • Diana Mikaels February 7, 2011 04:01 pm

    I don't understand this sentence: "Less work – A well-exposed jpeg will be less in need of TLC than a raw file"
    I don't know what 'TLC' stands for.

  • john w. rivard February 7, 2011 12:40 pm

    I like to shoot RAW+jpeg when exploirng with black & white. There is the instant feedback on the screen with chance to correct exposure and use a colored filter for contrast control and also the RAW file available for more extended editing later if needed. The RAW + jpeg setting is my favorite for any more experimental shooting situations. Often the jpeg's can be used with very little adjustment, especially for web posting or e-mail updates.

  • WBC February 7, 2011 11:53 am

    Odd, my post from Friday seems to have not made it to the board... Is there a moderation delay if you include images?

  • kate si February 7, 2011 10:14 am

    I gotta agree with what someone said up the thread, my first love was with film but I was a kid and it wasn't an SLR. I shoot raw when I'm going to want to tweak stuff or if it's a new type of lighting/scene that I'm not quite confident in my settings yet and know I may have misjudged. JPGS are for party pics and places I'd bring a point and shoot that I no longer own.

  • Rick February 7, 2011 09:14 am

    The only valid reason I can see for shooting in jpeg is if you need to take several shots in a row and your camera has a difficult time keeping up after 3-4 bursts. Like mine.

  • DM|ZE February 7, 2011 09:09 am

    Wow, I would say this is a matter of personal opinion. I used to shoot both all the time but that takes up too much space. Now it really depends on the occasion. I would say 99% of my shots are in RAW anymore but there are times where I just want to capture memories and not worry about processing each photo to its finest. I have a lot of other things to do, so this works for me. I'm not really sure why so many are so ready to bash other peoples opinion as there is no fact in this situation it is just a matter of opinion!

  • Eric R. Wallace February 7, 2011 08:27 am

    I shoot RAW for one main reason: I'm not experienced enough to shoot JPEG.

    I photograph everything from high-speed sports (baseball, football, NASCAR) to fireworks to portraits to weddings. I want to have the full image information in order to produce the best photograph I can from any given image.

    There are many changing variables in every situation that can affect image quality that I don't have control of at the instant the shutter fires. I give myself the absolute best chance of producing the best photograph I can by shooting RAW.

    More time consuming in post-processing? Absolutely!

    Best for my knowledge and experience level? Absolutely!

    I got into digital photography in October '08. For two years I stood next to a professional photographer taking photos from the sidelines at our local university football games. He photographed the Dallas Cowboys for a dozen years, so he had a wealth of experience shooting from the sidelines.

    He always asked why I shot in RAW and guaranteed that anything I could do with RAW, he could do with JPEG. He cited the need to deliver images immediately (or sooner) and many other reasons for choosing JPEG over RAW. Bottom line: his experience allowed him to capture JPEG images that worked for him and he had reasons that speed of delivery was a concern. I didn't. I was doing it for fun. If I could truly learn to correct JPEG images to match the output I get from RAW, I might switch.

    One fun thing for me was that he would fire away with his D3 at machine gun speed and I would plod along at 3 fps (with my first camera). Yet he many, many times commented that I had excellent timing in capturing the peak of the action. You work with what you know. I used to shoot film long before high powered motor drives were anywhere near affordable for the general public. I practiced getting the peak of the action for many years, and it is nice that he recognized that and complemented me on it.

    I was also shooting JPEG in those days because I didn't know from RAW. Two of the players I captured dozens of great images of are now playing in the pros. I sure wish I had those images in RAW because I know I could make them better with full creative control!

  • ScottC February 7, 2011 06:52 am

    @ryan, thanks for bringing some truth into this fray. The "degrading" of jpegs is highly over stated.

  • Zoki February 7, 2011 06:14 am

    If you have a fast memory card, and dont want to waste time in postprocess, but still want to have raw, shoot RAW + small JPEG. It gives you instant photo for web, and original raw for geting things right, for larger prints..

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer February 7, 2011 05:56 am

    I think now the notion that converting RAW files on your computer takes tons of time and effort is a myth. Last Friday's job was 477 RAW images of a Lexus IS F. I imported them into Aperture 3 and within minutes the card was ready to be ejected and all the RAW files processed using a Nikon D300 specific profile and ready for my then further tweaks.

    The only time I can see shooting in JPG is for reason #4, speed. If your camera is unable to take bursts of RAW images sufficient for sports, etc....and you are not photographing a pro event, then shooting in JPG for that is fine. I do freelance work for a local sports photography business and they tell me specifically to shoot in JPG, and not even JPG Fine. They post and sell them with no editing, as there are just too many shots to go through after a baseball tournament. For example:


    I even worked for the national sports company ASI, and they told me to use even lower settings than the local sports outfit did!

    In addition, those 477 RAW files will not stay around on my hard drive for long. After I edit and deliver the 12 final images (in jpg) to the client, I will then only keep the edited jpgs I like for my own portfolio, taking up maybe 50MB of space ultimately.

  • Ryan February 7, 2011 05:51 am

    One tiny bit of correction regarding JPEG "quality degrading." The only time quality degrades, is when the JPEG is edited and re-saved. The compression algorithm discards information in areas where pixels are very similar. Thus, if modifications are made, information is lost and theoretically "quality" is "degraded." I put the two terms in parenthesis because "quality" is subjective, and "degraded" is not synonymous with "discarded." Think cropping.

    However, simply copying JPEG files to-from media has zero impact on quality or content. A JPEG, unedited, or unmodified will look the same in 1,000 years (providing there is technology and observers to display and view them).

    Just FYI.

  • Tyler February 7, 2011 03:45 am

    I only shoot with JPEG when i don't have my dSLR on me. Though, it's because my PnS only shoots in JPEG :)

    Remember: every time you save a JPG, an angel looses their wings...err I mean the quality degrades.

    I like RAW and with storage being cheep (again) these days, why not shoot in an uncompressed format? I just saw a 2TB drive for $70 CDN! So the complaint about large filesize (to me is mute).

    With one of my 16GB CF cards, I can shoot like 300 photos. Think my CR2 files are 20-25mb each.. The only time I go above that is when I am out shooting sports or perhaps the odd wedding (lol have only shot 2 weddings...)

    Of course when I am on vacation, I have my laptop with me and external drives when I go photo happy. But lately, I haven't shot a full CF card in almost a year :)

    When in doubt, shoot RAW + JPEG :)

  • jim February 7, 2011 02:54 am

    I have no objection to anyone shooting in JPEG.

    Go ahead, weigh the differences and if disk space and all the rest of the convenience is for you, please have at it.

    I will continue to shoot in RAW for most of my imaging. I buy another two hard drives every year and happily have dual backups of that year's photos.

    Dan, the point Angad was trying to make is that every time you alter your JPEG file and save it, you lose a bit of the quality of the file. It compresses what was already compressed. Of course, you can avoid that by copying the file across first, making your edits on the copy and saving that and keeping the original JPEG untouched, unaltered and unsaved.

  • Low F-stop February 7, 2011 02:27 am

    It is never a good idea to shoot in JPG. Most camera should have the option for JPG and RAW capture, aside from either. You can do all of your local corrections, i.e. exposure, brightness, contrast, adjustments, black and white conversions, vignetting; etc... To save time, learn how to make great photos that are uncompressed, learn the software needed; either adobe raw or other ways to convert. Buy an external harddrive, and enjoy shooting images of the highest quality, not the absolute lowest quality. This is just another pointless post with information that would deter an individual from making great photographs.

  • Richard Davis February 7, 2011 02:24 am

    The challenge at the end of the post is a great idea. Once you have a good understanding of how your camera processes the image you'll be able to shoot jpeg with confidence when you find yourself needing to.

  • uncleshark February 7, 2011 02:11 am

    All good points, but space? I suppose including it on this list is required, but media is so cheap now days, if someone runs out of space, the mistake not to get a decent sized memory card or copy off earlier taken shots was made long before leaving the house. I just don't understand how people waste time worrying about space and fumbling around deleting photos instead of spending a few bucks on another/bigger memory card... even if you only made $10/hour your time would be better served.

  • Dan February 7, 2011 02:06 am

    your pictures will degrade in quality in half a decade to a point where they will be of no use

    Just wondering how a jpeg will degrade and a Raw file will not?

  • Anonymous February 7, 2011 01:10 am

    @Kathy M Thomas: Just in case you were thinking of getting new software that can accept RAW, PSE8 does fine with RAW files and I'm sure PSE9 does too. Plus I know that PSE8 has a special RAW editor

  • angad February 7, 2011 01:10 am

    While I agree to a large extent with this article. JPG has one major drop back - its a lossy format - your pictures will degrade in quality in half a decade to a point where they will be of no use. Keeping a file in the Raw/tiff format helps me keep the images in the orignal quality!

  • Jeff February 7, 2011 12:34 am

    @Kevin how about you are just a plain SOB? Jesus asshole, maybe some of us are just getting started into the whole digital darkroom. You didn't know shit about raw and lightroom or anything else when you started so how's about STFU with your pompous b*tch ass?

  • Alex February 7, 2011 12:19 am

    In the occasions where I really want to be able to publish the day after without the need for editing and the quality isn't alpha priority, I usually shoot in JPG+RAW, so that the exceptional shots still get what they deserve in the post-processing. but 99% of the time I only shoot RAW.

    If it wasn't for lightrooms (ver. 2.x) stupid handling of JPG+RAW, I probably would have used that function more often. It is quite a while since I used JPG+RAW, and can't remember exactly what the problem was, and I've also later upgraded to LR 3. Has Lightroom improved its handling of JPG extras?

  • kirpi February 6, 2011 08:03 pm

    I like and often use jpeg, definitely.
    While raw is my standard choice, jpeg loosely recalls me the way we extensively used Polaroid film: no matter how "technically" less preferable, it still has its own reason of being.

  • Adrian February 6, 2011 07:28 pm

    I usually shoot RAW but last week I took jpegs at an event so i could give a copy of pictures on a CD to friends there before I left. Bad move as the lighting of the event was far from perfect! I now have a set of pictures that I cannot edit with the same latitude that I could if I had taken them as RAW. I'm only shooting RAW in future!

  • ScottC February 6, 2011 06:30 pm

    The well made point of the article is that a photog may want to "choose" to shoot in jpeg at specific times and for specific reasons. She wasn't advocating a change in personal preferences and even states that she is a RAW shooter.

    A lot of comments here about post processing as well. The only reference to post processing in the article was that jpegs are "less in need of TLC" than RAW files. Perhaps "less can be done" could've been added for clarification, but I don't think Elizabeth was trying to infer that post processing cannot or should not be applied to jpegs.

    Like most here, including the writer, I shoot almost exclusively in RAW. But even with that, my favorite photo is still a jpeg I took with a point and shoot before I bought a DSLR.

    Kind of goes back to "The roots which made us fall in love with photography in the first place" part of the article.


  • Unger Photography February 6, 2011 05:42 pm

    I personally can't see a reason to ever really use jpeg. I could never see a need to shoot more 15 consecutive frames, and that's pushing it even then. Even for sports. A sports photographer once told me that the burst rate or amount of consecutive images doesn't matter, it's about knowing when to shoot and when to stop. It is about anticipating the action.

    As for post, there are presets for that. At least if you shoot RAW, you have the option of using many presets, or just plain editing them for yourself, without losing all that beautiful info.

    If you get your best results with jpeg, then more power to you. I've just seen several young photographers who never bothered to learn editing in RAW cause they thought it was too hard. Same thing about shooting in manual.

  • Present February 6, 2011 04:20 pm

    Oh c'mon people, we all know jpegs are history. No need to debate. If you can't let go of jpegs, take a look at technology. It's 2011.

  • Adrian Close February 6, 2011 04:11 pm

    Seconding Ryan: When I found my love for photography for the very first time, I shot film in manual mode. Not because I was some kind of anti-auto snob, but because that's all the camera could do (and it didn't have any kind of meter, either). Meanwhile, I think the article's points are valid, but I'll stick to shooting RAW because I like the control.

    Perhaps there's a market for some kind of RAW->JPEG auto-processor software that mimics what various cameras do onboard?

  • William M. February 6, 2011 02:41 pm

    Another great article.

    No matter the post topic, the opinions and suggestions of the writers or the contrast that may be apparent with how I wish to do photography, I always thoroughly enjoy the variation of ways in which we can all enjoy enhancing our craft.

    What I have also learned though, and as time progresses, unfortunately the comment section on each article is becoming more and more toxic. This needless negativity is leaving me with not feeling excited, inspired nor enthusiastic about what I have read. The egos ruin this site for me. I will strive to remind myself not to get muddled up in reading the closed minded and objectionable POV of individuals who show no respect for others and will continue to enjoy the articles only.

    Thank you to DPS and to those artists who take their time and experience, to freely share with us useful tools and insights into how we can become better than we are. Kudos to Elizabeth. Sincerely appreciated.

  • Kevin February 6, 2011 02:37 pm

    Just a couple of days ago I did my own study on RAW vs Jpeg in my 1DMKIII and my 5D. I shot one file in JPEG set to standard style with high ISO noise reduction turned off and one in RAW with both cameras and imported them into LR3. The JPEG file was cleaner on the initial import because the camera has some default noise reduction built in but with the chroma slider set to 15 and Lum set to 30 on both the jpeg and raw file, the raw "grain structure" looked much smoother.

    My conclusion was that shooting RAW at high ISO in the end will lend a cleaner file. Them's the facts as they say.

  • James Brandon February 6, 2011 02:31 pm

    Kevin...consider this: Mike Colon (http://www.mikecolon.com) is one of the worlds most well known and most expensive photographers. He also shoots JPG exclusively and doesn't do a wedding for less than $20,000. He shoots JPEG images with 20K+ on the line and a one time shot at getting the image.

    Again, I'm sort of playing devils advocate here because I shoot RAW most of the time as well. I just don't understand how people can come out and say JPG is only for convenient photography, and RAW is the only way to create a fine art image. That's quite ridiculous Kevin :-). I can still take a JPG image and apply a preset to it. I can still make some corrections to the image. I can still use plug-ins on the image, add textures, do incredibly detailed masking and so on. I just don't have the ability to pull light information into the image like I could with a RAW file, so nailing the exposure each time becomes vital.

  • Brianne February 6, 2011 02:31 pm

    There isn't a need for RAW + JPG...RAW creates a JPG everytime you fire, that is what you're seeing on your cameras preview. Turns out you can extract those JPG from every RAW picture you take.

  • Eric February 6, 2011 02:07 pm

    I shoot jpg. I shot jpg before raw even existed. Imo I think Raw was instituted to force photographers to actually correct their work instead of blaming their poor technique on the camera. It was heavily marketed as something a "Pros" did. Many have worn it as a badge of honor since then. Anyway "raw" is just another tool in the box to be applied where necessary. In a couple more generations it will become irrelevant as we get more dynamic range.

  • Amryl Malek February 6, 2011 01:52 pm

    I like shooting in jpeg. My camera processes quite good jpeg images so I don't need to bother with post processing. I only shoot RAW, when I think I need to really do a lot of post processing. So, to each his/her own.

  • Scapevision February 6, 2011 01:17 pm

    Jpeg is the polaroid film of Digital world

  • GS February 6, 2011 01:11 pm

    Wow. What does it matter really? As long as you are happy with the outcome, who cares? No one really knows when looking at your photos if they were shot in JPG or RAW. And, shooting in RAW does NOT make you a "pro". I shoot JPG (choice!) as I have tried RAW and honestly could not see a difference. I don't really edit the heck out of my photos, and I try to get it right SOOC as best I can. There is no manual saying that we as photogs have to use RAW. To each his own!

  • mr_rax February 6, 2011 12:54 pm

    wow... I share the same doubt as @elena... I don't get why some people get so pissed with these options... they are just that: "options", and I believe all of them are quite valid depending on your level of expertise and the software/gear you have.

    Personally, given that I use Lightroom for my post-processing, 1 - 2 do not affect me much. At least in my computer importing the pictures is a breeze (even though I transform them to DNG) and I can even leave all the in-camera settings applied in case I'm in a hurry and I want those JPG to share "as-shot". Then I still have my RAW files to play if I feel more "artistic" that day (or I just screwed up a nice pic... it happens to all of us :P ). I don't know if that is valid for other image processing software out there.
    Then 3 is not quite an issue to me either. I have a couple of 8 Gb cards, but for longer shots I take a backup hard-drive. It is not fancy (no colour screen or anything), but it copies the whole 8 Gb in a couple of minutes.
    Finally 4 really affects me (and I would say many of us too). If you are shooting sports or something that is really fast, JPG can save you no matter what gear you have. RAW files take a lot of time to be saved in the memory card vs. JPGs, since the camera writing buffer/speed is the bottleneck in the current technology... the larger the file, the slower the process no matter what. Of course now is a matter of personal taste: what is more important, to get the amount of shots per second JPG gives or get the extra flexibility RAW gives.

    Great article! It is always nice to re-think what I'm doing. Sometimes I get too "automatized" and don't stop to think if the reasons I do things the way I do are still valid... Thanks!

  • Allan February 6, 2011 12:29 pm

    I shoot only in RAW, no matter what, when you understand raw is like learn to use lightroom or photoshop there is no turning back. I was shooting in a mix until I saw "RAW with out FUD" that dvd change my hole working flow and perspective about RAW files.

    here is the trailer http://www.whibalhost.com/products/DVD/index_new_trailer.html

    Also for those that want the best of both worlds, there is no need to shoot RAW+jpg, RAW files already have a jpg inside them, with all the camera settings, you only need to extract it, and that takes only seconds

    here is a free jpg extractor http://mtapesdesign.com/instant-jpeg-from-raw-utility/

  • Aaron Lindberg February 6, 2011 12:07 pm

    Soccer moms shoot in auto & jpg. Let's elevate our talent and not let the camera think for us.

  • Elena February 6, 2011 12:05 pm

    I'm not sure why folks are so heated up about this topic. It seems like the article offers some things to think about to decide which shooting mode would work best in a particular situation, but as several folks have pointed out, it's really a personal choice. I take photos as a hobby, and I shoot in JPG + RAW. That way I have the snapshots/emailable pics, and I can edit the images I want to. I tend to do this with all my images because I can't really tell from the little screen on the camera if the image is good. I mean, I can tell to some degree, but the RAW file gives me room to play that the jpg does not. Anyway, it's all good, thanks for the article, I thought it was very helpful.

  • William February 6, 2011 10:18 am

    Potatoe Patatoe. I'm not fond of Picasso but his paintings sell. We all have our visions. Putting someone down because they don't live up to your expectations... Seriously?
    It is a personal choice to shoot either RAW or JPEG. It is also a personal choice to shoot automatic or manual. When iPhone comes out with a manual setting then I think it would be time for the pendulum to swing the other way.
    My love of photography grew out of watching my father with his Rollie taking photos with that thing. My first camera was a Kodak with two view finders portrait and landscape you turned the camera. It was all auto too. The only choices were a little slide that said dark and sunlight. Not much in the way of film choices either except in those days it was called ASA and it was usually black and white and it took about a week after you dropped it off before you got the photos back. Nothing like that suspense when you held that envelope in your hand. People got what they got and the were happy. If you wanted color photos in those days you took it to an artist and he painted it for you.
    I see a lot of people today say they don't shoot Automatic, they actually mean that they moved the dial to AV or TV, guess what that's still auto.
    I'm a hobbyist now shot semi pro many years ago. Wedding photography two rolls of film allowed for each wedding. That's right 24 exposures bride had a choice between color or black and white.
    My philosophy is that the only bad photo is the one that wasn't taken.
    Here's the deal I love photography. I love making beautiful photos of my family. Trouble is I'm going blind it is getting pretty hard for me to do everything in Manual anymore. These new lenses have about a half inch of travel in them from peg to peg if you try to manual focus. Give me the slit prism lens and that half inch turn to move the focus point one inch. I digress. Sometimes technology is good. As they say you can please some of the people some of the time but you can't please all the people all the time.
    Just take photographs. Have fun doing it.

  • Don February 6, 2011 09:56 am

    When I first found my love for photography there was no jpeg. There was only film. Then I found jpeg. Then I found Raw. Ain't goin' back.

  • Leo Mangubat February 6, 2011 09:45 am

    Elizabeth is right with the 4 reasons to switch to JPEG. What's wrong with that? She didn't said that JPEG is better than RAW or RAW is better than JPEG. I am a hobbiest and I have all the time to experiment them all. I totally agree with Elizabeth on no.2. In fact I am practicing these days to shoot good sunrise/sunset pictures without any retouching and I'm using JPEG for that. Afterwards I want to try the same thing with RAW. Is there anything wrong with my experimenting? Why don't we read everything that was written before we make comments. Infact there is a challenge before the article ended. Go ahead Elizabeth we need more of these artcles. Bring them in!

  • V February 6, 2011 09:25 am

    Thank you Andy. Kevin is an arrogant SOB.

  • Scott February 6, 2011 09:10 am

    Shooting JPG can be useful at times but for anything professional I would never do it.

  • Todor Kolev February 6, 2011 09:10 am

    Am I the only one who knows that RAW files contain a JPG?
    You just need a simple program to get direct JPG from a RAW in 10 seconds flat.

  • Kathie M Thomas February 6, 2011 09:05 am

    I work with a 16G card and almost always shoot in fine jpeg (not to be confused with auto mode). I sometimes shoot in RAW if I feel it's important enough to do it. I will often shoot between 800-1200 images a month - I love to experiment and am always travelling with my camera.

    I use PSE7 and it doesn't like RAW files so then when my files upload to my computer it chucks a fruity anyway as it doesn't like those files. Perhaps I should change which program my computer opens when inserting my card file :-)

    I have sold photos on stock photo sites that have only been shot in jpeg. I am constantly learning about light, movement, shutter speeds, aperture and so on.

    There have been odd occasions when I've thought that a RAW file might have made a difference, but since I'm not shooting product photography, models or similar, I really don't know that it matters at this stage. I'm enjoying what I'm doing and still have some success (photo sales, competitions, exhibition).

  • Simon February 6, 2011 08:58 am

    The paragraph about your preferences, for me, undermines the rest of the article. It's like here are the reasons for shooting JPEG but here are my reasons for why I don't. It reads to me much like "do what I say, not what I do".

    For instance, when was the last time you shot in JPEG professionally? Even casually, for that matter? Has there been a time for you where shooting JPEG has saved your butt, as you alluded that JPEG may do?

    Please excuse me if I come off overly critical. That's not my intent. I just don't understand why you'd write a post about the virtues of shooting in JPEG when you preference seems clearly NOT to shoot in JPEG, and then state as such in the very same post!

  • Dave Hodgkinson February 6, 2011 08:39 am

    What a load of troll-bait!

    1. Decent software doesn't even make you think about conversion. iPhoto certainly doesn't!

    2. Less work. See point 1.

    3. Be prepared. I carry 12G with me even if I rarely fill 4G.

    4. Really? So having the puny CPU on your camera do JPEG compression takes less time? Let's see the numbers.

    No. I've experimented with shooting JPEG and it's been a lose every time. Worst case, shoot both and let the camera do the JPEG but still have RAW as a fallback.

  • Scott February 6, 2011 08:19 am

    I've seen many exceptional photos made with jpegs from DSLRs, point and shoots, and even smartphones without any post-processing at all. Dismissing Jpeg as impossible to take quality photos is a statement spouted off in ignorance. Or course the the ability to make some tweaks to your photo in post with RAW is very helpful, but to say that photographs are not good unless they are post processed is ridiculous. I would say that people who think to that extreme are less photographers and more photo editors.

  • Andy Merrett February 6, 2011 08:03 am

    Kevin, you really are an arrogant "SOB" (as seems to be your favourite pithy little acronym.)

    Firstly, "Automatic" and "shooting in JPG" don't have to be the same thing. And we're so sorry if we don't make as much money as you (wherever it is you "professionally and artistically" work, as you aren't man enough to share your work or even a link here) but sometimes finances dictate that you can't afford the best gear and accessories ALL the time.

    Plus, if you're dumping all your RAW photos into Lightroom and "slapping on a ... preset" how is that any better than getting the camera to do it. Either you edit each one (or at least each batch from a particular shoot where the conditions were near identical) or you're getting your computer to auto-tune your pics! Huh? OK, sure you can undo and re-tweak 'important' files shot in RAW more easily, but that doesn't sound like what you're doing. Anyway, if you're going for the "artistic" shot and not the "convenient photography that anyone can do" (because of course "high quality photography" is all about the settings and up-yourself-ness and nothing to do with what the photographer and the end users in a particular situation actually consider to be good - perhaps the mud-slide people thought their photos were high quality for them - apart from the one slider who said "gee, you didn't shoot this in RAW you SOB!") surely you should be editing each one individually! Batch processing is just that, whether you let the camera or the post-processing computer software do it.


    Oh, by the way, well said Trudy — "People allow personal preferences to define them. Everyone deserves respect for the right to have preferences themselves, but no one has to enjoy the actual preference of another. Still, the silliness and name calling gets old, fast."

  • Andy Mills February 6, 2011 08:01 am

    @Kevin with regards to points 3 & 4. Having several smaller (2Gb or 4Gb) cards is "safer" than one large (32Gb) one - as in if one dies, you don't lose all your images in one go. Agreed though, if you stick with a 512Mb or less card is probably penny pinching.

    As for point 4 - it's not always the speed of the card (although it's important). Whether its RAW or JPEG, the speed the data is saved to the card is the same - it's the speed that the camera's processor and buffer can process the images that makes the difference. For example, the Canon 1D MK3's buffer can do handle a maximum burst of 110 JPEGs and 30 RAW images. If you're shooting a sports event, this can be important.

    But in general, my preference is for RAW, and I do think there is a place for shooting JPEGs, but I think if I was in the position where I would be shooting JPEGs, I would probably be using my compact camera and not my dSLR.

  • John A. February 6, 2011 07:57 am

    I shoot RAW + JPEG, with the JPEG set to 2Mpixels. That gives me an instant emailable image for every shot, and a quickly-browseable and loadable file that I can play with a bit to see what I might want to do with a shot before I work with the RAW version.

  • Joe February 6, 2011 07:49 am

    As a sports photographer, the only time I can afford to shoot JPG is a well lite outdoor ballgame. All, and I mean ALL my night games are shoot at 3200ISO so I need the extra push I can get from raw.

  • Kevin February 6, 2011 07:44 am

    James -- that's all fine and well, but you're not talking about high quality photography. You're talking about convenient photography that anyone can do.

    Yes, I suppose if you're not doing anything remotely artistic, then JPG is the way to go.

  • James Brandon February 6, 2011 07:41 am

    Kevin - I'm a full time photog and use JPG for events every now and then. I recently shot a mud run for a local organization and JPG was clearly the best decision. The lighting outside was pretty constant, and I needed to crank out a TON of images to print off later to mail off to the runners. I shot in manual and dialed in the exposure. Once it was set, all I had to do was press the shutter. It also allowed me to hold down my shutter and crank out 60 frames at 5 frames per second. If I was on RAW, I'd only get 10 frames and 5/second.

    To your comment on "How much time does it really take to slap on a contrast and sharpness preset?" It takes hours upon hours and days upon days when your editing through thousands of images.

    I still shoot primarily in RAW as well, just like 90% of pro digital photographers, but Elizabeth is certainly correct in stating that there is always a time and place for JPG.

  • Trudy February 6, 2011 07:39 am

    I shoot RAW less than JPEG. I know how to process RAW files. I'm aware of the technical and practical differences. I still prefer to shoot JPEG in many instances (outside of weddings). I think it is funny when other photographers who don't control my work. live in my house, use my computer, create my photographs, edit my photographs, retouch my photographs, interact with my clients and produce my work start crying and become suicidal about my choices.

    I don't "snap" pictures, I make photographs. However, there are some in camera things that I do not mind occurring in some instances, as it falls in line with the vision I have for a particular photograph. When it won't, I shoot RAW.

    It is what it is. This almost is like the HDR argument. People allow personal preferences to define them. Everyone deserves respect for the right to have preferences themselves, but no one has to enjoy the actual preference of another. Still, the silliness and name calling gets old, fast.

    Do YOU.

  • Kiran February 6, 2011 07:35 am

    Totally agree with your points. I love experimenting with RAW and Jpeg in different situations to fit the necessary requirements :)

  • James Brandon February 6, 2011 07:33 am

    Good points here Elizabeth. All this stuff is just preference, do whatever makes you happy I say :-). Whenever I'm just snapping pictures around the house of family, friends, my dog, etc, I love switching over to my custom monochrome JPG setting. It brings out a whole new dimension in the images and you don't have to worry about white balance. It creates such a vivid and high contrast result and I love it!

  • Ryan February 6, 2011 07:33 am

    "I would say (with complete confidence) that when we found our love for photography for the very first time, we all shot jpegs in automatic."

    Actually, I first found my love for photography as a kid with a film camera. In high school and college, the work in the darkroom was almost as fun as shooting. My photography enthusiasm was again rekindled when I got my first "nice" cannon point an shoot. I chose the model based on its "hackability," and I quickly installed a custom firmware (CHDK) to allow me to save raw files.

    However, I don't discount shooting JPEG and would be unhappy if the option were to suddenly disappear. I'm just saying for some, the process of photography is actually where the joy is. The thrill of "recovering" a shot, or perfecting an image is actually sometimes more fun for me, than capturing a perfectly composed and exposed shot.

    All that said, I'm a hobbiest, and thus have lots of time on my hands to play around. The few times I've asked "pros" they've all told me they shoot JPEG.


  • Kevin February 6, 2011 07:29 am


    1. How often do you need instant use? And are you willing to sacrifice making a really good image to get it?

    2. How much work is it to pull in images to lightroom and slap on a contrast and sharpness preset?

    3. It's 2011. If you still have a smallish memory card, you're a cheap SOB.

    4. It's 2011. If you prefer shooting in RAW, but you're using a card that can't handle the transfer speed needed for continuous shooting, you're a cheap SOB.

    I don't find any need for Automatic unless you've been assigned as the photographer for a family gathering and you hate your family.

  • emaarkhan February 6, 2011 07:28 am

    I agree with you but RAW is helpful when you have wrong ISO, exposure, shutter speed turned around the other way. it give you more richness and more data to work on. of what you might have lost. i remember i took a xmas tree photograph and i forgot that i was shooting in dark before that and ISO was 6400. but RAW saved it with so much information in picture. after fixing that picture. it became so famous and likable.http://3maarkhan.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d35mclj i would say your saying it right but i will say both formats are balanced

  • Elvira February 6, 2011 06:57 am

    Amazing article! Thank you.
    I mostly shoot in RAW too.. but sometimes I don't feel like post-processing too much and leave that to the camera.