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RAW vs JPG: A Visual Example in Lightroom

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For a long time I was a jpg shooter. I thought it took too much time to edit in RAW, that it was a cop out as you have to get things more perfect in jpg so you have to nail exposure.  Then… One day, many years ago I tried RAW.  And… I never looked back.  I ise Lightroom to work on my RAW images (My workflow is: quick exposure adjustments and white balance if needed in RAW – then export to Photoshop as a jpg). In case I need to recover info or in case I screw up and realize it a shot later, I have the information captured.

Here is a quick video from Guest Blogger Nathan Holritz from Photographer’s Edit with a concrete example of how shooting RAW retains more information and may be a better choice for you. Please make sure to do the quick poll at the top. 

And if you want to express more thoughts, comment below on “What format do you shoot and will this change after watching this video?  What do you see as the pros and cons of shooting RAW?  What do you see as pros and cons of shooting JPG? If you shoot RAW, which editor do you use to edit the files 1st (Lightroom, Aperture, Adobe Camera Raw, the capture software that came with your camera, etc)?”

18 Comments

  1. 1
    Laraine Davis says:

    Thanks for all the great information Jodi. You’re the best! I think I need lightroom!

  2. 2
    Stefani Chung says:

    wow!thanks for this blog!i always debated in which to shoot in!and the video was helpful too!since im a beginner and all!i will try and shoot raw!THANKS!

  3. 3
    Kristin Cook says:

    Thanks for the post! It has definitely encouraged me to try shooting RAW again.

  4. 4
    Jose Alvarez says:

    Indeed, this post is very helpful! As a novice with a limited budget… what’s a good start up camera for RAW image capture. Please tell me it’s a Canon!

  5. 5
    Janet says:

    So, you have to have other software in addition to Photoshop, if you shoot in RAW?

    • 5.1
      admin says:

      Janet – yes and no. If you have photoshop it comes with Adobe Camera Raw. But if you get a new camera and have an old version of Photoshop – your camera may not be supported. Also your camera probably comes with Raw capture software which is another way to get Raw images off. Lightroom and aperture and two more programs that can be used.

      Jose – any d-SLR (and even some high end p&s) are capable of Raw capture. Canon’s rebel line (is the entry level) and you can shoot RAW with it.

      Hope that helps.

      Jodi

  6. 6
    NYMike says:

    And don’t forget the intentional benefits; you can purposely make errors in your photography to achieve an effect, knowing you can fix it better with RAW. For example, you might shoot a smaller aperture to get a deeper depth of field, knowing that it will underexpose the pictures, but that you can recover light better with RAW. Or, if your camera only goes to ISO 1600 and you need ISO 3200, shoot at ISO 1600 with -1 stop exposure compensation, and push the picture one stop in Lightroom after…

  7. 7
    Kathy says:

    Thanks for that video. It’s really amazing the difference. I have learned to shoot RAW for my portraits, but I also do a lot of horse show photography with fast action shots so those I still shoot JPEG just for the speed.

  8. 8
    Dnaiel says:

    This would be great if you’d used the same image- ie same starting whibal- export and reimport the zero’d raw file as jpeg and reimport- it’ll look exactly the same to start with but have the ‘limitations’ of jpeg.
    You’re just comparing autowhibal on two images, this doesn’t compare raw + jpeg at all.

    The point about raw taking no more time was just about covered by you- you say select all and export (your raw files) and walk away from your computer; as a LR user I and others well know this is a problem with raw- if you’ve 1000 raw files even just converting/exporting them to jpeg can take hours. It’s not as fast as you’ve implied.

    RAW is great if you’ve screwed up but again it doesn’t demonstrate everyday use- if you get an anywhere decent exposure jpeg is much much easier to deal with than you’ve shown.

    Any chance of a fairer comparison?

    • 8.1
      admin says:

      Daniel – coming from being a jpg shooter I really see both sides. That said – after shooting raw for a few years now, I have not turned back. I do think that there is nothing wrong with jpg if you do a CWB and nail your exposure. This is the age old debate – and I use to argue in favor of jpg. Nathan – the guest blogger who did this video – he is hugely in favor of RAW as you could tell. And I do think maybe he could do a comparison like you mentioned – certainly worth asking him.

      Also – jpg does (or can do) a lot for you in camera (in terms of noise reduction, sharpness, color, etc) so in some ways RAW take more work than jpg that way too. The flip side is you have more control with RAW as you are starting with a less “played with” photo.

      Jodi

  9. 9
    Andrea says:

    Love this! I’m already a believer in RAW, but since we’re sort of on the subject of Lightroom, I wanted to suggest that you think about making some actions or presets for Lightroom, comparable to your photoshop actions. I would buy them in a minute! Your actions are the best I’ve ever used! Thanks so much!!

  10. 10
    MariaV says:

    While I “understood” the benefits of shooting RAW, it wasn’t until recently that I really reaped the benefits. I was rapid shooting because it was so cold out and I was shivering. I was shooting at different hours. Shooting raw saved me a few trips outside.

  11. 11
    rob says:

    Computers have come a long way and can process RAW without too much fuss these days. So have cameras luckily for me. I spend all day at work on a computer, go home at night communicate through my computer and store my photos on computer. Looking at my JPG pictures I am totally satisfied with the quality of the images produced and am happy not to spend more time behind a computer processing every photo I take. Virtually every adjustment available to RAW shooters is available to JPG. its all a question of how far do you want to go. Sure more latitude with exposure, white balance and crop is always appreciated however the latest bunch DSLR (not to mention a few up-market pocket cameras) can nail most of those variables nine out of ten times. Look at the LCD, if its no good take it again!

  12. 12
    Giuseppe Improta says:

    Forgive me, but this is a stupid example of RAW and JPG.
    RAW is of course better then JPG as file format and of course, since it has more options and more bit depth, is better for CORRECTION.
    Moreover, Lightroom changes a lot of option of RAW files before demosaicing the image…JPG is just done, so white balance is just different and CAN’T BE THE SAME.

    The point is that you can just shoot the picture right using JPG, why should I correct a thing that could be just ok by simply balancing the white before shooting ?
    Expecially for pictures like this…do you know about a PRO shooter that doesn’t balance white with 18% grey ? Sure not.

    RAW is for people that need to CORRECT or REPAIR wrong taken pictures, I’d spend my time improving myself in shooting the image just right, and use the correction just where it was really no possible to get a better one.

    People, learn how to shoot the pictures right in the camera, not how to solve your inexperience with the software, you’ll improve yourself a lot, you’ll learn how to think before shoot and you’ll see that this RAW wasn’t so much important…

    Bye
    knower

  13. 13
    Matt says:

    One of the best comparisons/explanations I have seen. Very helpful. Thank you.

  14. 14
    Matt says:

    Also, I can think of times when I might want to shoot one vs. the other. I took a recent trip out west and did some star trail shots. I have a feeling RAW would have been good to use there so I have more control. Those are shots I realllllly wanted to nail and they didn’t come out as I had hoped.

  15. 15
    Terry Sherman says:

    The video seems to have the incorrect permission, (I cannot view it, it says “Video Forbidden, this video is private”

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