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raw vs jpeg: What's the difference?

The difference between shooting raw and jpeg on your camera is simple… File Size.

The raw file is generally pretty freakin huge these days, the new sony A7RIV camera is an amazing camera but my goodness one snap will take over 100MB on your hard drive!  Sure, the quality of 61 megapixels is impeccable and medium format quality but is it worth it? 

A Jpeg shot in camera will come out to be around 10-20 mb depending on settings.  

The difference between shooting in raw or jpeg is quality of the files.  The detail you get from shooting raw and placing it on your digital darkroom is the flexibility to bring down the highlights, open up the shadows, increase the depth of field, etc.  In a JPEG that is just not possible.  In a jpeg you are limited due to the depth of the filesize.  When you manipulate the file to fit into your creativity you will see that in a jpeg file it just doesn’t look that great.  

If you are just starting out and your computer or hard drive space is limited then definitely just shoot jpeg for a while, but when you move up in hardware, Do yourself a favor and switch that mode over to raw.  

See some of the differences below, Notice the water, how clear and detailed it is in the raw.  Notice also on the Right that both files were processed exactly the same to show the extreme. 





raw vs jpeg: When to shoot Raw?

Now that we know the general difference between raw and jpeg.  Are there certain circumstances to shoot only raw and only jpeg.  

We all use our cameras at different times and in different circumstances.  Like do you think its necessary to use 100mb RAW files for a friends birthday party when the images are going to just be used for memories? 

NO WAY- switch that dial over to jpeg, cut it down from the max megapixels down to a portion of the megapixels on your camera, like on the sony cameras we can choose a lower megapixel for situations just like that

When I first started out, I used to shoot EVERYTHING in RAW and I used up a ton of space on my hard drives.  I learned and realized that its not necessary to have a raw 100mb image of my dog licking his toosh.  So I changed one of my custom modes on my camera to use as one of my general shootings.  

I changed another custom mode to lossless uncompressed RAW.  So I have one mode to do my every day shooting in jpeg of like family and whatever, similar to what you would shoot with your phone.  And then one mode as RAW designated for Landscapes and another mode to be designated for Portraits.  

Custom Mode 1 - LANDSCAPES

RAW, Aperture Mode, Starting at f:5.6, ISO 100, Single Shot

Custom Mode 2 - PORTRAITS

RAW, Manual Mode. Starting at f:2.8, ISO 50, Shutter Speed 125, Continuous Shooting Mode

Custom Mode 3 - Everyday shooting

JPEG - Aperture Mode. Starting at f2.8. ISO on Auto Mode toping it out at 3200. On High Continuous Shooting mode

raw vs jpeg: EDITING

When editing in Raw, you have the utmost control.  If your image is in low light, the noise will be less than if shot in jpeg.  If the image was in a scene with a varied range of light.  The more control you will have when bringing down the highlights or opening up the shadows.  

The ease of editing a file that was shot in RAW is unprecedented.  

When I didn’t know about raw and/or what to do, I got so frustrated when trying to get my images the way I saw it when I was there or how I envision it in my head.  Creatives can do a lot with jpeg images, it’s possible.  But when you buy a camera with so much technology and the capability of RAW, why not use it? and if you don’t…. buy a MUCH CHEAPER CAMERA!  

After all edits are done and you are happy with how that Raw file was edited thats when you finalize those results and export your images in JPEG.  You could still tweak that file in jpeg mode, but might as well call it a finish product once you do that export.  So its typical that you have a RAW file, and then a finalized JPEG file next to it.  Then its the JPEG file that you show off to the internet and all your friends. You may wanna compress it even further like I did to the image below so that it loads fast and not waiting forever.  Cause after all the edits are done, its not uncommon for the RAW file to convert to fullsize jpeg at 40-50MB depending on the dimensions of the image and so forth.  Which proper exporting is a whole other topic that I’ll get to on another post down the road.   

The Image below is the image I used as an example of RAW VS JPEG above with full editing done but compressed way down for proper load times, so please click on the image to direct to its full rez version and give it some justice! 



raw vs jpeg: CONCLUSION

If you want the best image and the best flexibility, look no further than using the RAW UNCOMPRESSED setting on your fancy camera.  Afterall you bought this camera to take great images, might as well get the most out of the sensor you paid good money for and shoot raw.  

If you only shoot jpeg, you are putting limits on that sensor, and how dare you insult your beautiful sensor by limiting its potential, you wouldn’t want anyone to do that to you, so don’t do that to your precious baby…

Thats not to say that shooting JPEG is always stupid, no, its best used when you are not planning on doing anything to image, and your just taking pics of whatever throughout the day.  Similar to what you would do with your smart phone camera.  


Yes my sites name is JPEG JIMMY, but I Shoot RAW and Export JPEG.  We all Export our files in JPEG so we can upload it and show it off properly. 


  • What do you think? Is Raw Worth Shooting in? 
  • What do you currently have your camera settings at?
  • Does it bother you that the filesize of a raw file is so large? or do you take it as part of the process or an excuse to buy more gear? 


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