JPEG vs RAW. The Ultimate Showdown!!!!!!

JPEG vs RAW. The Ultimate Showdown!!!!!!

Well not really a showdown, it's more a concise list outlining when it would be advantageous to use RAW and when it would perhaps be better to shoot JPEG.

Not a showdown!
Hi Everybody!
I’ve seen so many debates turned argument on this subject on the good ole internet! Today we shall discuss the benefits of shooting in RAW or JPEG. I could go full nerd and really wreck your head with stats, numbers, 8bit vs 14bit vs 16bit etc. but I don’t think that’s what we really need to know here. Let’s keep things simple and break it down. Firstly I’ll cover the basic theory of RAW vs JPEG in a short simple fashion. Then I’ll simply list some scenarios where you should be shooting RAW or JPEG! Simples innit!
At a glance you can see some of the traits of each file type straight out of camera.
With that quick look at both file types you’d be forgiven for thinking shooting RAW is pointless! The JPEG comes straight out of camera looking great! Why would you want a dull grey RAW file? Well let’s discuss, shall we!
This is a RAW and JPEG captured at the exact same time. Identical everything!

JPEG: When your camera shoots a JPEG it’s actually shooting a RAW file and then applying its own edits and giving you back the final JPEG. The different “scene” and “effect” modes on your camera dial appy different edits to achieve different effects in the final JPEG. This process removes 90% of your post processing power as the image is essentially ‘finished’ leaving the camera.

RAW: This is basically a pile of information from the scene you just shot. The difference is your camera doesn’t attempt to edit it in any way. The RAW will look identical to a JPEG shot at the same time on the back of your camera, but that’s because the camera has to turn it into a JPEG to display the preview. Once that RAW file leaves the camera it’s going to be flat and de-saturated and it’s up to you to process it!

Yes - that is a real RAW conversion. The power to recover shadow detail is insane on modern sensors. As JPEGs are 'pre-edited' by the camera there's very little control in post processing, this can lead to mucky colours and horrible contrast.
So now that the free knowledge has been absorbed, let’s see when to shoot RAW and when to shoot JPEG.


  • Capturing scenes with a lot of dynamic range, like a dark valley and a bright sunrise or a model against a dark backdrop.
  • Shooting weddings or events where you are moving from area to area and the scenes can drastically change from bright to dark or artificial light to daylight. You need the power of RAW to adjust exposure and white balance settings in post here. Nobody and no camera can get the perfect exposure in these situations. If anyone can I’d like to meet them!
  • Shooting important portraits, still life or landscape shots that have to be perfect. You can’t risk letting the camera edit the shot for you!
  • Always. You might not process RAW files now, but you might in the future. All modern cameras give a ‘RAW+JPEG’ option. Large cards are very affordable now so space isn’t an issue. Post your JPEGs on social media and keep your RAW files for when you do venture into RAW processing.


  • When you’re at family gatherings or spending time with friends. Shoot a million JPEGs, there should be no reason to process these files, let them live on as a moment in time captured instantly!
  • If you’ve just got a new DSLR and you’re still getting used to settings, probably have a small memory card and are more than likely taking pictures of your feet to check your settings are working. Definitely shoot JPEG to start! If you have the space, shoot RAW+JPEG so you can re-visit these shots in the future!
  • Indoor sporting events where the light doesn’t change. JPEGs are smaller so your camera will work faster so you don’t miss the action.
  • If you need to share an image immediately, you can even choose RAW+JPEG just in case you need to make changes afterwards.

We made it!

That about covers all you need to know. As I hinted above I would suggest always shooting RAW+JPEG or just RAW. I started out shooting JPEG when I first tried landscape photography. Now that I’ve learned how to process RAW files I would love to go back and process those first shots I took, but because they’re JPEGs it’s just not possible! I could literally write another 50 paragraphs about this, but I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible so you know what you should be shooting. If you’ve any questions don’t be afraid to hit us up!

Thanks for reading!

Ronan Harding Downes

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