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Why shoot in RAW format…

11 reasons to shoot in RAW format

In this article we're actually going to talk about why you WANT to shoot in raw, if your camera has the capability, and not JPGs. If you are shooing JPG, continue reading and you might want to reconsider, or not. If you are already shooting RAW pat yourself on the back, then keep reading. Perhaps you aren't 100% sure why you're shooting RAW, other than you heard it was better. This should clear up some unanswered questions for you.

First of all, my general thoughts on RAW vs JPG

There are many articles on the benefits of shooting RAW format, but in the end it's your decision. If you are getting results you are happy with, and have a workflow that works for you, then don't change a thing. On the other hand, if you want more control over the creative process (more on that later), and are ready to take your photography to the next level-at some point you'll likely want to switch to shoot in RAW. Having said that, let's look at some of the benefits of both formats.


Reasons why JPG is better:

  • JPGs are compressed and take up less space so you don't need super large memory cards
  • JPGs are smaller so need less hard drive space
  • JPGs are already processed by the camera so you view them without using special software to process them
  • JPGS can be uploaded to your lab to make prints, shared online and emailed simply and easily
NOTE – however, all of the above are not expensive or difficult any more!!!

Reasons RAW is better:

RAW files have so much more information built into the files
If you don't believe me, ask your camera? Set your camera on “large JPG format” and see how many shots are remaining on your memory card. Got it? Now set it to RAW format and take another look at that number. If I'm right that number is now about one half to 1/3 of what it was on the JPG setting, am I close? So if the camera is actually shooting the same size image (by pixel size) what is in the RAW file that isn't in the JPG? Makes you wonder right?
RAW files hold more information in the area of White Balance
If you shoot JPG and get it wrong, you might as well turn it into a b/w image because it's extremely difficult to fix. But if you shoot RAW and forget to adjust your White Balance, using Lightroom or Photoshop, you can easily just choose one of the other presets. For example if you shot in Tungsten mode but were shooting in a Daylight situation, with a RAW file it's a simple matter of choosing the correct option from a pull down menu, then tweaking it a little.
RAW workflow using Lightroom is exactly the same as for JPGs
If you aren't using Lightroom yet, you might want to check it out. That is my program of choice and the one I use for about 95% of my photo editing. Yes, Lightroom over Photoshop! I do use Photoshop too but only when Lightroom doesn't do what I need which isn't very often. I am working on creating a weekly online Lightroom class that you may be able to sign up for one week at a time (no big time or financial commitment) and it will be done line using Google Plus Hangouts. Sign up for updates by subscribing (look for the big red arrow on the right hand side of the page) and when this course is available you'll be the first to know.
You can make a JPG from a RAW file
… but you can't do it the other way around. 😉
RAW is better when you want more control over the final look of your images
Unlike JPG, when you shoot in RAW the camera does NOT process the files for you (they are unsharpened, uncorrected, with no color profile has yet been applied). This is much better because, once the camera has made a JPG it is very difficult to change the look of it. Have you ever tried to unsharpen a JPG that was over sharpened by the camera? It can't be done.
With a little education on your part, you can use the computer to make your JPGs instead of the camera, and the computer does a way better job of it
The key words here are “flexibility” and “control”, you have both when you shoot RAW.
RAW files are 16 bit and can provide much smoother color transitions
This is especially true when photographing scenes with open blue sky, where JPGs, which are only 8 bit, just don't have enough information to reproduce the scene accurately. This can cause bumpy transitions and result in things like banding, which is difficult to get rid of completely.
JPGs have 256 shades of each Red, Green and Blue for 16.8 Million colors
JPGs are 8 bit (8 bit is 2 to the power of 8 or 2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2) for 16.8 million colors which seems like a lot, but . . .
RAW has 65,000 shades of each Red, Green and Blue for 281 Trillion Colors
Raw is 16 bit (2 to the power of 16, I'm not going to expand that for you) RAW files have over 65,000 shades per color (RGB) for 281 trillion possible colors, that's a big difference! Now you can see why #7 above is a valid point, right?
RAW files can be processed using the larger ProPhoto color space
A larger color space equals better rendition, where as JPGs out of camera can only be sRGB or at best Adobe 98 (don't worry if that's all Greek to you, just know that bigger color space is better for more accurate and smoother colors in your images)
RAW is better because you can “screw up” to some degree and still save it
Not so much with JPG. RAW files carry exposure information in a range of at least 2 stops either direction of the exposure you shot at. If you're ever tried to recover the blown out highlights in an over exposed JPG, or tried to brighten one that was 2 stops underexposed, you'll understand what I'm talking about. JPGs degrade very quickly and you get either a muddy looking image with grey highlights, or a very noisy, grainy one. Lightroom  is great at recovering amazing amounts of detail in images quite drastically under and over exposed, with pretty decent results. Doing the same with a camera JPG will result in a grainy, noisy, or muddy looking result. There just isn't enough data there to recover from (see point one at the top about file size)

Thinking Ahead:
What if you aren't shooting RAW and don't have Lightroom:

  • Start to shoot both RAW and JPG, and save the RAW files for when you have Lightroom or another software to process them
  • Start moving in that direction, by getting more memory cards, a bigger hard drive, and buy Lightroom
  • Don't believe anything I say, do your own research and make your own decision about it

Here are some related articles that might help further

Final Thoughts

There has been much debate over file formats since the advent of digital photography, and if it's really necessary to shoot RAW or not. But with advances in software (Lightroom) and with the cost of memory constantly going down, there are less and less reasons not to shoot in RAW.

Why Shoot in Raw?

I'll leave you with this to think about. If you have ever shot a roll of film, this may help you get it in a different way. It's been said that shooting JPGs is like shooting slide or transparency film. What you get, is what you get. You can't really crop it, lighten it, color correct it, or adjust it. Shooting RAW is like shooting negative film. You have some flexibility in the printing process to lighten or darken the image, crop it, and use your creative license to really make the image sing, however you envision it.

The bottom line is it's your choice. But ultimately, if you are ready take control of your images and steer the ship, as it were, RAW format is really the only way to go.

Action Steps

Share your thoughts and experiences with me in the comments section below. If you disagree, please tell me why. I love to hear all opinions and share them with everyone so each person can make up their own mind about it.


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  • When I read the title I was like “WHAT?” then realized the hook. Clever. I love shooting in RAW and only use JPG when shooting events or in situations that require immediate upload to the web.

    • Darlene

      Thanks Ron – gotcha!

  • Naomi

    I really liked the article and learned some info about 8bit vs 16 bit….. I knew it was MORE INFO and BETTER, but you shed some light on the math behind it. The only secotion that left me not fully satisfied was number 7… are you referring to banding? Lacking how? I understand your intent, but I felt like I wanted a bit more info there. Nice work! I didn’t know there were that many reasons! You didn’t even talk abou thte options of shooting in Jpeg alone, Jpeg + RAW or Raw alone. A whole new debate!

  • Naomi

    thanks for accepting my feedback graciously! I now feel satisfied! LOL. YOU ROCK!

  • Roger Hofer

    The only problem I have with RAW images is that Lightroom is slow with them. This is their general style of making programs. They spent no time whatsoever to make them efficient for normal users using normal hardware, and they they blame the user for their own shortcomings. Oh, you don’t have X CPU? Well, of course, you need that! Oh, you don’t have Y Gb of RAM? Are you kidding? Of course you need that! Oh, you don’t have Z graphics card? Oh, of course you need that! Basically Adobe programmers are lazy. They always have been. If you look at the _real_ hardware requirements of Adobe products over the years, you’d see one thing in common: they always require one to two generations of PC computing and storage power ahead of the current average. That’s not because they really need that power either. It’s because they are lazy programmers who don’t optimize their code lines.

    • Darlene

      Roger, I agree to some point but I have a 4 year old MacBookPro and still use PS CS5. I usually skip a generation of all updates and will probably go from CS5 to 7 (if you skip to you can’t upgrade any more you have to buy it over again). With the exception of Lightroom which I buy all upgrades because I use it so much and this one to LR4 was a really good improvement.

      Anyway, my Mac is a laptop obviously, not the most powerful CPU and I’ve put 6gb of RAM in it when they said it was maxed out at 4gb. It also makes a difference how much space is on your hard drive. I had less than 20% left, went and upgrade to a bigger 320gb drive and now it runs much faster. So for about $250 I upgraded my laptop to make it last another year or so and will probably get a new one next year.

      The other issue is camera upgrades. As soon as you go get a new DSLR the files are bigger, need more space, need faster processor, etc. I agree it’s a big of a conspiracy and perhaps they all get together and discuss how to screw over the consumers. But RAM is relatively cheap, so is HD space. If you can upgrade those two things you may find your computer runs LR faster. Also check your LR preferences settings. If you’ve got the cache set anything over 10gb it will lag like no ones business. I had mine at 40gb, had no idea how it got there or why – but after I changed it to 10gb it runs like a top. Try that!

      I also still have an iPhone 3 (waiting for the 5) and Canon 5D Classic (I just ordered the MkIII, skipped over the II). If it’s working, don’t upgrade it! I also have a 16 year old car because I’d rather spend my money on travel and things like good wine and fine food.

      • Mark

        One thing that will help lightroom on poth pc/mac is using it from an SSD and storing your work in progress files on there too.
        SSD, mead Solid State Drive, no moving parts, pretty much a really big super fast flash drive, you want to look for ones with fast read /write speeds, over 500Mb/s each way.

        I use an SSD for my LR 4 Raw work, and it is awesomely fast. I also replace my mac HDD with an SSD, massive difference in speed.

        Try it, you wont be sorry.

        The next thing is use an SSD for your boot drive if you dont already. I could go on, but hey you all get the picture (scuse the pun)

        I hope this helps

  • Darlene

    Thanks for that Naomi! #7 has now been updated with your feedback. The only comments that I moderate and would ever remove are ones that are hurtful, inappropriate or prejudiced against another person. Each person has a right to their own opinion. The only ones I disallow are blatant ads for themselves, spam and evil stuff. 😉

    You rock too!

  • Mike

    I do shot RAW + JPG, since I dont have a RAW viewer yet. Has for Lightroom , wont run under my system, Linux Ubuntu.
    Was using Rawtherepee for my RAW photos , then found DARKTABLE which was designed to run onLinux systems. From some of the reviews out there, Darktable is running pretty close to Lightroom. With Light room having a few more features right now. FYI Darktable is a free program.

    • Darlene

      I don’t think I know anyone running a Linus system. Mind if I ask why you made that choice?

  • Mike

    Got tried of windows crashing on me, especially when the kids where on computer. Tried different linux programs and ended up with Ubuntu. So far the kids havent crashed it. Find it is a more stable OS then windows. The other reason was most of the programs and os are free. I do send donations and buy the DVDs to help out the community. There not many programs out there that run on windows that I cant find for Linux.

  • Darlene

    Very interesting. My husband will be interested to read this. He’s an IT, web guy. Wants to do something with Linus he said recently.

    • Saju

      did you mean Linux Darlene….

  • What I’d like to do is get a Synology DS1512 NAS raid server which runs Linux and PHP. Then I’ll install a mysql server and have a LAMP server for me to run a local development web server. It will also be our iTunes server and back up all your RAW files too.

  • Mike

    interesting……..interested in backup part

  • Mike

    would you host web pages???

  • Rob

    I host websites currently, but not at home. My servers are in
    Texas and quite state of the art. I would NOT host webs at home no. That would just be a development server

    Currently I host, design, SEO, WSO, and do blog coaching. Working on a 20 week seminar that teaches photographers and artists how to create their own sites. WSO is Website Speed Optimization

  • Hi Darlene,

    Great article for those that aren’t shooting RAW just yet. I’ve been shooting dslr’s since 2004 and started out with jpeg. Since about late 2005 I switched to RAW and haven’t looked back. Being able to have all the information is great.

    Roger – Regarding the slow down you notice with RAW files. Now, I haven’t done this exclusively just yet, but when you import your RAW files into LR, have them converted to DNG files. Those are the native Adobe RAW file format and are much quicker than the generic RAW file from the cameras. Supposedly DNG will be the standard (or at least an option) on cameras in the not too distant future.

    • Darlene

      Thanks for the comment Noah! I was about the same timing on things as you, same years!

      As for DNG, apparently some Pentax cameras now shoot it in camera. I’m sure more will start to follow suit. If we can get one standard raw format that would be so awesome! Yes they are slightly compressed and smaller too. But I think the other issues of Hard drive space, RAM and your LR cache settings in preferences will make a big difference too.

  • Paul

    Great article. RAW “sucks” alright….number of shots reduced by half on my camera. But gained all the information for tweaking later.

  • Your insights are well taken. But as an accomplished photographer and former English teacher I must make a suggestion:

    ” Her goal is to help the average person learn how to use their camera, ” Her is singular and their is plural. They should agree.

    Her goal is to help the average person learn how to use his (or her) camera,

    Otherwise, I really like your info!

    • LOL, thanks for the grammar correction Malcolm. Want to be my personal editor? English never was my forte, science and art was!

    • KC G

      Just throwing it out there… but the use of ‘there’ is perfectly acceptable when used after an indefinite singular antecedent. This avoids the taxing inclusion of the definite masculine and feminine forms (his and her). No correction was necessary and I’m surprised nobody noticed that until now.

  • I know this is not about this topic but how would you compare Aperture as a software! You were mentioning Lr a lot! Or may you write and or compare Aperture
    with Lightroom?

    • Manzini – Lightroom is my program of choice so I do mention it a lot. I can only speak about the tools that I use. In fact I wrote an article about why I think Lightroom rocks:

      In the comments on that article someone else asked me about Aperture and I will reiterate what I said there for you.

      I have only tried Aperture through my students. I’ve had at least 3 students come to me for help with it and we couldn’t figure it out. It seems less intuitive and the program makes it very hard to see where your images are and how to get them out again. One guy wanted to switch from Aperture to Lightroom and the only way we could see to get his raw files was to export them all out of Aperture again. All several 1000 of them. We tried googling for help and there just isn’t much for that program which is why I discourage my students from using it.

      So it’s less user friendly, does odd things hiding your files, and there is far less support and training available for it. You can go to the Apple store and get training but they’re just staff and not photographers so can’t really show you how to do specific things.

      Being less expensive isn’t always a good thing or the only factor I look at. Adobe is pretty much the industry standard for image editing. Ask any pro what they use and it will be either Photoshop or Lightroom or a combination of both.

      • Barbara

        I use Aperture, and like any programme, if you learn how it works then it works well. Aperture for iMac is a brillian programme that does all that one needs, including RAW.

        And the Apple stores give workshops that give amazing help with how to use Aperture.

        I know, I have been there, done that and even bought the t-shirt.

  • I like your article. It clearly defines why we should shoot Raw. True, prices of storage have gone down really low and very affordable. These memory cards are also small that I always carry 2 (8GB) as back-up. You can buy these memory cards for about $10 to $15 now. So, storage is not an issue to me. This is less expensive than buying and carrying rolls of films. Hard drives are also affordable and inexpensive now. You can now buy 1TB Hard Drives to store your files. You can buy these Hard drives for about $60 to $70 now. In my perspective, this is better than storing boxes of film negatives and boxes of prints.

    I tried shooting raw + jpg to see the difference. I ended up not using the jpg format beacause I always edit all of my pictures before saving them in jpg and I still keep the raw format file just in case I want to do more editing on it. I always like the outcome of my pictures after editing better than the jpg pictures. Now I only shoot Raw format. Raw format gives me more control of how I want my pictures look like. I can change the mood of my picture.

    I am only using a free software for my editing (Picassa and Serif). I am planning to buy Lightroom or Photoshop but could not afford it yet. So for the mean time I will use the free software. I did not notice slow downs on these free software. You are right about having more Ram and also having lots of Hard drive space makes a diffrence in speed. These are affordable investments and worth it. Also, these Lightroom and Photoshop are the latest software. They were designed to run on newer computers so, if you are running on a Pentium 4 computer better upgrade. Also worth the investment.

    • Yes you are right on all accounts Jose. I will still recommend Lightroom over Photoshop for those just beginning to get into editing. Not just for cost but for usability out of the box. Lightroom is only $149 and if you can get a teachers or student discount it’s about 1/2 that.

  • Margaret Lane

    Love Light Room, have since the beginning. Use Photoshop but will stop after the program I am using no longer works on my computer. I will return to Paint Shop Pro. It was the first photo editor I used and is just as easy to learn, maybe even eisier and it is becoming on par with Photoshop in what I need a photo editor for. I can not afford to spend the money on somthing as expensive as Photoshop when I have one that I can afford.
    I have come to the conclusion that with Light Room, Paint Shop Pro will be enough for what I need. It is not that I dislike Photoshop. I do like it. However the outrageous price of the software is a show stopper for me. I am an ongoing, emerging budding photographer, unemployed and do not have the money to spend on high priced equipment.
    I have learned to do a lot of diy props to do the things I do. I have come across many diy info articales that have helped over the years.
    I really like your blog. It is very informative, helpful and thought provoking. I have gained some new insights and ideas for future use. Currently I use my photography skills to photograph my items for on line sales.
    Thank you for your efforts!

    • Thanks for your compliment Margaret, it’s nice to know you are finding it valuable! If you are able to, please fill in the survey on the Week #2 email I sent out yesterday I will get a better idea of what to write for future articles.

      Your strategy makes perfect sense to me too. One thing you might want to add to your repertoire, that’s On One Software’s plugin for Lightroom called Perfect Layers. The price is right – FREE! It allows you to do layers right inside Lightroom.

  • PeterNZ

    Hello Darlene,

    I came here through your excellent post on histograms over at ( To set the scene, I am a Software Developer, Hobby-Photographer and Hobby-Cook. The cook part becomes clear further down.

    As we all know, especially photographers, the world isn’t black and white. I just recently started using RAW and also use Lightroom in trial at the moment. But I am leaning towards buying it. It runs perfectly ok on my 6 year old desktop with 4 gb of ram.

    To be honest I saw a lot of writing on the internet walls which always say “Forget JPEG, do it RAW”. And I can’t agree. Here are some of my thoughts and I would be interested in what you and others think of them:

    I often do “Mum and Dad shots” – What I mean is that not always do I strive for the price winning picture. Sometimes I just shoot for fun. To capture events. My dSLR is then used as a point and shoot. The images go up on my facebook or I sent them to mum and dad. Do I want to process the RAW first and export them to jpeg? No. So I switch to JPEG.

    I often have my release mode set to continuous. – I love to catch things in motion. I shoot a lot of pictures in one go to just find the best posture of i.e. a horse in full gallop. The size of RAW limits the numbers of shots I can do. My temp storage takes 24 shots in JPEG normal, 15 in JPEG fine and only 7 in RAW. Then it needs to flush the temp memory to the card. Which also takes a bit longer when using RAW because the RAW files are bigger. .

    As with cooking, I don’t do a 4 course meal every day in the week. Sometimes pan fried eggs and potatoes are just the thing. Same with RAW vs JPEG. To me both has its place. The annoying thing is the switching back and forwards between the modes.

    And thanks for the two brilliant posts, I will follow your writings more closely.



    • Thanks Peter for your comments.

      As for shooting quick grab shots at parties, I can see the point then to shoot jpg. For burst shooting though has to do with the camera body you’re using and the speed of the cards. So you could shoot raw for that if you had faster cards likely.

      You’ll also find that as you use Lightroom more there’s no difference between raw and jpg processing. Unless you’re shooting really small jpgs you’ll still need to downsize them for social media or email. Doing so in LR is the same steps for both formats. You can also create export (like save as) presets to go right to email or uploaded.

      Thanks for your perspective.

  • Darlene is right Peter. You can directly automate export raw files into lightroom and convert them as jpg in one step. It takes the same time.

    I am a bit confuse as to why your DSLR has to store your shots in temp storage when you can save your shots directly to a flash/SD card. Is it a limitation of your DSLR? Is there a setting in your DSLR that lets you save your shots directly to a flash card or SD card and not in temp storage? This would eliminate the process of transferring your shot from temp to Flash/SD card.

  • PeterNZ

    Jose, I wouldn’t see it as a limitation rather than as a common process. But I am making an assumption here. I now put my IT hat on. Internal memory is always faster than external like an SD card. So usually systems like dSLRs buffer data in fast internal memory. This allows you to write data from 3 pics per second or more without having to wait for slow SD card memory. But the internal memory space is limited and once full needs to be flushed to SD card. So obviously the more data for one pic the faster you fill up your internal memory.

    Yes writing directly to SD card would solve the limit on memory but you wouldn’t be able to write it in this short amount of time. Look at SD card speeds here The fastest is 10 MB/sec. My RAW files on the camera are greater than 10 MB. So I could write only one pic per second to SD card. And this is the fastest SD card you can get.

    I hope this makes sense.



    • Well I’m not so techie as that but I know that with my 5D MarkIII it shoots 20mp files in raw and I can shoot at least 10 before it says buffering and I do not have the fastest cards on the market. I know I can do 7 for sure cause I use the 7 image bracket feature all the time.

  • PeterNZ

    Yes Darlene but wasn’t that exactly my point in my original comment? My Nikon D3100 does the same. My limit is 7 in temporary internal memory your limit is 10. With JPEG because less data it is 25. And as I said in my reply to Jose, the speed of the SD card doesn’t really make a huge difference. It only says you can flush the temporary internal memory faster. But you still have the limit of your internal memory size. With continuous shots your camera creates the raw data at a speed of i.e.3 pic/sec (3 times 10 mb per sec) , saves it to internal memory and once this is full it flushes this internal memory to SD card. Only during the last step the speed of the SD card makes a difference. But this doesn’t change your internal memory size limit. Even with the fastest SD card you could still do 10 shots in a row.



  • Hi Peter

    I honestly don’t want to argue, that’s not my intention. Bottom line is this – you have to choose what is right for you. If what you’re doing works and you have no complaints, then keep doing it.

  • PeterNZ

    Thank you Darlene, this gives me a better understanding of the culture you maintain on your blog. I won’t bother you again.

    I think your first version, the one I received via email notification where you say “I honestly don’t CARE to argue” says it better.



  • I’m sorry you feel that way Peter and I think perhaps you misunderstand what I mean. I changed my comment because that’s not how I intended it and it did sound wrong.

    My point is that everyone has their own way of doing things, and there’s 10 ways to get the same result. I present my version, if you agree with me – great! If not, that’s great too. I’m not here to convince anyone of anything or make you do things my way. I’m just here to present an option. My philosophy of teaching is just that – if what you’re doing is working, keep doing it!

    I like to make sure my students and anyone reading has all the information so that if they are unsure they can make their own decisions once they have the information. My goal is not assimilation but education. That’s all, no malicious intentions I assure. you.

    The culture I maintain, or strive to maintain is open debate and education. That’s it. Really. You’ve presented an alternative option to mine, so for anyone reading they can now try both and make their own mind up about what’s best for them. I have absolutely no problem with that at all.

    So, like I said if you decide to leave I’m sorry to see you go. But if you stay I welcome your comments.


  • Janis

    bookmarked!!, I love your web site!

  • mario

    I shoot with either one depending on the situation… NEVER RAW+JPEG. If it’s a family or similar event (i.e. birthdays, get-togethers, etc…) I do JPEG since the final audience will be relatives and friends. If it’s going to be portfolio material, on which a little further post processing will be involved, I definitely switch to RAW. If I’m traveling with family and both situations can be present, switching between the two is just a one click of the command dial.

    • I tend to only shoot raw myself. I find I forget to switch back so I make it easy and only do raw. Even family events.

  • I too tend to forget to switch back to RAW. I tried it before and was disappointed when most of the time the pictures I wanted to keep and edit where shot in JPEG because I forgot to switch back to RAW. Shooting RAW + JPG was useless. Never ended using the JPG format, plus it was a waste of storage. I just stick to shooting RAW. One less thing to do or remember to set when shooting. I would now just grab my camera and focus on compositon and other traditional camera settings like aperture, shutter speed, etc. Just the way we did when we were still shooting in film.

    • Exactly my point, thanks Jose!

  • I am currently using the ACR plug in[photoshop] for Raw files as i love Photoshop and it works best just like adobe lightroom.

    • Yes it is the same raw processor you are correct. I personally prefer using it inside Lightroom though because of the sorting and archiving it can do that photoshop can’t.

  • William

    I have been shooting in raw for a couple of years now and never shoot jpgs anymore. Sometimes I edit in camera a raw file after I shoot with the wrong settings, to see if I should save it or delete it. When I get it on my 4yr old home assembled computer still running Vista I re-edit the raw file. There is so much difference in the two out puts of jpgs you would think they were shot with different cameras. Most of the time I use PS Elements and it’s raw editor although I do have Lightroom 3. I find it hard to switch to lightroom workflow after using Elements for about ten yrs. I do use Lightroom for some of my really badly messed up images. Love it for that.
    My D-7000 will shoot only 6 frames in raw 16bit, when set to high speed but I keep it set to only 4fps and hardly ever have a buffer problem. I just bought SanDisk’s new 16gb Extreme 94mbs SD Card and it really does not make much difference in buffer speed but it clears the buffer faster I feel. This is not a problem for me, as I understand the problem and I do not need to shoot faster.
    I have read many of your articles on this site, but this is my first comment. I have just started reading the comments attached to the articles, it helps to put the subject in prospective.

    • Thanks for that William. I myself switched entirely to Lightroom almost right from the beginning. I find the workflow much smoother and Photoshop (any version) does not have the archiving features that Lightroom has).

      Do you shoot highspeed often? I almost never shoot rapid fire unless I’m panning or shooting some sort of moving subject. What are you shooting most often that you need the highspeed?

      Thanks for reading and for commenting. I do feel that there is value in reading the comments as well because many times someone has a question that other have issue with as well and you can find good stuff in the comments section as well as the articles.

      • William

        I keep my camera set to 4fps and may take 2 or three shots of the same thing just to get the sharpest focus without the movement required of pushing the shutter button.
        Some times it is moving grandchildren, sometimes hummingbirds, or running animals.
        Grandchildren could have a different facial expression for every frame in a 4 second burst. If its moving I shoot in bursts of 3-6 frames. Hummingbirds are so fast that I have to boost the ISO to as high as 1200 in bright sun light light. The shutter speed has to be from 1/800 to 1/1200 to stop their wing motion.

        • Yes agree those kinds of subjects can work with burst shooting. For people though, unless they are running I generally recommend pressing the button when you SEE the expression you want. I’ve had experience of being photographed by other photographers that did a group photo I was in and they took about 30 shots (shot with bursts of 4-5 at a time) and gave me the raw files. Not one single image had the best expressions of everyone in the group of about 10 people. I find it’s best to press when you know it’s right for that reason.

          Fast movement is another issue. For still subjects you shouldn’t need that mode, just make sure your shutter speed is enough to not get camera shake if you are hand holding. If it’s too slow I’d move to a tripod. But you’re right if that isn’t an option at the time, I suggest taking THREE shots on burst mode. The middle one will always be the sharpest. SO make sure to do three, not just two.

  • ziba

    I’ve changed my mind at once I read this article to change my photos format into RAW as I reach home!thank you for your excellent article!

  • Steve

    I shoot pretty much RAW exclusively. Like you, I forget to switch it back if I need a Jpeg for something that needs a quick upload to Kijiji or FB. What I do in these cases is grab my old point and shoot which doesn’t have a RAW mode anyway. I use LR3 and when I import I change the format to PNG and save my RAW files to an external HD automatically with an import preset. Do you really think that LR4 is that much better than 3? I was thinking of holding off until LR5 for the same line of thinking that you mentioned in one of your replies earlier. I got a real giggle out of our similar frugal thought patterns! Great thoughts and you caught me with the title too. I was thinking what kind of pro is she, recommending Jpegs?

    Have a great day, from one Canadian to another,

    • Hi Steve!

      Yes LR4 really is a HUGE improvement from LR3. You may have to look at Adobe’s site as they’ve introduced the subscription model again and not sure you can even buy one upgrade any more. There’s a big uproar about it actually. I’m also not sure they allow skipping a version and going from 3 to 5 without buying it all over again. I’d suggest you get the LR4 upgrade, or contact Adobe to confirm what their new policy on this entails, they seem to be changing it daily right now.

  • I love shooting RAW and I won’t be giving it up any time soon! 😀

  • MountainSage

    I always shoot in RAW format and have for a couple of years. I love the flexibility it gives me and all of the options for tweaking a photo. I have a 1 TB hard drive, a 500 GB external hard drive, and a couple of 18 GB memory cards so storage isn’t an issue.

    Shooting in RAW vs JPEG is like printing my own black and white film vs having a lab print my black and white film. I always developed and printed my own. The only thing missing using a DSLR and shooting in RAW vs shooting and printing B&W film is the hours I spent standing on my feet and the smell of the chemicals. 🙂

    I was fortunate enough to get in on the $9.99 a month deal for Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5, although I’m still struggling a bit with Lightroom. I had been using Adobe Bridge for organizing my photo files. I look forward to tutorials on Lightroom.

    This is a great article that explains brilliantly WHY to shoot in RAW format.

    • Thanks! I’m working on a LR online course for later this year but will be a few months yet.

  • yes you should be able to

  • fourteen14

    Shooting Kodachrome 64 through my ‘blad was stunning. As an “old” film shooter, I/we knew how to get it right when we pressed the shutter release. If you blow chorme or negs there’s nothing you can do with either of them. Yes there is some detail in an underexposed negative as there is with underexposed digital. What there isn’t is colour. In my opinion, depending on POST just makes for a lazy photographer, or one who doesn’t understand light. Yes, LR and PS are tools that I use too, but not to “make” the picture. I sometimes adjust the levels, Chroma and Gama to enrich the image. The exposure is always within spec,
    RAW is the way to go, for me, because I like to have the control.
    Is RAW simply the material to be manipulated, and the final image the ART?

  • Morpho


    You can crop a jpeg photo, as well as a raw photo. > ”It’s been said that shooting JPGs is like shooting slide or transparency
    film. What you get, is what you get. You can’t really crop it…”


    • Well yes and no. The JPG still has all the same number of pixels the RAW does just not all the information.

  • Gail Fulkerson

    I changed my camera settings from jpg to RAW and the number of images I can take before the memory card is full went from 1088 to 288. Big difference. The only time I ever surpassed the small number was when I shot a wedding a couple years ago. I was amazed that, at the end of the event, I had over 450 shots.

    • Yes that’s how much more DATA raw files store. And wedding photographers sometimes shoot 3x or 6x that many images. I know some that shoot over 3000 at a wedding. I think it’s nuts cause then you have to edit them. I think sometimes less is more.

  • jesus

    Actualmente y lamentablemente en mi país todo es limitado, quisera tener el ligthroom y los tutoriales mas usados. Gracias por sus consejos.

    • Darlene Hildebrandt

      De donde vive?

  • David

    Thanks for a great, informative article. I work in radio, and therefore do a lot of audio editing. To me, shooting in RAW format is the same as recording audio in WAV or PCM format. There is so much more information there before compressing audio into a lossy format like MP3.

    I think that’s the key word: lossy. In computer terms, in order to get a JPEG 5 to 10 times smaller than a RAW file, you have to lose information. It starts with a drastic 16-bit to 8-bit conversion. This cuts the storage space in half, but cuts the data values by a factor of 256 (65536 divided by 256). This might be too technical for some of your readers to understand, but it’s a lot of color information that’s lost.

    By comparison, in audio I wouldn’t dream of recording in 8-bit. The noise level is much too high, and it will always be there!. There are some great audio editing programs to reduce noise, but they cannot recover audio that isn’t there to begin with. The same holds true for digital imaging. Once you convert to JPEG, whether in camera or in processing, you throw out a lot of data that cannot be recovered from the JPEG file.

    I can appreciate photographers that use JPEG for a quick upload to Instagram, email, or twitter, or, if you want a proof to email a client. But, save the RAW image, too. I’ve had my camera set for both RAW+JPEG, but I find myself using the RAW image in PhotoShop. I hardly touch the JPEG.

    Having said all that, I know some people can’t hear the difference between WAV and MP3, just like some can’t see the difference between RAW and JPEG. Those of us who edit audio and images have more scrutiny and want more creative control.

  • David

    Just tonight, I learned another difference between RAW and JPEG settings. I was shooting Christmas lights and a downtown parade which started at 6:30 pm–almost an hour after sunset.

    I thought I’d try one of the creative camera settings. I have a Panasonic Lumix G5 and it has a “star-effect” setting. While I would prefer using a star filter for this, I don’t have one for the G5. I also shot combined RAW+JPEG.

    The RAW images do not have the star filter effect applied, but JPEG images do. There’s also a slight color shift between RAW and JPEG, likely due to conversion from 16 bit to 8 bit.

    If you like to use built-in camera effects, your camera might not save the effect in RAW mode. This makes sense, as it should be raw sensor data (hence the name), without added processing by camera software.

    • yes that is true of most “scene” settings including shooting in monochrome – good notice

      • Eric Dreczko

        It’s true that the RAW image ignores the built-in camera effects but they are stored in the RAW image and the JPG image is stored in the RAW image!
        Search and read up on InstantJPGfromRAW.

    • Eric Dreczko

      See my recent post…. it IS possible to shoot capture those built-in camera effects AND shoot RAW.

  • Randall

    as at the present time i cant afford photoshop or lightroom. i was wondering if anyone had tried to work with gimp photo and if so what they thought of it?

  • Basshevy Miller

    I have Canon DPP -it came with my Canon Rebel. Would this work for RAW photos instead of Lightroom?

    • It would but I’m not a huge fan of that program, it’s not so great.

    • Eric Dreczko

      The latest version of Canon’s DPP is very good but difficult to understand and use compared to LR. You want to visit the Canon website periodically to download the most current information – including updates to DPP – for your camera.

      • Basshevy Miller

        Thanks for your tip. I think I will end up with Lightroom. I used the trial and will probably buy it.

  • Eric Dreczko

    I notice that “no one” who writes about the benefits of RAW vs JPG ever identifies one simple fact about RAW.

    Every RAW image you take with your DSLR contains a JPG version of your photo. No one ever talks about this.

    A RAW image cannot be viewed without some sort of conversion first. Your camera has to run the RAW image through it’s conversion algorithm before it can display that image on the LCD screen. What you see at that point is a JPG rendition of that RAW image you just took.

    From what I understand (could be wrong here) most, if not all DSLR cameras, shooting in RAW do not allow you to capture the in-camera effects because RAW is just image data and RAW ignores those camera settings.
    BUT, when the in-camera algorithm is run to display your image on the LCD screen, those settings ARE applied to the JPG and saved in the JPG that is part of your RAW file.

    You can verify this by downloading a program called InstantJPGfromRAW and run it against your RAW image.

    One very important note to take away from this is that when you shoot in RAW, you have both the RAW image and a JPG image available at all times. So, in my opinion, you don’t need to shoot JPG or RAW + JPG ever again…. IF you do any post processing.

    • David


      What you said makes sense, and I can verify for at least 2 cameras (Panasonic and Nikon) that I’ve had to do data recovery on the SD card on. The Panasonic (Lumix G5) saved JPG separately (and hidden) and at a much reduced resolution than RAW. This JPG is really only for use inside the camera, and might be reduced to the LCD resolution to speed up preview on that screen.

      Link to the program is here:

      It’s free, but you have to register to get it.

      • Eric Dreczko

        If you try the michael tapes design program, you will find that you pull the jpg right out of the RAW image file… not a seperately stored image on the SD card.
        Simply MOVE or COPY your RAW image to your computer (Windows based) and then after installing/registering the InstantJPGfromRaw program, open Windows Explorer, find one of the images you just moved to your computer and right click on it… the option for Instant JPG is now available. Click on this and you immediately have a jpg of the same name available.
        I do believe (but have not fully tested this) that IF you selected any of the built-in camera settings they will be processed into this jpg.

        • David

          Unfortunately, the RAW format (and what’s in it) is dependent on camera manufacturer. For what it’s worth, the wikipedia article on RAW states “There is no single raw format; formats can be similar or radically different. Different manufacturers use their own proprietary and typically undocumented formats, which are collectively known as raw format.” My point is that this program may work for some cameras and not for others.

    • Thanks for sharing this information

  • Robert Lucas

    If I could shoot RAW with my camera, I probably would only download the file to the laptop (a Dell Inspiron with 4GB memory, 500GB Hard Drive) since our 2005 eMachines desktop computer (with 512 MB Memory and 160GB hard drive) would crap its guts out trying to edit RAW files. However, my Olympus SP-820UZ only shoots in JPEG format. Even then, I’ve learned to shoot at the highest quality possible. However, even if I could shoot RAW, I would only do that if I absolutely needed to, just to save the disk space and SD card space.

    • That’s your call on it. Raw format allows you for so much more options to edit, correct and adjust your images.

  • Themakos

    ”If you shoot JPG and get it wrong, you might as well turn it into a b/w image because it’s extremely difficult to fix.”
    ~ Oh my god, they just said that !!

  • Carmen Anderson

    I am so happy to have changed to RAW, thank you

  • Federico Lazzari

    I believe that camera makers own rendition of JPEG is superior to any software’s quick adjustment or pretended simulation of in-camera settings- and disagree with point 7 above. This article does not make justice to the canon and nikons of this world who obviously know better than anyone their own sensors and chips and spend millions in developing ever better ones. No, I do not think Adobe spends as much as they do. Now, us photographers with much training and hours of post processing can indeed work on Raw and produce better results than the auto settings. But then, if we are amateurs and learning, how much time we have to spend in post? Don’t your photos sometimes stay for weeks without being even downloaded? Not to mention my growing folder of work in progress!. So JPEG is not such a second rate option and I have gone back to JPEG on occasions where light was good, not regretting a bit. While individually right (except point 7) the choice, IMHO, is to be made on other terms. Thanks yet for making me reconsider and refresh many arguments!

    • Thanks Federico – then I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. Why would the camera makers give you a Raw option if their JPG was superior? Sorry I don’t agree, but that’s fine.

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