Understanding RAW and JPEG formats

Nowadays, the majority of DSLR and SLR Cameras can shoot in both RAW and JPEG formats. So, what are the main differences between these two image file formats? And which one shall we use on professional basis?

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What is RAW?

RAW file is the largest image format, which remains uncompressed and contains unprocessed or undeveloped data from the image sensor of the camera. If you choose to shoot in RAW format with a camera, it means that only the camera which captures the photo knows the information collected from the sensors.

In simple terms, a raw file is a collection of unprocessed data. This means the file has not been altered, compressed, or manipulated in any way by the computer. Instead of processing the image captured by the camera, the data is left unprocessed and uncompressed until it is opened with a computer program.

Difference Between RAW file and a JPEG File

RAW file is basically an image file which preserves most of the information from camera, such as sharpness and contrast, without processing and compressing. However, RAW format need to be converted to JPEG and other image formats which are more convenient for printing and sharing.

JPEG file is a commonly-used image file format, which will be processed and compressed by the capture device according to the settings made by the user before archiving. It is a very popular image format, and can be easily opened in most computers. The users can freely set the compression level to preserve the quality for their JPEG files - easy to use and convenient!

Why Shoot in RAW?

When we shoot in Raw format, it gives us more control over how our photograph will look and we get an advantage to correct several small flaws when we capture the photo, such as the exposure,shadows, highlights, etc. We can easily fix the white balance in RAW file if the white balance cannot be properly set earlier with the camera while taking a photo.

If we choose to shoot in RAW format, the photograph can be enlarged beyond the resolution of our camera's sensor and the scene of image will contain much more details. When we convert a RAW file into JPEG format, the quality of a JPEG file is much better than the one directly shot in JPEG. So when we are shooting professionally, it's better to shoot in RAW and then convert it to JPEG, especially for those photos which will be printed as wallpaper or other large files output.

Why shoot in JPEG?

The file size of JPEG format is much smaller than RAW format. That's why, it needs less time to process and store JPEG file or transfer it to a computer than RAW file.