This is a bit of a hot topic in the photography community, especially online, but whether you should shoot in JPEG or RAW is un-debated in the professional world. You should always be shooting RAW. But for those that don't know, what exactly is RAW?
RAW is a file format that captures all image data recorded by your camera's sensor when you take a photo. RAW files don't look impressive straight out of the camera but that's because they're more of a blank canvas retaining the dynamic range of your camera, which offers headroom to non-destructively edit your photos and make profile corrections based on data stored in the RAW file.
It sounds a bit complicated and to be honest, I have no idea how it internally works. The best way to describe RAW is if you can imagine having just baked a cake. If there wasn't enough eggs or flour in the cake before putting it in the oven, there's no way of making those adjustments afterwards. However, imagine how convenient it would be to revisit the ingredients and be able to go back and make a few adjustments and taste the finished product in real time. That's exactly what editing RAW files allows you to do inside Lightroom. Hopefully you've got the picture by now (excuse the pun).
Colour Grading RAW Images
Shooting in RAW allows you to pull up your photos in Lightroom (or other photo editing software) and make some adjustments or apply a colour grade without committing to the final product on site! Colour grading is a hugely important process for creating a consistent set of images for a particular shoot or defining your own style, and this becomes a breeze when dealing with RAW files. More importantly, your adjustments aren't permanent. The RAW file is never altered, rather the manipulated image we see inside Lightroom, for example, is just a JPEG preview of our end result which we can later convert to a JPEG or TIFF file to deliver to a client, print or post on social media.
JPEG vs RAW
That leads me perfectly on to talk about JPEG. We now know that RAW is a flexible file format for making corrections in post - JPEG doesn't offer the same flexibility as it compresses the data at source (inside your camera). You could consider jpeg to be the end result. The baked cake.
Although I might seem a bit anti-jpeg, there's times you may want to consider shooting in both raw and jpeg. Most cameras have the ability to shoot both at the same time, and this could be handy if you want to send some unedited images to your phone and share them online while you're travelling.
Hopefully that's cleared things up for you and given you some things to think about when you're next out shooting. I briefly touched on colour grading your shots, and this is a huge part of what really defines a photographer's style. Especially on Instagram. It's always good to separate your photos from everyone else. If you're new to photography be sure to check out my blog 'What Are Lightroom Presets?' where I briefly explain how to use Lightroom Classic to take your photos to the next level using presets.
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- Tags: photography tips