RAW v JPEG. What's the difference?
Hi, I’m Bea and I’m a professional photographer based in Milton Keynes.
As I get some questions about RAW files I decided to write a few words about it and why this format wins with JPEGs. At least in my eyes.
I’m not the only one; most professional photographers shoot in RAW and there is a reason why we chose this format.
At first, a RAW is a file that contains a large number of the information coming from a camera sensor. At this stage it is not an image yet and requires processing before can be viewed. It needs software and a skilled photographer, who knows and understand how the information locked in the file, can be improved. And I say “improved” for a reason - seeing these files for the first time on a desktop is quite disappointing! At the time of the capture a picture is not sharpened and must be sharpened in post-production. It also has a very low contrast, colours look washed out and overall the picture looks quite flat.
On the other hand JPEG, goes through the in-camera processing; applies all the filters, corrections and settings you have set in the camera. This means JPEG is already processed (by a camera) image, and looks quite “alright” seeing it straight from the camera. This however leaves very little space for manipulation to a photographer in comparison to RAW.
JPEG can only be shoot in a maximum of 8 bits channel (RAW in 14 bits), meaning it only has 256 levels of brightness (while RAW 16384 levels of brightness!). In practise it means that a lot of information,or details, can be adjusted and retrieved in post-production from RAW, but not from JPEG. In JPEG that information is being lost, because ability is beyond it's dynamic range.
High dynamic range gives RAW a huge advantage over JPEG.
In RAW you can adjust shadows, highlights and colours without losing those details, even if you zoom in. Because of that RAW gives a photographer or a graphic designer a chance to show their creativity and create an outstanding images. We have a freedom to manipulate the pixels and show the image as we want to see it, not the way a camera sees it.
Very important information and a difference between two is that you can edit a RAW files and they don’t lose any data each time it's saved, it's lossless. This means that if you want to go back to an image and change the way it was edited last time, you can do it from RAW easily. JPEG loses data every time itis saved.
With that being said, it means that JPEG is a compressed data and contains a lot less information. No wonder why they take a lot less space on your memory card than RAW. This is however the price worth paying and the reason why it's always good to have a spare memory card.