12 Answers To Your Burning Questions About Shooting Raw


Who ever thought that something called raw would be so scandalous?

When we wrote the very simple article, 10 Reasons Why You Should Be Shooting RAW, we had no idea what was in store for us. Over the past couple years it’s turned into a giant, and gets the most views and comments and debates of any post on our entire site! Crazy.

And while it has helped a lot of folks learn all about shooting in the raw format, and get better quality images from their cameras, it has also opened up some questions. So today I’ll be going over some of the most frequently asked questions and hopefully filling in the gaps about shooting in the raw format.

Now I have a terrible confession to make before we even begin. With that first post I made a tragic mistake and have contributed to spreading lies far throughout the photography world.

I called it RAW.

See, it’s actually raw (all lowercase) and not RAW (it’s not an acronym).

I knew this detail before writing the original article. I knew it in my bones. But since it is popularly known as RAW, and the article and title would be more recognizable if I capitalized it that way, I caved and wrote it the wrong way.

Please forgive me. And start writing raw.

And as a fascinating side note, the raw format is so named because it’s an image format in which your camera captures the full, unprocessed, image data collected by your camera’s sensor. The raw data, that is.

Each time you take a picture when shooting in the raw format, your camera saves a raw file to the memory card. The raw format is an alternative to shooting in the JPEG format (which is a processed and highly compressed image format) – though it is possible to shoot in both raw + JPEG capturing both formats simultaneously.

Ok, now to those burning questions!

Frequently Asked Questions About Raw

Now some of the following FAQs are addressed in the original article, but I’m rephrasing them here to hopefully help clarify them.

1. How is raw non-destructive?

When you’re editing a JPEG file (for example adjusting exposure, white balance, or contrast) it is possible to save your adjustments over your original file. This means you could never go back to how the original image looked. Uh oh!

This could be quite a disaster if you make a mistake and save over the original file (especially if you don’t have a backup of the original).

How easy is it to make a mistake? Maybe you crop an image, convert it to black and white, or resize it – and then save the image. All of those adjustments would be irreversible. This is known as destructive editing – where the editing cannot be undone. TIP: When working with JPEGS always make sure to choose “Save as” and create a new separate file from the original.

Now, when editing a raw file it’s actually impossible to save over your raw file. You can export a new file (like a JPEG or TIFF) that contains the adjustments you made to the raw file. You can also save the adjustments you’ve made to the raw file as a separate “instructions” file known as an XMP. But you cannot save over the original raw file.

This means that you always have the original data to work with. Because the original image data is always preserved, this is known as non-destructive editing. (And it’s a good thing.)


2. I’ve set my camera to raw and taken some photos, now what?

Good work! Now you’ll need to copy the photos to your computer.

You can do this by connecting your camera to your computer or you can take the memory card out of your camera and insert it into a memory card reader that you plug into your computer (the faster method which we recommend).

Once the raw files are on your computer you can use a program like Lightroom to edit them, and once you’re finished editing you can then export the ones you would like to share or print as JPEGs.

3. Can I print a raw file?

The short answer is Yes and No.

Not all software programs will allow you to print raw files directly. If you’re working with an editing program like Lightroom it is possible to print your raw files directly from Lightroom.

The bigger issue is printing from third parties. Most consumer photo labs will not print raw files. Professional labs also do not print from raw files.

The acceptable file format for print is high resolution JPEG or in some cases TIFF – both of which you can easily export copies of from your raw files.

4. How big are raw files compared to JPEG?

The file size of raw files are 3-4 times as large as JPEGs. Raw files are larger because they contain a lot more information compared to JPEG files. JPEG is a compressed file format. That means that in order to get that smaller file size your camera is literally throwing away information. Uncool.

Keep in mind that storage space is cheap, and the benefits of shooting raw far out weigh the larger file size.


5. Do I need to convert my photos out of raw?

No, you can store your original raw files in the raw format. You only need to export your raw files as JPEGs when you want to print them, or share them.

It is possible to convert your raw files to an open source raw format known as DNG.

6. What do I do with my JPEG photos now that I’m shooting in raw?

Your older JPEG photos are still worth keeping! You cannot convert them to raw (bummer), but you can still edit them in programs like Lightroom.

While it’s possible to make all the same adjustments to a JPEG file that you can to a raw file, the amount of adjustments a JPEG file can handle without a huge loss in image quality is far less than a raw file is capable of handling.

7. What about shooting in sRaw and mRaw?

Some cameras are capable of shooting in different size raw formats known as sRaw and mRaw. These are essentially advertised as reduced resolution raw formats. So instead of having a 6000×4000 pixel image you would have a 3000×2000 pixel image.

The benefit of this would be a smaller file size with a smaller sized photo. From the brief amount of research I’ve done these options seems like a marketing gimmick that should be avoided.

At the time you take the photo you may not be sure how large you want to eventually display it, so you really should be capturing photos in the largest size your camera is capable of. Also, it seems that these sRaw and mRaw formats may be applying some compression to the photo file and so even though it’s labeled as a raw file you may not be able to make the same high quality adjustments you could make to a full sized raw file.

8. How do you do black and white photography with raw?

The raw format and black and white photography are an excellent combination! Fine choice!

The first thing to mention is that you shouldn’t be using your camera’s built in black and white filters to shoot in black and white. Those filters can help give you an idea of what the photo might look like black and white but you’ll be able to do much better black and white editing to a photo once you have the photo on your computer and you’re using a program like Lightroom or Photoshop.

Also, the black and white filters on your camera often require you to shoot in the JPEG format. Which means you can never go back on that decision. (Remember when we talked about how raw is non-destructive?)

When you shoot in the raw format you’ll be able to decide after the fact whether a photo is best in colour or black and white or both! You’ll also be able to make more dramatic, higher quality black and white conversions when shooting in the raw format (since you’ll have more image data to work with compared to a compressed JPEG image).


9. Should I deliver raw files to my client?

I wouldn’t recommend it. Just like with your JPEG photos, you’ll want to do some editing to your raw photos to make sure they look their best before giving them to your client.

You could give your client the raw files with the adjustments you’ve done (giving them the associated .xmp files) – but unless your clients are photographers themselves then they probably won’t find the raw files very useful (they won’t be able to print them easily, and they probably won’t know how to adjust them).

Instead it’s better to give your clients high resolution JPEGs which they’ll be able to print (it’s also nice to give your clients a version of low-resolution JPEGs which are easier to share online).

10. When Should I Shoot Raw?

Whether you are an amateur or professional you should be shooting in the raw format.

Pretty much all DSLRs offer the ability to shoot in raw, and most advanced point and shoot cameras also shoot raw. Raw is the highest possible quality your camera is capable of capturing, so you should be taking advantage of it. On top of that, you usually also have the option to shoot in raw+JPEG. So if you’re scared to start shooting in raw, try shooting in the raw+JPEG mode – you have nothing to lose!

I want quickly chat about the main objections people had to shooting in raw:

“Shooting raw takes up too much space” – It does take up more space – 3-4x as much space. It’s worth considering what “too much” space means. For the quality you get with raw files it’s worth the additional storage space. And as I mentioned in 10 Reasons Why You Should Be Shooting RAW hard drive storage space is cheap!

“Shooting raw is for amateurs, professionals get it right in camera” – Shooting raw is for anyone who cares about the quality of their images. I’d actually wager that the vast majority of professionals shoot in raw, not in JPEG.

Now, lest you think I’m on some vendetta against JPEG shooters, that’s not the case at all. I personally know JPEG-only professional photographers, and I deeply respect their work. It’s their decision to shoot JPEG-only and I know their clients are thrilled with the results.

This is not a do or die situation.


But it does have everything to do with quality of images, and nothing to do with “pro vs. amateur”.

I’m actually a little confused by the suggestion that pros should shoot in JPEG and get it right in camera. Yes, you can (and should) get your settings as close as possible in camera to your intended look and it’s always important to have a great starting point. Raw is not an excuse for sloppy work.

But by shooting raw you have a lot more flexibility on how you can improve the photo with processing. For example being able to control a raw file’s white balance in post processing is alone reason enough to shoot in raw. Good luck trying to adjust the white balance of a JPEG… and white balance is just one of the many adjustments that you have more flexibility with when shooting raw.

Professionals are humans. Not cyborg’s who get things perfect every single time (although that would be cool!). Robot dreams aside, the point I’m making is that pros make mistakes. All pros. The difference between a pro’s mistake and an amateur’s mistake is usually just that the pro has a lot more riding on those images. Upset clients, and a bad business reputation could be the result of a missed shot.

When you shoot raw you also have a lot more latitude to fix a missed shot. I personally have been able to recover images that I would have otherwise had to throw out, had I not been shooting raw.

In that regard, it makes more sense for a pro to shoot raw. It’s a safety net, just in case things go wrong.

“My clients won’t know the difference between raw and JPEG” – It’s true your clients probably won’t know the difference (especially if you deliver JPEG files to them at the end).

The important thing to note here is that, as the professional photographer, you will know the difference between raw and JPEG. You’ll know if you’ve over or under exposed a shot that could have been saved shooting raw. You’ll know whether an image is as good as it can be – or if it could have been better. Your clients rely on you as the professional photographer to have their best interest in mind.

“I can’t get the same skin tones with raw files that I can with JPEGs” – With a JPEG file, settings like sharpness, white balance, and contrast get “cooked” into the image file, meaning you can’t as easily adjust those settings after the fact.

With a raw file you have control over those settings by adjusting them in a program like Lightroom. The raw files often look a lot flatter right from the start because they need additional processing in order to look their best. With a bit of practice you’ll be to get better skin tones with your raw files.

“The workflow for raw files takes longer than JPEGs” – Regardless of whether you’re shooting in raw or JPEG the workflow can be as long or as quick as you would like.

I don’t know of any professional photographers who shoot in JPEG and give their clients completely unedited photos directly off their memory cards – that would be the only scenario where shooting in JPEG would be faster than shooting in raw.

Even photographers who shoot in JPEG edit their photos – and if you’re spending time editing your photos you might as well be working with raw to get the highest quality possible.

Using Lightroom, you can batch edit raw files (Lightroom also works with JPEGs). Batch editing allows you to select multiple raw photos at once and make adjustments to all the photos simultaneously. You can even create presets that apply multiple adjustments at once. The workflow using Lightroom is fast! It’s also super easy to batch export JPEGs from your raw files.


11. When Should I shoot JPEG?

A few people have commented about a perfect time to shoot JPEG, and that is when you need to shoot in burst mode. Because JPEG files are much smaller than raw files your camera’s memory buffer fills up much slower when shooting in the JPEG mode.

I had originally suggested that if you needed to shoot in burst mode that you should consider purchasing a better camera, but if you don’t need to shoot in burst mode that frequently (and it’s really only sports photography that you need to be shooting 10 frames per second for multiple seconds) then you can simply switch your camera to JPEG mode for the occasions you’d like to shoot high speed bursts for longer periods.

Keep in mind that your camera can still shoot in burst mode when in the raw format it’s just that your buffer will fill up faster and you won’t be able to take as many photos as you could in JPEG mode.

There aren’t really any other scenarios I can think of where shooting JPEG would be advantageous compared to shooting raw. If your camera is not capable of shooting in the raw format obviously it’s better to be shooting JPEGs than nothing at all. My camera phone only shoots JPEG but I still take a ton of photos with it. However, as soon as my camera phone has the option of shooting raw or DNG I’ll be switching to that.

12. What software do you need to shoot raw?

If your camera is capable of shooting in the raw format then chances are that the camera manufacturer included some raw processing software on a CD or DVD which you’ll find in the box your camera came in. You can likely also download this software from your camera manufacturer’s website.

The benefit of using the camera manufacturer’s raw processing software is that it’s free – but the benefits pretty much stop there. Their software is usually clunky, ugly, and made without much consideration for an efficient workflow.

The biggest and most well known raw processing software is called Adobe Lightroom. It costs $140 ($77 upgrade) and is easily worth every penny. You can’t even really buy a decent lens for $150 – so Lightroom is an absolutely incredible investment for any photographer. If you need help getting started with Lightroom we offer a complete video tutorial on using the program called Super Photo Editing Skills.

Besides Lightroom there are several other raw processing programs. A couple of the big ones are Capture One Pro ($300), and DxO Optics Pro ($300).

All of these different programs have strengths and weaknesses. No program is leaps and bounds above another. I’ve been using Lightroom since it’s beginning and it’s a very effective program for both amateurs and professional photographers.

So why go with Lightroom? First, Adobe is easily the market leader. It’s likely that well over 90% of professional photographers use Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw (the underlying software that powers both Lightroom and Photoshop’s raw processor). My guess is that it’s probably over 95% now since Lightroom’s only real competitor, Apple Aperture, has been discontinued.

Since Lightroom is made by Adobe, it plays nice with Adobe’s other massive photography program – Photoshop. Whether you open a raw file in Photoshop or Lightroom you can make the exact same adjustments to the raw file (since they use the same Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) processing engine).

Now you might be asking yourself what’s the difference between Lightroom vs. Photoshop – and for that you should check out our blog post – Lightroom vs. Photoshop: The Epic Battle.

In general Photoshop is a more advanced professional graphics program capable of making adjustments at the pixel level (not something possible in Lightroom). Pixel level editing is important for things like retouching where you need to select a certain area of the image and remove, replace, or alter it in some way. Photoshop also a much more expensive program only available through a subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud ($50/month for the whole Creative Suite of programs, or $10/month for just Photoshop + Lightroom).

A good alternative to Photoshop for most photographers is Photoshop Elements ($59) which is a consumer level version of the program. Photoshop Elements does support ACR, however it appears that Adobe has reduced some of the ACR features found in the full version of Photoshop and Lightroom. You may never need to use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements – it depends on whether you need to do retouching, or if you’re interested in more advanced image editing techniques.

My suggestion for anyone starting to shoot raw, and really anyone getting into photography is to try Adobe Lightroom. Adobe offers a 30-day free trial.

Go Try It Out!

If you still need some convincing to shoot raw, go out and capture a couple photos in raw and a couple of the same scene in JPEG. Then bring them into Lightroom. Try making adjustments to things like exposure, contrast and white balance and you’ll be able to easily see how much better it is shooting in raw – and also how easy it is to use Lightroom and how powerful it will be for your photography. Woo!

And remember, you can always set your camera to shoot raw + JPEG and capture both formats simultaneously so you have nothing to lose! I really want you to see for yourself how much better raw files are compared to JPEG.

If you have any other questions about shooting raw then share them in the comments. I’ll do my best to answer them! Happy photographing!

Rob Lim

Hi there, I’m Rob! I’m a photography ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I love all things photography: shooting, teaching and always learning more! If I’m not reading up on the latest photography news, or studying a technique, I’m probably reading a book or planning our next adventure!

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103 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. Marcell Grozavesti says

    how to set up a canon 1100d to raw?

  2. Hi Rob, thanks for this update! I find your article is very well written and contains a lot of good information.

    I have a few comments:


    You recommend Adobe products, and more expensive alternatives.

    There is an alternative to Lightroom may people may not be aware of – it is cheaper, faster (!) and (in my view) has the better file management – that’s Corel Aftershot.

    Anything you can do in Lightroom, you can do in Aftershot.

    Aftershot really is faster. It works on file level and doesn’t force you to copy all your images in one gigantic library file that’s just harder to handle and backup. Aftershot simply saves a XMP files for each edited image.


    You say with a bit of practice you can get better skin tones with Raw than JPG.

    I have to admit that, in many situations, I cannot. Often it’s fine. But sometimes I just cannot get the same pleasing results for skin tones working from a Raw file. A fair few people I talked to agree with me, including one pro.


    The “more scope for correction” argument. One big advantage of Raw is highlight recovery, and there is a “band” where a Raw can be saved, a JPG is lost. It is certainly possible to overexpose a Raw, so that no recovery is possible.

    I don’t see much improvement for underexposed shots with Raw.

    I have adopted the practice to set my exposure-comp on -1 or -2, even -3 in high contrast situations. I find this avoids blown out highlights, and I can pull these images up to pleasing exposure in software.

    Since I do this, I hardly ever “need” the Raw file. For paid work I still shoot Raw and JPG, just to be sure.


    With Aftershot (and I guess also Lightroom) you can have an “import preset”. This allows you to apply a certain set of settings to the Raw files as a default… similar to what the camera does to the JPG files.

    Also, in Aftershot/Lightroom “mass editing” or applying sets of settings to a large number of images takes you only seconds.


    I REALLY don’t want to make this any long 

    • I can give you an example of underexposed images being better in raw. It depends, among other things, on whether you are shooting 12bit raw or 14. This picture is taken with 14-bit raw, and was accidentally underexposed (I lent the camera to a friend , and her hat disabled the flash.. The camera was manually set to expose the sunset behind her, so the result was extremely underexposed (about 6 shots).
      Two versions of the file… The ‘unedited JPEG’ version is the unchanged exposure version that I would have gotten if I had shot jpeg-only. (yep — there’s actual picture data there). The ‘recovered from raw’ version is what I got by developing the raw file, and the “‘recovered” from JPEG’ image is what I was able to recover from the jpeg file.
      Although you can see some problems with both (this image was under-exposed by about 6 stops), you can see that there is a lot more shadow detail in the raw image.

      One thing that I usually do when shooting raw is set my camera to 200 or 400 ASA.It doesn’t affect the main image much, but it generally gives more room to recover both highlights and lots of room still in the shadows.
      In this case, I was shooting at 100ASA, because it was early on in my usage of this camera (Nikon D7000). If I had been shooting at 400ASA I wouldn’t have had the recovery room at -6 stops (still better than JPEG, but not a good as what I was able to salvage in this image).

  3. One thing I forgot to mention: white balance.

    You say, being able to adjust white balance is worth shooting Raw.

    Corel PhotoPaint Pro will allow you to change the white balance for any image.

    Aftershot has limited abilities to change white balance of JPG’s, using a “dropper tool”.

    Maybe another reason to have a look at the Corel products?

    I dare say the Corel products are not inferior to Adobe, just less people use them. Adobe has the “band wagon” factor on their side.

    • Hey Peter,

      Thanks for your comments!

      First off thanks for sharing your tip about AfterShot. I haven’t given it a try myself (haven’t used a Corel products since highschool). I see that they offer a free trial though so it’s definitely worth checking out. And I like the price point on it ($60)!

      One thing to point out is that with Lightroom your photos are not stored in the Lightroom catalog. The catalog is just a database of where the files are stored on your computer and what adjustments you’ve done to them. With Lightroom you can also choose to have the adjustment info saved next to the raw files in xmps, but this is optional. The Lightroom catalog really doesn’t make anything more or less difficult to backup.

      Regarding skin tones, I definitely understand how difficult it can be when you’re first getting started with raw. A raw file will never look as good as JPEG straight out of camera. But the fact is that the raw file contains all the information found in the JPEG file plus a whole lot more. It may be necessary to adjust camera profile settings in order to get the exact same look as the JPEG.

      It’s also important not to consider raw processing as essentially trying to make your photos look like the straight out of camera JPEG. If you’re just trying to make it look like the straight out of camera JPEG then you could just shoot in JPEG mode, or raw+JPEG. You have an opportunity with raw to make the photo much better looking than the JPEG.

      As far as exposure of raw files goes, it’s true that for raw files exposing to the right is generally better (you get better results by bringing down highlights than brightening shadows).

      I generally haven’t found the opposite to be true: that you could underexpose a JPEG file so that highlights aren’t blown and then use software to brighten it up. It could be worth doing a comparison with the camera set to raw+JPEG to see which photo looks better using software to increase the exposure or shadows.

      Finally, regarding white balance, almost any image editing software will allow you to adjust white balance. Lightroom can adjust white balance and tint for both JPEG and raw files. The difference between white balancing a raw file compared to a JPEG is that white balance adjustments generally look terrible with JPEG files. White balance is an area that gets “cooked in” with the compressed JPEG files. With raw you have *way* more flexibility with fine tuning animages white balance. When shooting raw you’ll have this flexibility regardless of the raw processing engine you choose to use.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and for the tip about Corel AfterShot!

      Rob :)

  4. I have used Lightroom a bit, but I’m by no means a Lightroom pro – thanks for your explanations re Lightroom, Rob! (I didn’t intend to confuse people.)

    I should say that I want to spend as much time as possible shooting and as little time as possible editing. That’s my preference.

    I find that with a few “techniques” during shooting and only a bit of cropping and exposure adjustments, I get my JPG’s ready for publishing. These days I only use the Raw image, if I have to. (I always shoot both.)

    Maybe I didn’t explain that well enough in my last post. I never use Raw straight form the camera, because they look terribly “flat” and often lack contrast, saturation and/or clarity. I edit all my Raw files – and all my JPG’s, too, by the way.

    Starting to use a packet like Aftershot has made a big difference for my photography, it starts a process of “self critiquing” or “self review” of all my images.

    My problem is that for some images all tweaking of the Raw does not give me skin tones as pleasing as I see them on the JPG, straight out of the camera. (A Nikon D7000 and a D610.) I heard similar comments from at least one commercial photographer who uses Lightroom and pro level Nikon gear.

    I don’t think adjusting camera profiles can help there… maybe I don’t get what you wanted to say?

    By the way, I colour calibrate my monitors, and I control the light in my room. I take this stuff seriously. I found that both my monitors had quite a cool “cast”, so I over-saturated all my images in the past :(

    In my humble opinion – color calibrating their monitors will make a bigger visible difference for most photographers, than using Raw. But I may be wrong. I’m wrong often :)

    • Hi Peter!

      Here’s a great article (and video) from Jason Odell that goes over Lightroom’s Camera Calibration Panel.


      Using Lightroom’s Camera Calibration panel and Adobe’s DNG profile editor it’s possible to create profiles that match the different JPEG picture styles you can find on your camera.

      I’ve never done this myself but it’s nice to know there’s an option for people who want their raw photos to look the same as the straight out of camera JPEGs.

      Calibrating your monitor (and using a high quality monitor) is also important, but I wouldn’t weight it as more or less important than shooting raw. Shooting raw and monitor calibration are components creating the best possible framework for a high quality photo processing workflow.

      Thanks again for your comments!

      Rob :)

  5. I am big fan of your site. And I like to voice my opinion about this post if I may.

    1. Your argument about mistakenly overwrite the original JPEG file.

    It is a good point, you mentioned. And thank you for point it out.

    Well, if you care about the original JPEG file, here is what I always do, when I move the files from flash disk into my computer I make two copies of JPEG, and I do editing on the second copy. It is all about you having discipline and following proper procedure. Using this as an argument against shoot JPEG. It is very creative of you (this is a compliment). But I respectfully disagree.

    2. Again, there shouldn’t be a class distinction of Pro vs. Amateur photographer, and categorization of using JPEG using such distinction.

    I know at least 2 pro who encouraged people to shoot in JPEG, one is Ken Rockwell, and the other is Bryan Peterson. In his book (Understanding Exposure), Bryan Peterson actually stated the fact that he asks his students in his training classes to shoot only in JPEG. Ken Rockwell wrote quite a few passionate posts about this as well.

    Of course 95% of all serious photographers uses RAW, and do extended editing. And the outcome is amazing and stunning. But this is a potential problem here. While all the photographer is bragging about Lightroom, they are not really spitting out the true nature of taking a great photo, that is, the most important thing is getting the shot right with the camera first (be at the right moment, where the lighting is correct, the focus has to be right, the composition has to be stunning, and exposure of the shot is correct). Then if you wanted to, you can tweak the photo a bit to make it perfect.

    Another point I want to make (and I don’t wish to offend you or any other photographer) is that a lot of the writing on post editing using lightroom is that they almost always encourage people to do mediocre shots, and fix it via post editing. This is not the right attitude. The right attitude really is to shoot a great photo first, and if needed, post editing the photo to make it even more awesome. I am sure your intention is not to advocate this. But novice photographer lack the knowledge, and would always take it the wrong way. In the end, they didn’t improve their skill or knowledge on how to handle the actual camera, instead wasting time on post editing.

    3. “Shooting raw is for anyone who cares about the quality of their images.”

    Now, this line truly offends me a little. I agree with the fact that you guys are professionals and wants the client to have the best product you can offer. However, if you implies that I shoot only in JPEG and thus I don’t care about quality, then you are wrong. I care about the quality of my photo work as much as you do. I am sure a quite a lot of awesome photographers who shoots in JPEG would disagree with this line as well. You might want to change this line.

    4. Summary

    I remember there is a debate in Computer Science on Emacs and vi editor. The two groups would argue about which one is better than the other. The actual issue with this debate really is Preference. And it is really what I am seeing here. You guys loves post editing I get it. Is post editing for everyone. No.

    • Hi Han,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I’ll respond to your various points below (your statements are in italics):

      “Well, if you care about the original JPEG file, here is what I always do, when I move the files from flash disk into my computer I make two copies of JPEG, and I do editing on the second copy. It is all about you having discipline and following proper procedure. Using this as an argument against shoot JPEG. It is very creative of you (this is a compliment). But I respectfully disagree.”

      I think it’s important to point out that you need to be disciplined about your workflow regardless of whether you’re shooting raw or JPEG. It’s a great practice backing up your JPEG files as soon as you copy the file from your memory card to your computer (which we also with our raw files). I wonder though if you’ve considered the fact that creating two copies of your JPEG images (one to never touch, and one to work on) is actually more complicated from a workflow perspective, and effectively doubles your file size. For example say you’re working with a second copy of a JPEG file and you accidentally save over it (effectively ruining the shot) – you then need to go back and find the original untouched JPEG copy and create another copy of the file to replace the ruined file. Now, while you can restore the file, you will have lost all the adjustments you made to that file. If you’re batch processing images and you’re not careful you could end up losing a lot of editing work.

      “Shooting raw is for anyone who cares about the quality of their images.”
      Now, this line truly offends me a little. I agree with the fact that you guys are professionals and wants the client to have the best product you can offer. However, if you implies that I shoot only in JPEG and thus I don’t care about quality, then you are wrong. I care about the quality of my photo work as much as you do. I am sure a quite a lot of awesome photographers who shoots in JPEG would disagree with this line as well. You might want to change this line.

      I’m really sorry to have offended you. I feel like you possibly misinterpreted my comment and I should have done a better job writing it. However, I didn’t say: “You don’t care about the quality of your images if you don’t shoot raw”. The purpose of my statement (“Shooting raw is for anyone who cares about the quality of their images”) was to communicate that raw is a high quality format that isn’t strictly for professional use. Anyone, amateurs and professionals alike, can shoot raw. I think it’s also important to point out the paragraph I followed that statement with (“Now, lest you think I’m on some vendetta against JPEG shooters, that’s not the case at all. I personally know JPEG-only professional photographers, and I deeply respect their work. It’s their decision to shoot JPEG-only and I know their clients are thrilled with the results.”)

      “The two groups would argue about which one is better than the other. The actual issue with this debate really is Preference. And it is really what I am seeing here. You guys loves post editing I get it. Is post editing for everyone. No.”

      I agree with you that raw vs. JPEG is a preference. However, don’t think that our preference to shoot raw can be simplified to the idea that we love post processing. We shoot raw because of the numerous advantages it offers us over the JPEG format. Also, I agree that post processing isn’t for everyone – and for those people JPEG might be enough.

      This being the second article I’ve written about the subject of raw vs. JPEG, I think it’s interesting how polarizing this debate is. Thanks again for adding your thoughts to the conversation.

      • Some thoughts: My photography improved a lot when I started editing. Why? Because editing is also a self-review process. On the big screen you see what needs improving, so you know what to look out for next time. Seeing improvement gives a lot of satisfaction.

        Compared to using Raw, editing has made a FAR bigger difference.

        Also calibrating my monitors has made a bigger difference for me than using Raw. Simply because in the past all my images from my un-calibrated monitors had a cool/blue color cast. Now they look they way they ought to.

        Another factor is learning, eg by visiting sites like http://photographyconcentrate.com/ because you can always learn something new… and it’s always good to have fun!

        Raw, as such, doesn’t improve much. It’s just another image format.

        If you don’t know how to frame, compose or expose, if you don’t know your lenses or your camera, if you don’t know how to “connect” with you model/subject, switching to Raw does nothing for you. (In the area of exposing, it may do a liiiiiittle bit for you.)

        Sure, nothing wrong going into the menu and telling the camera to record images in Raw. But looking at the big picture – what image format you use isn’t all that important.

        Being a good photographer means to be creative (the artistic side) and getting the shot (the technical side).

        Who cares in what file format the images are recorded on the card? I don’t… much.

    • Shooting JPEG only when training is a good idea… This is because it FORCES you to think about your exposure BEFORE you take a picture — there’s little room for “I’ll fix it in post” when you’re shooting JPEG only.

      When doing an actual shoot, however, I’d encourage raw + JPEG. That way you can use the simple JPEG (and the magic that NIKON/Canon does to process skin tones, etc), but if the exposure is off (or you need to recover some detail in highlights/shadows), then you have the freedom to do so. As Rob has repeatedly said: disk storage is CHEAP these days.
      With my d7000, I fit about 400 raw images on a ($10) 16GB SDcard.

  6. Hi Han,

    I posted a reply very similar to yours… and agree with pretty much everything.

    Just wanted to mention that Ken Rockwell is often referred to as a JPG shooter. It’s a bit more complex. I’m summarising this from memory. He suggests JPG for “snaps” eg on holiday, even at basic setting. He argued that he doesn’t want to spend days exiting and for prints up to A 4 no more is needed. Ken will however use Raw or film, if there are good reasons.

    I agree that JPG vs Raw is largely preference and has nothing to do with pro vs amateur. For a great image the file format is probably least important. Great images were taken in the days of film.

  7. Hi Peter

    I replied to your comment in the other post. The key is changing the camera calibration from Adobe Standard to one of the other profiles. I used Camera Standard and found that to my liking. The skin tones improved instantly with just that one click!

    Cheers Sean

  8. Interesting post Rob. I have some thoughts on sraw and mraw. As a wedding photographer I produce a lot of images for my couples of which most will not be printed any larger than, say, 30″ x 20″ canvas size. This can be achieved with mraw files meaning I can actually give them more files instead of having to limit the number because of memory issues (USBs or discs only being a certain size). I have found no difference in editing a mraw file and have not noticed any loss of quality or any compression. Maybe this is just me though?

    • “I have found no difference in editing a mraw file and have not noticed any loss of quality or any compression.”

      Mraw and Sraw are reduced resolution files. They are good for bursts, where the larger full Raw files fill your buffer quickly… or where the high resolution just isn’t needed.

      I find that when I don’t crop, even the basic JPG file is totally acceptable. It prints up to A4 easily.

      However, when you eg crop, you should see a difference.

    • Hey Sarah,

      You might find this article by PhotographyLife.com helpful (http://photographylife.com/sraw-study-wb-and-recovery). To summarize it seems like sRaw (and presumably mRaw) are decent files for making good white balance adjustments, and they certainly have more information than JPEG files. However, if you’re trying to make adjustments to things like highlights and shadows, the sRaw files won’t work as well as a full size raw file.

      You mentioned a benefit of shooting in mRaw is that you don’t have to limit the number of files you deliver because of memory issues. A couple thoughts on this:

      First it sounds like you might be giving your clients the actual mRaw files? You can save space by delivering JPEGs to your clients (which is probably more usable for them).

      Also, delivering files to your clients via USB is a great idea (it’s super convenient for them). Another benefit is that you can purchase different sized USB sticks to suit the number of photos you’re delivering.

      Thanks for your comment!

  9. Kristin Smith says

    I was at one of our schools for picture day, and I couldn’t believe how fast I was filling up my card. I had a 4 gig card that only lasted for one class. Usually I only need one cf card per school. We finally looked at the settings, and Duh!!!! I was shooting RAW. Not good for volume photography!

    • It’s quite simple math.

      For example, on my D600 I always save Raw and JPG and have the second card set for “backup”. My Raw files are up to 40 MB and my JPG’s up to 10 MB, that’s up to 50 MB per shot.

      I’d get about 1000 / 50 = 20 photos per GB, about 80 on a 4 GB card. (This is working from max file size, rather than average = worst case scenario.)

      Raw also fill the buffer of your camera in no time, for certain styles of shooting where you shoot bursts, you’ll may have to switch back to JPG.

      When shooting something like a street performer juggling burning torches, I’d suggest using JPG. Just make sure you expose properly…

    • Hey Kristin!

      I think you make a good point about volume photography being another area where JPEG might work out better.

      One instance where I believe we set the camera to JPEG was at a photo booth we setup at a wedding. We gave the subjects a remote shutter release and let them take as many pictures as they wanted. Having the camera set to JPEG meant we could fit more photos on the memory card, and that the camera’s memory buffer didn’t fill up and wedding guests could take rapid sequences of photos without waiting for the memory card to write.

      That being said memory cards are enormous these days, so memory card size shouldn’t really effect your decision to shoot JPEG or raw. The SD card we carry around in our point and shoot camera is 128GB. We don’t wait till the card gets full before we transfer it to our computer, but having a large memory card means we’ll pretty much never run out of space and that we can leave photos on the memory card as a kind of temporary backup. You can read more about our strategy here: http://photographyconcentrate.com/the-hidden-value-of-large-memory-cards/

      Thanks for your comment :)

      • That’s what I was thinking, Rob. A 4GB memory card seems really small these days for doing a photo shoot like that. I have a 16GB card in my ultra-zoom point-and-shoot, and it’s 4-5 years old! My son has a 32GB in his Canon T3i from a couple of years ago. In my tablet and our phones, we have 64GB cards, and like you say, 128GB is quite reasonably priced now for general use. No need to limit ourselves to such a small memory card.

        However, that still doesn’t mean that shooting portraits at a school should shoot raw. It probably does make more sense there to shoot high-resolution JPEGs.

  10. I don’t know that this is so much a critique of Rob’s post as a couple issues I struggle with. One is that I go by the original photo date as much as possible. I include that in the folder name and export that to the finished photo. (That’s how I keep from overwriting my original pictures. I rename the exported photos as I export.) I tried the DNG Converter and it not only changed each photo’s modified date it prevented me from retrieving that by updating from the photo’s EXIF data. I use FastStone Image Viewer to quickly update the modified date after they’ve been exported from Lightroom since I don’t see a way to do that as I export. I haven’t tried the “Copy as DNG” option in Lightroom yet but doubt that will do what I want either.

    My other issue is that I had some of the same issues with raw processing. I thought Lightroom popped up new commands and options for raw pictures but White Balance is the only one I see with extra possibilities. I may have misunderstood the original post but Lightroom does give some options so I thought there would be more.

    I have a 7-year-old Olympus camera and don’t see it’s lenses listed in the calibration tool. I will try the Camera Standard somebody mentioned further up. I also want to make the picture as good in camera as possible but recognize I can touch up areas or correct for mistakes with Lightroom.

    • ” I may have misunderstood the original post but Lightroom does give some options so I thought there would be more.”

      I think you misunderstood. The issue is that an area of “white” on a JPG is simply white. With the highlight tool you can get contrast into these areas via Raw, because the info is there. In JPG it’s lost.

      The advantage is not additional features in the editing software, but the additional information in the Raw file, compared to JPG.

      Hope this helps.

      • It helps but there are differences in the White Balance menu in Lightroom. For JPG I just have Auto, As Shot and Custom. For raw I get Daylight, Tungsten, Flash and other options as well as the 3 I see in JPG.

    • Hey Mark!

      It’s possible that when you’re exporting your photos from Lightroom that you have your export settings set to remove metadata (like date and time).

      As far as Lightroom goes, I didn’t realize that white balance settings were different between JPEG and raw. It really just the presets that are different though – the adjustment slider for white balance and tint is present regardless of whether you’re shooting raw or JPEG (same with the rest of the adjustment sliders).

      • Thanks for responding Rob. You’re correct that the sliders are the same in both.

        I should have been clearer about the DNG issue. I wasn’t talking about exporting pictures but converting the Olympus .ORF files into DNG before importing them to Lightroom. (When I first got the camera Windows wouldn’t show a thumbnail so I tried converting the pictures to DNG. I noticed the date modified changed and Fast Stone wouldn’t reset the date/time modified to what’s contained in the EXIF data like it does successfully with JPG, whether pre-import or post-import. I found a plugin for Windows that allows it to show ORF thumbnails so I don’t need DNG just to see a preview.)

        My current organizing system is based entirely on the date the picture was taken so it’s crucial to me to have the original date/time stamp, even on the exported JPGs. I will try the “Copy as DNG” option in Lightroom’s Import and report back.

        • I know that Lightroom does have both sliders for JPEG and raw for color temperature and tint. But what I don’t like about the temperature slider when using it on a JPEG is that it doesn’t show the temperature scale in Kelvin – it uses just a relative scale of 0, 1, 2, 3, etc. It does work the same if you are just sliding back and forth and looking at the image to determine what looks right, but you can’t compare it to what temperatures would represent “shade”, “cloudy”, “sunlight”, etc.

      • OK, I tried the “Copy as DNG” option and it does the same thing. What’s worse is the import in Lightroom preserves the original file name so now I have no way at all of knowing when I took the picture. For most people that’s probably OK but doesn’t help me. I’ll stick with importing into Dropbox (because that renames the file to the date/time stamp) and then importing the ORF files directly into Lightroom.

        I did buy a Kingston 16GB CF Type 2 card today and the camera says it can hold just under 1,100 ORF pictures (they are 13-14MB each). I think that will serve me well. I do have a learning curve in processing pictures to make them look like the out-of-camera JPGs but that will be time well spent.

        Thanks everyone especially Rob and Peter M. for your help and advice.

  11. I would like to add as an open-source alternative to Lightroom the Lightzone project:


    I really like their program structure, making Lightzone easy to use even without prior knowledge, it is available on all platforms (Win, Mac, Linux) and he – it is for free. It is not meant to be a substitute for GIMP/Photoshop, but one can very fast modify pictures to improve them.

    • Hi ToruOkada, thanks for that link, I wasn’t aware of this software and downloaded it today and had a bit of a play.

      I agree that it is not a replacement for Photoshop. Many tools turn to in Photoshop are simply missing in Lightzone. Light zone seems a tool for beginners and many of the tools (eg Relight) will give good automatic fixes for many images.

      I note that Lightzone is not non-destructive, like Lightroom (or AfterShot) and you have to save the edited version of the image. For a Raw image, you use the “Raw Adustments” on the tool stack… which I guess will do some basic Raw adjustments…

      I also found that Lightzone was quite a bit slower, compared to AfterShot.

      Still, some of the Lightzone tools are nice. Worthwhile for people to check it out, it’s free after all…

      Quite a few people have uploaded tutorials to Youtube, the “official” learning resources appear to be text based.

  12. George Synakowski says

    If I edit a raw photo in Lightroom, and then export it as a jpeg, how will it look compared to a photo taken as a jpeg to start with? Isn’t all that “extra information” lost?

    • Hi George!

      Great question! An original raw photo might not look any different than an original jpeg. And it’s true that when you export a raw file to a JPEG you are creating a compressed version of the image and some information is discarded.

      Two important things to consider though:

      1. If you shoot raw, exporting to JPEG doesn’t remove or delete the raw file from your computer. After creating a JPEG you still have the original uncompressed raw file.
      2. If you do any sort of editing to your images (adjusting exposure, contrast, white balance, saturation, etc) the adjustments will look better with a raw file vs. making those same adjustments on a JPEG.

      Hope this helps!

  13. Thank you for the info! I got myself a Sony DSC RX100 today which has the ability to shoot raw and didn’t really know what it was… Sounds great!

    As you said, hard disks are becoming cheaper by the second (leaving out the floodings in asia a few years back, causing a lot of distress in hard-drive-manufacturing land) but 3TB drives are not a solution… I’m a networking/computerinfrastructure engineer and I’ve got my share of experience with hard drives. Those pieces of sh*t break more than anything else in a server/computer system. So whatever you do, make sure you have an offsite backup plan (cloud solution / NAS at parent’s house or something like that). Why offsite? Floodings, fires and lightning strikes, that’s why! Losing all my personal photos like those of my wedding and last photos of friends and family who’ve passed away is one of the worst things that could happen to me (computer-related). I once had a hard drive crash of my data disk and was really lucky it was just one sector of one file and could recover everything but that file. Be careful with RAID sets too! Google for RAID5 and URE…

    I also can’t refrain myself from commenting on your depiction of ‘compression’. Not all compression is ‘lossy’. A few file formats that do lossless compression: PNG (Why did this never break through? I love PNG) / TIFF / GIF. It is also my understanding that a raw image is compressed with a lossless compression algorithm. An image with resolution 5472 * 3648 and 24 bit colordepth is on average about 20 MB on my camera. Uncompressed, the image data alone is 5472 * 3648 * 24 = 479084544 bits = 57 MB. On top of that some extra information (metadata / ?) but that won’t be more than 1 MB. Correct me if I’m wrong!

    • Hi Thomas, thanks for stressing backup, especially offsite backup. I know several people who lost photos/data of years when the hard drive in their laptop died… and they didn’t have backups.

      Many years ago when I worked at university, a couple guys in company overalls went into our building during lunch time and loaded a trolley full with computers. The porter even held the door for them when they left the building.

      Unfortunately, these guys were thieves, not technicians.

      Several of these computers contained thesis’s and research work… and you guessed it, most people did NOT have ANY backup. There were sheets on notice boards “reward and no questions asked, when computer is returned”, but to my knowledge no computer came back.

      People may think data loss can never happen to them… until it does.

      You are right about compression, most Raw files are compressed, which is easily recognizable in the fact that two Raw files generally are of a different size. There obviously is loss-less compression in there.

    • >>
      A few file formats that do lossless compression: PNG (Why did this never break through? I love PNG) / TIFF / GIF.
      I agree! Why didn't PNG take off like I thought it should! It's been out long enough now that it should the be the dominate photo file format on the web, and yet I find sites here and there that just won't accept the files! And non-technical people (probably like a lot of your clients) probably hadn't even heard of PNG. Such a shame!

  14. Bruce Holmes says

    Hi just started in raw based on your article.I have no problemi opening them in elements to adjust,my problem is viewing them in the file I put them in so I can decide which I want to work on.Only thing I can think of is shoof in raw and jpeg but this seems like a waste of space to me.

  15. Dale Kerferd says

    Thank you for your information on shooting raw files. I have been playing around with them and still need to understand the advanced techniques of editing them. For example I use IPhoto and wonder if I should be using Lightroom as suggested. I have access to Photoshop but I am not very skilled in its use. Is IPhoto sufficient or should I look at Lightroom?

    • Hi Dale, if you want my opinion, start using Lightroom (LR) or Aftershot (AS).

      Both LR and AF are available as 30 day trials, so you can easily try both.

      I personally prefer AS, because it’s a lot snappier, compared to LR… on top it’s cheaper. AS and LR are fairly similar, but you get a lot more professional plug-ins for LR, I guess this is because the majority of professional photographers use LR… but AS works better for me.

      LR/AS may be a little bit more complex than your iPhoto, but not by much. Most of the time you’ll use basic adjustments like crop, straighten, exposure, saturation, contrast, sharpening, white balance. There are several other tabs with curves tools, noise reduction, layer tools, but you don’t have to use those.

      One very important feature of both AS and LR is that you can copy the settings of one image to many other images. Often, for a set of images taken under similar light conditions, you can edit one image and simply copy the settings. This really speeds put the process. For some weddings I have managed to do the first basic cull and edit for 1600 images in one day. In Photoshop it would take a lot longer.

      By the way, I’m also not using Photoshop, but Corel Photopaint. Since I have AS, I don’t use Photopaint much. Occasionally I use it to remove objects or do composites, that kind of thing. But 95% of my photo editing is now done with AS.

      So in a nutshell, if you are serious about photography, start using RAW with AS, LR or a similar software. In my view, it’s a worthwhile investment, speaking of the money to buy the software and the time learning how to use it.

      • Does Aftershot have any kind of organization tools like Lightroom? Like being able to add keywords, and create smart collections, flag/rate images, and things like that to enable finding images faster than search your hard drive?

  16. Jack Lewis says

    I am interested in your opinion of the new editing software included in Mac “Photos”. Thanks

  17. Dear Rob,

    How good, how powerful are automatic image correction are in Lightroom (or in other capable software)? Can they be relied on exclusively? If I’m a lazy amateur and don’t want to spend much time on working with images one by one after each of my travels, is there any way of fully automatic procedures that are capable of processing the whole bunch of pictures at once?

    Is it possible that with some cleverly prepared presets or batch processes applied to all of the raw images, the end result could be better for the majority of the images; or if one doesn’t want to spend time with manual corrections on the images one by one, he might be better of with shooting in JPEG?

    If you have a blog post about this, please direct me to it.
    Many thanks.


    • Use raw+jpeg. If you shoot well, the 90% of your images should do just fine with the default jpeg. You can then manually process the last 10% — Those ‘special cases’ are where raw shines.

  18. Shooting Raw is not for the lazy, but for people who are willing to invest some time and effort for optimum results.

    Shooting Raw always requires processing, a JPG is the result of this.

    In my opinion, regardless what format you shoot, you should review, cull and edit your images. If not for anything else, reviewing all your images will help you improve your photography. This self-review process has helped me a lot.

    • Thanks for the reply.
      While I understand your thought and the general idea of bettering your photos and yourself as a photographer, and also the fact that reviewing and correcting/processing each image one by one could yield a (much) better end-result, I still would like to know whether it is possible to automatically process a whole bunch of images, either in raw or jpeg.

      I try to convey my thought process regarding this:
      Firstly, developing the skill set and get the experience could take a while, even with your tutorials and guides, helpful and insightful e-books etc.
      Secondly – and this might be even more significant for me – if one shoots very many pictures on a journey and doesn’t want to delete 80% of those images to only keep some of those picturesque memories but rather want to preserves the whole set of maybe 300 photos… well, he might want to do a few-click process FOR THE WHOLE BUNCH OF IMAGES AT ONCE.

      Processing the images one by one could be the necessary thing if you want to create a “very best” selection. However, if you have lots of images that you don’t want to ditch (e.g. because you have been on a trip with lots of friends and they might be interested in all the images), then you are (or rather, I am) inclined to do a fully automated batch processing of all the images at once.

      So the question again:
      Are there any software that is capable of such functionality?
      Is it worth to apply that?

      If yes, which program? How?
      If yes, such a fully automated process could yield better results on raw or jpeg pictures?

      If you would say no, then would you say shooting in jpeg with a decent camera would yield better results because that way you don’t have to process anything, but you have a good enough end result, given that you apply the appropriate settings when shooting?


      • Actually, my only connection to Rob and Lauren is that I contribute on their website now and again. I’m a visitor here, same as you.

        Anyway, Raw processing software like Lightroom or Aftershoot has a very powerful feature. You can copy all settings from one particular image and apply this set of settings to as many other images as you like. Copy and paste, basically. This works really well when you edit one image from a set taken under very similar lighting conditions. Then you apply these settings to all the others. Once you get the hang of this, you may get through hundreds of images in an hour.

        If you really want to minimize editing, not do editing of individual images and keep all images you bring home from a trip, in my opinion, do NOT use Raw. You won’t have the benefit from Raw and only fill up your hard drive with large files.

        Reading your post I get the impression you may be best off just taking photos with your phone or a point-and-shoot camera. Use programs like “Sport”, “Night”, “Beach” or “Landscape” and the camera should get usable images for you that do not require editing. (I did that for many years.) The iPhones and other good smart phones take very decent photos, as long as you have good light. And your $200 point-and-shoot will give you pretty decent image quality these days.

        Raw is for people who would not rely on what the camera does when it generates the JPG. Raw is for people who want optimal results and are willing to do what it takes. This is why Raw is so common among professional photographers, or many of the advanced enthusiasts.

        I still have some images in my wedding portfolio that were taken with a $300 Canon point-and-shoot camera. I love those images, because they have “heart” or “tell a story”, not because they are brilliantly processed Raw images.

        I my humble opinion, many people you see carry around a DSLR should rather use point-and-shoot. Ever noticed when people take photos with a DSLR type camera during evening hours or at a sports event, and the little pop up flash comes out and fires? These people have their DSLR in Auto setting and no idea what they are doing. Their little flash won’t help for a subject or building 50m away, they just drain their battery and make people like me cringe.

        I find that to preserve memories, often video is the better media, because you get motion and sound, not just a still images. Phones or compact cameras are great for that and on the large memory cards most phones/cameras have these days, you can fit a lot of video.

        Don’t think you have to use Raw, just because your camera has the feature, or some people use it.

        Last thing – do NOT apply Auto Correction to all images from eg a holiday trip. Auto Correction may improve some images, but often gets other images totally wrong. Auto Correction goes by the histogram, it has no idea what is in the images and how it should look like.

  19. Some photographers recommend shooting in both raw and jpeg where possible. That way you can quickly fire the jpegs over to the client (once paid of course), for them to look at as well as choose their favourites while you work with the raws.

  20. Hi, thanks for the post! Right now the ONLY thing I want to do is shoot photos of jewelry for an online store. (For now.) I understand it is a lossy format but have seen a bunch of people say that for web photos the difference in quality is negligible. True? Thanks!

    • I do edit the images. Just trying to figure out if the result on the screen is really any different.

    • In many cases the difference in quality will be negligible, especially under controlled conditions, if the photographer knows what he is doing. But for a specific task like yours – TRY IT YOURSELF.

  21. Thank you for writing this! I’ve been so confused about why shooting in raw is important and what it really means. This article was so easy to understand and a quick read, which I really appreciate as a photographer just starting out! In just a short 10 minutes pretty much all of my questions about raw have been answered!

  22. Hello! I take a lot of jpeg pics in low-light Rock music gigs. I don’t use flash; it is too clinical. But I do have trouble with exposure and movement even with the ISO cranked up. Burst helps, but would raw be more suitable? I am using a Nikon d7200.

    Cheers – Bill

    • Movement as in motion blur? Raw won’t help.

      But just shoot Raw + jpg next time, download the free trial of AfterShot or Lightroom AND TRY YOURSELF.

      You can get a bit more detail out of the shadow via a Raw image, but raw surely can be underexposed.

      The D7200 is pretty good in low light, in my experience …

  23. I am just amazed that there is even a argument to be had.. I really can’t think of a single legitimate reason to ever shoot jpeg over raw. (except for maybe the burst case that you mentioned)

    When I bought my 7D back several years ago, I set it to raw only and haven’t touched it since. I even cringe a little when I have to adjust a jpeg in lightroom or camera raw.

  24. I have a Sony RX100- I wanted a smaller, more versatile camera but still with great image quality. Can I shoot in RAW using this camera? There doesn’t seem to be an easy answer online. Thanks!

  25. Hi Rob, I do product photography so I work in a controlled light environment. I shoot jpeg, crop to square,adjust sharpness and then do a clipping path (or levels adjustment) to remove background. I’m comfortable with the process and it works for me. I’m wondering if there are benefits to shoot raw in this case.

    • Hey Ash!

      I think if JPEG is working well for you, and you don’t need the additional quality of raw then you should stick with your current workflow.

  26. I have a Nikon D7000 so is RAW the image you see through the eyepiece vs. Live view?

    • Hey Jack,

      Raw is the image capture format (it’s not what you see through the eyepiece or Live View).

      The eyepiece (known as the viewfinder) allows you to see through the lens on a DSLR. So what you see through the the viewfinder is not a digital reproduction of any kind, it’s real.

  27. Hello.
    I recently bought a Sony camera. I have been taking pictures for a while now but haven’t printed any out, now my memory chip is full and I want to print them all out and make a nice photo album. I went to several photo developer stores and every time I connected my camera or put in the memory chip It would come up “no photos available” I got some help and the man helped me find the problem. It seemed the reason they would not appear is because my camera was on the “raw” setting, He then changed it to RAW + JPEG and took a photo to see if it would would and yes it did, so i was able to print of the photo i had just taken. But I need and want to print out all the photos form my memory stick that were taken in RAW… is there anyway to change them or any recommendations? thanks.

    • You can use a trial version of aftershot or lightroom to process all of your raw files to JPEG. You could also download something like ufraw for windows ( http://ufraw.sourceforge.net/Install.html#MS ) which is free and open-source software that converts raw files to JPEG (and other formats)
      I would also suggest GIMP to edit your JPEG images (the current (2.8) version of GIMP isn’t quite as good with raw images as the next version (2.10) will be).

  28. I have a Nikon D5200 and tried shooting in RAY + JPEG Fine but can only get one photo instead of two. Is there a something with my settings which I am not doing?

  29. Glen Davenport says

    I export Raw images to an External Hard Drive (sometimes a second External Hard Drive) – both to free up space and for safe keeping, or working on later. Sometimes I download them directly from the camera, sometimes exporting from Lightroom…….(having imported them there from camera)
    Question: Are they copies or originals?
    i.e. when moving/storing images do they have the same amount of information as the originals from my camera? If not…..where is the best place to store them? Thankyou –

    • When using digital data, an unedited copy is (should be) the same as the original. If you process it with something like lightroom, then you will (obviously) have the results of any processing that the program did.
      NEF (nikon) and CR2 (canon) files are generally the unprocessed original image. JPEG images are definitely processed, and have lost some of the image information in the original raw file.

  30. I have recently started shooting in raw but have now come across an issue when printing my images.

    I usually print directly from Lightroom but since shooting in raw my images are not coming out as they show on my screen.

    I have tried importing the edited JPEG file and printing that but still not getting the image I see on my screen, I have tried printing from other programs but again I’m getting either very over/under exposed images, also getting black lines spaced about 1 inch apart when printing from LR. From what I can make out it is definitely an issue with the images and settings, not a problem with my printer.

    Is there something obvious I am doing wrong!? I have tried quite a few different options but not getting anywhere, except wasting a lot of ink!

    Any help or advice would be much appreciated!

  31. Duncan MacKenzie says

    This article was great and very helpful. I have a very basic and dumb question. When shooting RAW and JPEG do you need two memory cards? My Nikon D500 has two slots, QXD and SD. Should I save make the primary the QXD for RAW and the secondary SD for JPEG?

    • Hey Duncan,

      You don’t need two memory cards for dual raw + JPEG. You can shoot raw + jpeg to a single memory card. However, you might find it more useful to set the camera to shoot raw onto one card and jpeg onto the other.

      • There are two nice things about splitting up storage between two slots:
        1: you should be able to write the data a bit faster.
        2: You have an automatic backup in case one of your cards fails.

  32. jude laberge says


    Thanks for the great infos. I am a novice photographer and heading to Cuba this week-end and i have been told to shoot RAW…which i will do obviously. Nevertheless, a BIG QUESTION in my mind…Since i still have to put in practice all notions of photography (aperture-iso-shutter speed-light etc…) would i be able to SEE each picture i took in my camera so that i am able to see my pictures and delete if it is blurred or overexpose or simply a bad picture. I am afraid that shooting in raw won,t allow me to see right away what i took, terror having bad surprises when back from vacation. P.S. i won’t have my computer to see my picture. I have a canon rebel.

    many thanks


  33. Great post! Very helpful. I have begun shooting all my pictures in raw. When it comes to printing, how do you create a high-res jpeg from Lightroom? Will your picture quality reduce after making a few edits?

  34. Alan Howard says

    I have raw images in iPhoto and now want to work on them in Lightroom. How do I transfer these raw images into Lightroom?
    I would appreciate any help.

    Alan Howard

  35. John hollands says

    Good article.

    Some of these comments are hilarious.

    I love those where people ask questions that are covered and answered in the article!

    Makes me think they. Haven’t read the article. Y’think?

  36. Hi,

    I’ve read a lot of articles on shooting in RAW format and your two articles have been my best source. My question is, since RAW files are so large and maintain the highest quality, what size is acceptable/standard when you convert it to a JPEG to share with a client? I don’t want the files to be too large, but I still want to maintain great quality. I apologize if this was already covered, but it seems to be my only question regarding converting my files to JPEG. I plan to use Lightroom for my converting.


    • Hi Byron!

      When exporting raw files as JPEGs for clients I use the original resolution (highest resolution), and best quality. Even with the best settings for JPEG the files are still much smaller than raw files.

      I also usually export a separate set of smaller resolution JPEGs which clients can use for online sharing. So one set for the best quality and for printing, and one for online use.

  37. Kerry Crawford says

    Hello Rob,

    I have been struggling with something that’s really confusing me. Sometimes I will bring an image from LR to PS, do some editing and save back to LR. How do I manage the fact that it makes a GIGANTIC TIFF file saved under my DNG file (which is saved on an external drive)? This seems like a TON of space being used up for one image. Is this just how most photographers do it? Should I be doing this differently? I have had a hard time finding any solutions. Please help if you can!

    Thank you in advance,

  38. With due respect to everyone raw vs jpg. How many travel on the highway without a spare tire, and how many from time to time check their spare tire? In raw you have it all in jpg you don’t. If the environment changes in jpeg format you may find your reserve doesn’t make the grade. Basically raw it’s always there and jpg it may not be.

  39. Hi I’m having trouble when I’m shooting in raw
    My camera is d5600 and when I shoot raw I can’t take it out from the sd card when I insert it into the computer but I’m able to copy it to my computer if I’m shooting fine

    Seriously need help thanks

  40. Brilliant article. thanks!

  41. I’m needing to shoot pencil drawings with a minimum pixel size of 6500 on the smallest side @72 pdi. If I shoot in raw on a Canon Rebel T3i can I achieve that quality? And should I still shoot in color not black and white?

  42. Any thoughts on Affinty vs Lightroom?

  43. Can jpeg+raw be print?

  44. This 12 answer almost solve my problem. I hope all people are found there questions answer.

  45. what if you can only take 136 pictured in raw?

  46. I’m using RawTherapee for raw photo editing. Raw photos are always better than jpg.

  47. Beth Sharkey says

    I am getting into professional photography and was told to buy a camera with a large raw file size and high ISO. What would that mean in numbers?

  48. Hi,

    Thanks for such a great blog, its super helpful! I have just made the move to full frame and shooting raw. After my holiday ive looked back over my photos to see once ive opened them in lightroom they look super grainy. I made a few slight adjustments in lightroom and saved as a jpeg and the quality is awful. Any ideas why this might be? My Iso was low and i am shooting with a 1.4 30mm sigma art.


  49. Emily peak says

    Hello, I am completely an amateur photographer and trying to learn more about photography. When I download my photos onto my computer I am able to edit contrast and lighting and things of that nature but this is nothing that I ever bought. I guess it is a Microsoft program? Can I use what’s already on my computer? Or is it necessary to buy the Lightroom like you said.

  50. Lightroom only ships to the USA.

  51. Eric H Johnson says

    When you open a raw file in Photoshop, from Lightroom or ACR, is it still a raw file?
    Can you work on raw files in Photoshop?
    What effect does opening a raw file as a smart object in Photoshop have on the file format?

  52. Ron Puttick says

    When you transfer raw to J peg in the computer, if your memory card is in the computer, is it automatly take the adjustments youve made? I want prints, so what do I do?
    Its easy if I take the card to the camera store, sit in front of the machine and get my prints. so confusing.

  53. Kate aldom says

    OK I’m an amateur photographer who shoots and raw and JPEG. So what I think I’m reading is that best to edit in raw but then change it to JPEG to print it?

  54. Rob, thanks for all the great information regarding shooting photos in raw. As an amateur photographer I want to the take the next step and get better looking photos. Currently I had been shooting in jpeg on my Canon cameras but after reading this I changed my settings to raw and took some landscape photos. I was excited to try it but when I downloaded them to Lightroom I found them all to be very grainy, and I mean VERY grainy. What am I doing wrong, any tips for a newbie? I have played with the settings in Lightroom but can only correct it so much without losing the texture of the photo. Thank you in advance.

  55. Hi,
    My camera is set to shoot in RAW and JPEG. My mac at school imports them as both when i put in my SD card but my PC at home only brings them in as JPEG. I can’t figure out how to change it on my PC so i get both RAW and JPEG from my SD card.

  56. I’ve been playing around with a program called RawTherapee since getting into photography. It’s a free option for software if anyone’s interest.

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