JPEG vs RAW - car photography

Should I shoot JPEG or RAW?

So you’ve been shooting JPEG since you got your DSLR but then went through the settings and saw an option to choose between JPEG, RAW, or JPEG + RAW. This is probably when you start wondering what all that means and asking questions like:

 

What are the differences?

What are the ups and downs of both?

Which do you choose?

Why is there an option for both?

 

These are all good questions and ones that are most frequently asked when dealing with JPEG vs. RAW. I will explain the differences to you so that you can have a good understanding and make an educated decision on which one you should choose.

 

I will let you know right now that you will most likely choose to shoot in RAW; that’s what most automotive photographers choose.

 

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?

 

First thing you might want to know is what the differences are between JPEG and RAW. Well here is an easy-to-read “chart” to show you exactly that.

 

JPEG

  • Compressed by your camera

  • Only 8-bits per color

  • “Lossy” meaning it loses some quality when compressed

  • Readable on any standard device

  • Smaller size so you can fit more on your memory card

  • Ready for web publishing and printing

  • Automatically does the post-processing for you

  • Sharper images straight out of the camera

  • If you’re doing burst shots, JPEG takes less time to process

 

RAW

  • Stores all of the details (even your shutter speed, aperture, etc…)
  • Usually 12-bits per color

  • No lossiness so you can always bring back the details

  • Only readable on certain programs like Adobe Photoshop

  • Bigger in size so less can fit on your memory card

  • Not automatically ready for web publishing and printing

  • Let’s you control more in post-processing

  • Allows you to use better sharpening software than your camera

  • If you’re doing burst shots, RAW takes longer to process

 

Here is a pretty cool infographic that shows exactly what happens when the shutter is pressed:

 

should-i-use-jpeg-or-raw

 

 

WHAT ARE THE UPS AND DOWNS OF BOTH?

 

They both have their ups and downs but you will quickly see why RAW is better for automotive photography.

 

JPEG is good if you don’t plan on doing any post-processing to your images so you can get an already edited shot which will look way better straight out of the camera.

 

It allows you to do a lot more burst shots at once because it is a smaller file so it takes less time to process and store the shot on your memory card.

 

The main drawback with JPEGs is that they don’t allow you to bring back details from your shot. So, if you accidentally over/underexpose then you can just delete that shot because there is no way you will bring back the details. You can do maybe 1, 2 stops and it will still look natural but anything over that will look pretty bad.

 

RAW is good for images that you will be editing because you get a lot more control on all of the settings since it stores all of the details from your camera. You will be able to bring some sharpness back in and remove a lot of the noise so your shot looks better. As well as bring a lot of color, shadows, and highlights back in.

 

The drawbacks are that it takes a lot longer for the images to be saved onto your memory card since the files are a lot bigger. You can store 2 or 3 times more shots on your memory card if you use JPEG instead of RAW. Which means you can’t do too many burst shots because it takes longer to process them.

 

WHICH SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

 

Ultimately the decision is yours but what I will say is that for automotive photography RAW is almost always better. Most people use JPEG for sports and weddings because of the ability to take more burst shots and because they don’t have to edit the images. For car photography we don’t care too much about either of those simply because we edit all of our shots to get the perfect picture and we don’t use burst shot too much. The only time I ever use burst shot is when I’m doing rolling shots and even then it’s like 2-4 shots, nothing my camera and memory card can’t handle even when shooting RAW.

 

You know the differences and the ups and downs of both so you can make your own decision on which one to use. I even gave you my opinion on why I think RAW is better but like I said, ultimately the decision is yours to make!

 

WHY IS THERE A JPEG + RAW OPTION?

 

This is one question that has made me think more than the others because I don’t really see a very good reason for anyone to have both the JPEG and RAW versions. The only reason why I would keep both versions is if I needed to share the images with someone right away but I haven’t had a reason to do that yet. I always edit my pictures before sharing them with anyone; I like to show only my best work. If anyone has any other reasons to keep both the JPEG and the RAW versions then please let me know in the comments below.

 

THAT’S ALL FOLKS

 

Do you use JPEG, RAW, or JPEG + RAW and why? Drop a comment below and let everyone know what you use and why you use it.

 

Feature image credit: Axion23

 

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  • Bill

    One thing I tell people is that we ALL shoot in RAW. The difference is: is your raw converter in the camera, or on the computer? When people realize this light bulbs start going off in their heads. If I use my camera as the raw converter then I select my picture style, my sharpening, contrast, etc. These choices are made before I make the shot. If I use my computer I make all these same decisions, but AFTER I take the shot. And I can change my mind later.

    JPG shooting is not evil. It can sometimes be very advantageous. For example, if I’m doing a low-profit margin business like youth sports or such I’d consider JPG to cut down on my post processing work. But understand its limits. And understand you are still shooting RAW, you’ve just decided to use a converter in the camera.