Beginner Tips to Improve your Photography: JPeg vs Raw

As I have travelled more and more I find myself wanting to capture these moments for myself, to remember for a lifetime. To show my family and friends so they can understand a bit more of what I have been doing for the past months! 

"I still don't class myself as a professional, just someone keen to learn about capturing moments in the best way."

Wanting to capture these moments lead me to taking photos! I started like most people probably did, on a mobile phone, cutting a lot of heads off and big blurry messes. But when I travelled to New Zealand I really started to get into photography more! I still don't class myself as a professional, just someone keen to learn about capturing moments in the best way. I currently own the Fujifilm FinePix SL1000 and the Sony A6000. I tend to use the Sony a lot more because it is really lightweight and great for when I am on the move.

"When I travelled to New Zealand I really started to get into photography more!"

One of the first things I ever heard about when I got into photography was whether I should take photos in RAW or JPEG format. It is an age old dilemma which nobody seems to be able to answer. Really I think it all depends on what you want to do with the photos!

What is RAW?

How I imagine a RAW file to look!

How I imagine a RAW file to look!

Some of you might not know what RAW file format is. It is quite simple, they are files that haven't been touched at all. This means that in that file contains all of the information from the camera sensor when you clicked the shutter button. I think of a RAW photo as having many layers behind the original photo. These layers of information can then be used in the editing process to make the photo look better but still natural at the same time. But in a RAW format the file can't be printed or used on a website. These files must be converted into a JPEG first so RAW files are only useful if you want to edit your photos before you display them or show them to your friends.

How I imagine a JPEG to look

How I imagine a JPEG to look

What is a JPEG?

A JPEG is much much simpler, they are the most common file formats used everyday for websites and on mobile phones. This is because they hold a lot less information! It will only take in a select amount of information to create the photo. They are therefore a lot smaller and take up less storage. Unlike a RAW file, a JPEG is ready to go, you can simply upload it to a website or print it out or whatever you want to do with it. It's the jack of all trades really!

Why you Should use RAW files

  • RAW is much better for editing, because there is so much more information in the file that can be used. This makes the photo look more natural after the editing process.
  • You can correct white imbalances or under and over exposures a lot easier! Perfect for those photos that aren't quite on point.
  • The RAW file will never be destroyed or lowered in quality. This means you can edit the photo in different styles as many times as you like and it will be a consistent quality.

Why you Shouldn't use RAW files

  • They store a lot more information, as you expect they also take up a lot of space on your camera. If you are going to shoot in RAW you should have a big memory card for you camera or at the very least somewhere to back your photos up to regularly.
  • They are not files that are 'ready to go' like a JPEG. They have to be converted to an image file such as a PNG or a JPEG before you can print them or post them to your Instagram.
Normal Photo

Normal Photo

Photo editing from a RAW file

Photo editing from a RAW file

Why you Should use JPEG files

  • They are really small, the perfect size for emailing, posting to a website or blog or storing on your phone. This also means that you will be able to take a lot more photos on your camera.
  • They are ready to go as soon as you have taken them, you can do whatever you like with them. Even print them out and send them around to all your family.

Why you Shouldn't use JPEG files

  • They are a lot harder to edit because of the lack of information. You also ruin the file the more you edit it, unlike a RAW file. 
  • They are lower quality and won't be good for large prints and will start to look distorted if they are blown up too large.

Summary

I personally use RAW because I like to edit my photos. I would advise if you do any kind of editing that you should be shooting in RAW, this will mean you can always get the best out of your photos. The other time you should shoot in RAW is if you are going to use your photos professionally or in public. This is like if you are making prints, a website or selling your work. My final tip for shooting in RAW is to buy a large SD card for your camera. I started to shoot in RAW without doing this and didn't realise how big the files would be. I filled up my SD card in just a day. Make sure to buy at least a 64GB card.

But if you are just a happy snapper like we all are at heart and don't want to edit your photos, shooting in JPEG will be fine. It will mean that you don't have to convert your files as well which will save so much time. You have no idea how long it takes me to convert my RAW files for my blogs and Instagram!!