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If you’ve just started out in the photography game you may have heard about how professional photographers spend countless hours processing photos because they shot in RAW?
What does this even mean?
Well, the simple explanation is: RAW files are a type of image file format that retain a lot of image data, more than what a JPEG file format can offer. Therefore you’ll get much better colour range and greater dynamic range (tonal range) from a RAW file compared to a JPEG.
The general saying out there among professional photographers is that for every three pixels recorded JPEG’s throw away two of them and only keep one.
So, why the hell would you shoot JPEG if there is so much data lost?
Well, for a growing number of photographers – especially press, street and documentary, JPEG files offer a lot of convenience. These photographers enjoy going out on a shoot with their file format set to JPEG because they don’t want to have to sit in front of a computer for hours on end editing the RAW files. They much prefer shoot ‘au natural’. Press photographers are forced in many cases to shoot JPEG as it offers the actual truth and not a Photoshopped version of it. Secondly, it saves a lot of time transferring this file format over RAW due to the file size of each picture.
You have to ask yourself as a photographer what’s the right file format for you? What do you want your workflow to be? Are you competent enough to go out and get the settings right in camera without having to go near a computer to ‘touch up’ or correct your image?
For me, I used to shoot RAW all the time. Recently though, I’ve switched my thinking to JPEG because I believe for what I need the photos for, the amount of time sitting in front of a computer isn’t worth it. I’d much rather spend time writing articles :)
Whatever your decision is know this: it doesn’t matter what file format you shoot in as long as you get the shot and it reflects what you saw.