Not Your Everyday Banana

by Bart Arondson

submit your photo


Hall of Fame
View past winners from this year

Please participate in Meta
and help us grow.

Take the 2-minute tour ×
Photography Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional, enthusiast and amateur photographers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

DSLRs often have the ability to store both a JPEG and a raw file.

Given that the primary benefit of in-camera JPEG over raw is the smaller filesize, and that JPEG+raw is going to store even more data than raw alone, it seems like you're just wasting space on your card and making your workflow more complicated if you store both.

Why bother storing both JPEG and raw in camera, instead of just a raw file?

share|improve this question
add comment

13 Answers 13

up vote 26 down vote accepted

I am an amateur photographer going semi-pro and even though I still only use RAW I have come across a few occasions where RAW+JPEG was needed (or at least would be a great convenience):

  • ready to email files (like @rowland-shaw wrote) - some times you need to get your photos out there as fast as possible
  • lite photo files to browse through - given that your workflow might include taking a look in your photos from a not-so-capable computer (or other device) before importing them or even during the shoot, it is faster to load a 1.2MB JPEG than a 15MB RAW file
  • timelapse - ok, this is an overkill but when shooting timelapse I want to have a bunch of small JPEGs ready to be opened in QuickTime to check the result and then go through the RAWs

In general, JPEGs are for fast preview on other devices (other than your camera) while RAWs are for editing.

share|improve this answer
add comment

In the RAW+JPEG workflow, JPEG is what you shoot for. RAW is the safety net.

The primary benefit or JPEG is not smaller files (that's the second), it is that JPEGs are actually images. Images have advantages over RAW files, already mentioned by others: quick preview, ready to email, no processing required, etc. Once the shot is taken you are done if you did things right.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I shoot JPEG + RAW because my camera produces really good JPEG output. It has flexible control over tone curves, color, and contrast. I'm not usually interested in producing HDR-compressed images — in fact, I often prefer a high contrast look which reduces dynamic range. If I get the exposure and other settings right, I really don't benefit much from RAW.

If I make a mistake with white balance or am in a tricky situation, I have the RAW file to take advantage of. Most of the time, I develop that in-camera, using the built-in tools to do so, but in the cases where I'm not satisfied with that, I use RawTherapee. (My camera allows adjustment to the color of the LCD; it's not completely color profiled, but it's basically neutral, so I can trust my eye well enough.)

I know that some cameras only allow highly compressed "Basic" JPEG in combination with RAW; mine lets me save JPEGs of any quality, and in fact, I usually use ★★★, only increasing to ★★★★ when the scene needs it or when the image appears particularly special. (See Is it worth using the Premium JPEG quality setting?)

And, in fact, in the interest of keeping my lifetime data load sane, I only keep the RAW files for those particularly special images. I know this is verging on sacrilege against the conventional wisdom, but I haven't regretted it yet. If I had paying customers, I'd definitely archive it all, just in case.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Usually people do store in both formats to save their time (as they think), in case if JPEG is ok.

But I prefer to store only in RAW. All pictures without any problems (WB, expo, contrast, etc..) I convert in batch processing, in one-two clicks. The benefits are:

  • I don't need to spend some time on filtering "JPEG or RAW"
  • I always keep a chance to change something
  • I don't spend much time to process well-shooted pictures (thankfully to batch processing)
  • I save more space on my card in camera
share|improve this answer
add comment

There's a couple of benefits that spring to mind, especially for portraiture work:

  • Speed of generating proofs - if a client is only going to pick 5% of shots for final use, there's little point in going through and white balancing everything, and then batch processing them to JPEG for the client to peruse.

  • Instant back-up - if a card starts to fail, you might lose a file, and you instantly have a second backup, albeit with different fidelity (admittedly the 1D allows you to write files to two different cards at the same time)

share|improve this answer
    
Don't agree with 'Instant back-up'. If a card starts to fail, there is no much chance not to fail everything else. In this case it would be more safe to store the same pictures on two cards - modern cameras support it –  Genius Mar 29 '11 at 8:06
1  
@Genius but you'd have to be pretty unlucky to lose a matching pair (I agree that you're not going to lose just JPEGs or just RAWs though). –  Rowland Shaw Mar 29 '11 at 8:08
    
@rowland-shaw Thank God, this hasn't happened yet with me. So I hope I'm lucky ;) –  Genius Mar 29 '11 at 8:23
add comment

Depending on your camera, there might be a good reason to shoot JPEG + RAW even if your workflow is RAW-only: accurate on-camera previews.

Some cameras work like this (IIRC, I have seen this behaviour at least on Canon PowerShot S95):

  • If you shoot RAW-only, the camera will store a low-resolution preview JPEG inside the RAW file. If you preview images on your camera, it is only able to show the low-resolution JPEG. If you zoom in to make sure it was properly focused, you will always see blurry pictures.

  • However, if you shoot RAW+JPEG, the camera will use the high-resolution JPEG file for previews. This way you can actually use your camera to check if the focus was correct or not.

Now you can choose between two options: a bit more space on your memory card (RAW) vs. accurate on-camera previews (RAW+JPEG).

With Canon DSLRs you do not have the same issue, as the preview JPEGs that are stored in the RAW files are of a high enough resolution.

share|improve this answer
add comment

My understanding is that the convention of RAW+JPEG started early in pro digital photography (like Sports Illustrated at a bowl game) when computers were slower than they are today and RAW file tools more cumbersome to use. The idea would be that Photo Editors would look through the JPEG files to find the shots they needed. They then sent the corresponding RAW files to the technicians who would convert and tone those images. It assumes a multi-person workflow.

That said, a lot of news organizations just used JPEG files -- especially when they had to transmit files on deadline over a land line modem.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I've suggested RAW+JPEG to photographers who are fairly new to digital photography and are ambivalent about switching to a raw workflow, because they don't have raw-capable tools or are worried about the effort involved. I point out that they can keep using the JPEGs like they always have, but the raw files will be there, like a digital negative, for whenever they're ready to work with them.

share|improve this answer
2  
If you're a new to digital photography, you should probably be shooting in JPEG. Why? In my first year of digital photography, I took in excess of 25k photos and the majority of them (i.e. > 99%) would have benefited from better technique because no amount of RAW processing will teach you the basics of photography (composition, lighting, etc). I shot RAW which meant I was producing in excess of 250 GB of photos which weren't terribly exciting. RAW + JPG would have increased that significantly. –  CadentOrange Apr 14 '11 at 9:33
    
@Philip A fair point, but I'm mostly talking about experienced film photographers who are simply new to digital workflow. Folks like my dad, who got me started with composition and exposure when I was little. –  coneslayer Apr 14 '11 at 11:11
    
I am just getting (back) into photography. While that pretty much discredits any advice I am about to give, here is what I am currently doing: I am currently shooting in RAW+JPEG and, as @CadentOrange said, for the 99% of my photos which no amount of RAW processing will improve I then delete the RAW files when I import. That way for the 1% of photos (I'd say it's really more like 10%) which I made poor choices of white balance or whatever when shooting, I can still recover from. –  Josh Apr 2 '12 at 21:24
add comment

In my opinion, it is about ease of editing and space to store them. I shoot raw because it give me for flexibility to post edit my photos. After edit, I export to JPG and delete the original raws.

Take a look at this size comparison (same photos)

22M     IMG_9277.dng
22M     IMG_9279.dng
22M     IMG_9281.dng
22M     IMG_9282.dng
22M     IMG_9283.dng
22M     IMG_9284.dng
22M     IMG_9285.dng
22M     IMG_9286.dng
20M     IMG_9288.dng
20M     IMG_9290.dng
21M     IMG_9292.dng
21M     IMG_9293.dng
21M     IMG_9294.dng
21M     IMG_9295.dng
300M    total

2.2M    IMG_9277.jpg
2.5M    IMG_9279.jpg
3.0M    IMG_9281.jpg
2.7M    IMG_9282.jpg
2.1M    IMG_9283.jpg
2.6M    IMG_9284.jpg
3.5M    IMG_9285.jpg
2.8M    IMG_9286.jpg
2.5M    IMG_9288.jpg
2.5M    IMG_9290.jpg
3.1M    IMG_9292.jpg
3.3M    IMG_9293.jpg
3.4M    IMG_9294.jpg
3.5M    IMG_9295.jpg
40M     total

I think it only worth to keep raw for very special photos.

share|improve this answer
    
well that is true if your photography ability is good enough to have every pic shot right in case you need post processing RAW is king. –  danijelc Jan 26 at 13:00
1  
@danijelc Read more carefully... This answer suggests shooting in RAW only, but deleting most of those raw files after post processing. –  mattdm Jan 26 at 13:06
add comment

As a professional photographer I rarely need the jpeg files so I only turn them on when needed. When I do need them it is because I need a fast edit and raw files require a bit more processing time and CPU power than the average laptop can handle.

For instance I went to photograph a luncheon for a company where there was to be a few big name people speaking. When I arrived the contact told me he was told at the last minute that he needed a quick turn around on 5 of the images... a couple hours instead of having the entire shoot ready 6 hours to a day later. I turned on the raw + jpeg so I would have the ability to grab the jpeg quickly and do a quick edit and supply him the file quickly after the event when I got back to the office.

I've also had it where there were times when I could download the disk of images right on site when the client changed the deadline. They could have an untouched file immediately after shooting it, and they wouldn't need Photoshop, Lightroom or whatever program to convert a RAW file into something they could use.

Speed is the main reason to use Jpeg (size is another one). The reason to use raw is because it gives more latitude for adjustments and a wider color space, although the new jpeg revisions that just came out could make the wider color space a moot point.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I shoot JPEG + RAW when I use my older cameras with bad displays such as the 1Ds mk II. The display of that camera is almost useless (but the image quality is great) and I need another way of quickly confirm that focus is correct etc. I use a WiFi enabled memory card to transfer the JPEG:s to my tablet for quick review and then I import the RAW files to my computer for editing.

share|improve this answer
add comment

In-camera .jpg produces more accurate colors. At least, that is my experience, especially with artificial lighting.

For an example where post-production converters failed, see here.

Not only did Lightroom fail, but the raw converter from the same manufacturer could not even produce the right colors. I was really glad I happened to have raw+jpg enabled that day.

I have since tried to remember having jpg+raw enabled for artificial/stage lighting from then on.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I don't know the actual reason for JPEG/RAW mode, but it's the mode I use most of the time.

Occasionally somebody asks me for a particular photo, and it's easier, faster, and more convenient to give them the JPEG than to load it on my laptop and edit in LightRoom or Capture One.

RAW + JPEG is also nice because sometimes the out of camera JPEG is "good enough," though I'll usually tweak it a bit anyway :-)

It can also be nice to compare how I've processed the file versus how my camera saved it as JPEG. Capture One and LightRoom support for my camera (Fujifilm X-Pro1) isn't great, and the camera's built in presets (Velvia, Standard, ...) aren't select-able in the apps, like they are for some cameras. Having the camera's JPEG along with the RAW lets me compare what I saw on the camera's screen with what I've done in the RAW processor.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.