I am about to shoot in a wedding ceremony and would like to know, Should I shoot in RAW or JPEG?

I asked a photographer (outside the US) and he said converting RAW into JPG changes color (or something like that) so they always shoot in JPG. I won't buy it unless someone convinces me here. I see the convenience of shooting in JPG: no conversion, smaller size — and, adjust lighting and the photo is ready.

I have a Nikon D5100 and a 16 GB card, so I can take plenty of RAW pics. My RAW file size is +22MB vs JPEG is 1.3-4 MB.

Is RAW always required or is RAW for some times and JPG is fine too?

I know there are related question but this question is related to wedding photography only. Thanks. Let me clarify. I think in Pakistan photographers never shoot in RAW.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, I don't think this is essentially related to wedding photography only. That's a good example of a common, real-world high-pressure situation where getting it right and getting good results are essential, and it's effectively a genre of photography all it's own — but it's not required for this question to be interesting. I think we do have the answer to this scattered in various places around the site, but there's not really one that it's an exact duplicate of. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 12:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ 700 shot limit is not enough especially for a beginner, for a 12hr wedding day unless you are very very aware of the limit. If you shoot raw, pick up at least another 16GB card. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 20:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ To state it simply, the benefits to using RAW for an occasional wedding photographer outweigh the negatives, but it is truly a personal preference. Many professionals choose JPG, but many times that is for the benefits enjoyed post shoot, and those won't really apply to someone shooting 1 or 2 weddings. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 20:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ One of the difference that I noted between RAW and JPEG on my camera is JPEG has vivid colors. RAW is very light colored. I know this could be a camera setting but I don't know what really make it have stronger colors. I am using auto setting with no flash. BTW I have no knowledge of how to fix a RAW (which software do I use?). \$\endgroup\$
    – TheTechGuy
    Commented Dec 25, 2011 at 5:36

3 Answers 3


JPEG offers two advantages (other than how many images you can fit on a card) that may be extremely significant under the right circumstances: the speed of workflow after the shoot (assuming you've gotten things right in camera) and the speed at which you can shoot.

RAW files take a lot longer to write to the card than JPEGs do (and RAW+JPEG takes longer still), so in the genres of photography where you need to take a lot of pictures quickly, a given camera will almost always perform better when shooting JPEGs. That is important to sports and wedding photographers as well as to photojournalists. The absolute last thing you want is to have your shutter release locked or delayed because your camera's buffer is full. And it doesn't matter whether that means getting the 9-10 FPS of a high-end speed demon like the Nikon D3s or the Canon EOS 1D Mk. IV or squeezing 3-4 FPS out of an older or entry-to-mid-level camera, having to wait for the buffer to write out to the card may mean missing the only shot that counts.

And while JPEGs limit you in what you can do in post-processing, they also limit what you have to do in post-processing. That difference in turn-around time can make a big difference to the amount of work you are able to take on, especially when you're working at the lower-priced, more cut-throat end of the industry. It may take (on average) a thirtieth of a second to take a picture, but it takes a lot longer than that to review, cull, and refine them afterwards. Even an extra ten seconds per picture (or series) can mean giving up another shooting day, so the financial advantages to shooting JPEG and getting it right in-camera are very real at that level. Most of the better cameras will let you set custom picture settings (more than one) so that your "signature look" can happen primarily in the camera.

Of course, if you get it wrong in-camera shooting JPEGs, you can't hide your mistakes nearly as easily or as well. So you need to balance the business risks of missing the shot, taking too long in post and having the ultimate control in post. A best-case compromise might be to shoot the formals (the ones that you can take some time over, and that have to be absolutely perfect) in RAW and the spontaneous action in JPEG. But it is a business decision, not a photographic one.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This answer explains the business decision very well. Although I disagree with a few things. 1) My Nikon-D5100 shoots equally fast in RAW as in JPEG (I believe). 2) I do not really need high speed photography for this event. I just need good shots. I will stick with RAW for brides Photoshoot and JPEG for the rest of event and guests. I mainly use google picassa for editing and I Probably be able to adjust a few things in Picassa even with JPEG. \$\endgroup\$
    – TheTechGuy
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 15:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enthusiast The initial shooting rate may be the same for both, but the camera will shoot at that rate for longer in JPEG mode. RAW will stay slower until enough of the buffer is written out. Whether you need to shoot a lot of pictures quickly depends on what's going on -- I've worked in some traditions where a whole lot happens in just a few minutes, while the rest of the occasion is at a much more relaxed pace. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 15:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ When you say "so the financial advantages to shooting RAW and getting it right in-camera," did you actually mean "JPEG"? Or am I misunderstanding something else? \$\endgroup\$
    – Sean
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 19:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good eye, @Sean -- typing not keeping up with thinking. Editing... \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 19:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ For what its worth, I've always shot wedddings in RAW and at the highest speed setting, and have never hit a buffer limit, ever. Even when taking "jumping/action" shots of wedding parties, the action almost never requires filling up a buffer. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 20:32

Your friend isn't entirely crazy. There are dozens of questions on the site like How can I reproduce the camera-internal postprocessing?, because it's completely true that the RAW processor in-camera is different software from desktop RAW software, and without intimate knowledge of both, it can be hard to reproduce the camera software's "look" with other software. So, if your friend really likes what the camera does, preferring the JPEG results is understandable. (See also Can in-camera JPEG have image quality advantages over (third party software) converted RAW?).

That said, the advantages of RAW are particularly high in this sort of situation, where you can't get a "do over" if you had the processing settings wrong. See Good examples of RAW's advantages over JPEG? and Why can I adjust the white balance of a RAW file but not a JPEG file?. (Also What are the pros and cons when shooting in RAW vs JPEG?, but that's a kind of early question on the site, and as of this writing doesn't necessarily shine with great answers.) In short, if you take a perfect picture of the bride's expression but the white balance is off, you'll be glad to have RAW files. Or even if the exposure is really wrong, RAW will give you a better chance to try and salvage the image.

So, if your camera can shoot RAW without becoming unresponsive due to dealing with the larger files, and you have enough memory cards (bring extra!), you probably should go that way.

Some cameras (including, I believe, yours) have the ability to save in RAW+JPEG. This gives you the best of both worlds: you get the instant, in-camera results, and you also get the opportunity to change your mind. That takes even more space but is probably worth it.

Additionally (or alternately), some cameras let you post-process RAW in camera after the fact, which lets you use that engine to get the same colors and processing the camera would normally produce in JPEG, but with the chance to do it over. The downside is that you have to work on a tiny screen and the options will be far restricted, but many people underestimate the power of this. I use this 90% of the time now, and then I also have the RAW files if I really want to do something more sophisticated later.


Given a RAW file, you can always make a JPEG. Given a jpeg, you're stuck with the JPEG.

Think of RAW as negatives. You can make some exposure corrections after the fact, and you can change the white balance non-destructively.

Think of JPEGs as slides. Get it perfect in camera, and that's it.

Given the once-in-a-lifetime of a wedding, I would never shoot only JPEGs. Too many things can go wrong that will affect the final image quality.

Most cameras let you have the choice of shooting both. If you're not comfortable with processing RAW, choose this. You will then at least have the option in the future of learning how to correct RAW images.


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