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What are the pros and cons when shooting in RAW vs JPEG?

I am a beginner hobbyist and am a little overwhelmed by all that is involved with DSLR photography. Having heard it's best to shoot in RAW, I decided to give it a try. I have Photoshop CS2 on an older laptop running Windows XP. I found after much investigation that it is not possible for me to work with true NEF files in PS CS2. So I installed View NX2 which came with my D5100, and worked painfully slow when trying to edit on my feeble machine. So, as a beginner, I am wondering if I should just shoot in Fine JPEG and edit them in PS...or possibly still shoot in RAW and convert to TIFF before editing in PS. This question may seem broad, but I am really just a beginner looking for advice on how to start having some fun without getting discouraged! As I progress and want to do more in depth editing I can certainly step my equipment up to where I can work with RAW files.
Right now I would just like to take some nice shots, maybe tweak them a little and possibly print them out... so anyones input is welcomed!


Since you say you are a beginner and getting discouraged by having to deal with the tool chain for processing raw images, I suggest you don't for now. There is lots to learn, and some things will have to come before some others. Focus on what is fun and interesting at this point. Getting used to exposure, shutter speed versus f-stop versus depth of field tradeoffs, and just getting used to how to operate your camera are much better things to delve into right now.

However, I suggest you capture and just save raw files for now along with the JPGs. I don't know what your camera can do, but mine has a setting to store a NEF and JPG file for each picture. If yours can do that too, then definitely set it up that way. Ignore the NEF file for now except to archive it along with the JPG. Some time in the future you will be ready and interested in post-processing, and then the NEF files from your old pictures will be there. At the least you can experiment on them, but maybe there will be a few pictures you really like by that time, and you'll be glad you can go back to the "original" and make the final derived version with the tradeoffs you want, not what the camera picked for you.

  • +1 for "Focus on what is fun and interesting at this point" – davka Dec 3 '13 at 9:24

I was a beginning once with a sluggish system as well - here is what I did:

If you're camera has the option to shoot in both Fine JPEG and RAW (like a Nikon DSLR lets you), then shoot in that, this way you can just open and exit the fine jpegs but you'll have raw files stashed away for when you upgrade your system and can work with larger files down the road to improve edit options in your future for images you took in your past :)

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