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Why would a photographer want to capture images using the JPEG format over an available RAW format? The obvious argument is memory card storage, but assume that my available memory card storage is adequate for either format within my shooting scenarios.

The reverse analysis of RAW instead of JPEG, as well as JPEG+ RAW has been covered extensively on this site already:

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    Nice idea as a counter question to the multitude of "Benefits of RAW" questions. Maybe a link to this question should be added to the others, or maybe just to the first one? – damned truths Nov 24 '14 at 6:43
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    There has been a question for comparing RAW vs JPEG neutrally (including JPEG's advantages) on the site since day 1 - What are the pros and cons when shooting in RAW vs JPEG? – Imre Nov 25 '14 at 7:15
  • @Imre - This question is much more focused. That question really only asks about the benefits vs downsides of RAW. A few of the answers do bring up the benefits to shooting JPEG but that seems to come secondary to the primary question. In any case thanks for bringing it up as a related question. – dpollitt Nov 25 '14 at 19:26
  • See also the Online Photographer blog entry by Ken Tanaka: "Shooting JPEG Instead of Raw" – inkista Dec 2 '14 at 19:35

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Beyond the very obvious memory card requirement differences between RAW and JPEG images as noted in the question:

  • JPEGs are compressed and typically have much smaller file sizes. For example a RAW file from a Nikon D800 can be 50MB and the JPEG may be a fraction at 10MB. This benefits not only memory card capacity but also editing workflow speed, archival storage requirements, and speed to download images.
  • RAW significantly slows down many workflows especially for high volume photographers(sports, portrait, etc.).
  • Maximum frames per second and the amount of images that can be captured before the camera buffer slows down max fps can be faster with JPEG over RAW.
  • The extra storage considerations become a significant concern with RAW.
  • If you are shooting in a studio and can accurately control all aspects of the image(specifically light), you may benefit very little from RAW and it might just end up costing you money.
  • Some people like the in-camera processing that converts to JPEG. It is obviously easier to achieve a finished product, but maybe you like the "look" and don't want to use the camera manufacturers software to replicate the same look as it is another additional step.
  • JPEG can force you to become a better photographer. Instead of saying Who cares what the WB is, JPEG can force you to take an extra few minutes to get the white balance and exposure right in camera.
  • JPEG can help you to spend more of your photography time in the field shooting images, rather than behind a computer screen editing images.
  • JPEG uses less battery life because of the significant decrease in file size and the corresponding write time.

The following points are solved by saving RAW+JPEG, while the above ones aren't:

  • Most RAW file formats are proprietary(.CR2,.NEF). When a new camera comes out, popular software likely won't even work with the RAW files until the software is updated.
  • It is possible in the future that the ability to convert to a more widely available format will be lost if historical software no longer works or is unable to be found.
  • JPEG is more commonly supported by all image editing software. This is important when you you want to edit in software that doesn't support RAW at all, such as some mobile devices or basic operating systems.
  • Many of these points are solved by keeping RAW+JPEG. Others are not, and I think only these are relevant. – o0'. Nov 24 '14 at 10:57
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    "The extra storage considerations become a significant concern with RAW if you shoot often and multiply as the years go on" Do they multiply? Comparing my 8-year-old Canon 400d with my new 70d, both cameras seem to give RAW files that are about 3.5 times as big as the JPEG. Saying that the concerns multiply implies that it gets worse over time but it seems that it doesn't, especially as disk space is always getting cheaper. – David Richerby Nov 24 '14 at 11:10
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    For the last two/three points, one can just convert the images to DNG after shooting. DNG is a open format and most likly not going away. But because all of my cameras are supported well enough by open-source tools (DCRaw) I have no fear, that I ever have problems opening the files in the future! – Josef Nov 24 '14 at 11:42
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    "Beyond the very obvious memory card requirement differences (...) JPEGs are compressed and typically have much smaller file sizes." - That's the same point twice, or am I missing anything? – O. R. Mapper Nov 25 '14 at 8:02
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    Shoot a couple hundred JPEG images and your battery will have a lot more power left than shooting the same number of RAW images. Writing big files to the card sucks up camera CPU time. – Greg Nov 25 '14 at 8:19
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Here is a good reason why RAW+JPEG is a good idea - tethering. If you use WiFi of a third party device like Cam Ranger, transferring a raw image to the tethered device can take a while. Transferring the JPEG should only take a few seconds in contrast.

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    The Canon EOS App doesn't even support RAW transfer to mobile devices. It converts it to a low resolution JPEG. – dpollitt Nov 24 '14 at 4:04
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In some scenarios, you just simply doesn't need RAW files. A good example is daily press: JPGs are rarely edited for more than basic level and constrast adjustements, they have more than enough quality for web and press paper, are faster to transmit to the newsroom, can be directly used on layout software, and speed the general process both for photographer and editors. Using RAW in this environment is a loss of time (and therefore, money).

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I doubt there are any hidden advantages, it is more or less obvious:

  • the file is immediately ready for sharing (JPEG can be used everywhere)

  • will usually look better out of the box, because of the automated in-camera treatment and "intelligent shooting modes", including quick-and-easy HDR (while for RAW files, we expect the experienced user should process each photo manually)

  • faster saving (means more shots per second in burst mode)

so, it's more compelling for casual photographer than for a pro (perhaps except the last item)

  • A pro photographer will most likely be shooting with a body that can buffer a lot of RAW images before filling. It only takes a few seconds for the camera to catch up. – Greg Nov 25 '14 at 8:23
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The only time I'd opt for JPEG a over RAW, was when I'd be shooting all day and needed to maximize my card storage and battery life.

JPEGs write faster to the card, which saves battery life. And, it's obvious they take less space, so I could shove a lot more images into a few chips.

Of course, shooting JPEGs means you don't have the leeway available for post-processing, so it's more important to get the white-balance and exposures right in-camera. Trying to dig an important shot out of a bad exposure or color-tinted image because the sun went behind clouds, or stadium/arena lights are old, is a real pain.


If I needed to get files to a customer quickly, I'd do RAW+JPEG and send them the JPEG files and wait for their request for specific images, then process the RAW if necessary and send those. Of course, that burns batteries and chips, but gives the most flexibility.

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It is no longer an issue today, but until just a few years ago many people were still using computers with insufficient memory to smoothly work with RAW files. On my old XP computer I had to split up a picture into small parts, process them separately and then stitch them back together when doing memory intensive computations.

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There will always be pros and cons for each side of this question- RAW or JPG, for my personal experience it depends on the 'venue'. But I mostly shoot JPG for the simple reason of efficiency in storage and work-flow.

The single best response for this question, in my opinion.. from dpollit...JPEG can force you to become a better photographer.

I believe that statement to be the basis on which to build from, as photographers.

Ragrod.

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JPEG is a compressed format, as has been pointed out by several others here, but what they haven't mentioned is that it is not a totally "lossless" compression. Every time you open a JPEG file for editing, it's being uncompressed, then compressed again when your edits are stored. Ergo, you're potentially losing a few bits every time. I started out as a "wet" photographer and I regard RAW files as my negatives, permanent and immutable. JPEGs are fine for distribution, especially on the Web where the smaller size is more convenient and efficient. However, my serious work usually is printed and I would never use JPEGs for that.

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    The question is why to use JPEG. Not why NOT to use JPEG. – dpollitt Nov 27 '14 at 20:57
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Shooting JPEG reduces the temptation to edit the image too much.

Recently, Reuters issued a worldwide ban on RAW photos probably for this reason (the want pictures that represent the reality, not edited pictures that represents what the photograph wants it to look like). So, if you want to sell your pictures to Reuters, you should shoot JPEG (or RAW+JPEG).

An out-of-camera JPEG is not an absolute proof that you saw what the image shows, but it can be a rather convincing argument.

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    Oh good grief that's an ignorant policy from Reuters! Throwing babies out with the bathwater. – eftpotrm Feb 12 '16 at 14:17
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Old thread but I just wanted to point out that editing a jpeg file does not degrade your image. Its true that if you save a lot on the same jpeg file the compression will add up. However one should never overwrite their original files and work-in-progress edits should be saved as uncompressed PSD or similar file format that can retain all the layers etc. And only save the final image as a new jpeg. This way there's no degradation.

As an event shooter I like jpeg for the simplicity of file management and there's really no need to edit everything when the client is ordinary person (not a pixel peeper).

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    editing a jpeg does not degrade your image This is simply wrong. JPEG compression results in a loss of original data, i.e. the very definition of image degradation. only save the final image as a new jpeg. This way theres no degradetion. But there is still a loss of data. Working from the original and saving as JPEG only once reduces the amount of degradation by minimizing the number of times the data is compressed, but it's still wrong to say that there is "no degradation." – Caleb Feb 12 '16 at 8:19
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    Yeah sure, you do get two concurrent compressions that way. But depending on the type of edits done the result is likely less degraded than just two straight saves as there's fresh data added. Either way it takes a whole lot more than two saves to see a difference. – Marko Haka Feb 12 '16 at 9:45
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Actually RAW and JPEG both are good file formats. JPEG is usually used when the camera is able to get it right. Raw is used to capture a raw and uncompressed file to do further extensive editing in a computer. Raw files offer more flexibility for post processing but after processing it is usually converted and stored in JPEG format ( or TIFF format is similar to jpeg )

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