mholt 7:00pm, 10 August 2006

Is JPG or RAW image format preferred?

I know JPG compresses the image and RAW would use more memory card and hard disk space. But, RAW would have better quality, correct?

Is RAW editable on the computer with any standard image editor (like Picasa)?

noiseless veil [deleted] 12 years ago
I'm new to the group here (first post noob) but I find RAW to be a good way to go when shooting still-life because it stores so much more information that can be used later for post-processing. With that said, it does use more space and in my case more time for the camera to store the image. I use a Nikon D100 and it is painfully slow after it fills the buffer. If I'm shooting anything involving movement (sports, kids, etc.) I use .jpeg.
Studio E 12 years ago
There's more bit depth with RAW images as well as more latitude with exposure and white balance. Personally, I wouldn't use anything else. RAW vs. JPEG is a preference, however, and you just have to decide what's better for you.
_greer_ 12 years ago
Generally RAW files are not editable with standard image editors, but Picasa 2 is an exception - RAW is supported for certain cameras. The following link tells you which ones.

Also, your camera may have come with software that you can use to process the RAW image.

RAW files do not necessarily have better quality than JPGs. When you shoot in JPG, you are letting software in your camera process the RAW image and produce the JPG image file. When you shoot in RAW you must use software on your computer to produce the image file (either a JPG or TIFF or whatever). It is certainly possible that software on your computer could produce a higher quality image than the software on your camera. So RAW can give you a better end result, but it doesn't neccesarily always give you a better result. Make sense?

The big advantage of RAW, from what I've heard, is that it gives you much more flexibility in post processing. Instead of letting your camera settings determine how the RAW image is processed, you can tweak those things yourself during the RAW post processing on your computer. Thus, you can change things like white balance after the fact.

The big disadvantages are larger file size and more steps required in post processing.
verpoorte.job 12 years ago
Software that came with your camera, Photoshop or irfanview should do the trick with RAW files.

Moved from JPG to RAW and back to JPG again. As the quality of my pics (unfortunately) doesn't depend too much on post processing, I prefer to store more photos in my memory and spend less time downloading and editing.
sifasest 12 years ago
Hi. First post in this group. New to Flikr today.

I think there are some questions you need to ask yourself about what your goals are and your limitations before you make a decision. I'll get to those in a second. First, however, realize that you are not ever forced to choose one over the other permanently. I take RAW shots for certain occasions, and JPG shots for others, depending on what my intentions are for those photographs. I find, for the most part, that JPG does what I need it to do.

Here are a few starter questions:

1) Are you shooting for pay?
2) Are you doing a lot of post-shooting editing (photoshop, etc.)?
3) What storage capacity limitations do you have?
4) What speed limitations do you have (i.e., time for camera to save image data to disc/flash), and does it force you to wait to take another shot?
5) How much time for post-shooting editing/processing do you want to spend?

I could come up with dozens more, but I'll address each question I've asked in regard to my own experience.

1 - Paid is tricky. It very much depends on your client, your reputation, and your capabilities. I suggest asking other professional digital photographers who do a variety of work.
2- If you're planning on manipulating your photographs (I do a lot of digital restoration and manipulation), it might be better to have the maximum amount of plyability available for each photo.
3- I use 1gig flash storage cards for my D200, and when I'm taking JPGs on the FINE setting, I can take about 300-350 shots before I need to swap cards or adjust the settings. RAW would grant me probably half that much (but I haven't tested that out yet). Consider your venue and your storage capacity in your determinations so that you don't run out of space at the worst possible moment.
4- My camera stores image data with a large buffer chip, which allows me to take continuous shots without pausing. Since it doesn't cost anything to test it, set your camera to RAW, and snap away. Find out how many shots in a row it takes for your camera to slow down (or stop) to process your shots. It might be important in those sports events.
5- I like to get most of my photos in the computer, processed, and ready to view within a few hours of me taking my shots. I like to have at least a few examples ready for prospective clients or to manipulate. If you've only taken a handful of RAW shots, I don't think this is really an issue. However, if you've taken a day's worth, and want to process them all, it might take you a long time. This is also something easy to test.

I hope you have fun experimenting with both formats, and deciding what is best for you based on what you need.

Nigel No 4 PRO 12 years ago
Personally I am a RAW fan, for the following reasons;

1. The RAW file is essentially what the sensor 'sees'. You can't get a better quality starting point than that.

2. With RAW, white balance is a non-issue (at least, as much as it can be. Try shooting with sunlight streaming in through a doorway, sodium lighting above, fluorescent lighting in a section etc all in the same shot and you'll see what I mean).

3. RAW processing is non-destructive. That is, the editing is usually stored in a separate file in many converters and you can always return to the shot settings at the click of a mouse.

4. Getting a shot to look right in my preferred converter (Rawshooter Premium, sadly now bought out and killed off by those b@$&@&ds at Adobe) takes seconds and you can review the images and pick the best out really easily.

5. In RSP you can make adjustments to a shot, copy them and paste them into any number of other shots in the same file.

6. If the exposure wasn't bang on, RAW is the best format for rescuing the situation.

That said, I rarely shoot the sort of action that gives full buffer problems, and I can get through several 1 gig cards in a shoot. So I have just bought my first 4 gig CF card - did anyone ever tell you that digital photography was cheaper than film?
mholt 12 years ago
Hoo, wow, lots of great replies.

Thanks for the suggestions, I'm working and comparing to see which I like better. Picasa2 is doing fine with the RAW files so far ;)

I have a 2GB SD card. With JPG on high quality I can get 700 photos on it. With RAW I can get a little less than 200. Quite a difference! ^_^

UPDATE: Hm, RAW does look nicer at full size too, but it's a space taker.

But, as with verpoorte.job, my photos are less dependant on post-editing than other people. I prefer as well to take up less space on my memory card and hard disk. So, I will probably go with JPG most of the time. There will be times when I use RAW, I'm sure, thanks sifasest and Nigel for that inspiration as well.

Thanks all,
Darren Rowse 12 years ago
great discussion!

If there's anyone who wants to turn their thoughts into a full post at the main DPS site please send me a private message as I'd love to publish it there - it's a question I know many others would also be interested in. You'd get a by-line and a link back to your flickr account and any other site you manage.

No pressure - if no one wants to do it I might just take a few exceprts from the comments here and link to this discussion.
mholt 12 years ago
That'd be great... lol, I have no thoughts, but a blog post on the subject would be a good resource too.
adaptable building [deleted] 12 years ago
I think you missed one of the better RAW processors, Bibble. I find it to do what I want in the smallest amount of work, plus they have versions for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux. Also, if you are on Linux there is RawStudio ( and the GIMP UFRAW plugin (
claudio.k Posted 12 years ago. Edited by claudio.k (member) 12 years ago
If i'm out for shooting "beautiful" pictures, i always record the image in RAW and JPG (basic). JPG lets me easily preview the picture and check, wether it's worth processing it and throwing away tha bad shots. (Then, of course, also the raw images). JPGs are much more easier to handle than raw images.

Once i decide to process a picture (e.g. to show it here), i always start with the raw image and do some corrections (exposure, white balance, contrast, etc) on it and in a second stept i further process it in photoshop. I always save the results photoshop format since jpg looses quality each time you're saving and loading an image.

Converting to JPG is the very last step in processing for uploading it here or printing the image.

BTW: Photoshop also has support for many RAW formats.

An image tank with a 80GB hard disk and to 1 GB CF cards solve the problem of the image size when i'm on tour, however, may hard disk on my PC gets quite full because it's still hard for me to throw away images (what is quite essential!)

If i just make some party pictures for a friend or i'm shooting on a event i set my camera to JPG fine quality and simple copy those images to PC to burn a CD and forget all about post processing.
Afulki PRO 12 years ago
While I personally shoot only RAW, using an Epson P2000 for storeage. There is an interesting article here:

Ken Rockwell D200 RAW vs. JPG

futuristic art [deleted] 12 years ago
I use Raw primarily for indoor shots where WB & Exposure often need to be adjusted. Outdoors under good lighting conditions, I generally shoot JPG Norm. Thank God this setting can be switched back and forth easily on my camera without having to go into a menu screen on the LCD.
Michael Salmon 12 years ago
The article on digital photo school was interesting but inaccurate in some aspects.
JPEG (or JFIF to be more precise) are not coded in RGB and hence there are not 8 bits per colour, JFIF uses YCbCr coding with 4:2:0 chroma subsampling or at least all that I have checked do. This means that 4 pixels take 48 bits giving an average of 12 bits per pixel rather than 12 bits per pixel. JFIF images can also be transformed without re-encoding for simple transformations like rotation although there may well be no windows software that can do this. jpegtran from the Independent JPEG Group however can, it does this by rotating the DCT parameters.
kg6ecw 12 years ago
RAW is definately the better way to go. JPEG is OK, but it has numerous issues that make it a poor choice for quality photos.

According to the DPS News article on the topic of RAW vs. JPEG, JPEG is sharper than RAW. This, I'm afraid is a falicy. JPEG is actually much less sharp than RAW, this is due to the compression algorithms used in JPEGs, the algorithms actually 'throw out' some of the pixels in the image in order to make the file smaller. JPEG was never really designed for quality images, its goal was to enable the transfer of images over the internet with out using too much band width.

Saving and resaving JPEGS after editing actually reduces over time the quality of the image as the file is compressed and recompressed, and more pixels are 'thrown out'. The better route to go is to shoot in RAW, use the software that came with your camera, or your preffered photo editing software (most support RAW now, those that don't usually have plug-ins that will handle the RAW data) and convert your images to TIFF format. And ALWAYS backup your RAW data to CD or to another hard-drive (this can't be stressed enough).

TIFF is actually the better format for most image work, as compression can be turned on or off when the file is saved, it can be edited just like JPEGs and any photo/image editing program worth the trouble will support TIFFs.

I could go into much more detail about the errors in that article, but my suggestion is, do the research yourself then decide what you would prefer to use.

Personally I shoot in RAW, edit in TIFF, email and post on the web JPEGs.
cvp615 12 years ago
In trying to get my head around all this RAW v. JPEG discussion (and reading the long list of comments at the DIGG site in response to the RAW v. JPEG article at DPS) I am wondering does shooting in JPEG take anything away from the original image that was shot OR does it just prevent the use of any post processing? If the image is shot accurately to begin with (ie. exposure, white balance, etc. are all set properly in-camera) then there is no need for post processing after the fact, correct? So, RAW is simply just to fix what wasn't set correctly at the time the image was shot, right? Or, does a RAW image enable you to achieve results that you can't possibly get otherwise?
ryan97ou 12 years ago
a couple months ago I got my first dslr (rebel xti) and up until yesterday I shot in jpeg with the intention of eventually jumping over to RAW land (i hear the grass is greener over there or something). Yesterday was that day. I went out and took a days worth of pics.

I came home, used the canon software to process the RAW files and liked what I saw. Then I saved and converted the finished RAW files to TIFF and JPEG...and then i got frustrated. I couldn't get the sharpness to look as good on the converted images.

Now i know i am going to lose some quality when converting since compression is done, but is there any way to make the final image as good as what i see on the RAW? Am i doing something wrong? is that just the way it works? It's frustrating to see a better picture (mostly just the sharpness) and not being able to use that as the final product. some help would be appreciated.

Studio E 12 years ago
After you convert, you should adjust levels and sharpen in Photoshop using USM or High Pass. Raw conversion is only the first step in the process.
iFreezeTime Posted 12 years ago. Edited by iFreezeTime (member) 12 years ago
RAW definitely has better quality than a JPG.

It's uncompressed. Any amount of compression is causing a loss of data.

Whether or not your eyes can always determine this does not mean there is not a loss in quality.

And, just because it may look ok on screen doesn't mean the difference won't be noticable in print. Each time you go from one medium to another, you're loosing quality, unless you are making an exact digital copy of a file (meaning, you aren't resaving it, but simply copying the file).

Even each time you open and save a JPG you are further compressing the image and will begin to notice JPG mosaic patterns, and artifacting. How soon depends on how you save.

RAW is best for those that require the highest quality image possible and the freedom to return to the image repeatedly for adjustments.

JPG is best for those in need of storage space and a usable image that is easily ready to send off. It's a time and space saver.

If you shoot JPG, I would recommend resaving the original JPG as a PSD so you at least have the bottom layer preserved and can keep returning to the image without loosing quality.

JPG is mainly meant as a finalized format. Not a working one.

I myself shoot RAW and when it is time to work on an image I resave it as a PSD, have the RAW archived, and work off the PSD until it is complete and then save as a JPG. I do the RAW adjustments in Photoshop CS2 and all my editing in CS2. It's convenient and offers me all the tools I want.
ryan97ou 12 years ago
cool thanks. so i guess no matter what at some point i will have to convert it to jpg and will lose some quality. thanks for the tips
Richard Cocks 12 years ago
iFreezeTime: it's not neccessarily try that simply opening a file and saving again will degrade the file, the better editors will be able to handle this in a non-lossy way.

jpegtrans can rotate images in a non-lossy way, ExifTool can modify EXIF data in a lossless way, there is also a non-lossy png format to use for most operations.

Personally I keep a completely unmodified store of all my images from my camera (that I shoot in jpeg not raw, it's only a compact, I don't think it even supports RAW) incase I ever want to print them.

Then anything I do to them I save in a different folder. Having said that, I only ever rotate and occasionally crop anyway, all my photos are photo-shop free (I need to learn how to use photoshop to get good results!).

If I do want to print I will always go back and grab the originals.
sgcallaway1994 PRO Posted 12 years ago. Edited by sgcallaway1994 (member) 12 years ago
RAW images allow you to post process with less damage to photo. If you are shooting in difficult conditions ie underwater, low lighting, then its probably best to use RAW. Adobe's beta program "Lightroom" has made RAW processing much less time consuming. I used to shoot more JPEGS but with the release of Lightroom, I'm finding RAW works great.
mholt 12 years ago
Well, I figured I'd post a bit of an update on my opinion, "JPG or RAW"

I've decided to shoot primarily in RAW format now :) I tried tonight with a sunset to see if I could get a more natural appearance. I did, and with a little post-processing, I was able to get a photograph I don't think would have been so possible with JPG (and so clear, too!)

Sunset in Iowa
ryan97ou 12 years ago
sweet, mholt. what software did you use to convert your RAW to JPG? not sure i like what i am using (canon's software)
modern amusement [deleted] 12 years ago
I shoot in JPG, then convert them to TIFFs for editing and manipulation in photoshop.

Then I convert them back to the 400K files they'll be on my website.

I figure a 5MB JPG, converted to a 10MB TIFF file gives me enough "data" to work since the end result is 400K.
Robert Seber PRO Posted 12 years ago. Edited by Robert Seber (member) 12 years ago
Converting a JPEG to a TIFF would only be useful if you want to open and save the file more than once (each JPeg save loses some data). Otherwise it is an unnecessary step.

Converting a raw file to a TIFF can be useful if your editing software doesn't support raw.

Converting from 8bit to 16bit in Photoshop helps avoid posterization effects when applying several manipulations in a row.

I've started shooting raw as standard, but post-process all the shots to JPEG. I keep the raw files for my favourite shots, but throw away the rest. I'm glad I've been keeping the raws because some of my processed shots look rubbish on my new monitor and need re-processing.
bcwhite 12 years ago
That's pretty much my style, too. I shoot in RAW+JPEG and only go to the NEF files if I actually want to do significant color or exposure adjustment. No output media (monitors or print) can use the extra data anyway. I wrote about my preferences on my RAW vs JPEG page.
M Bowman 12 years ago
I'm new to shooting RAW, and I'm not getting the vibrant colors in my prints as with JPEG. It's very washed out. Notice the image below:


I like how easy it is to fix the white balance in RAW as opposed to JPEG. That, to me, is worth the extra space RAW files need. I understand I need to post process RAWs. I do minimal processing in ACR (i.e. white balance, exposure, saturation). What can I do in Photoshop—what are some techniques—to really get those colors vibrant and make the images pop out?
ny156uk 12 years ago
You guys may be interested in this...

I personally never shoot RAW. People noting the quality of JPG v RAW should definitely read the link (and note the history of the writer).

The link contains photographic comparisons at a size of 40" which is pretty gigantic (easily larger than most people will print 99% of their shots) and the difference in 'quality' is essentially none existent, barely there even at the lowest JPG quality setting.

Hope this helps some people decide.
andyscamera 12 years ago
Keep in mind that that comparison is based on images produced with a D200. Other cameras use different chips and will produce different results.

That comparison was also based on a single outside daylight scene. It would be interesting to see some comparisons at different ISO levels, different exposure lengths, different lighting conditions.

Certainly I get much better images from the RAW files with my camera (a Panasonic DMC-FZ50, which is nowhere near the quality of a D200).
ny156uk 12 years ago
True Andy, the jpeg 'in camera' software differs for each camera/model so the results will vary and the article covers this, but similarly each raw-program alters and will create different results.

Those unsure should try a few with RAW try some in JPEG and compare. If you believe it is better then use it, if you believe it isn't don't.

I don't shoot RAW because I prefer space and the few I have shot in RAW have not yielded better results (quality or editability wise).

What I think is important is that we don't tell people that Jpeg shots in their camera necessarily lose 'quality' compared to RAW shots.

For those wanting more info the wikipedia articles may be of use.
obakesan 11 years ago

I've been finding that its well worth testing before deciding. I started a page on this to explain to some friends about noise in compact cameras being caused by the JPG encoding (
When I wrote that I only had a 20D and Coolpix 5000 which did RAW, but since then I've been looking at some images with a 10D and found that its now always as cut and dried as you'd think. I'm in the process of making more images to show what I've found.

I'd like to think that RAW has better data to work with if post processing, but I'm not sure. Certainly I've found some images which have better 'highlight' textures(but not as much as I can get in negative film which is amazing).

I'll post more soon
kirbinster 11 years ago
Great discussion here, I am kind of surprised that no one has mentioned Adobe Lightroom which is probably the best workflow software out there for working with raw. You should try it out if you have not.

Raw files many time do looked washed out as you have to tell it how you want the color saturation set. If you do that it will be more vibrant than the typical out of camera jpeg.

Don't know about other cameras, but if you have a Nikon, you might want to try Capture NX which applies the camera setting when it first opens a raw file so the raw will look exactly like a camera produced jpeg would have lookd.
Brother Cadfael 11 years ago
Hi everyoneI

I have to agree with the comment above regarding Adobe Lightroom, this can even turn a rather gloomy jpeg into a vibrant shot. With RAW files it is simply amazing how easy you can enhance an image. I have always worked on the assumption to post process a RAW file for correct exposure you need to be within a stop in camera, Lightroom is a bit more forgiving in this area.

Okay, this is not to say you should not try to get it right in camera, but it is a handy program to have on your HDD.
AlfredDaCat 11 years ago
Could anybody tell me what the best (free) program for raw-image processing is? I have been using the Canon software (I have a 400D) but I've read that it's not that good? I would like to try out some different options to see whether there really is a difference, but I don't know which programs I should try.
gregpphoto 11 years ago
I shoot RAW + jpeg small to preview on the computer. I use two 2gb cards and i have over a terabyte of HD space at home so im not worried about the size one bit. RAW lets you do so much more before you even get to the regular photoshop stuff. But usually, i use RAW to create several exposures of the same photo to balance a strongly contrasted photo, ie, bright skies and darker foregrounds. RAW is the shiiiiit!
kassh 10 years ago
Great discussion! I've always wondered about this.

I've only really shot with JPGs but I've now decided to give RAW a chance, even if it does hog up all my memory lol.
stewstew99 10 years ago
I used to shoot in Jpeg all the time just because I take a lot of pics and RAW eats up your memory card.But since being bitten a few times with under exposed jpegs I switched to RAW. I have never looked back. I cannot count how many pics have been saved because I shot in RAW. And yes Lightrooms is the nuts!!! My advice invest in a couple of 4GB cards and shoot raw always.
robgraphics 10 years ago
Shoot in RAW. I converted from shooting JPEG's to RAW over a year ago and would never go back under any circumstances. JPEG=Compression=interpolation of pixels. Not the same as leaving all of the pixels alone. Add in all of the benefits already mentioned above to shooting in RAW, why would you not want to try it? White balance adjustment alone makes it worthwhile let alone Exposure adjustment/compensation. Disk storage space is pretty cheap now (I remember paying $1200 for an 8GB hard drive a few years back), so that can't be enough of a reason to not go to RAW. Camera flash cards can be an arguable issue, but I never need more than the 16GB card (770 photos) at one time.

One exception is camera buffer size when in continuous shooting mode. Not a problem for the type of shooting I do and the camera I use, but it probably is an issue for some cameras and shooting situations. This could warrant shooting in JPEG.

Viewing or converting the images? If you have Photoshop, use Scripts > Image Processor to automatically convert your RAW files to JPEG's. The original RAW files are left intact. If you have already done some editing of the RAW file, the EXIF data will be used in the JPEG output.

Viewing the RAW files directly is easy if you have a program like Adobe Bridge.

I always shoot the biggest, most information-packed fiIes I can get because you can always go backwards. RAW to JPEG, larger file to smaller file, etc. Even the shoots I do for the web are RAW set to the largest, finest image size my camera can get. Maybe a waste of space, but of what, cheap hard disk space? I look at it as insurance. I make mistakes, and RAW is much more forgiving.

Nothing wrong with sticking with JPEG files, especially if software cost is the issue. Shifting to RAW just means there are more programs you need to own and learn. But it is well worth it.
ed7929 10 years ago
I do both. if i'm out to get maybe 30 shots for the day raw

Basic plaine jane stuff use jpg.

memeory cards are so cheep now i dont think it realy matters any more.

Shoot raw. put in seperate folder/sub folder then convert them to jpg

the ones u really want to play around with - start with the raw file
Jeff Heck 10 years ago
I would say RAW and agree with sifasest. RAW really depends on what and who you will be photographing for. If its simply for a website, jpeg is the way to go because it will save you time and easier to work with. Use RAW when you want to use the images for commercial and precision work. RAW is larger, yes, but I dont think that should stop someone from using it because in the long run, the larger file contains the data for every single pixel, and therefore the quality will never be reduced (until it is compressed). I prefer RAW because in lightroom or some software i use, it is easy to convert all my RAW photos into .jpeg when I am ready.
In earlier times...Cameras' sensors were bad, producing too much noise etc etc
none PRo photographer wanted to move into Digital Photography. So,
The Industry created the RAW file format saying that it was the digital was not processed by the ugly sensor
RAW had all detail that JPG did not....
etc etc etc
Then All PRO came to Digital...

Nowadays ACR open and edits JPG files...why?
if they do not have such details like RAW?

It was a FALACY by the Industry...

Nowadays, All camera sensors are so good...But the RAW is still here...I do not no WHY...

If you want use RAW and editi it in LR or ACR go... its faster...
but I do not agree that RAW is more PRO...It is more practical
a monkey that know slide buttons can edit...

In Photoshop is Different...

If RAW is the Digital Negative...
The JPEG file is The chrome film...
you must Know work with it...
I know many PRO photographers that was affraid to use Chrome film...
You have to know what you are doing...
like JPEG file...

in RAW...anyone edits a Good photo

with JPG...only the best photographers....
whom that know what are doing...

billp545 PRO 10 years ago
Hi there,

I strongly agree with Ricardo's comments. I am new to digital photography, but I was wise enough to get a superb camera at the outset (a Nikon D80), and before I was even aware of what photoediting was I was taking some very, very strong pictures.

Then I fooled around in Picasa 3, then Picnik--and now Elements 7, where I will stop. I shoot in JPEG, and I feel the camera itself is so strong I do NOT need to do all of the work that seems so evident to people whom almost boast they "shoot only in RAW...".

I didn't spend $750 to act like a professional perfectionist that I am not--or care to be. I like Adobe Photoshop's Elements 7 because it is relaxing to use without going overboard, but noticeably more challenging (in a positive way) that Picasa 3, or Picnik.

Ricardo got it right.

Cletus Lee 10 years ago
Ricardo got it right.
Actually, I think he missed the mark quite a bit. This is an old long running topic (almost 3 years) If you check the previous posts, you'll find that most of what I say here has already been said.
At issue is Color-Depth. JPEG only supports 8bits of information for each of the three colors. Most camera sensors record 12 bits of color informatio per channel. If you save only a JPEG, you automatically throw away 4 bits of color that the sensor saw before you even left the camera. All cameras have a post processing software built into the camera firmware. Often it does a decent job. But in reality it is nothing more that a 21st century polaroid.

If you make adjustments to sharpness, White balance, color, contrast etc in the camera menu, you alter the post processing image from the camera and impose your standarsds over those that the camera mfg experts decided was best for that particular camera. Are you smarter than they?

Almost all JPEGs created by the camera are compressed. This is done in such a way that when uncompressed, you never get back the values that were used to creat the original file. This is called Lossy compression. It is not considered a good thing. If an image file must be conpressed, then a lossless compression technique must be used. This is not availavle in JPEG. Further more, If you start with an 8 bit compressed JPEG and process it with some post processing tool and save it as a compressed JPEG, you further degrade the image quality. Try it and after a few iterations removed from the original, your JPEG will look pretty crappy.
DNG, TIFF, PNG and proprietary RAW camera formats begin with 16 bits of color per channel. Even though you only had 12 bit to begin with, you lose none of the original information captured by the camera. These files from the camera are compressed, but they are lossless. If you ever have one of those once in a lifetime photos, you will want to preserve everything about it and produce the very best file for reproduction. This is why you shoot RAW. If you under expose, or use the wrong white balance, or make any of a number of stupid mistakes, you can correct a lot of this by working from the RAW image. RAW images have no white balance filter applied. If you have a camera like mine, you have the optiomn of producing two images in the camera for each photo. I get a RAW and a JPEG file for every photo I take. The Post processing that takes place in the camera is so good that often All I need is a little crop. In this case the JPEG is 'good enough'. When I really want an impressive photo using lots of post processing bells and whistles, I always have the RAW DNG file from my camera to work from.

At some point if you continue to improve as a photographer you will want the image closes to what the camera saw to work with. At that point, you will be very glad to take some of those OK images that you shot a few years back and make them dazzle with all your post processing skills and the latest version of you new favorite post processing software. You can only do this if you have the Digital negative
Geoff in Worthing, UK 10 years ago
If I shoot a Raw and put it through ACR and onto my editor (PS Elements) it "arrives" at 240ppi and a little under 18"x12".
If I shoot Jpeg I first see it in PSE at 72ppi at something like 53"x36". If I were to upsample the jpeg to the same 240ppi that the Raw has, its dimensions are exactly the same as the Raw.
So if I were to have a really close look on the computer screen to see if there's a difference between the Raw and jpeg at 240ppi I'd expect some kind of difference in quality, right?

Well, wrong. I'm still seeing both at the screen's own resolution - and it cannot show me a resolution anywhere near the 240ppi so I'm not going to see a difference at all. I think that's what misleads a lot of people - they only look for the 'differences' on a computer monitor.

The only way to compare the two formats is by taking the same shot twice, one in Raw, one in Jpeg, (or with a camera that can take both at the same time).
Then you'll need to process identically (so it's worth putting the Jpeg through ACR as well) and then print both for comparison.
If there's no difference then clearly it's all been a waste of time. But I think there will be. ;)
Cletus Lee 10 years ago
The dpi value in the EXIF is a meaningless term. EXIF standards stipulate that the default value be set to 72 when unknown from the source. That is why you see 72 ppi (DPI) in the EXIF from the image straight out of the camera. Pixels are Pixels. The resolution of your sensor is immutable.The actuals pixels per inch on your sensor is 3-5000 if you have a high MP camera and an APS-C size sensor. that is ~ 24X16mm The DPI only has meaning when applied to putput display media. If the output media is a high quality consumer printer that could be 300 DPI. For computer monitors the range is 96 -120 dpi. If you resize the image to fit the media, you are altering the number of pixels per inch.
If you want to compare RAW and JPEG from the camera, you can not do this unless you put the RAW image through the camera's JPEG rendering software first. This is ofcourse exactly what the camera did to deliver a JPEG file in the first place. Geoff, I believe you have a Pentax. It uses the "Prime" processing engine which is processing software built into the firmware of your camera. It is quite good, in fact with the K20D, the resultant JPEG from the camera is often better than any I can manage using a host of Post processing software including ACR, PSE, Bibble or Lightroom. Still. the JPEG is a 8-bit image and unless I have a 12 bit RAW file, I am limited to working with less than the data the sensor recorded if I need to 'improve' the photo delivered by the camera.
Geoff in Worthing, UK 10 years ago
Thanks Cletus Lee. Your last sentence rang a bell with me..... about being limited to an 8-bit image if you use the jpeg, but really so am I, or anybody using PS Elements, because very few of the filters (and no layers) will work at 16-bit - so when I process a Raw I have to choose 8-bit from ACR (unless it's perfect and doesn't need anything else done to it). After all, I could put a jpg through ACR and have it (apparently) in 16-bit, but I don't see how it can be..

The end result (a print) is the deciding factor for me and I'll try that experiment of comparison between prints from identical images in Jpeg and Raw.
Cletus Lee 10 years ago
Geoff, If you ultimate end media is a print, staying 16 bit into the printer is a must to preserve color depth and avoid JPEG and compression artifacts. This means the final output file ought to be a TIFF or a 16bit PNG. You can achieve this by switching to a full 16-bit post processing software. For Adobe this is Lightroom. My Post processing software of choice is Bibble Pro. Another is LightCrafts LightZone. All are better than ACR (IMO) and a cut or two above PSE. Bibble Pro uses many third party plug--in filters that are also used by Adobe Photoshop. Bibble Pro and Light Zone read proprietary RAW files and DNG. Lightroom requires ACR as an intermediate step.
Geoff in Worthing, UK Posted 10 years ago. Edited by Geoff in Worthing, UK (member) 10 years ago
Let's take this a step at a time....

"staying 16 bit into the printer is a must to preserve color depth and avoid JPEG and compression artifacts."
Agreed, but I use PS Elements, so that means I can do very little "creative" editing of any kind in 16-bit I think you're right about Lightroom - that is a better way to go, but for full editing that probably also means full PS - or one of the other interesting programs you mentioned (even full PS has limitations in 16-bit). The drawback with moving away from Adobe is another learning curve.... and I was just starting to get Elements right! ;-)

"This means the final output file ought to be a TIFF or a 16bit PNG."
Or - if I stick with Adobe - a PSD? (Adobe owns the TIFF format, so it's just as future-proof, or not, as a PSD). Generally smaller filesizes too, but obviously TIFF would be the route to go if I were to change to LightZone.

[edit] OK, I've made a move...... I've downloaded LightZone trial and intend to give it a full work out..... still haven't seen any mention of 16-bit on their website yet, though. [/edit]
gorji Posted 9 years ago. Edited by gorji (member) 9 years ago
This is a very nice discussion.

For the purist, RAW is the way to go because it is lossless; JPG is lossy. So shoot the picture based on the value of the scene or final picture.
For example if one is taking a picture of a the neighbors lawnmowver, jpg will more than suffice. If the president is riding that lawn mower, I would do raw. It may be a crude example, but the point comes across.
Cletus Lee 9 years ago
So shoot the picture based on the value of the scene or final picture.

Not always knowable in advance. Fortunately, most modern DSLRs have the ability to shoot RAW and produce both RAW + JPEG. And this would be my recommendation even if you do not feel skilled enough to process your own RAW images. If and when you do get that once in a lifetime shot, all the detail captured by the camera sensor is preserved so that you can do more with the image that a JPEG. It can also save your butt if you do something stupid like use the wrong ISO, Exposure or WB.
The Wirral Bells 9 years ago
A good suggestion from Cletus, although even RAW won't be any use if you use the wrong ISO. The ISO is basically like the amplifier gain from the image sensor and if you shoot at 1600 ISO, then this is what is in the RAW file - you can't change it to 100 ISO afterwards.

Exposure can be changed to some extent but again, it's better to get it right when you take the picture as you can reliably only push the exposure a couple of stops either way with RAW. Beyond that and the colours can get seriously messed up.

RAW is great for white balance adjustments - even it the camera got it right, it's sometimes nice to push the WB up a bit to warm up a shot.
Andy Burton Oz PRO 9 years ago
Am I the only one using Aperture for processing?
Cletus Lee 9 years ago
Am I the only one using Aperture for processing?
Probably not, but a majority of computer users are Windows PC users and Aperture is a Mac Only product. I use Lightroom which is a similar product but works functionally the same in both Windows and OSX.
Both Aperture and Lightroom can handle RAW images.

Ther is at least one Aperture users group on Flickr. They may be of help
Andy Burton Oz PRO 9 years ago
Thanks Cletus. This topic has been running for a long time and there appears to be no mention of Aperture. I think that it's brilliant software.

And thanks for the link. I'll have a look.
debbs06 9 years ago
I have a new Olympus camera E-520 dig and I took a multitude of pictures of my daughters wedding but all the photos are shot in raw. I need to make them in jpg (Olympus master 2 and Studio 2 came with it but cant change them in there and dont want to spend 600 for photoshop) I cannot get these pictures to print anywhere in raw. How do I change them to jpg. My camera after sorting through it all does not support jpg for taking pictures. Not really sure I like this raw and might have to take camera back as I cant print anything and I usually go to wallmart and just print there. Can someone help me here please . Thank you in advance.
Cletus Lee Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Cletus Lee (member) 9 years ago
I'm almost certain that your Olympus will output JPEGs as well as RAW (Possibly even both at the same time). Check your users manual. Many DSLRs will even convert RAW files to JPEG in the camera.

For $200 you can get Lightroom that will process your photos and produce a JPEG as an export file. If you have a Windows computer, you can get Faststone Image Viewer.

It is free and will read RAW image files in most proprietary RAW formats and output a JPEG file

Addendum Your camera will shoot RAW, RAW+JPEG and 4 levels of JPEG
Leandri _p 7 years ago
Can anyone please avise how to convert raw to jpeg? I did a shoot today in raw and want to eventually save it in jpeg to put on a cd. I have got photoshop elements. Do i need any other software?
IABoomerFlickr 7 years ago
I think Elements should handle RAW files through Adobe Camera Raw. Worst case scenario would require you to install an updated version of ACR.

Windows downloads:

Mac downloads:
Cletus Lee 7 years ago
Second Worst case; If your camera is newer than the version of ACR that comes with PSE, your old version of PSE/ACR will not read the new proprietary RAW format. You'll need a (free) copy of DNG Converter to first convert the RAW file to DNG before opening it in PSE/ACR.
Scott Strehlow 7 years ago
You don't say what camera you have, but it should have included software that will do the processing on your computer. If you bought it used or something like that and didn't get the software, you should be able to download it (perhaps for free) from the manufacture's site.
Leandri _p 7 years ago
I use Nikon D70s if that helps.

this is what comes up when i try to open it on photoshop elements 7.
Cletus Lee 7 years ago
PSE7 is opening the image in ACR as it should. Before sending the image on to PSE, you need to save the extracted demosaic'ed data as a fixed file format. This is evident in this other screen shot:
I would suggest 16 bit TIFF or 8 Bit JPEG. PSE will take the output from ACR and you can do additional processing if necessary.
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