They Get Around | RAW vs JPEG: The Differences between RAW and JPEG
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Apr 03 2017

RAW vs JPEG: The Differences between RAW and JPEG

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RAW vs JPEG: The Differences between RAW and JPEG: What the differences between RAW and JPEG, or better yet, what are they? If you’re new to photography these questions are what you may end up asking yourself. Knowing what the differences between these two files and when to use them is key and the start of you becoming a better photographer. As you learn more about how to use your camera, you’ll also need to learn more about how an image is stored and captured in the first place. Read on as we’ll discuss what the differences are between RAW and JPEG, along with the benefits to each file type.

 

| RAW vs JPEG |

|The Differences Between RAW and JPEG |

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What Are RAW and JPEG?

 

 

RAW and JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) are file types. They’re both file types which your camera can shoot and store information in. The main point of difference between RAW and JPEG comes to the amount of information captured in a photo and in turn this reflects the size of the file. JPEG files are condensed, while a RAW image contains all the sensory information from the moment a photo was taken. Since RAW files contain more information, they are generally 4x times larger in size.

 

JPEG File Size

RAW/NEF File Size

 

When shooting in RAW, make sure to have plenty of space available on your memory card as it will fill up rather quickly. It’s best to opt for larger cards around 32 or 64 Gigabytes.

 

Also note that most devices will be able to open and view a JPEG file, whereas for a RAW file it is only supported on devices which have a plugin which allows it to open and view the file. Please beware of this before shooting. Your best bet is to shoot in JPEG and RAW simultaneously.
 
 

How Do RAW and JPEG files work?


 
A RAW file has more information to work with for editing compared to a JPEG image. The reason for RAW files containing more information is due to the file containing all the sensory information of the scene with there being a minimal amount of processed/compressed data. As a result the captured image is still quite raw, hence the name.

 

JPEG on the other hand is compressed. All the information in a JPEG file has been compressed in a process called ‘lossy’ which disregards excess information in order to make the file smaller and more manageable. Due to the gain of being a smaller and compressed file a JPEG image in turn must give up something in exchange for this benefit, with JPEG images loosing the raw size of photographic information which a RAW file possess.
 
As how it is with most of photography and in life, in order to gain something you must sacrifice something in its place. In the sense of RAW and JPEG files we’re either sacrificing a small file size or photographic information.

 

 

An unedited JPEG and RAW image

 

When viewing a RAW and a JPEG image side by side straight out of camera they will both look practically the same, if there is any difference it will look negligible. The real benefit of shooting in RAW comes from editing. Since a RAW file contains more photographic information with the file having not been compressed like it’s compatriot JPEG, it means there is more information to edit. In short, a RAW file in the editing process can be pushed to greater extremes than a JPEG.

 

 

Changing the colour temperature is relatively easy in post-processing with RAW files

 

When a JPEG image has been taken, all the settings on the camera and the photo are now set in stone. The exposure you used, the white balance, vibrancy, everything. While the exposure and other smaller details can be changed to a certain extent on Photoshop, however when editing it does damage the pixels. Because JPEG images are compressed it means working with them is more difficult since it is harder to edit. In a RAW image the exposure, white balance, lighting, and other details can all be changed in editing WITHOUT damaging the pixels of the photo.
 
This means that if you happen to under, or over-expose a photo which has been shot in RAW it can be changed to perfect exposure, whilst with a JPEG file it would damage the pixels.

 

An over exposed JPEG image

 
 

A RAW file with the exposure corrected

 

The reason for this is simply due to a RAW file being that, raw. A RAW image has retained all the information from the moment the photo was taken, this means something as simply as the white balance can now be changed in editing. It really is quite handy and useful.

 

A side note after a file has been edited in RAW, it’s perfectly safe to save it as a JPEG, as the information which you would have wanted to work with, or have worked with, will be saved and cemented in the picture. So no loss of quality will arise unless you save the image on a lower setting of JPEG. Additionally by converting an image from RAW to JPEG it reduces the size of the file, which makes it easier for when needing to compress large files.
 
 

How Are RAW and JPEG Images Produced?

 

The digital sensor in a camera operates from a system called the ‘Bayer Pattern’, which can be seen below.
 

 

Much like a TV and the operating of the human eye, digital coloured images contain 3 coloured layers – green, red, and blue. When these colours are viewed simultaneously we sense colour. These primary colours are used in the Bayer Pattern with a ratio of 50% green, 25% red, and 25% blue. Green is the dominant colour due to the sensitivity of rods in the human eye.

 

Other colours are developed via a combination of using the primary colours from a demosaicing algorithm. From this point a RAW and JPEG file are the same, they both go through the same process of capturing the photographic information, with both files possessing the exact same data at one point. However while a RAW image remains in this unedited state, a JPEG file does not, and this is where they differ.

 

The main difference between RAW and JPEG which causes them to differ from a technical point of view is the Bayer Interpolation which a JPEG image is subject to, whereas a RAW image isn’t. The Bayer Interpolation saves the colour combinations of pixels as a numeric value, turning the photo into a unique set of colour data. From this data the photo is compressed by altering the brightness and saturation, the blacks and the whiteness of an image, and lastly sharpness and contrast. From here the image is compressed further, and from this point a JPEG image is created.

 

 

 

| RAW vs JPEG |

|The Differences Between RAW and JPEG |

Visual Differences Between RAW and JPEG

 

Above are two images which were taken in both JPEG and RAW, with both images having not been edited at this point. As I said earlier, there isn’t any real difference between the two photos. If there is a slight difference, that difference is only negligible. The real benefit to using RAW over JPEG comes in editing as you can change the exposure and ‘save’ a photo which was originally too dark (underexposed) or too bright (overexposed).

 

 

 

 

While shooting in RAW is a great safety net too have for helping you to be able to still use under or overexposed photos, that’s not to say that it can save every photo. Some photos may simply be too bright or dark, as there is a limit to the degree that you can change the exposure. Additionally even if you can help ‘save’ a photo which was too far on either extreme, there may be pixel degradation as I’ll show below. As is the case in photography, in order to gain a benefit, you need to sacrifice something in exchange. In this case pixel quality.

 

If shot in JPEG, the image would be unusable

 
 

The image has been salvaged due to RAW

 
The original photo which was taken of the room was too dark. The photo was under exposed and unusable if shot in JPEG. Even if you were to try and save the image, there would be only so much you can do since the blacks within the photo override all the information. Since the photo was taken in RAW, through editing and all the additional information of the scene was saved, so changing the exposure to a point where you can make out the objects within the photo was easy.

 

 

Now while the photo was salvaged, there was a drawback with a slight amount of pixel degradation. The pixelation is similar to when using higher levels of ISO. While the photo now does have minor pixelation, it’s a small price to pay in order to have a workable image. Keep in mind pixel degradation is only an issue for severely under or overly exposed images. If you need to increase the exposure by 1 stop or 2 stops, the quality of the photo will generally be fine.

 

 

Conclusion

My biggest piece of advice to give if you’re wanting to improve as a photographer is to switch to RAW. The advantages of editing in this file type far outweigh the minor drawback of file size. Upon editing and shooting in RAW you’ll realize it not only provides your photography with more freedom to not only edit, to express yourself, but also act as a safety buffer in case your can’t quite master the lighting of a set area. The advantages of RAW really cannot be understated. Change and you’ll notice an improvement in your photography upon editing immediately.

 

RAW vs JPEG: The Differences between RAW and JPEG

RAW vs JPEG: The Differences between RAW and JPEG

What did you think of our article – ‘The Differences between RAW and JPEG’? Let us know in the comments section below whether you found the information on the differences between shooting in RAW and JPEG useful.

 

 

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