RAW vs. JPEG images

When you see about comparing the data between raw and jpeg from your digital camera, there are a fair bit of differences between the two.

RAW vs. JPEG images



In the camera, you have a sensor that acts like a film for digital cameras. The moment you take a picture for the shutter to release, the sensor receives all the information contained in the light to be gathered and recorded as it’s captured and sent to your memory card.

This information can be recorded in one of two ways. First you can send the full data stream packet into the memory card as uncompressed data that you can work with later in a photo editor program. Your second choice is to save your photograph in a jpeg format. With a jpeg format, you will end up taking all the gathered information and compressing the size of the file to be stored.

Photograph of camera taking Raw picture

Photograph with camera set for JPEG

By taking pictures in a jpeg format, you are allowing the camera itself to use its internal software to render the outcome of your photo.

Once your camera has compressed your photo into a JPEG, you will have a standard file format that any editing software, computers, printers and other peripheral devices recognize for creating and sharing. The thing to note here is a JPEG is a finished photograph that is a sharp picture with high contrast ready to go as is.

The RAW image is mainly a data packet that is not usable in its present state. You need to process the picture through editing software to sharpen up the image and work with setting the contrast. When you’re working with the original information, you can create the photograph to your personal liking that usually ends up looking much better and can save for printing, etc.

Now both the raw and JPEG formats can be used in editing software; the difference comes down to some manipulation capabilities you can perform on each one. One of the top software programs used is Lightroom by Adobe. There are others that some find they like just as much or better, but I will compare to the software programs that I’m used to and it also makes it easier when watching the video where this other photographer uses Lightroom herself. Other software can usually do the same; they are just laid out differently for navigating.

So when you load up a JPEG image in Lightroom, you will be given some options for making adjustments on your photos. With photographs, in a JPEG’s format your amount of manipulation is significantly reduced where the camera has already done the processing stage to the best of it’s electronic programming capabilities. These couple of options on the right side of the screen will let you make some minor adjustments, or you can use presets from the left side of the work area. These preset work as template settings to do a full-scale manipulation of your image. An example: you press one button, and your color photo will render as a black and white. You can have some functions that just do a small amount to the extreme within reason to what you’re original photograph was.

Now RAW, on the other hand, has the ability for you to do so much more. Because your RAW file is original, you have all the light condition recorded from that instance. All that extra memory means you are capable of much greater manipulation to tweak your photos into real works of art. Your controls on the right are much more extensive giving you a more considerable amount of adjustments that you now have at your disposal. You also have presets on the left that you can use for your RAW images that were created from a broader set of controls to create better photos from your images as well.

Once you finish with processing the RAW photos, you can save them as a JPEG and do anything you desire just like any other JPEG.

Before we do the final RAW vs. JPEG comparison, let us look into one more final issue that will give us the full meal deal sort of speech. When you’re out taking pictures the reality of the situation is you may not have the time for making all you adjustments trying to get those perfect shots.

Example: You’re at a sporting event or something along those lines where you’re looking at doing photo bursts. Taking JPEG’s will allow your camera to try and keep up with how many shots your camera can take per second much easier than your camera taking RAW images. The file size for RAW is much larger in Comparison to the file size of a JPEG for each shot.

Here is a fundamental RAW vs. JPEG comparison:

photograph of camera taking jpeg picture

Camera set to take photograph in RAW

· Smaller image size so more pictures per memory card.
· Take photos faster with less loading on the cameras buffer stage
· Sharper, higher contrast images straight from the camera ready for post production and sharing.

· Less opportunity for fixing and adjusting photographs
· Usually unable to fix bad camera settings from this format

· Usually much better pictures with more flexibility on adjustments
· Easier to get more pictures from bad camera settings by adjusting with the editing software

· Need to process photos first before they are ready for post production or sharing.
· Larger size being unprocessed fewer pictures per card
· Larger files slow down the buffer faster taking fewer shots per second

After you look at all the different options, it comes down to preference to what it is you want to do or need to do with RAW vs. JPEG images. Most Digital SLR Cameras today give you both options of RAW and JPEG formats so you can choose as you go with the same camera or some photographers use a couple cameras. I prefer the Nikon Digital SLR Camera 7000 where I can use one memory slot for RAW and the second slot for JPEG. You team that up with Adobe Lightroom 5 and my Adobe Photoshop, I’m good to go.




” Hi once again, I’m Travis Smithers author of Say It With Photographs where you will find tutorials on photography, editing software, cameras, and accessories. The use of post production equipment and their operation to the creation of fantastic gifts for you, friends and family, enjoy. Comments and questions always welcomed here!



  1. I learned new info here. Thanks for differentiating the 2 kinds of images 🙂

  2. Wow, I have a DSLR camera, but actually had no idea this option was available to me!! Will have to check it out in the future and have a play with it!! =) Thanks for the info!!

  3. Outstanding explanation of these two photo options, I am better informed now and I think as an amateur I will stick with the JPEG format, for now anyways. As I learn more of photography and the world of information available through your website, I might switch to RAW later. 🙂

    • Thanks for the visit and the reply Anthony. As time goes on I will keep posting more information all about photography and keep updating the tips and tricks to capturing and creating fantastic photographs. This site will be dedicated for anybody interested in wanting to know more and do more with there photographs.

  4. Hi Travis, as promised here I am and I want to say that your Website is informative, professional, and a wealth of knowledge. One of my past businesses was in the personalized photo gifts medium. I loved what I did. I can see that this is truly one of your passions that you have presented to your readers that will bring you great success. I love the photos, especially the ones outside the box, that’s what makes life interesting. You can be proud of this website and I look forward to taking a look at your second one. Once it’s done drop me an invitation and I’ll be glad to check it out. I hope this is helpful. Sharon:)

    • Hi Sharon and great to hear from you again as a hobby I have done a lot with photography and with post production where I had worked with designing and creating many gifts for people while I was in the business. Because of all the gifts I use to create for my family and friends and all the work I did with post production I decided to share this knowledge online for anybody who is interested in wanting to learn more as well.

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