Hello my lovely readers, how are you today? Hope you are doing fine. Hhmm, Raw vs JPEG photography? Which one to choose for best quality for macro?
Maybe you have heard about both file formats, but the most talked and recognizable is JPEG for images. In this article I will cover the meaning of both formats and what are the pros and cons if you set one of them for image quality on your device.
What is a Raw file format?
First of all, a Raw file format is not an image file, it only contains binary data transferred to the memory card. When you shoot in Raw file, the camera will take his “hands” off of the file. Meaning that it will come out unprocessed and uncompressed. This will give you the freedom to decide how the image will look in the final process when you edit and convert them in an editor like Photoshop or Lightroom.
A Raw file contains all the data recorded by the sensor. Every color, exposure, white balance and so on, everything is kept in the specific file. You can recognize a Raw file by the CR2 extension on Canon, NEF on Nikon, PEF on Pentax, RW2 on Lumix, ORF on Olympus and ARW for Sony cameras. Now lets get to the pros and cons in Raw vs JPEG photography.
Pros for shooting in Raw
– Broad color range: A Raw file format can register over 60 billion colors. Color shades are measured in bits, and a Raw file can contain 12, 14 or even 16 bits in newly released cameras. This means that it will capture trillions of colors and assures you in creating high quality and professional images.
– More levels of brightness: Raw file formats register from 4k to 16k levels of brightness. This will make the images look smoother in the final process. And also, it will be much easier for you to edit and adjust the brightness without losing quality.
– Better sharpening tweaks: When you shoot in Raw, the file will not have any sharpening details. This means that you can tweak and adjust sharpening levels as much as you want, and yeah, without losing image quality.
– Wider dynamic range: As I said earlier, these files record everything and leave it unprocessed. This will help you recover a photo if you accidentally over or underexpose it. They can capture a lot of lights and shades which you can easily adjust. Dynamic range in photography refers to the difference between lighter and darker tones in an image.
– Lossless files: Raw file formats have lossless compression. This means that they will not be affected by image compression artifacts when you convert them into a JPEG file, for instance.
– Proof of ownership: Always keep the Raw files separately when you convert them in other formats, don’t over wright or delete them. Doing this way, will give you full ownership over your images when you display them publicly. Have you ever heard “Show me a raw footage or file”? This is what they meant.
Cons for shooting in Raw
– Requires more space: With every detail recorded, a Raw file can dig up to four times or even more space than a JPEG file. This means that if you want to stack your photos, you will possibly need an extra memory card. And also the camera buffer will fill up much faster, causing the frame rate to drop faster. You will have to wait for the camera to load and write the files to the memory card to be able to shoot again.
– Need editing: Every Raw file will need to be edited and converted to a compatible file like JPEG. You cannot share or print it directly from your camera. This is time-consuming and discouraging if you are just starting in macro photography. But, when you will see the final process, you will never regret it.
What is a JPEG file format?
A JPEG file format is a file already compressed and processed by a device. When you shoot with JPEG as image quality, your camera will adjust contrast, white balance, color and so on. Meaning that most of the data recorded by the sensor is lost. And therefore, leaving you with limited possibilities to edit the file without losing image quality.
Pros for shooting in JPEG
– Small file size: Compared to Raw files, JPEGs are much smaller in size because of the compression. And this will give more space on your memory card. Meaning that you can shoot more awesome photos of your subjects.
– Already compressed and processed: So, you don’t have to do much editing on your images. Your camera did all the “hard” work for you by setting white balance, colors, exposure, sharpening, tone curve into the image file.
– Ready for sharing: A JPEG file format is good to go as is. Especially when you adjusted the camera settings correctly.
– Flexible formats: A JPEG is readable by any device and software. So it is easy for you to open them from anywhere. Raw files, on the other hand, need to be converted into a compatible format to be able to open and visualize them.
– No loading time: JPEG images are small in size, meaning that if you want to do continuous shooting, the camera buffer will not fill up as fast as when you shoot in Raw.
Cons for shooting in JPEG
– Limited color options: A JPEG file format has only 8 bits of color shades and 256 levels of brightness. This means that other millions of possible colors that your camera can record are discarded when is compressed.
– Lossy compression: Meaning that has fewer details saved and sealed into the format. So, every time you edit that specific images its quality will be reduced, or in the worst case, it will ruin the image and you will not be able to use it at all. You will end up with a grainy or noisy image.
– Reduced recovery: A JPEG file has less dynamic range, this means that if you accidentally over exposed or underexposed an image, will be difficult for you to recover the image without artifacts or grain.
The difference between Raw vs JPEG photography
Below I will show the difference between editing a Raw file and a JPEG file. As subject, I used a green teddy bear. The image is underexposed, meaning that is a little darker.
So I tried to edit the JPEG file and it came out like this. I will show you the zoomed part so you can see what I have dealt with.
You can see the noise in the upper left corner. I adjusted exposure, contrast a little and tried to reduce noise, but still, this is not a quality image. If you zoom out, the noise disappears. But if you want to use it on a large print or canvas where is required to enlarge the image, the noise will appear.
Quick tip: When you edit your images, always zoom in and out on your images and look for noise and grain, and try to correct it.
Now lets see the Raw file format edited.
Much better. As you can see, it is more smoother and pleasant to look. The noise has disappeared completely even when you zoom on the image. Now this is a high quality image, and is usable. The power of Raw.
Now that we come to the end of the article, I want to say that both file formats are great. Both have the role to display your awesome creativity. But the most preferred by every photographer is Raw. Because it gives the freedom to do what you want with the files in the final process without heaving to fear that it will lose quality.
You can use JPEGs when you shoot moving bugs or you want to stack images, because here you will need to shoot plenty of images of one subject. And this will eat your memory card much faster if you choose Raw file format.
Any question, opinions or concerns? Please do let me know in the comment section below and I will be more than happy to help you out. Be safe and take care.
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