Shooting RAW or JPEG - What's Right for You?

A stone lion on a stairwell at the Musee du Louvre in Paris, France.

I hope you enjoy this photo made at the Musee du Louvre in Paris during July 2011. The original color image was made with my camera set to RAW. I make all my images this way. The reason being that I want to have as much control as possible over the final look and quality of my images. Sadly JPEG minimizes the quality of my original files and, as a consequence, what I can do with them.

Now, I'm not saying that you must make all images in the same way that I do. Some areas of professional photography (e.g., sports, newspaper) are well suited to the speed and simplicity offered by setting your camera to JPEG. But, like anything else, photography is a game of compromise. 

If photography for you is making pictures in camera and you have no or little desire to explore better quality and potentially more interesting rendering of your images by taking control of the processing of your original camera exposures on the desktop, then JPEG is for you. Just make sure you pay attention to getting it right in the camera. In particular make sure you achieve the desirable White Balance in camera, as adjusting white balance on the desktop is often far less satisfactory with JPEG's than it is with the original RAW files

If, however, the final image is what its all about and you're prepared to accept the compromises associated with taking more responsibility for the processing and final look of your images, then you really should be making photos with your camera set to RAW. The compromises I refer to involve a significant learning curve, considerable more time invested in improving your images through applications such as Adobe Lightroom and the willingness to think and play as part of the process of producing more interesting images. 

This is actually a very big topic, which I'II re-visit down the track. But it is one of the most fundamental decisions that determines your approach to photography and, therefore, deserves careful consideration. I offer one-on-one and small group workshops in a range of image processing applications such as Adobe Lightroom, which I love. You can check out the details HERE.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru