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RAW vs JPEG: which is the best photo format?

Most digital cameras offer two recording formats: Raw and Jpeg. The vast majority of us start taking photos in JPEG format, simply because it seems simpler and when you’re starting out in photography, the Raw format doesn’t mean much other than a dedicated format. in post-processing.
The Jpeg format is quicker to use so why complicate things and choose the Raw format?
In this article, we will see what are the differences between Raw and Jpeg formats. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each. When to use this or that format. Why choose the Raw format and focus on post-processing.

JPEG format

Your device takes the image in Raw and performs “pre-editing” to convert the image to Jpeg format. In other words, it makes a set of adjustments to parameters such as brightness, saturation, contrasts, sharpness, etc. The Jpeg or Jpg format is therefore a compressed and processed image. This is the format that allows you to view your photos directly on the screen of your device. The Jpg format is commonly used for publishing images on the internet, particularly on social networks. It is the most used universal photo format. It is therefore the ideal format for broadcasting images. It can be read by everyone. It is rather light since it is compressed and therefore faster to use. However, compressing the file results in data loss.

RAW format

The term “RAW” in English means raw. The extension is specific to each brand:

Barrel: CR2 or CRW
Nikon: NEF
Panasonic Lumix: RW2
Sony: ARW
Pentax: PTX or PEF

Unlike JPG, the Raw file is not an image file. It encompasses all of the raw brightness information received by the device sensor. Raw files are files that are uncompressed and unprocessed. Therefore, they contain much more data. To view a Raw file, it is necessary to convert it to JPG using editing software (Lightroom, Photoshop, Capture One, Luminar, Aperture, etc.). Each post-processing software interprets a Raw file differently. Therefore, your image will always look slightly different depending on the software used.

The advantages of JPEG

  • Most used standard file in the world
  • Ease of use and instant sharing
  • Lighter file / larger storage capacity on memory card
  • Ability to reproduce good image quality in a compressed file
  • Same output file for all devices: .jpg

The advantages of the RAW format

  • Saves maximum information: includes more colors and dynamic range (different degrees of brightness)
  • More margin on post-processing adjustments such as: exposure, white balance, color saturation, contrasts, colorimetric corrections, etc.
  • Noise reduction adjusts more effectively
  • Better image quality: information is encoded in 12 or 14 bits, or more than 68 billion colors
  • No limited image style: you can retouch a Raw file endlessly, starting from the original file each time
  • Possibility of conversion in several formats: jpg, png, tiff…
  • Take full advantage of your device’s capabilities
  • The Raw format will benefit from technological advances in editing software and the images will be more and more successful.
  • Proof of authorship: being in possession of the Raw file of an image means being its author

The disadvantages of the JPEG format

  • Destructive and irreversible compression / data loss
  • Limited margin on post-processing adjustments due to compression
  • The information is encoded in 8 bits, or more than 16 million different colors
  • Difficulty correcting an overexposed or underexposed image: the exposure when shooting must be correct
  • White balance applied by the camera / limited retouching in post-processing

The disadvantages of RAW format

  • Data-heavy file (3 to 4 times larger than the Jpg format), because it is uncompressed / less storage capacity on the memory card
  • Impossible to share and distribute on the internet, it must be converted to Jpg format.

When to use them?

The JPEG format:

  • Everyday photos
  • Useful for remembering
  • Photos you want to share immediately
  • If you don’t want to spend time on post-processing

RAW format:

  • Photos that need optimization
  • High potential photos
  • For printing


More and more cameras offer both formats: Raw + Jpeg. For each photo taken, you have the Raw format and the Jpeg format. For some photographers, this is the ideal solution, because you have at the same time a Jpeg format for quickly publishing and a Raw format for possible retouching in post-processing. You also have proof of authorship of said photo.

Personally, I don’t really see any point in having both formats for the same image. I always do post-processing before sharing a photo. And then it really takes up too much space on the memory card. Up to you !

The Jpeg format can be interesting when you are starting out thanks to its ease of use and its speed of distribution. Choose the Jpeg format to take, for example, a family photo that you want to share immediately on social networks and which does not require any special editing. Also favor this format when you have a large number of photos to publish and you need a fast workflow. The Jpeg format is also a good solution if you are a fan of burst mode, and you do not want to have the buffer of your device blocked. More and more devices are offering very good quality JPEGs so it is quite tempting to be satisfied with them… at first!

For those who want to improve their photos, obtain more qualitative results and develop their creativity, Raw is the preferred format for photography. The possibilities in post-processing are considerable. A new world opens up to you!