Raw vs JPEG: What Difference Does it Make?

Raw vs JPEG

RAW or JPEG – a burning question in the hearts of novice photographers. One gives you powerful editing capabilities, and the other offers instant shareability. So which one should you shoot at as a photographer? If you also face the same problem and want to dig deep, go through this whole article on RAW vs. JPEG. 


In the truest sense, Raw is the data coming straight from your camera sensor, resulting in uncompressed and unprocessed images. These lossless files pack more data giving you a better dynamic range, more shades, a more comprehensive color range, better white reproduction, and more. On the same note, as unprocessed shots, your pictures will be dull, with little to no sharpness and the least amount of contrast and saturation. Not only that but not every software can read RAW data. So, you can’t even share this dull image; what do you do with it then? 

You edit them. Nothing can beat raw format files when it comes to editing and other post-processing work. Most photographers will shoot RAW, edit them, and export them to another format. So, why is that?

Because the changes you will make to the RAW picture will be non-destructive, meaning you’re only changing the meta-data, the original data stays intact. That’s why most photographers and professionals will choose RAW over any other format because it gives them room to breathe and express their creativity without nuking it.

  • Pros and Cons of using Raw image
A 12-bit RAW image can hold up to a billion and trillion colors.Raw images are much larger and take up a lot of space. 
High-quality image files to work with throughout processing.The post-processing of RAW files is time-consuming. 
Higher dynamic range, don’t have to worry about over or underexposed images.Software compatibility is a must for raw images. 
Greater editing flexibility over Raw format.Raw images need to be converted before sharing. 
RAW images are lossless.The transfer speed of raw images is low. 


On the flip side, JPEG or Joint Photographic Experts Group is a processed image file. This is because the camera you’re using has an image processor baked into it, and it takes the sensor’s image data and processes. So, in essence, the JPEG image started out as a RAW file but got processed in your camera. Hence, the JPEG format is often called a lossy format, but why? 

It’s because, during the processing phase, the camera decides which data to exclude to make the size smaller and apply some corrections. Once data is thrown out of the mix, there’s no way to get it back. So, why would you use such a lossy image? That’s because almost every device on this plant can read and view JPEG photos without any problem. It makes your photos universal and shareable. 

However, JPEG photos are bad for post-processing work. Since the images are compressed, the editable layers are flattened, leaving very little room for corrections. While the compression level can be adjusted, it can be as wild as the 10:1 ratio. Therefore, harsh adjustments can turn your photos into a mess. 

  • Pros and Cons of using JPEG image
JPEG images come fully processed in the camera.Restricted to lower dynamic range and recovery potential.
JPEG images are small in size and take up less space.Greater limitation on colors.
JPEG images are compatible with most devices and software.Risk of losing data from images. 
Different compression levels for storing JPEG imagesThe image quality is medium level. 
JPEG provides a faster and more efficient backupLess editing option.

Raw vs JPEG

So, RAW is an unprocessed lossless file, and JPEG is a processed universal file; which one should you shoot at? What are the differences? Let’s begin with the sensor data you get with each file format. 

When shooting in RAW, you’re getting every bit of detail from the camera sensors. Because of that, your shots will retain color information. With that, you can recover highlights, colors, shadows, and other elements without breaking your image. 

On the other hand, JPEG comes pre-processed, so you’re ready to share it without your friends, family, social media, and more. But, bringing a JPEG image to the crafting table or any editing app will give you a hard time. There’s not much information for the software to go on, so harsh adjustments will break the image. 

But, thanks to JPEG being small, you can shoot more, and regardless of a hard drive of cloud space, it won’t take up much space. The same can’t be said about RAW images. The image size is relatively large because it contains all that extra data, so you can’t shoot as much.

But, RAW files take the cake; here’s why: the editing tool you’re using to adjust those RAW images is being constantly upgraded. As a result, if you visit an old RAW image on today’s modern hardware, you can get more information and edit better. In short, RAW photos can be better edited as editing software upgrades. 

Final Thoughts

So which image format is for you? It depends. Think of it this way, with RAW image formats, you have all the tools to paint the perfect picture, and with JPEG, you buy a painting. If you’re serious about your photography endeavors, you can shoot RAW and unleash your creativity in the editing software. On the other hand, just shoot JPEG if you want to shoot casually, like family pictures. You can save a lot of pictures and share them easily without any editing. 

Still confused? Check your camera settings; you will find a RAW+JPEG option. Shoot in that mode for a couple of days; with materials in your hand, you will have an easy time deciding which way to go. So what did you think? Which format are you shooting on? Let us know in the comments!

Joe Pfeffer

Joe Pfeffer

What started off as just a dream for Joe Pfeffer, turned into his passion and livelihood. He started his career as a wildlife photographer and then transitioned into becoming a cinematographer. With a decade of raw on-the-field experience, Joe Pfeffer has all the technical knowledge about the ins and outs of cameras. Now, he uses his vast experience to educate others about photography.