Many cameras can capture both RAW and JPEG image files, even simultaneously, and the debate about their relative merits has rumbled on for years, with diehard supporters on both sides.  However there is a very simple distinction between the two, which really centres on how the resulting images are going to be processed – or not, as the case may be.


Some of you may already be aware of this really quite simple distinction but, in case you’re not, here is the info –  for which I am indebted to recent writings in Amateur Photographer magazine (2 April 2016), by Prof Bob Newman.


The basic distinction between these two file types is that a RAW file contains ALL of the information captured by the camera’s sensor during the exposure, while a JPEG file only contains SOME of that information, having discarded the rest.


A JPEG file captures just enough information to provide an excellent rendering of the scene being photographed, but nothing more.  So if you’re someone who likes to produce photographs that look good and maybe print well too “straight out of the camera”, then JPEG files are for you.  And my advice would be to opt for top quality JPEGs, to get best quality images.


But RAW files contain BOTH the information necessary to create a top quality image of the scene being photographed, AND a lot of OTHER information too – everything that the camera has recorded in fact.  And the point here is that this OTHER information can be used, if desired, to produce a version of the image that differs substantially from what the camera has recorded, and maybe from reality too.  So RAW files are really of more use to those who regularly subject their images to post-capture processing, those who are NOT looking for “something nice straight out of the camera” – and the point should be made that RAW files, however well captured, can often look dreadful straight out of the camera, they often require some adjustment to make them even look presentable, let alone the work needed to transform their images into “something new”.


And what do I use?  Always RAW, I can’t remember ever shooting anything else.  Some of my RAW files receive minimal processing – cropping maybe, levels and curves, some sharpening – but others are converted to TIFF files for use with Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2 and Color Efex Pro 4.





About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.


  1. I wasn’t aware to these details


  2. paula graham says:

    I am a Raw shooter too! More work what. Good article, my friend.


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Ah, Raw, we see eye to eye, yet again. But with the X-T1 I >>> MAY go over to jpegs – a lot to (enjoyably!) think about with this camera! Tell me, while we’re chatting (if Comments are chatting!), what software do you use to process your Raw files? A 🙂


This blog has two pleasures for me - creating the images and hearing from you - so get your thoughts out to the world!

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