Home » How to Choose a Photo Format, JPG Vs RAW In-Depth Comparison Analysis

How to Choose a Photo Format, JPG Vs RAW In-Depth Comparison Analysis


If you’re new to photography and haven’t heard of RAW, or if you’re starting and don’t know how to use it. That’s okay, we’ve been there, and we always have lots of questions about RAW like:

  • What is RAW?
  • What is JPG?
  • How to open RAW?
  • How big is the RAW format file?
  • What are the benefits of RAW?
  • What is the difference between RAW and JPEG?

In this article, we will start from the basics of JPG and RAW, and talk about the differences between JPG and RAW and common problems in detail, to help you choose the right file format in different use scenarios.

What is RAW?

RAW is a generic term for a photo format, just like the common JPEG, PNG, TIFF, etc., all of which are archive formats that specialize in photos. Why is it called RAW? As its literal meaning is “unprocessed, raw”, it stands for unprocessed image data, which means that RAW retains all the original information gathered from the sensor, including exposure, white balance, tone, color, style, and so on.

What is JPG?

JPG, also known as Joint Photographic Expert Group, or JPEG, is a lossy raster file format that allows you to compress an image to make it smaller. JPG files are currently the most popular and widely used image format in the world. When you take a photo with your camera, you can output it in JPG format, and graphic designers, illustrators, and other creatives can also use JPG to create their work.

Why shoot in RAW?

1. The advantages of RAW

① More details and better image quality performance

RAW is not only a complete record of the original information captured, and no additional sharpening and noise reduction process, coupled with the option of uncompressed recording, so all the details within the finished product can be completed to be retained, the picture quality of the photo is naturally better and more excellent.

② Higher Dynamic Range

I don’t know if you have ever heard of the term “dynamic range”? Simply put, dynamic range is the range of light and dark that a camera can record. The greater the dynamic range, the more the camera can record high contrast conditions (i.e., details in the dark areas and no overexposure in the bright areas); similarly, the lower the dynamic range, the more the camera may lose details in both the bright and dark areas in the face of high contrast.

RAW format can generally be recorded to at least 12-14 bit color information, and JPEG 8-bit compared to the obvious difference of at least 4 grades higher, so more bright and dark details to record, for the color and brightness and dark contrast retention have great advantages.

③ RAW format editing is non-destructive

Because the post-production process of RAW format is stored by the metadata, not directly corrected in the RAW format, and not like JPEG every time the storage will be compressed again, the more often the worse the quality of the picture stored.

2. Disadvantages of RAW

① Document size

I believe this is not difficult to understand, because RAW saves all the information at the moment of shooting, so the capacity of a RAW may be as high as 20-60MB, compared to JPEG may be only 5-10MB, the document capacity can be said to be several times larger. Fortunately, thanks to the development of semiconductor technology, the price of memory cards and external hard disk is no longer as high as before so unattainable, so photographers are usually prepared for a number of high-capacity memory cards and external hard disk to cope with these fat documents.

② Not Enabled by Common Software, Not Supported by Common Platforms

When you happily shoot RAW photos back and then realized, why the photos can not be displayed on the computer? This is because RAW files are a kind of quantitative information (a set of databases), the general picture software can not be recognized directly, usually need to download additional RAW-recognizing derivative modules to have a way to open. Not to mention sharing to social platforms, the common platforms do not support RAW format images.

③ Large document size, affecting continuous shooting speed

Due to the RAW file is too large, the shooting process of data transfer speed, storage and writing speed are relatively slow and long, so when the camera’s internal buffer (buffer) can not be loaded with too much data at a time, the camera’s shooting will appear to lag phenomenon, so if you are in high-speed sports continuous shooting may be affected.

How to Open the File Raw Format?

Since it is already clear what RAW is, also know its advantages and disadvantages, then the next thing you must be very curious about how to open RAW format files? As the RAW format is actually a photo format, each manufacturer for their own RAW format has its own file format, so not all RAW format for .raw, so each camera manufacturer has its own specialized software to open their own RAW files.

Camera manufacturers or standardRaw filename extensions
Arri Alexa.ari
Blackmagic Design.braw
Imacon/Hasselblad raw.fff
JPEG XS Bayer profile.jxs
Minolta, Agfa.mdc
Minolta, Konica Minolta.mrw
RED Digital Cinema.R3D

When to use RAW?

Instead of discussing what to shoot in RAW, let’s first discuss what not to shoot in RAW:

Can’t keep up with continuous shooting speed: As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, unless you have a high-end camera, shooting in RAW format may result in slower continuous shooting speeds. When the subject requires high-speed continuous shooting, you can only sacrifice image quality and use JPEG as the main format.

No post-production: If you are taking pictures just to record your life, and do not need to post-produce or adjust colors, then there is no need to shoot in RAW format to add to the hassle.


1. Are RAW files larger than JPG files?

Typically RAW files are 2 to 6 times larger than JPG files because they contain more image data. Because they contain more image data, JPG images essentially compress all the data into smaller files that are easier to share.

2. Will converting RAW to JPG affect the quality?

Converting from RAW to JPG will affect quality, JPG is a lossy format and RAW files contain a lot of detail. Converting to JPG means sacrificing some of the image detail to compress it into a smaller file and use less space to store the image data.

3. Should I always shoot in RAW?

Many professional photographers shoot in RAW because this format captures the highest level of detail. Post-editing is also easier with RAW files. However, shooting in JPG formats also has its benefits, as their smaller file sizes allow you to capture more images at once and transfer files faster.

Which format you use for shooting should be judged according to the scenario, JPG is more user-friendly for everyday sharing, while RAW format is more suitable if you need to save or edit the images later.

4. Why do RAW files appear as JPG in the camera?

Different cameras have different rendering modes, some cameras may display JPEGS by default when shooting in RAW, but the original RAW file still exists. This can be adjusted by selecting the “Use RAW” option in the camera settings in Edit mode.

5. What does RAW + JPG mean?

RAW + JPG mode allows you to shoot and save in two file formats at the same time. This saves two copies – the original RAW file and a JPG, which allows you to preview and use the JPG image right away, and for better results in post-processing, but uses more memory.


JPG as a compressed format, it occupies a small volume, easy to share, the disadvantage is that it is not conducive to post-adjustment; RAW belongs to the professional format, which can provide the maximum space for post-adjustment, but it occupies a larger volume, and at the same time is not easy to share, and in the shooting of the camera may also affect the performance of continuous shooting.

JPEGSmall capacity;
Easy to share;
Fast storage, continuous shooting;
lack of picture quality;
Not conducive to post-production;
Style is influenced by the camera;
RAWBest picture quality;
Easy post-production;
Large capacity;
Not easy to share;
Slow storage, continuous shooting;

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