The concept of me shooting RAW + JPEG came up recently when I posted about my digital photography workflow, and I know a few people questioned why. I’ve definitely been asked the question in the past when I’ve told people I shoot this way, and I honestly don’t know many people (if any) that do this, so I’m going to explain my reasons…
What Is Raw & JPEG?
If you aren’t sure what the difference between the two file types are, then feel free to Google the subject or click these reference links. Just to give you my nutshell version, here goes… RAW is an unprocessed piece of data that your camera creates that must be processed before an image is viewable. It is comparable to an undeveloped piece of film from a 35mm camera. A JPEG is a processed and compressed file that does not need to be processed any further to view the image. It is like a piece of 35mm film that has already been developed and is ready to be printed.
So why do I shoot both file types on my digital camera? Like many newcomers to digital photography, when I got my first DSLR I didn’t know what RAW was or why I should shoot it. I started out shooting only JPEG, but when I tried submitting photos to a magazine they told me they could only accept RAW files. I immediately switched my camera to the RAW mode, but I also went to Google and started doing a little research about RAW because I was clueless as to what it was, why I should shoot it, or how to handle the file it once it was on my computer.
One of the first things I read simply stated that you should always shoot RAW and JPEG because someday your computer or programs may not read RAW files anymore. However, computers always have and always will read JPEG files. That was all the reason I needed to begin shooting RAW + JPEG. It was a simple concept, but I took it very seriously because I completely understood the principle. Digital photography is still in the very early stages of its life, and no one knows where it will end up, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Before I got so proficient with Adobe Bridge for my digital photography workflow I actually used the JPEG files as previews or thumbnails because they loaded so much quicker than their RAW counterparts. I’ve since stopped doing that, but for a while it was convenient, and definitely helped me sort through my images.
When I upgraded from a Canon 20D to a Canon 5D Mark II, the RAW files were different, and the version of Adobe Photoshop I was using at the time no longer read or opened my RAW files—just like I had feared several years prior when I started shooting RAW + JPEG. I couldn’t open the RAW files until I got a newer version of Photoshop, but luckily I had the backup JPEGs so I was at least able to see my images to get a general idea of what the photos looked like.
Yes, shooting both file types is slower, but at a measly three frames per second, I’m not shooting sequences with the 5DMKII anyway. And yes, shooting both file types takes up more room on my hard drives, but digital space is cheap, and it’s an extremely small price to pay to have backup files of all my photographs. And of course, shooting RAW takes up more time in post-production, but that extra time is absolutely insignificant when you consider that you are working with high-quality, professional photographs.
The one time I can recall turning off the + JPEG option was when I was in Africa for two weeks and I didn’t have a computer to upload my files to. My memory cards were all full and I was desperate for extra space, so I saved some room by switching to a smaller RAW setting and eliminating the extra + JPEG feature.
That brings me to my last point… I always shoot in the largest RAW format possible (my camera has multiple sizes of RAW files), but I use the smallest JPEG option. This may sound hypocritical based off my “digital space is cheap philosophy,” but remember; I only use the JPEG file as a reference file and a last-resort backup.
The bottom line is this: In my opinion, there is just no reason to shoot RAW files without the extra backup JPEGs.
Feel free to leave comments on this post and let me know what you think and how you shoot…