You may remember in a previous post we had a chat about manual versus auto settings on the camera and how each different component can make up the exposure triangle. What we didn’t chat about was RAW or JPEG and the file options we choose.

RAW or JPEG- Who, what and why?

First up JPEG and RAW. RAW isnt just a food phase! Again, when I first had the camera I was a petulant child and didn’t want to use RAW. When I did though and got to grips with editing it changed my photography life! Not even joking there. Let’s break it down simply into who, what and why.

In the old days (not long ago) your photos would have to be developed, so you would take a photo with your camera and then whizz it off to the lab. I remember developing these myself and also sending the film off and eagerly awaiting the return! Often, I was disappointed with them because clearly you had no idea what they looked like. That processing still needs to happen and depending on your settings it can happen in the camera or post camera.


RAW or JPEG- Choppy choppy

Each photograph you take with a DSLR is a digital file. A while ago it was decided that these files be a standard format and these would be called JPEGS. More about the name and how it came about can be found here. You’ll see when you save images on your computer they will often be saved as JPEG. When your camera creates a JPEG of your photo it does some developing within the camera. It adds a bit of vibrancy, some sharpness and discards quite a large chunk of data. Making your file smaller and in theory a useable picture (providing your lighting and settings were correct) JPEGs are your standard image and for many people there are more than sufficient. For me though they limit your style, so if you want to portrait work or develop a ‘look’ you really need to play around with the developing yourself.

Speed is also a factor, if you want to get tehm put fast then you may choose JPEGS to save time and get them out ASAP.  Although I still edit RAWs on my phone and get them out quick 😉


This leads me onto RAW files. So rather than the camera being clever and squishing and chopping your image, you are left with all the data. This means these files are ginormous normally. Generally, about 4 times the size and they are not useable as they are. They will need to be converted to recognised file format. RAW is not a generic format and is personal to the camera hence why post camera processing is required. It does mean though you can do a lot more with them. Which has saved my bum on a number of occasions.

RAW or JPEG- Why would I want RAW?

Most cameras will have settings where you choose to shoot in RAW, JPEG or both and it’s honestly up to you what you choose. Consider the following. Where are they going to be used? In print, on a canvas, social media or on a blog? Social media will compress your image anyways so the ‘size/resolution/quality’ of images isn’t as important, although should still be good quality to start with.

If they were to be in print though you want maximum resolution. Resolution will determine the quality of the image hence why ‘high resolution images’ are more expensive and often from a RAW image. Also, what were the lighting conditions like and did you get your setting’s spot on? Bear in mind if you are a photographer you’ll only to showcase your best work so think about that too. Don’t get me wrong there are some major bloopers on my site but I didn’t know all of this.

Plumpton Racecourse by Frog and Field

RAW or JPEG- RAW all the way for me!

Personally, I always shoot in RAW. Mainly because I have a particular look I like and also because I actually really enjoy editing post shoots. I love seeing what you can do with a picture and also the magic you can create. This is especially true of my black backgrounds. The transformation can be amazing. It’s taken a while to learn techniques and I am by no means an expert but I keep watching, looking and reading. I follow threads and I watch numerous editing videos. Personally I like to keep learning and developing my skills, groups on Facebook can be great for this.

I like to use a program called Lightroom, a clever play on the words Darkroom, for all my basic editing. All my RAW files will go through Lightroom first. Light, colour, shadows and highlights all being tweaked and put just how I like them there. Once that’s done for most of my images I’ll upload them just like that, after applying a watermark, but for some I do little bit more. That’s where Photoshop comes in. Fences and head collars can be removed and the final magic applied. This takes time though and isn’t offered as standard to all my images. There is loads of editing software out there though. All of which varies in price and will depend very much on what your requirements are. I am a great believer though that you get what you pay for.

Pre Editing
Post Editing