"Raw vs Jpeg Side by Side Comparison"
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Raw vs jpeg… Raw vs jpeg… Which one is better for my photos?! Which one should I shoot in? I mean, what does jpeg even stand for, really? Today, we are going to be dissecting these very questions so you can get the most out of your photoshoots and get the best family photography pictures possible.
In this video, I walk through the differences between raw and jpeg photos, take you along on a mini photoshoot right here in my Boulder backyard, and then go through a live editing session where you can see behind-the-scenes tips and tricks. I’ll outline everything here, but to walk through my thought process and for more detailed commentary and advice, check out my video!! :)
Without further ado, let’s answer these questions!
To begin with a few technical things, I shoot my photos with a Nikon D750. To select your picture format go to the camera menu, then “image quality” and finally select either “raw” or “jpeg”. For this video, I selected “raw and jpeg” so we can see a side-by-side comparison.
Now, what does jpeg even stand for again? Jpeg stands for “Joint Photographic Expert Groups”, which is just a fancy title for the group that developed the file extension format in 1992. Jpeg is an incredibly convenient and popular photo formatting used a billion times a day. When shooting, your camera’s computer sensor reports the info of the photo you’re taking. For example, the white balance, shadows, highlights, etc. A jpeg photo compresses all of these things into a package and takes out the alternate data that it deems unimportant. Then voila… there are your photos!
Jpeg photos are something called “Straight Out of Camera” (or SOOC), which means the photos are immediately edited and ready to go. Although this is incredibly convenient, it does not necessarily produce the most quality photo. So much photo data is lost in compression, and the max bit depth of a jpeg photo is only 8.
To put this into perspective, a jpeg has 16 million colors (which sounds like a lot, I know) but a raw photo has a trillion colors. Can you even imagine how big a trillion is?! So while jpeg is fast and convenient, raw allows you more editing capabilities and is better suited for professional family photographers, no matter your skill set.
When I was a beginning photographer, I had a blog called “Giving It a Shot”. If you go back and look through some of the photos, you’ll see that they’re not necessarily bad, but the editing is sooooo green. Since they were shot as jpegs, I can’t go back and re-edit them. If I would have shot raw, I could have always had gone back and altered the editing style to make them less offensively green...
Now that we’re in the Instagram age, a lot of moms like their pictures to have an insta-filter aesthetic. In ten years, this style will probably be dated. As long as your photos are raw, you can always go back and reedit them.
On the flip side, a disadvantage to using a raw photo format is that the file sizes are much larger. This means you need to invest in larger memory cards and storage space. In 2020, we do have the advantage of nearly unlimited space in the cloud -- so keep this in mind when looking for ways to organize and keep your raw files. Raw photos are also not as easy to store on other systems that don't have the appropriate software. As family photographers, we mostly edit at home on a desktop anyway, but this can be a hassle for traveling or sharing files with friends.
As far as editing goes, raw photos have some CRAZY advantages. You can fix exposure mistakes, work on noise reduction, and make other quick photo alterations. This can help you create a signature editing look, which is incredibly important as you build your photography business. One thing people tell me all the time is that they can identify my pictures on Instagram without needing to see my username because they know my distinct editing style. If you’re interested in exploring my editing look, my Sweet Bright Being Action Set can be purchased on my website! With this, you can play around with my signature filters and aesthetics at the click of a button.
Personally, I am not a great editor. One of the things that allows me to be successful is that I put focus and energy into the things that I love (in this case taking photos, working with clients, etc.), and have an amazing editor who does the editing work for me. This allows me to stay grounded in my work and continue being passionate about what I do!
Keep in mind that raw files will look worse than jpeg files in the camera because jpeg images are already edited (that SOOC we talked about earlier). However, just because they don’t look as good at first doesn’t mean that they aren’t. As we discussed earlier, those expanded editing capabilities and visible colors surpass the initial charm of a jpeg photo.
My photography style is airy, joyful, and overexposed. With a raw photograph, you can fix lighting issues, bring back the sky if it’s overexposed, and play with the exposure in other aspects of the photograph.
I had the opportunity to work with an amazing editor, Live Joy Photography, who is a fantastic newborn photographer. Being a master editor, she worked with me to create my Sweet Bright Being Action Set. In this video, I will be doing a giveaway of one Sweet Bright Being Action set!!! To enter, simply watch my video and do a nice thing for another person and tell me what it is! :)
So if I leave you with anything, remember that while jpeg is convenient and okay for casual photoshoots, raw photos give you more to work with and allow you to develop an individual style. With raw, you have an unmatched flexibility to create your signature look.
Remember to check out my video to walk through the editing process with more details and a visual aid. <3 As always, sending you love and brightness!
Stacey Potter is a photographer based in Boulder, Colorado specializing in family photography. She has won multiple awards for her family and commercial photography and her photos have been featured in several magazines. Want to schedule an appointment or ask a question? Please contact her at 303.818.7757 or email firstname.lastname@example.org