4 Questions to Ask Yourself When Wondering if You Should Shoot JPEG or Raw

Is there ever a reason to shoot JPEG over raw when photographing people and clients? Let’s have a quick discussion about when it may be beneficial to photograph in JPEG or raw and why you might choose a lower quality file at capture versus the full digital negative.

Adorama’s new series "Mastering Your Craft" has been a deluge of information over the past few weeks, and Pye Jirsa of SLR Lounge has partnered with the camera store to bring you the best information possible. Jirsa leads the video with a breakdown of an image he captured in San Francisco and how the JPEG and raw files vary in their dynamic range and color gamut with edits that show the strengths and weaknesses of the files in post-processing. The first half of the video gives an excellent breakdown of understanding how much flexibility each of the files has and how they differ when extracting similar edits from the images. 

In the latter half of the video, Jirsa gives us his four reasons through a set of circumstances that may make you want to shoot JPEG or JPEG and raw over just raw image files. Many photographers, like myself, don’t ever shoot JPEG only or JPEG and raw in camera, choosing to shoot raw only. I personally edit all my imagery from my professional cameras and don’t fall into the reasons that Jirsa mentions. 

Do you capture JPEG files with your camera and let the settings you chose at capture speak for themselves, or do you always shoot raw and process your images in post? 

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12 Comments

Nhat Vu's picture

I always shoot Raw,period.

David Pavlich's picture

Yep! I don't have to have pictures right away, so there's no reason not to shoot RAW.

I don't know how other brands operate, but on Sony with 2 card slots you can setup one slot to store jpeg and second slot to store raw. You get best of both - if jpeg image is good enough you keep it, if not you have a "negative" to work with. You can also setup jpeg to be small files to be able to quickly cull multi-shots and work with full resolution RAW of the images you want to keep.

I have a two-slot body (D7000) and, like Sam Dasso here, I set one to record raw and the other to record jpeg. In practice, when working with images I care about, I use the raw files almost exclusively.

I value the jpeg alts for two reasons: First, as a safety net, and second, because when I'm on the road I can easily upload jpegs into a tablet to share online. (Hobbyist here, so I don't travel with a computer and don't get to process raw files until I get home.)

Dana Goldstein's picture

I’m never going to trust the back of the camera (the screen itself or my eyes) to decide on an image, or between two similar images. I want the time to see both on screen, and the chance to tweak lighting, white balance etc., not to mention skin work. Using RAW is so easy today and there are so many terrific programs (I use Cap1), that it’s hard to make an argument for jpeg for anything beyond casual hobbyist (plenty of hobbyists have very high standards too) or family snapshots that you want to share on your phone so your aunt can put them on FB. Doesn’t seem like a real discussion for what used to be a professional forum.

First of all there is nothing wrong with "family snapshots", second there is nothing professional about this forum - never was. The fact that you charge for your images taken with medium format cameras doesn't make your snapshots any better than hobbyist snapshots.

Dana Goldstein's picture

Lol Sam you took the time to look up my profile (though clearly not my work) just so you could bash me in a comment section? 🤣

No intention to bash you. I looked up your profile to see if you have camera with two slots. But then out of curiosity I went to your website and in my opinion your portraits look like snapshots unless you consider taking picture of woman with her hair covering her face an art form of some kind. And honestly your business setting pictures look like stock photos to be used on generic website. I don't see any reason why you are looking down on hobbyists, sports photographers and many photo journalists who shoot jpeg or jpeg+raw. Fact that you shoot RAW and then use C1 profiles to make your pictures look almost as good as out of camera on great midframe Fujifilms doesn't put you on a pedestal to trash jpeg shooters.

Sam, I did not have the impression she looks down on hobbyists. And while it is up to you what you think about her work it is not fair to diss her in public for it. She did not put her work against you or anybody else either.

Sam Hood's picture

Its ironic that you decide you can slate someones work but not post any of your own Sam?

Ian Goss's picture

Now retired, I worked as a photographer (largely B2B) for three decades. After decent digital became available, I made it a rule to shoot only RAW; this worked out well for me when photographing an overseas-owned educational institution’s office and staff for a colour prospectus here in Adelaide, South Australia.

The business owner asked me for JPEGs at the end of the shoot; I replied that I shot only RAW (Pentax K20D at the time), and reviewed and processed to the highest quality in Capture One before supplying them to clients as high-quality TIFFs. This client proved to be one of the most delinquent ever encountered!

I charged around $1200au for several photo shoots, logo re-design, and the glossy prospectus; they paid 80–90% of the bill six months later. Happy enough with that!

90% of the time I'll shoot RAW. The only time I don't is when I'm shooting something happening really fast...airshows etc. Even then I try to shoot RAW just for the extra latitude it gives me but there are times you need pure speed and my D3x is faster shooting JPG than it is RAW. For everything else though.....it's RAW hands down.