Photographers rave about shooting in RAW. Yes, there are a lot of benefits to shooting in RAW. The primary benefit being the ability to capture all of the data from your sensor. Technically, JPEG records 256 levels of brightness while RAW records between 4,096 to 16,384 levels. JPEG captures in 8 bit, and RAW is either 12 bit or 14 bit.What does all this mean? More information. More data to later edit and retain quality. However, is it worth it for the average photographer? RAW files tend to be massive, anywhere from 200% to 500% the file size of a JPG file. We’ll explore 5 reasons why you shouldn’t shoot in RAW.
1) The Average Photographer will not Edit their Files
The first reason is somewhat glossed over by avid photographers. While professional photographers will edit their files and go through extensive post-processing, your average Mom or Dad that just bought a DSLR for higher quality pictures will not be editing their files. Their reasons for purchasing a DSLR was to get higher quality images. Will they get that through JPEG? Absolutely. An APS-C sensor is many times larger than a typical cellphone camera sensor.
Given the average photographer who is using their DSLR to shoot events or simply for vacation photos, RAW is a waste of storage and drains much more battery, given that they’ll likely do a direct upload onto social media from the SD card.
2) RAW Files Are Gigantic
Let’s assume you’re shooting with a 16 megapixel camera, with each Fine JPEG picture being approximately 7 MB. In RAW, we can assume an average file size (at the very minimum) to be double that size at 14 MB. This means that in a 16 GB SD card, you would have space for half the pictures in RAW vs. JPEG. That could be the difference between capturing an entire event or only half of it.
3) RAW is Not Supported by Most Websites
As mentioned above, RAW files are large and take up a lot of storage. Most websites do not support RAW for this very reason. This means that even if you shoot in RAW, you will eventually have to save your file as a JPEG, PNG, or some other supported format. This leads to my next point below.
4) RAW Ends Up Being Compressed on the Web
The song “In The End” by Linkin Park comes to mind here. In the end, it doesn’t even matter for RAW. Given that even JPEG files are compressed by most websites (including Facebook), your images will most likely go through compression one way or the other. Yes, you can tweak your RAW photos better in post-production (if you do edit your files), but will all that work be worth it when the end viewer will not notice the difference in light settings of RAW vs. JPEG when the JPEG image has been compressed?
5) Modern Software Offers Powerful Detail Extraction
With powerful software such as LightRoom and Photoshop, old technology such as lens filters are being labelled obsolete. Most image-processing software can now extract as much discernible detail (the details you can see once JPEG is compressed online) from JPEG files that you would end up with in a standard RAW file. No, this does not mean that JPEG files carry more data than RAW. RAW is still the king there. But what this does mean is that software can “bring back” a lot of what was lost in the JPEG conversion.
With tools such as Highlights, Shadows, Levels and more, image-processing software is allowing for precise detail extraction. And given points #1 and #4 above, it is even unlikely that the average Mom/Dad photographer will end up in LightRoom or Photoshop to begin with, making the case that it’s usually better to splurge on image-processing software than it is to shoot in RAW and expect better results.
This being said, RAW still has its uses among professional photographers and those working in the Design and Photography industries. RAW is still superior to JPEG, but there are numerous cases where the average person is much better off using JPEG. What do you think? Let us know below.