RAW vs JPEG file formats and the advantages of RAW format


posted on 9th of december, 2008



I was looking at the advantages of RAW vs JPEG file formats and the following may prove interesting or usefull to other submitters.

The first advantage is in a RAW file's ability to be used and re-used without damage.

The beauty of working on RAW files is that you don't actually change the file data when you work on it. Each RAW file has a text file embedded into it that contains the instructions for how you want to VIEW that image. When you make changes to the appearance of that RAW file, the instructions in the text file are all you've really changed. If you come back later and want to change it again, all the original data is still there. You can make changes to RAW files indefinitely without altering the original data one bit.
In contrast, if you are working on a Jpeg file and let's say you want to make it black & white. When you do this, you delete the color information permanently. The only way to keep the original data is to make new copies every time you want to make a change. If you ever change your original, that change is permanent.

The second advantage is in a RAW file's ability to allow very large changes.

Raw files contain so much data that you can make HUGE changes to the exposure brightness, color saturation, contrast, white balance and sharpness (among other things). In fact, the only things about your photo that you can't change after-the-fact are fixed things like the shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings that you used when you originally shot the image. So for example, if you shot the image too bright or if you used the wrong color balance setting - you can easily correct this in the RAW file without any degradation of the image whatsoever.
Being able to make so many changes after-the-fact, basically gives us photographers a big insurance policy, and gives the potential buyer the assurance that should the coloring, exposure settings or other settings applied to the uploaded photograph not be exactly to their liking, they have the RAW format to make changes to the image, as they would prefer them.
Although a perfectly good file type, JPEG has limitations that can be overcome by using the RAW file format, just as an example, the tonal variations of these formats is shown below.

256 tones of brightness for JPEG vs 4096 tones of brightness for RAW files.

That means a RAW file has 16X the amount of data that can be contained in a JPEG file therefore allowing for much more control over changes to brightness, color balance, sharpness, saturation, contrast and noise control etc… That said, it is therefore beneficial to both photographer (to take images in RAW format) and upload the additional file format on submissions and to the intended buyers who will have the ability to make changes to the purchased images should they deem this necessary.

Comments (3)

Posted by Toneimage on January 31, 2009
learned a lot from yours^^
Posted by Fultonsphoto on December 10, 2008
Hi Aughty, like yourself, I too shoot in both formats but have only recently started submitting both formats to DT, as I still believe that the added benefits to buyers will be to my advantage (ill do anything for some sales :0) Although I agree that the RAW format does require considerably more storage space, for me somehow the advantages are starting to outweigh the disadvantages. As for equipment and or software and the editing of RAW files go, today with most decent makes of editing software (photoshop etc) there is a built in tool for editing these files, and I must admit, after using it, RAW files are much easier to edit than JPEG because of the number of variations available. The edited RAW file is saved as a JPEG file and this is the file that is first uploaded, the RAW original unedited copy is uploaded as the additional format so the prospective buyer gets the JPEG file as I see how it should be edited, but has the flexibility and comfort of knowing that the original version of...(More)
Posted by Fultonsphoto on December 09, 2008
Hi David, I agree that the Jpeg file format is good enough, for the most part, and to the naked eye, but as far as what can be done to enhance a photo, it seems RAW is the way to go. That said, it does tax the memory cards etc somewhat, but the advantages to the photographer, and to the possible buyer, may be worthwhile. I have resorted to DVD backups to alleviate the external HDD space issue, as I find no matter whether JPEG or RAW, I still manage to run out of space rather quickly.



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Photo credits: Fultonsphoto.

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