While this is a tender subject amongst professionals, I’m here only to give my opinion and offer information on the difference between the two shooting formats.
Someone mentioned to me the other day that that did in fact take some images that day in the RAW format, but “couldn’t tell any difference in the image itself.”
This is a great opener into me explaining the difference because that’s just it: on the back of your LCD screen you won’t see any difference at all. Shooting in RAW is more of post processing tool. It does not affect your snap of the shutter at all or the immediate results of your image.
Let me explain more.
The RAW format in your camera (which Nikon calls NEF Data) is a shooting format that when you snap your image, all of the information within that image is recorded…as opposed to the JPEG format is a compressed version of that same information, so in theory, the JPEG file contains less data.
Why is a JPEG image compressed: to give you more space on the memory card. RAW simply means uncooked or unprocessed, so all of the information that was required to record your image is there for you to work with during post processing or editing.
While for the every-day photographer, JPEG is a great format to shoot in–the file size is still small so you can get more on your memory card, it still renders a good quality image and you won’t require specific software to read it. Your image is pretty much ready to view, upload, print or whatever you want to do with it.
RAW is a also a great format because, once again, it gives you full control of your image…not so much straight out of the camera, but for your editing needs. White Balance, exposure, saturation, etc. is way more easy to correct in the RAW image.
On the other, the RAW image is a huge file so you won’t be able to take as many pictures on your memory card and also requires specific software, such as the upper-end versions of Photoshop, Bridge, Capture One, or Lightroom etc. The RAW image must also be converted to another format before other programs can read it straight out of camera (Windows Media viewer will not read it).
So which is better for you? Only you can answer that. Consider your goals as a photographer and/or how comfortable you are with editing. An argument can be made either way, but ultimately, it’s your choice dependent on your needs for your image.
What do I shoot? I knew that was coming…. 🙂
I shoot both. Wuh? Professionally, I shoot RAW, but for my personal, every-day stuff around the house, I shoot JPEG. Shooting in RAW professionally is pretty self-explanatory, while shooting personal stuff, I just don’t need those large files, I usually don’t want to take up alot of time editing and I’m usually in a hurry to post somewhere.
Oh, and another FYI is that some cameras allow you to shoot in both RAW + L (large JPEG) simultaneously.
I hope that helps!
Here’s one of my favorite E-Shots taken on the Fairhope Pier in Fairhope, AL.