Raw Vs JPEG: Pros & Cons

Image Quality

What is a Raw File?

Raw files are uncompressed and unprocessed image files obtained from the image sensor of a digital camera.  Raw files carry all the information that the camera sensor captured.

You can think of a raw file as the ‘ingredients’ of a photo that would need to be processed in order to bring out the picture’s full potential.

In Canon cameras, raw files are typically in .cr2 or .cr3 formats.

When to shoot Raw

Raw images are ideal for photographs that require the highest level of detail and would go through post-production. Such as when shooting portraits, landscapes, products, etc.

Pros of Raw files

1. Greater Editing Control

Your image file can be adjusted in diverse ways such as modifying the contrast, brightness to converting a coloured raw file to black and white.

2. Varied Colour Range

Raw files contain millions more colours than other image file formats

3. Raw File Allows For Peace Of Mind

You don’t have to stress about getting all the settings right. As long as you don’t overexpose or underexpose your image to the point where all the data is completely lost, Raw allows you to correct any exposure issues in post.

4. Lossless Compression

This ensures that the quality of your Raw image files won’t drop due to compression.

5. Great Details

Raw files contain the most details compared to other raster and vector file types. This gives you a lot more to work with when editing.

6. Dynamic Range

Raw files are very forgiving if you have severely underexposed or overexposed areas in your image. It allows you to recover shadows and highlights in post-processing without bringing in the grainy noise usually associated with high ISO settings.

Cons of Raw Files

1. Sharing Restriction

Raw files need to be converted before they can be shared between people who do not have the necessary software.

2. Requires More StoragE

Due to its large size, it easily uses up more storage space.


In view of the largeness of the raw files and the time it takes to be converted into other raster and vector file types, it means working with raw files or backing them up would take significantly longer time than other forms of image files.

What is a JPEG file?

A Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) file is a lossy raster file format that compresses an image to make the file smaller.

Simply put, JPEG is a file format that is compressed and already processed in a digital camera.

JPEG files are some of the most popular and widely used image formats in the world. Photographers can shoot in JPEG mode, while graphic designers, illustrators, and other creatives can edit them.

JPEG files have the .jpg file extension format.

When to shoot JPEG

JPEG images are great as a starting point for beginners or those moments when the photographer won't do elaborate post-production. Such as when shooting for journalistic purposes, sports, events, etc.

Pros of JPEG files

1. Small FILE Sizes

JPEG images are compressed into smaller file sizes.

2. Compatibility

Most modern devices and software support JPEG images, making the format extremely compatible, easily accessible, transferable and deliverable.

3. Faster backup

Smaller file sizes translate into faster and more efficient backups.

4. No camera slowdown.

Due to the smaller size, cameras can write JPEG files much faster than RAW files.

Cons of JPEG files

1. Compression degrades the image quality

Compression of image files brings about a reduction in the quality of the images.

2. Resaving problems

There is a further reduction in the JPEG image file when it is further edited and saved.

3. JPEG IS ONLY 8-bit.

The JPEG image format is limited to 8-bits, which puts a hard limitation on 16.8 million colours. This means that all other colours that your camera is capable of recording are essentially discarded when the image is converted to JPEG format.

4. Limited recovery options.

JPEG images contain far less data, which significantly limits their dynamic range and recovery potential. And since cameras fully process JPEG images, any camera setting that can damage the resulting image will be irreversible.