When it comes to shooting with DSLR cameras, they typically use two file formats – JPEG and Raw. So which one should you use?

When you take a digital picture, data comes off your DSLR’s sensor in a string of binary ones and zeros. The camera’s processor then bundles the information and saves the image in a file format.

DSLRs typically use two file formats – JPEG and RAW, although some top-end models also offer TIFFs. So which should you use?



JPEG is a method of compressing information. This means that certain data from the image is deemed redundant by the camera’s processor and is discarded. This is why the JPEG format is sometimes referred to as a ‘lossy’ format.

The advantage of JPEGs is that the more you compress, the smaller the file size becomes. As a result, you can store many more JPEGs on your DSLR’s memory card than you can with RAW files.

However, the downside is that as data is discarded, image quality is compromised.

You can find settings to adjust the quality of JPEGs in your camera’s menu. It’s recommended to stick with the highest-quality JPEG setting. Depending on your camera’s megapixel count, this should allow you to produce a high-quality print up to at least A4 size.

JPEGs are compatible with most software programs, and with the highest quality settings, they can yield excellent results.

If you’re new to DSLR photography, starting with JPEGs might be a good idea.

While DSLR enthusiasts might advocate shooting in RAW, the truth is that JPEGs are more user-friendly. They take up less storage space on your computer and can be easily emailed or uploaded to websites.



If you want to retain all the data from your images, shoot in RAW. In RAW files, data remains ‘untouched‘ by the camera’s processor and is sourced directly from the sensor, giving you full control over the final image.

The drawback of RAW is that the files take up more space on your memory cards.

Each manufacturer has its own RAW format and usually provides a RAW converter software free with your DSLR. To make a RAW file universally accessible, you’ll need to convert it to a TIFF or JPEG format first.

Software like Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and Apple Aperture are specifically designed to manage and process large quantities of RAW files.

There’s much discussion about RAW files, but here’s a straightforward piece of advice: Choose the format you feel most at ease with. Some DSLRs even offer the option to capture both RAW and JPEG files simultaneously.



While very few cameras capture images in the TIFF format directly, TIFF has become a popular choice for saving a RAW file after adjustments in image-editing programs like Photoshop.

This is because it retains information without discarding any image data. For this reason, it’s often referred to as a ‘lossless‘ file format.

A TIFF file can be edited and resaved multiple times without a decline in image quality. Most image-editing software can process TIFFs, but it’s worth noting that their file sizes are significantly larger than those of JPEGs.


RAW + JPEGs file format

Many DSLRs offer the option to capture both RAW and JPEG files simultaneously. Refer to your camera’s instruction manual to determine if yours has this feature.

The significant advantage of this approach is that, after transferring all the shots to your computer, you can swiftly skim through the JPEGs to identify any that might be worth further editing.

The downside? Shooting in both file formats further diminishes memory card capacity, especially when capturing both RAW files and high-resolution JPEGs.

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