photography 101 :: RAW vs. JPG

We went to our small town fireworks display and had a great time.

All except Poppy. She was frightened by the sounds and preferred to sit in my lap, facing me, playing my iPhone.

But I did manage to snap a few pictures of our night. I took these in RAW (recently switched over from JPG at my friend Jess’ recommendation to help with some exposure problems I was having) and I had so much fun playing with these.

Shooting in RAW gives you a lot more flexibility in post-processing, but RAW images have to be edited. When you first download RAW files, they seem, well… lackluster. But once you start tweaking, you’ll be amazed at the range of adjustments you can make.

If you’d rather just shoot and skip the editing, JPG is probably best for you.

To shoot in RAW, you’ll need software that can work with RAW images. I have Lightroom 2 (an older version) and it handles my RAW images just fine. Once I’ve edited them to my heart’s content, I export them as JPGs, so I can upload them to my blog, have them printed, or put them onto an external hard drive for safe-keeping.

Please know that I am by no means an expert on RAW vs. JPG. I am just learning about the benefits of shooting in RAW – as someone who often makes exposure mistakes, and as someone who appreciates the changes I can make to my images with post-processing. And I’m sharing it here, as I go. It helps me to remember. And hopefully it helps some of y’all a bit, too.

I’ve added some “before and after” pictures at the end of the post, so you can see the difference a little post-processing can make on a RAW image.

Click on any of them to see them bigger, I know I like seeing fireworks close-up.

A few before and afters….

Fun, huh?

Here are a few tutorials on RAW vs. JPG:
Digital Photography School
SLR Lounge

These were shot with my 50mm, ISO400, f/2.8, 1/60.

With a toddler playing an iPhone in my lap.



  1. omy! so BEAUTIFUL!!! ughh!
    im so disappointed I didnt get to photograph fireworks this year! but these look amazing!!!
    Ive tried shooting RAW to then realize my version of Photoshop doesnt support RAW files form my camera GREAT.

    • I have Photoshop CS4 and a Canon Rebel T2i. My initial version of Photoshop would not read my RAW files, I had to download a newer version of the RAW Camera add-on to get it to work. Not sure if you’ve looked into that, but it may be an option. Have a great day!

  2. Matilda Joyce says:


  3. Your firework pictures are AMAZING! Mine looked HORRIBLE! What setting did you use on your camera?

  4. These came out beautiful. I have played with the RAW vs. JPG before. I really believe it’s a personal choice- just like Canon vs. Nikon. I prefer JPG because I don’t want to spend forever in processing. I can do slight tweaking in ACR- with my images, if it needs adjustments beyond what ACR can handle, then I figure it’s trash anyhow. Just one more thing in my effort to streamline things around here. :) I know just as many phenomenal photogs that shoot JPG as I do ones that shoot in RAW. It’s great that we have the option to do it either way. Hope you all had a FABULOUS holiday!!!!!

  5. I too shoot on RAW, and would never go back to just .jpg :) One thing to note is that some cameras will allow you to shoot RAW + Jpg. When you shoot in this mode, it will save the .jpg and the RAW of each image. With this, you wouldn’t HAVE to edit every photo, but would have the option too if needed. I shoot a Canon T2i, which will allow RAW + Jpg. Maybe this will encourage someone to join the world of RAW! Good luck!

  6. snekcip says:

    Amazing pictures!! Ahhhhh mazing!!!

  7. These are so pretty!!! :) Is it so dark there?? Clock is now 23:54 here in Finland and sun is just setting down. 😀

    I take JPG pictures, I use minilaptop and I tried to open RAW pictures once and this computer couldn’t deal with them. 😀

  8. I tried RAW, but shoot all JPEG now, it helped when I was making a lot of mistakes, but I am trying to get my exposure right so that I can edit just a little. These are awesome by the way, we are going to be viewing fireworks a try on Saturday. Would love for you to share your settings. I am going to look up some online tutorials on shooting fireworks before then!

    • NiHaoYall says:

      Hope you get some great ones, Denise! I wanted to read a tutorial beforehand but just ran out of time, as usual…
      Settings are at the bottom of the post :)

  9. This is something a forensic guy knows about in terms of “what you got” – but – in terms of what to do with it from a good looking picture perspective – meh – not me! RAW is just exactly that raw. If you have a 15 megapixel camera – you get a 15 MB image. JPG is JPEG compression – and so you get way less MB per image. But – it’s “lossey” compression – and lossey means pretty much like it sounds – you loose data when you compress it. So – shooting raw produces a much “better” image from a data perspective – but – less images per card and it’s harder to manipulate because it’s a big file. Today with quad core processors and tons of RAM it’s less of a big deal however, even camera cards are “affordable”. But I also know this – once compressed you can never go back – the data is really and truely gone…just sayin so you know! On the upside – your camera – shooting in jpg – can still capture more data than your eye can “see” – but 99% of the serious photographers I know shoot in RAW – then post process – then save in .jpg!

    Great shots – hard to shoot fireworks – but tons of fun!

    aus and co.

    • NiHaoYall says:

      Thanks for that great info, Aus… you are so wise in so many ways :)

      • Thank you Stef – I’m flattered – but I’m just an average guy who tries to live the right way. PS – glad you made the “switch” to Nikon…but hey….I go with what I like! 😉

  10. Carrie in Spokane says:

    Do you still shoot with your Canon Rebel or are you using another camera now?

    • NiHaoYall says:

      I have a Nikon D90… I made the ‘switch’ a few years ago :) I like my Nikon, but I really loved my Rebel, too!

  11. So pretty…and sounds like a fun night…I just love hearing about that sweet Poppy…how far she’s come!!!

  12. I thank God for RAW everyday!!! :)
    Stef, these are some amazing fireworks shots!!! I have never tried shooting fireworks! These have inspired me!
    Great work!!!!!! You are going to have so much fun in Lisa’s next class!!!


  13. I started shooting RAW a while back, and I love it too. A lot of times I really don’t need to make that many adjustments to my pic’s before I save it as a JPEG. BUT my absolute FAVORITE thing ever, is that if I have forgot to change my WB, and I have shot in RAW I can change the WB afterwards. That is such a huge plus for me, because I do frequently forget to switch it when I am trying to capture a shot really fast. :)

  14. A few weeks ago I switched to RAW…love it. I do a lot of processing in RAW, then save it to JPG for posting so I have the original RAW image saved, plus the edits.

    I look at RAW as being the little black dress of photography (or in my case I had a wonderful royal blue velvet dress). You have that one dress, but depending on shoes and accessories that one dress can have many different looks. RAW is the same – you can go back and edit that one image in numerous ways (your accessories) to get different looks (photographs) as long as you have the original unedited image saved and not damage it. Every time you make a change with a JPG, your image itself is damaged.

  15. Natalie says:

    These are beautiful! I would have loved to capture fireworks like this, but our $9 display didn’t provide anything too photo worthy. I shoot jpeg for my snapshots, but RAW when I want to be sure I get it right. It does make a world of difference!

  16. Some of the best fireworks pictures I have ever soon. Beautiful.

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