What is the value of the Raw+JPEG combination?

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March 11, 2016 at 10:30 am  •  Posted in Q&A, Tips & Techniques by  •  0 Comments

My DSLR allows me to shoot in Raw or JPEG format, but it also offers a Raw+JPEG combination. I have been using only the Raw option; why would someone want to shoot both Raw and JPEG photos simultaneously?
—Roland T.

The majority of serious photographers shoot in Raw format, Roland, just as you do, because of its benefits, discussed in previous Q&A items “Is it true that you need to shoot Raw photos for the best quality?” and “What is the best exposure technique for Raw-format photos?” As those posts indicate, Raw files do require more work in a computer, but the extra effort definitely pays off. On the other hand, JPEG is more popular among novices but also among those who simply must have “finished” images immediately.

DSLRs offer the Raw+JPEG combination as well as an option to set the size and the quality of the JPEG that will also be recorded. A Small Fine (or Extra Fine) JPEG is ideal for photos that you'll upload to a website, although they may still be larger than ideal for attaching to an email. © 2014 Peter K. Burian

DSLRs offer the Raw+JPEG combination as well as an option to set the size and the quality of the JPEG that will also be recorded. A Small Fine (or Extra Fine) JPEG is ideal for photos that you’ll upload to a website, although they may still be larger than ideal for attaching to an email. © 2014 Peter K. Burian

The Raw+JPEG option provides the best of both worlds. Many who are using this combination set their cameras to shoot a Small, Fine quality JPEG that can be uploaded to a website or attached to an email. Later, they’ll take the time to modify and process their large Raw photos into beautiful images.

That’s not a bad idea, but it does have some drawbacks. First, the extra JPEG files consume space on the memory card and in a computer. And many JPEG photos are not perfect, so most photo enthusiasts would want to modify them before sharing them with others. In that case, it would make sense to simply modify the Raw photo and then save a small copy of it as a JPEG.

If you often use a tablet instead of a powerful computer when traveling, you'll definitely want to have a Small or Medium size Fine quality JPEG in addition to the Raw version of your photos. This will make it more practical to quickly view those images, fine-tune them as necessary and show them to companions or upload them to a photo-sharing site. Courtesy of Adobe Systems Inc.

If you often use a tablet instead of a powerful computer when traveling, you’ll definitely want to have a Small or Medium size Fine quality JPEG in addition to the Raw version of your photos. This will make it more practical to quickly view those images, fine-tune them as necessary and show them to companions or upload them to a photo-sharing site. Courtesy of Adobe Systems Inc.

However, those using a tablet computer—when they don’t want to carry a hefty laptop while traveling, for example—may find that it might not be able handle the massive Raw files from a high resolution DSLR; then, the Raw+JPEG combination would certainly make sense. Anyone shooting with a camera that accepts two memory cards will get a bonus: there’s a menu item that can be used to specify that Raw files should be written onto one card and the JPEGs onto the second card. This is an added convenience for those who need JPEGs immediately and will leave the Raw photos for more serious modification at a later date.

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