I was asked this interesting question recently and thought it was worthy of a post:
"I know the difference between RAW and Jpeg, I'm just wondering what you shoot in? Or do you have an opinion on either? ... I just researched all night and read different articles and some people live and die by RAW and claim it's so much better for editing. However, the jpeg lovers claim that if you know how to use your settings correctly when you are taking the photo...you shouldn't have to lean so much on post editing in RAW form, it should be done right the first time!"
Taken with Nikon P6000 (a compact digital) in RAW format and edited using Lightroom 3 software
I emailed her back with this quick response:
"I shoot in RAW almost always because I'm not a seasoned photographer and shooting in manual mode isn't 2nd nature to me yet. In fact, I've only been experimenting with the manual settings on my DSLR since this summer. For me, shooting in RAW gives me that extra flexibility to fix the exposure and other settings in post-processing which lets me concentrate on the framing and composition of the photograph and, most of all, capturing what can often be a fleeting moment with young children without too much fiddling with the camera.
If I were shooting in a studio where I could control the light and environment better, I might consider going back to jpegs but I probably wouldn't since the only real benefit would be the smaller file size.
Kudos to those who can produce a stunning photograph straight out of a camera. Unfortunately, I'm not one of these talented folks. I say hooray for [RAW] software for giving me a crutch!"
I included before and after images to show you how much I love being able to shoot in RAW format, particularly when taking self-portraits and especially when I'm using my compact digital. My photos almost always need a bit of 'fixing up' in post-production under these conditions. I also have a habit of not carrying my speedlight with me and have an extreme aversion to using in-camera flash which makes for some pretty under-exposed shots. Software is my saviour until I've mastered my camera.
Interestingly, I found a great article by Jim M Goldstein that also reminded me about one of the cons of shooting in JPEG -- unlike RAW it is "not a lossless format". This means that some image data (like saturation, colour range and sharpness) is compressed each time you save a JPEG file. Huh!
Having said all of this, I agree with Goldstein in that only you can determine which format is right for you. So what about you? Do you have a preference for shooting in RAW or JPEG format? I'd like to know, too.