Episode 135: File Formats for Photography. RAW vs JPEG and DNG Plus HEIC

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Since the beginning of Digital Photography there has been an ongoing argument on which is better RAW or JPEG and it can at times become a heated discussion. I am going to try and explain the differences between the two and the pros and cons of each one.

JPEGs are compressed photos, which means your camera looks at all the information it captures via the sensor and only saves the data it deems important and that’s what you get in your finished image file.
What does JPEG stand for? Joint Photographic Experts Group, which is the committee that created the file format. Sometimes you will see this file format abbreviated as JPG.

With JPEG, the file is in it’s modified state so there is no need to process anything. Once you download the file to your hard drive it is ready to open for viewing. The camera also tends to make automatic adjustments, such as color enhancements, saturation, exposure and so on. This format is the standard across all brands of cameras so the images are ready to view and print with no extra work. Because JPEG files are compressed they also tend to take up a lot less disk space than a RAW file, so a JPEG image file might only take up 2MB, where the same file in RAW format might be 10MB or larger. JPEG files, since they are so much smaller they can easily be emailed or uploaded to Social Media sites such as Flickr or Facebook, etc.

The RAW file format doesn’t stand for anything, all it tells you is that the files are unprocessed and exactly as the camera sees the image from the sensor, just like the way your eye sees the scene. If the camera collects 10MB of data, then the file is exactly 10MB in size. What this means is that you can print the image in considerably larger formats that you can with JPEG files. When shooting in RAW, you may need more memory cards when out on a shoot so that you don’t run out of storage capacity during your shoot and you will most likely need an extra, external hard drive to store your images on and to process them from.

A RAW file is in it’s all natural form and as a result, the file needs to be processed by you using special software and this gives you full control over the colors, vibrance, saturation, exposure and so on. RAW files cannot be opened by anything like a JPEG can be and they cannot be easily emailed or uploaded as websites don’t know how to render RAW files and mail servers will not allow those extremely large files to be sent in this format.

So now that you have all this information, which file format is the winner? Well, there is no clear winner, just as which system you choose to shoot with, Canon, Sony, Nikon, Fuji, etc it is more what your personal style and preference is.

I suggest using RAW if you plan to do a lot of post processing and want full control over the finished product. If file size is not a major concern and you intend to print at sizes exceeding 20 inches by 30 inches.
I suggest using JPEG if you are concerned about file size and space on your memory cards and hard drives. If you need to take a lot of photos in quick succession, such as shooting a sports event, then JPEG will allow you to shoot more images faster before filling up your cameras buffer. Also choose JPEG if you plan to do minimal post processing and you want to share large sets of photos by email or upload them right to the internet without converting or resizing them.

I personally prefer to shoot in RAW as I get the most information in my images from the camera’s sensor and I prefer to do my own post processing as the camera’s built in processing isn’t always the most accurate. I also since I am an I.T. professional for my day job, I always have many Terabytes of storage and I also tend to buy the largest memory cards my cameras can use. For my new Canon EOS 6D, I am using a 128GB SD card. Now that we’ve covered the subject of RAW vs JPEG, get out there and make some great images.

Digital Negative (DNG) is a patented, open, lossless raw image format developed by Adobe and used for digital photography. Adobe’s license allows use without cost on the condition that the licensee prominently displays text saying it is licensed from Adobe in source and documentation, and that the license may be revoked if the licensee brings any patent action against Adobe or its affiliates related to the reading or writing of files that comply with the DNG Specification.[1] It was launched on September 27, 2004.[2] The launch was accompanied by the first version of the DNG specification,[3] plus various products, including a free-of-charge DNG converter utility. All Adobe photo manipulation software (such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom) released since the launch supports DNG.[4]

DNG is based on the TIFF/EP standard format, and mandates significant use of metadata. Use of the file format is royalty-free; Adobe has published a license allowing anyone to exploit DNG,[5] and has also stated that there are no known intellectual property encumbrances or license requirements for DNG.[6] Adobe stated that if there were a consensus that DNG should be controlled by a standards body, they were open to the idea.[7] Adobe has submitted DNG to ISO for incorporation into their revision of TIFF/EP.[8]

HEIC stands for High Efficiency Image File, Apple’s new image container format that compresses photos in order to save space. HEIC image files are available on iPhone 7 and later models running iOS 11 or later operating systems. Under most circumstances, you won’t even notice the file format of your photos, but occasionally, you may run into technical difficulties when transferring photo files from your iPhone to your computer or cloud storage.

Is HEIC better than JPG?

The short answer is yes. HEIC is better than the JPG file format. Not only is the file size half that of a standard JPG, but the image quality is better too. The biggest drawback to using HEIC files is that they aren’t supported by every device — at least, not yet. While we wait for the technology to catch up, we have to deal with the headache of transferring HEIC photos to JPGs for use with some applications.

Also be sure to join the Liam Photography Podcast Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/liamphotographypodcast/ You can reach the show by call or text @ 470-294-8191 to leave a comment or request a topic or guest for the show. Additionally you can email the show @ liam@liamphotographypodcast.com and find the show notes at http://www.liamphotographypodcast.com.

You can find my work @ https://www.liamphotography.net on and follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @liamphotoatl. If you like abandoned buildings and history, you can find my project @ http://www.forgottenpiecesofgeorgia.com. and http://www.forgottenpiecesofpennsylvania.com.

Please also stop by my Youtube channels Liam Photography

Forgotten Pieces of Georgia Project

Forgotten Pieces of Pennsylvania Project

(Info on DNG from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Negative)

(Info on HEIC from Macpaw’s Website https://macpaw.com/how-to/what-is-heic-file)

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