When starting out in photography, a lot of beginners are confused about RAW and JPEG formats while shooting. Its easy to explain but with us being photographers, its easier for us to comprehend a visual reference. I've had the option of shooting RAW since my Canon 20D over 10 years ago and even though I never shot JPEG since then, I never actually compared a RAW with JPEG to see the data I would've been losing if I let the camera compress the files itself.
I used a Canon 70D to shoot a photo of a pure black image. I did this by not having a lens on the camera at all and just taking a shot with the lens cap on. I had my camera set to RAW+JPEG so I got the image in both formats directly from the camera. I shot these at 1/60s with the ISO at 3200 and at first glance, they are both identical and pure black:
Using Adobe RAW Editor, I bumped the exposure up all the way to 5 stops and was amazed at what both images actually looked like.
Here is the RAW file:
Here is the JPEG file:
Here are both side by side cropped at 100%:
As you can clearly see, the two look nothing alike, it's almost impossible to guess that they started as the same image. This is something to consider if you're a JPEG shooter, your shadows will look inconsistent and completely discolored. On the opposite end, RAW has a very uniform noise across the whole spectrum. I'll admit neither look too pretty but these are extreme cases of pushing the limits of the shadows in an image and its worth acknowledging for anyone who takes their craft seriously. If you have the capability with your camera and don't want your photo looking like the swamp thing, do yourself a favor and shoot RAW!
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