As a wedding photographer, I sometimes get asked if I shoot in RAW and if I provide RAW images…
Some of you may not be familiar with these extensions, so let me explain (very briefly) the differences between the two.
JPEG is a treated and compressed (coded) image, in other words, subtracted from information little or not needed to the quality of the image.
The process to code and decode the image is established by the Joint Photographic Experts Group.
The photographer will set the level of compression applied on the image directly on his camera prior to the shooting (typical levels are Fine, Medium or Low).
Needless to say, a professional photographer will use the ‘Fine’ setting, allowing for little compression and providing high definition JPEG images.
When one wishes to view the wedding photos, one will rest assured the viewing software will be able to decompress and show the image, be it on a computer, tablet or even smartphone.
RAW is a digital image in its… raw state. All information relative to the image are stored, nothing is compressed or lost.
But as is, this information will not suffice to view the image. You’ll need an appropriate software, able to put all the information together and render an image. Not only will you need a software but also an operator knowing which information to put together, and to which degree.
Somewhat complicated to understand?
Let me draw you an analogy: if the image is the cake, RAW are the ingredients. Having all the ingredients will not be enough for you to get your cake: you’ll need to use the ingredients in the appropriate quantities, put them together and then… cook! For a RAW image, the principle is the same: you’ll have to put the information together, in the appropriate quantities and proceed to its ‘cooking’ by means of a specific software.
Complicated? Maybe. Simple ? Certainly not !
So… JPEG or RAW?
To summarise, JPEG offers the opportunity to have images available as soon as the trigger is released, at the cost of a slight, even negligible, loss of quality in ‘FINE’ mode.
RAW will allow to record the image with all its information but the image will only be exploitable after you have… processed (cooked) all the information.
I have opted to photograph weddings (we are talking of about 1,000 to 2,000+ photos here!) in FINE JPEG mode with a compression giving priority to image quality. However, when I consider an image might need technically complex touching-up, I choose to photograph in JPEG+RAW mode.
Finally, no self-respectful wedding photographer would provide an image in RAW. That would be the equivalent of giving away the original (like giving away the negative in the old days), or handing over a cake’s recipe and its ingredients… but not the cake!