When Michael Shoots RAW vs JPEG (and Why)

Ultimately, this is personal preference and every photographer you speak with will have an opinion on it. The tradeoff is between Quality (RAW) and Time/Workflow Speed (JPEG).

I have noticed however, there are many times I have shot in RAW, and even after processing them, they looked absolutely no better than JPEG images and I essentially just wasted a lot of time and hard drive space.

Here is my list of the top of my head, as well as my reasoning:

RAW Shooting:

1. Anything I plan to use Michael Andrew Paintballer Pro Presets with – These presets were designed to be used in RAW for it’s tools and Dynamic Range
2. Paid Portrait Work – I am usually taking no more than a couple hundred images for a paid portrait session. I want to deliver the best quality images for these.
3. Sunsets – Need the Dynamic Range and RAW tools. The Recovery slider is nice here!
4. Tricky Mixed Lighting Conditions – Easier to WB in RAW
5. Macro – Better options for sharpening and dealing with loss of DOF due to close distances.
6. Product Shooting – There are better, more forgiving tools and options in RAW when tweaking for bright lights, loss of blacks, edges, etc.
7. Low Light Conditions– RAW tends to be more forgiving when adjusting for underexposure.

JPEG Shooting-

1. Weddings & Events – While there are always exceptions on these jobs I shoot RAW (Think portraits of Bride and Groom), most of them I try to get in camera. Going through 5000 RAW images from a 5DIi takes too much time & I have learned that JPEGs nail most events and candid shots just fine.
2. Portrait Shoots for Friends and Relatives– Many reasons, the most important being time.
3. Sports– I have learned that shooting on high burst mode (8 fps) on my 7D, the chances are the best sports images are often lucky and I find myself taking a lot of unusable shots. JPEG’s burst is faster, allowing me to get more shots of the action. I pick 1-2 shots from each “burst” and delete the rest.
4. Shots for video work – Usually shoot JPEG, Medium. Large files are much to large for video editing and this saves us a few steps in converting.

I am sure there are more examples, but these are the most common situations I can think of right now.