Confessions of a JPEG Shooter

Hi. My name is Scott, and I’m a JPEG shooter.

I wanted to step up and make this shocking admission after I read this comment (from reader Tom Bruno) on my blog post from Friday (link):

Great shots, Scott! I’m green with envy, not just at how good your shots are, also that you get passes to shoot from the sidelines. But I am shocked — Shocked! — that you shot in JPEG.

I know. Imagine how much better they would have looked had I shot in Raw. ;-)

True Confessions
OK, truth be known, I only shoot in JPEG on one single occassion: when I’m shooting sports. However, I’m not alone. Most of the professional sports photographers I’ve talked with shoot in JPEG as well, because when it comes to sports, JPEG offers a number of advantages to the sports shooter:

(1) More Continuous Shots Per Burst
The most important advantage probably being that you can shoot more continuous shots in JPEG mode than in Raw mode without filling your camera’s internal buffer. A lot of fast action sports are shot in high-speed continuous mode by holding down the shutter button as it rapidly fires up to 9 frames per second. That will fill your buffer mighty quick, and all of sudden, you’ve missed “the shot” because your camera’s buffer start to stutter.

I did some checking, and on DP Review (a respected source for this type of data), they broke it down this way:

  • Shooting in RAW: You fill the buffer with about 17 Raw photos.
  • Shooting in JPEG: You fill the buffer with about 65 or so shots.

If you’re using a fast memory card (I use 600X high-speed Lexar cards), that means shooting in JPEG, my buffer really never gets full because of how fast the cards write to the card which clears up the buffer.

(2) JPEGS take less time to process
If you’re covering a game for a news outlet, JPEGs are going to save you processing time, because they’re already processed. By that, I mean they’ve already had contrast, color enhancements and sharpening applied within the camera itself, so JPEG images look more “finished” and are ready for uploading without a lot of tweaking.

When you set your camera to Raw mode, it turns all that in-camera processing (contrast, sharpening, color enhancements) off, because you’ve chosen to do all that yourself later in Camera Raw or Lightroom. That processing of the Raw image takes time, and so does re-saving the files as JPEG for uploading when you’re done. Of course, you could shoot Raw+JPEG, but that has its disadvantages, including eating up memory cards much faster, and taking longer on import.

Also, if you’re covering a game for a wire service or news outlet, the editing you’re allowed to do is very limited in the first place, so JPEG files are pretty much ready to lock and upload. The smaller file sizes make it faster to download off your memory card, and faster to upload to your client as well.

(3) JPEGs Don’t Eat up Much Space
You can fit an awful lot of JPEG files on a single memory card, which means not only will you have to be swapping out memory cards much less during the game—you might not have to swap out at all. Remember my post from a few weeks back about fitting more than 4,000 JPEGs on my single memory card? (here’s the link).

So What am I Really Admitting To Here?
What I’m saying here is that there are times when it makes perfect sense to shoot in JPEG, depending on what you’re shooting. Remember, better shots than you and I will ever take in our lifetimes were taken in JPEG format long before their was a Raw format. It’s just a file format. Not a religion.

What if you totally disagree?
Then shoot your sports photos in Raw. :-)

  1. Scott,
    I shoot a few fast paced sporting events per year and like you I shoot jpg. I am more careful to not blow out highlights as they are not as recoverable as in raw. One of the games I shoot is the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and as soon as the game is over I have to download, no processing. I believe this type of shooting forces me to be a better photographer. My problem is when I’m culling from the viewfinder. I find it hard to distinguish between the good and bad shots and which ones to delete. As you know well when that game clock stopps every photographer is deleting the trash!

    1. Hey Ken,
      I like what you say here except one thing. The only time I’ve had a card quit on me was when I deleted images in camera. I never, ever delete in camera. I wait till I get the images onto the computer. On my first pass through the images using Ctrl L on Bridge, I put a 1 star on the blurry ones, then Open that 1 star group select all & delete.
      See ya Buddy, getting excited for next month,

      1. Mike,
        I agree about deleting in camera, it’s hard on the card and shortens life BUT the only time I do this is when the images must be uploaded before I leave the stadium. I have a few 16g cards that are only for this and am yet to have a failure. On the contrary when I’m doing forensic photography I can’t delete any. They have to be in sequence or a defense lawyer would kill that evidence!
        The problem I have with in camera delete is…I’m old and can’t see that tiny screen on my D3s!

  2. I shoot a lot of equine sport events and still shoot most of them in raw, or at the least raw+jpeg. I am going to try the faster card and shoot at fine (smallest size) and just see what happens…

    How do you decide which images to send to the wire service or do you give them all of them ?

  3. Scott:

    I always have my D300 set to Raw when I am shooting, as I love the freedom I have to play around with my pics in LR3 or Photoshop. However, I realized quickly when I was shooting an air show this summer that Raw was not going to cut it when trying to take shots of jets at 600 mph on Continuous High. My fps slowed to a crawl because the buffer filled too fast and my cards don’t write fast enough. Switched to Jpeg Fine and that quickly solved my problem. Although maybe it created a new one, as I wound up taking 2600 shots over the course of the show, as the buffer just never filled!

    Sure the files were smaller, but I have printed a few 8 x 10’s of some of the jets and I was very happy with the detail and clarity. Would Raw have made a big difference? Maybe, but I don’t think I would have got as many keepers as I did. I’ll save Raw for the bugs, birds and blossoms, and use Jpeg when needed.

    As you said…”It’s a file format, not a religion!” Amen to that! :D Hey, maybe that quote of yours could be a chapter heading for one of your books in the future!


  4. Yes. I was shooting RAW and my buffer fill on the final shot before a stunt car burst through some flames at Disney Hollywood Studios. Missed the shot! I was so disappointed. Had I been shooting in JPG, I would have gotten the shot.

  5. I agree with you Scott. But When it comes to sport I shoot in compressed-RAW (sony alpha) especially motor sport events, since I need that little extra tweak. Burst is now problem then, and file sizes are about 40% smaller with the same quality as a real RAW, atleast to the eye. I use JPEG mostly on personal get togethers, like a birthdayparty etc.
    Btw, no matter how dissapointing Sony has been during the past year I think you should bring some more to Dtown. There are a lot of alpha shooters out there, both amateurs and pro’s.

  6. Gasp! Those sports shots were shot in high-speed burst mode! That’s even more amazing to hear than the jpeg confession. Because high speed burst has been a sure fire recipe for me to quickly generate whole lot of garbage.

    As I see it shooting RAW just gives you the chance to second guess yourself. If you get it right in camera there’s no real need for RAW anyway.

  7. @John Swarce

    I am far from what many would call a professional, but would like to respond to your air show shooting.

    One of the top events I love covering are air shows, never can cover enough in one year. I have always shot RAW never considered using JPG until I read your comment, and this post tbh. Having said that, knowing the flow of an air show performance or demo, not sure if the large buffer space is needed. While attended the Cleveland Air Show, which was my most recent, I shot in RAW and managed close to 3k shots, and most were pretty decent, if I do say so myself. I can see if someone doesn’t shoot air shows all the time where the JPG format would help, not knowing the routines you would need to have a large window for getting “the” shot.

    Aside from all that, this is a great article hot on the feet of another one I read not 5 minutes earlier about shooting RAW. My next air show, November, I will most certainly try both out and give it a go.

    I now understand why JPG would be a great option for time sensitive photos such as was noted in the article.

    Great stuff !

    1. Hank:

      Good point about knowing the flight “routines” after attending a few shows. I have been to three, and the show in the summer was the first time I shot any planes with my camera. I used to shoot with a D50 and upgraded to the D300 last year. Never would have attempted an airshow with the D50, but felt I had to try it with the newer camera.

      So, as you can guess, I had a few challenges anticipating flight paths and stunts. I was fortunate to be next to a videographer that had shot many air shows and I watched where he was setting up his shots, as he knew what was going to happen next.

      Shooting Raw, I may have started clicking away too early while I was panning, so the buffer filled too early. I had to make the decision to go to Jpeg quickly as I didn’t want to lose any shots.

      I would have preferred to shoot Raw, though! Maybe next year….


  8. I recently found that out shooting a water polo game. I began in RAW but had to switch to JPG, to many photo’s out of focus.

    I loved you’re photo’s of last weeks game, I love the NFL.
    Maybe on my next trip to the States, we could shoot a Bucs game together?? ;-)

  9. I had a spell where I tried Raw shooting but gave it up for two reasons. 1) It takes an awful lot of time to go through every single photo and process them for print and other uses. Sure, one could just leave the files unedited until needed but that brings me to the second point. 2) Raw files take up a lot of space – typically at least twice the amount of their Jpeg counterparts. Unless you have cash to spare for numerous hard disks or have the time to delete every unnecessary picture, it’s simply takes up too much space.

    A little about me: I do not shoot professionally, but even if I did I would likely not use Raw on my current camera. I also do not usually print large pictures, but have printed Jpeg shots I took at poster-size on occasion. I use an Olympus E-P1 (4/3 sensor) where the Jpeg engine and colours are typically so good out of camera that it is a waste of time for me to shoot Raw and correct the pictures. I tend to pull back a little highlight in Lightroom where needed and make all adjustments on the Jpeg files without problem. I generally have enough time in my type of shooting to follow the live histogram in camera and make sure I do not blow the highlights.

    My view is that unless you are working in tricky conditions, do not have enough time to be careful with exposures or just have a camera with poor Jpeg, there is usually no practical need to work in Raw. Just my two cents. :)

  10. Here’s to helping people better understand it’s not which format is superior, it’s which format will best suit your needs for a shoot. It was David Ziser who reminded me that aside from contrast & sharpening, some cameras also have excellent noise reduction capabilities.

  11. I get so caught up in having the highest quality shots that I forget my camera even shoots in JPG sometimes. In my defense, a majority of my shots are landscapes, so it does make sense to be capturing in RAW. However I agree with all the points you make above and the next time I’m out shooting sports (or any fast action) I’ll have to give JPG another go.

  12. Thank-you, I am not alone. I too have to switch to jpeg, now I no longer feel guilty.

    I have noticed that nobody has ever complemented me for my RAW files and nobody has ever chastised me for my JPEGS. Be skilled and who’s going to really notice?

  13. That’s a huge difference in the numbers there in the bust mode between the jpegs and raw.

    Does that mean you might loose some important part of the action while shooting Raw as you only shoot 17 photographs.

  14. I tend to look down on JPEG-only shooting as, no matter what the reason, it *will* give lesser quality results than starting from RAW. I also have my opinions on this burst mode so beloved of sports “photographers”…

    That said, I have used and do use it in two particular situations: once, I was shooting RAW+JPEG and corrupted the card offloading; my recovery software found JPEGs but not RAW. (The result – a horse at a show/trial/jump session – is now one of my almost-portfolio-quality photos.)
    Secondly, ongoing: timelapse video, where I need upwards of 600 frames over some minutes/hours and don’t have a big enough card for RAW versions and only need 1080p (less than 2MPel) output. That, however, is not really photography; it’s using the camera as a tool for a different final art-work.

  15. I’ll chime in too. If I’m shooting for the sake of shooting, I’ll use RAW. If I’m shooting a job, a wedding, a sports event or a community event I’ll shoot JPG. My personal stuff I’ll play with to get the last drop from. Anything commercial, either the customer will like it just as it comes out of the camera or do some processing themselves.

    I shot a freebie, charity gig for March of Dimes. They loved the quality of the JPGs, but complained about the file size. It’s tough to win sometime, even on a freebie.

  16. Hi Scott,

    Well said! I like the comparison … with regards to religion. Well put! If there are some folks out there that still think they should shoot in Raw, you can still get the jpeg file by using Michael Tapes Instant Jpeg from Raw program. It copies the embedded Jpeg from the Raw file (the one you see on your camera LCD) and puts it into a separate folder. I use this method when I’m on vacation and need to forward some shots to the Kids back home, but I still have my Raw file to enhance later. For those of you who would like to get Michael’s program, the link is below.

    Thanks Scott! Informative as usual!


  17. I’ve been shooting RAW for over a year since I read your books. Mr. Kelby I am shocked…j/k. You’re right shooting in jpeg is a format not a religion. I have shot enough RAW images to know when to shoot in either format. I shoot with a 7D and that body spits out more true color than I could ever mess with LR or PS. Jpegs save me time when I’ve got it mostly right in the field. I still shoot in RAW in tricky situations like shooting under those ghastly orange city lights. You gotta do what you gotta do.

  18. hi scott i shoot in raw
    When I was at the Silverton GP 10 and that was because the D2H as only a small file size so a burst of 15 shoot is no problem -I gust is your camera is big in file size then shoot in jpg

    There just jealous of you


  19. Scott – one question I have – loved your NFL shots from last week and you mentioned only needing to do minor tweaks to your jpegs in post processing, mainly colour correction. Do you always re apply a sharpen to your jpegs when finished even though they have already been sharpened in the camera? Probably a preference thing, just wondering what you did to those shots cause they looked superb!

    1. Hi SC:
      I sharpen every image—no matter which format I shot it in. If you shoot in Raw, go to the Detail panel in either Camera Raw or Lightroom and you’ll see that by default some sharpening is actually already being applied (referred to as Capture Sharpening).

      But that’s not enough sharpening for output (the final tweaked image) so I sharpening it separately at the end of my editing process.

      Hope that helps. :)


      1. Thanks for replying Scott – that’s great help. I’ve been doing more jpeg work recently and was concerned about over sharpening. Cheers, and keep the NFL pics coming!!!Stu

  20. I agree with this, but I’ve never bit the bullet for a couple of reasons. One is fear. Fear of capturing something great with an otherwise serious flaw that RAW would help (ex. critical highlight, strange white balance), or where it deserves some special treatment because it was so cool and could use the extra headroom.

    Number two is related to the first; I shoot in community arenas with odd lighting. Color casts are easy to correct with a custom WB. The bigger problem is the speed of the lights – during a continuous burst I’ll capture them cycling in and out at 60Hz. That’s affecting the exposure AND the WB. Perhaps a D3/D3s is fast enough to make those changes from shot-to-shot, but the D300 can’t. So even in auto WB + auto exposure (either through shutter or auto ISO) it can’t keep up and there will be frames that are underexposed, or WB is way off, or both (can capture half of the cycle in half of the frame). At least with RAW I can try and correct those oddballs. All ears for any tips in this regard.

  21. I’m glad to see that all the comments so far have managed to avoid the religious discussion of JPEG vs. RAW. Like the Mac vs. PC debate it is, in my view, a silly argument. Shoot in the format that works best for you in a given situation. And post-process it with the tools and operating system that works best for you. The end product of a great image is all that matters. As long is your path takes you to the desired destination, its all good.

  22. Folks often get so caught up with the so called “rules” that shooting RAW is the only way.

    It most often is best, but it’s great to read that it’s perfectly acceptable to shoot JPEG’s for the reason’s you mentioned!

  23. The time I spend in RAW post is my penance for not nailing more of my shots in camera. I know that shooting in JPEG would be a great motivation to do a better job with the camera, but right now, I don’t want to sacrifice any great images to my lack of skills. I chimp like crazy while shooting in RAW and sometimes, especially when the offense is running without a huddle, its a mad scramble to get that viewfinder back up to my eye in time. Its nice to know that the pros shoot JPEG even in games as important in these and maybe that will be enough to force me to try it out.
    Now if I can only get Bridge to download my bursts in order, I’ll be happy.

  24. It gives me something to think about since I do everything … everything in RAW. Even when shooting a race where runners are coming by constantly I’ve typically shot in RAW. I think I’m scared of change but this might be a good tip for me to keep in mind. Great Post. – Thanks !

  25. Scott, I agree with you on the jpeg scene. When I shoot sports, our agencies need the pictures right now!! In fact, often they want us to upload the first half during the half time interval, speed is of the essence. I do however, shoot crucial night games in RAW. I have just got the D3s after a long wait and so may shoot both when the light is tricky – that way I can use the jpeg files unless I have “the shot” that needs a little more help.

  26. If you would go along the sidelines at a Major event, you will see that most shooters shoot Jpeg+Raw. I believe SI requires this for their staffers. This way, the “quickness” of jpegs for output comes through as well the RAW incase major adjustments are needed (White Balance, etc).
    I think this would nullify the Jpeg vs. Raw debate for all things except the speed of writing to Cards and the Buffer.
    Just my two cents.

    Tom Q

    1. Tom, You are correct. The SI guys have to shoot RAW+JPeg. The jpegs are used for the editors to chose for the ‘color show’ and when the image is chosen for the magazine they go back and work from the RAW.

  27. bottom line is, if you get the shot right in camera, JPG offers great quality and there is less work in the end

    I shoot JPG mainly for speed reasons. both in the camera and later when I download and process the files on my computer.

    I will shoot RAW in more important or tricky situations, as some have already stated.

    use what makes sense and works best for you

  28. Scott,
    I don’t shoot sports but when shooting events I shoot JPEG for many of the same reasons. If there is really bad light I may shoot a JPEG & RAW, but most times for events the client just wants clean bright pictures to throw into a brochure or website. Its not “art” but its work and the clients are happy.

  29. What other illicit things do you do that the family doesn’t know that you need to confess? As for “better shots than you and I will ever take in our lifetimes were taken in JPEG format long before their was a Raw format.” The same can be said for film vs. digital, but I’m not going back to film. A great shot is just that, great whether daguerreotype, film, jpg, tiff, or raw. Of more importance Nikon vs. Canon….

  30. I can see the advantage of shooting JPEG rather than RAW in some situations – sports and event photography being two.

    However, I wonder if the speed advantage of JPEG is purely due to the file being smaller. The RAW file has to be converted in-camera to JPEG – and surely this is an overhead which takes some time. So, if you shot in SRAW I or II (on Canon) would this not be a more reasonable comparison, as the JPEG and RAW files would be more similar in size.

  31. Better to get the shot in JPEG than not in raw, no question.

    We we need is to get the manufacturers to speed up the raw transfers so this isn’t an issue.

    And gang, its raw (or Raw), RAW doesn’t stand for anything does it?, its not an acronym.

      1. >I figured it wasnt a party until someone corrected the RAW.
        So what does RAW stand for?
        I think you’ll notice that good old Adobe goes out of its way not to use all caps too…

      2. Hey Andrew:

        That’s the point. I dont think that many people really -care- what it stands for. Truth be told, I don’t think anyone was even thinking of it until you pointed it out.

        I wasn’t trying to be mean or anything!! :) I just think that the Grammarian in you got the best of you!


      1. I say the first step towards genius is to get a real day job.

        Does Mr. Kelby actually pay you to do this? Just doesn’t seem like arguing on forums is something id aspire to do when I grow up

    1. I know some JPEG shooters that believe RAW stands for Rookies At Work LOL.

      I agree that you should use the right tool for the job, and in my case it’s get it right in the camera and JPEG.

  32. Scott – I have a question regarding importing JPG into Lightroom. Do you use DNG? I’m curious if converting to DNG still makes sense since if you make multiple edits with saves, the compression of JPG must have some effect on the quality of the JPG wouldn’t it?

    Just curious as I’ve always shot RAW, and I shoot alot of motorsports with an Olympus E-3, and on a very rare occasion the buffer does get filled up.

  33. Scott, I am a RAW shooter with a D300. What Picture Settings would I initially try with the D300 to get me started shooting in RAW outdoors. I refer to Picture Control Settings – Standard or Neutral? And adjustments such as Sharpening, Contrast, Brightness and Saturation? Thanks

  34. My camera only allows me to shoot in JPEG format which is fine for me because my pics are to serve as reference for my digital paintings in PS. The quality I get, is to my eyes, just great out of the camera and only needs a little tweaking in PS to ensure proper color balance. I can also take my JPEGs into Camera Raw even if the original is not in Raw to begin with and perhaps enhance the pic a little further. My question to the pros out there, how much better results do you get by shooting in RAW format than in JPEG? Is it going to be visible to the naked eye?

  35. no matter what it is, people always have an opinion on “what they would have done better”

    but as you so eloquently out it, sometimes you need to shoot in Jpeg. I shot 1409 shots at yesterdays game Thats about 6 gigs on Large Jpeg. If Id have shot Raw on my particular camera, it would have been about 11 gigs. You might say 5 gigs doesnt sound like much… times that by 15 games, thats 75 gigs, and thats just football. And if this was just stock, then yeah, buy a bigger hard drive and youre good, but processing them within an hour of the games end would be very difficult with Raw

    Enjoyed the post


  36. Confessions are good for the soul… pragmatism is such an overlooked attribute today.

    At some point they’ll have cameras with enough buffer and enough processing speed that you can shoot raw and pick ones you need JPGed while chimping. Best of both worlds then…

  37. So much of this is answered simply by “it depends.”

    I shoot almost exclusively fast paced dog sports and pet portraits. For outdoor events, I [i]could[/i] shoot JPG, but there’s simply no reason for me to do it. I can process a few thousand RAW photos as fast or faster than JPG, but that’s because I know how I shoot, and I have a set of presets for just about anything I may need. Plus, I tend to get it right in camera, so I only need a bit of “developing” rather than “fixing.”

    For indoors, JPG would never cut it. We’re talking ISO 12,800 in lights that flicker and phase shift so much that setting a manual WB is useless and Auto WB can’t keep up.

    Even in the most fast-pased sports, if you’re regularly filling the buffer on a D3 or especially a D3S, even shooting RAW, I’d recommend giving up on “spray and pray” photography and being a bit more selective. I’ve never filled the buffer on the D3S and only rarely fill it on the D3 and that’s only when something goes horrible wrong (a crash, fall, etc) on the course and I try to catch many frames for evaluation later.

    Scott, I’d love to to an exchange where you come shoot dog sports with me and I come shoot people sports with you ;-)

  38. I must be a very rare sports shooter. I shoot in RAW. And I choose my timing very carefully when I press the shutter while many shooters next to me fire off bursts of 20-30 in jpeg on a simple play. I often think a monkey can do that just as easy. I really don’t want 7 images of the football moving only one foot in the air. The only time I truly let it rip is when an outfielder goes for a catch in baseball. Also if you shoot any high school sports in very very bad light you need RAW. But I see your point about jpeg Scott. I am now shooting college sports with better lighting and even some games in the day light ( wow ! ). So maybe for a change I’ll try the jpeg shooting in the nice light.

  39. Scott,

    I too shoot JPEG most of the time. I shoot nature, which as you know tends to move most of the time. I went to JPEG instead of RAW for the same reason- my buffer doesn’t fill as fast.

    Do you shoot large JPEG fine or medium? I saw your show on D-Town about shooting medium and was wondering what you shot for the football game.

    God bless,


      1. Thank you Scott. I appreciate the info. Basically I shoot JPEG’s at fine and large all the time.

        You and Matt and D-Town have been a blessing to me. I have learned a ton!

        Thanks again,


  40. Let us not forget that the large number of Nikon/Canon engineers who design the processing systems for jpegs in the modern cameras are collectively a whole lot smarter than we”mere humans” that push the buttons.

  41. I always shot in JPEG and use RAW only for special projects. Since I don’t use Nikon software and still want the advantages of the Picture Control settings, I find JPEG to be the best way to get the photos the way I want in camera with minimal processing in post.

  42. Scott,
    With most things photographic, I tend to think, “If it’s good enough for the pros, it’s good enough for me.” Thanks for clearing up the confusions of this RAW shooter with your confessions of a JPEG shooter.
    Happy Monday!
    Trev J.

  43. thanks so much for posting this! i’m a jpeg shooter all the way! I shoot weddings, kids, families, babies, sports, personal work, commercial work, landscapes….all in JPEG!! Occasionally I’ll shoot in RAW but I just don’t see the point most of the time. I have felt alone in my decision many times so THANKS for posting this!

  44. Total amateur here. Love the blog!

    I have recently been bringing my camera to sporting events. Snuck my camera into New Meadowlands for a Jets game by giving my 70-300 to my girlfriend and capping my body. Went to a pee-wee football game to capture a friend’s son’s first football game. But last Saturday I had my greatest experience yet!

    My friend had 3rd row seats to the New York Red Bulls match. Their new stadium in is more like a true football/futbol/soccer stadium, with the seats practically on top of the field. Before the game, I visited the stadium website, and unlike the vast majority of venues, they allow all types of cameras into the stadium! (Tripods and monopods are not permitted) Being so close to all of the action, I quickly learned that shooting RAW was not such a good idea with my t2i/550d. The fps rate is already not that great and my buffer would max out at 5-6 shots. Glad to hear that pros do the same!

  45. Wow! This topic created a lively discussion. The great thing is that the comments
    are mostly positive, adding to the discussion, which is nice to see.

    Thanks for all the great insight on this subject. Just as an aside, I know that
    David Ziser says he shoots his wedding in JPEG.

  46. I shoot both RAW and JPG but actually like to shoot jpg more mostly because of points that Scott highlights in this post. I also think that the in-camera processing of raw that results in those jpgs tend to look better most of the time compare to the base that you start with in Lightroom for RAW files.
    It would be great if Lightroom dealt with jpgs better. there are a lot of things that lightroom doesn’t do a good job of as related to jpgs (such as lossless rotation)

    1. If you use the camera presets in camera calibration panel at Bottom of Dev module you can appply settings that get your RAW files to more easily match your in camera JPEGs. LR/ACR used to realy struggle with red/oranges in Canon files before these presets arrived.

      I also find that JPEGs out of camera that initially looked great, don’t look quite so good when compared next to the processed RAW file.

  47. I figured the jpeg thing out when I was trying to shoot NCAA hockey with a D70 camera, and it still holds for an EOS MkIIn, I feel also make the auto-folo focus faster. It is remembering to switch to RAW for the weeper-leaper pix that I forget sometimes…

  48. I’m Butch, I’m a sports shooter and I shoot RAW … until I opened my studio seven years ago, I shot strictly jpeg working as a staff photographer for newspapers … jpegs are more than enough data for newsprint … even full bleed … Now, I never know which image I capture will need to be printed 20×30 or larger … and I don’t have the luxury of working in the awesome lighting that many D1 college and pro venues have … I work in some very dreary dungeons … so the extra data a RAW offers, and a cleaner more precise WB adjustment … not to mention working NR on a 16 bit file is a Godsend … really helps the finished product shine … though if need be … I can shoot jpeg just fine ….. If I didn’t shoot RAW … I really would have little use for PS or Lightroom ….

  49. wow, great tip, i used to shoot a lot of surfing stuff, but that was wend files were only 6-8 megapixels, now with files sizes getting so big, i guess i can live with a 18 or 22 (canon) megapixel image. great tip for future reference, thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

    PS. i was surprised to hear that you shoot in jpeg, but i guess it makes sense now, i still like shooting in RAW, but i guess i’ll change for sports shooting. Mahalos!

  50. Hi My name is Mark and I too am a jpg shooter. This was too funny I just shot a Karate tournament this weekend and had someone ask me if I was shooting RAW. While I didn’t have the time to go into all the reasons you brought up here. I did let him know that I always shoot jpg for sports. I did try shooting RAW for a sporting event, and have never gone back. RAW is great I love RAW in most situations, but not for sports, for all the reasons you mentioned Scott.

    Happy shooting,

  51. What a timely post. I’ve been struggling with all these same issues the last month in taking shots of my son’s Pee-Wee football team.

    I shot last season in Raw and processed them in LR. Then I had an exchange with you on another blog post and decided that this season I’d try shooting the games in jpeg. The first games were daytime games and I was able to use my 55-250mm f/4.0-f/5.6 lens on my Canon T2i. The shots came out great. They needed minimal work in LR3. Here’s an example: It was nice getting a ton more shots without filling up the Canon’s buffer and I think I got more good ones that way.

    Then came the Friday night games. And the light is dim. *Really dim*. To get a 1/1000 shutter speed (the minimum to get rid of the motion blur, IMHO), I had to go to ISO 6400 and f/1.8. Which means I was back to my 50mm f/1.8 lens and cropping heavily in LR. I’m thankful for 18MP jpeg images. Some of these came out fine when the players were close, the light was strong and the noise wasn’t so visible because there weren’t big, flat areas. Other shots, however needed a lot of work in LR3. I had to really crank up the Noise Reduction in LR on some of them. The result was a photo with a more “painterly” look to it. Not at all sharp or crisp any more. Here are two examples: and

    I decided to try Friday night’s game shooting back in Raw at ISO 6400. I thought that maybe LR3 could do a better job with 14 to 16 bits of info. Yes, I did fill up the buffer some times. I had to let my finger off the shutter sometimes. And, yes, I might have missed some shots or not had exactly the choice of peak action that I might in jpeg mode. However, the tradeoff seems to have been worth it. Here’s a shot that, while not technically perfect, was one I had to get. It was the winning touchdown for my kid’s team:

    Maybe I’m being too picky. But, to me, if you view that one at large size and then view the other two that same size, the Raw shot looks much better. I don’t know… I’ll try it again this Friday night and see.

    If anyone has suggestions or comments, I’d very much appreciate them.

  52. I shot my kid’s flag football in Raw+ Jpeg and was thinking “Why?” No one is going to buy these pics, no one is going to demand that they be “fixed” and no one is going even notice— at least the parents on the team…. Thanks for clarifying this as I am a newbie to DSLR and use it mostly for video.

  53. Nice article, and welcome to the JPEG club :)

    I shoot a lot of motorsport and i never even considered shooting in raw – for many of the same reasons mentioned here. Most importantly however is the fact that i work with a journalist and we can do on the fly photo selection and posting to our website without having to do any processing. Fast news is the essential for us.

    Also when you, like me, shoot 1000+ photos on a typical race day, shooting in RAW would require enormous amounts of space and editing time. And since we are a online news media we really have no need to do fine processing of images.

  54. Scott,
    I’m not sure if I’m mis-reading comments here, but I think some people are coming away with the notion that you shoot JPEG all the time. In fact, if I understood your post correctly, the only time you shoot JPEG is when you shoot sports, which makes perfect sense. There really is nothing debatable about that (is there?). Right tool for the job.
    Trev J.

    1. Hi Trev:
      That is correct—the only time I shoot in JPEG is for sporting events. The headline didn’t do much to help the misconception–especially if they didn’t really read the post and then just commented. Oh, well. :)


  55. Wow! What support for us JPEG shooters. About 3 years ago David Ziser said on his blog that he shoots weddings in JPEG. I told that to my RAW-shooting pals, but they don’t read his blog and sneered. And Scott, you’ve mentioned several times that you shoot action sequences in JPEG, so I knew you could take a little ribbing.

    But I never expected a whole article! Now we can all relax. I like the comment that if photography is a religion, Scott is the Pope. So it is now decreed to all that JPEG is not sinful. No penance needed. No ostracism. Thanks, Scott.

    While we’re in confessional mode, I admit to further heresy. This is far more serious. I do admit that some of my favorite shots were taken with (gasp, whisper)…a compact. Yes, there’s even one of them on my living room wall. I have received compliments on it, but no one will ever know the whole story, except you.

    But heresy only goes so far. With my hand upraised I do swear that I have never, ever, even once – shot in Vivid Mode.

  56. Hi Scott,
    I’m a huge fan of yours and I’m delighted to find this post after making the decision to shoot in .jpg when I got the opportunity to watch the Blue Angels rehearse for their Fleet Week show from the deck of the U.S.S. Potomac last week!! Glad to know my instincts were on target! Those guys move so fast, I had to have every possible advantage on my side to capture them!!


  57. Last year, during my first sport season (rugby) i shot in RAW, just to be sure to correct mistakes (mainly, WB).

    Now, i made my life easier switching to jpeg, being more confortable with this task.

    So, if you are a rookie RAW could be better.

  58. Hi Scott, I shoot JPEG as well and I was wondering what your take is on changing the in-camera sharpening setting? I want to do minimal post work and thought changing this setting would help some.

  59. When you’re doing portraits or anything with difficult/questionable light and turn-around time is mid to low priority then shoot RAW. It just makes sense to give yourself all the freedom you can to edit how you like and compensate for difficult shooting situations like crummy lighting. But also if you shoot RAW it really only makes sense to shoot in a way where you’re just capturing as much image information as possible, focusing on as little contrast as possible and adjusting exposure to lean towards whichever end your camera produces better (For the 60D I slightly under-expose because the shadows are easier to correct than blown-out whites; your results may vary).

    If you need to shoot fast and don’t have the luxury of excess time for editing (or maybe you just can’t as a requisite of the job) then you’re way better off shooting in JPEG. Bear in mind the shooting is completely different; you’re not trying to collect information you’re trying to compose the shot as close to perfect as possible; contrast should be good out the gate and you need to nail your exposure before you even press the shutter button.

    I have friends that do sports and even airforce/army related shooting and there’s no such thing as post-production for them; those images might never even touch Photoshop or Lightroom. so JPEG makes more sense because it’s all about getting a good shot right out of the camera.

    On the flip side I do events and portraits for fun now and then and I shoot almost exclusively in RAW because turn-around time is low-priority and the RAW format makes compensating for low light much easier; not to mention the artistic freedom you get because your white balance is still in flux.

    One big advantage I see of shooting RAW vs JPEG for Sports/News, etc. is the white balance; if you screw up your white balance on a JPEG shot you might render it unusable whereas that’s never an issue with RAW. Also dynamic range is a concern; if we’re talking about speed then the time it takes to perfect that JPEG’s exposure/white balance might negate any benefit since shooting RAW means you have more wiggle room to fix those things later. So I might revise my sentiment to lean towards RAW for most situations and use JPEG when time is utterly paramount or you have some contractual agreement not to modify the photos in any way.

  60. I just got back from shooting the Olympics for the first time and I shot RAW only because I wasn’t shooting for a wire service and didn’t need a quick turnaround. But what I noticed surprised me; nearly every other photographer was also shooting RAW. At least the ones I was paying attention to. Many of the pool photographers (AP, Getty, etc.) would plug straight in to an Ethernet cable and send their photos to a tech, so I don’t know what they shot. I also noticed that those shooting RAW tended to have a lighter finger; they didn’t shoot as many frames. They seemed better at timing their photos (at least better than me). I really started to wonder if the faster cards and newest laptops meant that fewer sports photogs would be shooting JPEG.

  61. hmm, why should I store 4000 photos on a memory card? I’m far too scared that I might loose/break the card and also I want to transfer the photos to my pc after I’m done, why have them on the card after I have shot them? I never had problems with the speed when doing shots in RAW. I never had problems processing photos when doing them in RAW. I make a virtual copy and put my preset on all of them. It’s not so much a question of RAW/jpeg but how fast your pc is able to process. Whatever. It’s the same discussion as Apple/Android. but your arguments are lame. If you like jpeg, do them, I do RAW, in case I need to edit a picture so much that jpeg is not enough. Or get yourself a digital camera for 50 Euros, and won’t have the choice

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