Sep 242012

raw+jpeg options canon-5dMore and more photographers are aware these days that raw files provide higher quality information and more flexibility in processing than JPEGs do. For those of you convinced to shoot raw files, your camera most likely gives you a choice to save just a raw file, or to save both a raw file and a JPEG of each photo you capture.   Frankly, I hope to convince most of you who capture raw + JPEG to stop doing it and capture just a raw file. However, for those who choose to capture both, I will explain the file management options available to you.

My Experience Shooting Raw + JPEG

When I first started shooting in raw, I chose raw + JPEG because I wasn’t yet comfortable with raw files, and I wanted some insurance that I could revert to using the JPEGs. Not only did this mean that I had twice as many files to manage, which took up a lot more hard drive space, but it was frustrating as well. I would often accidentally work on the JPEG instead of the raw file, and then have to redo my work on the raw file. I I also found it extremely frustrating that the raw file didn’t look like the JPEG, and I could never get it to look like the JPEG.   As soon as I took the plunge into raw only, all of these issues melted away — less hard drive space, no confusion, and no jpeg for comparison, so I simply worked the raw file to my taste.  And this is in fact what I would encourage most of you to do.

You will be OK Shooting Raw Only!

For those of you new to capturing raw files, here’s why I think you can safely give up capturing those JPEGs as well:

1. The workflow in Lightroom is exactly the same for raw files as it is for JPEGs — so there is nothing new to learn!

2. You can create a JPEG from your raw file (to email out or post on the web, for example) anytime you want, very quickly, using Lightroom’s Export functionality.

3. If there is something about the colors of your JPEGs that you really like and want to apply to your raw files, you can use camera profiles to start out  closer to the look of your jpeg. (You will probably still need to add more saturation and contrast.)

4. If you are on a PC and can’t preview your raw files in Windows Explorer/My Computer and want to be able to, just like you can your JPEGS, you can install a plug-in from Microsoft that will allow you to do so (at this link, check to see if your particular camera file type is supported).

Still Want to Capture Raw + JPEG?

All that said, I certainly have heard valid arguments for capturing both.  For example, the JPEG can be sent off to someone without any processing at all — meaning without having to import it into Lightroom, potentially work it, and then export a JPEG copy. So for those of you who need to get a draft version of your files out to someone immediately after capture, this can certainly make sense. Another example would be if you like your camera’s black and white conversion – this does not get applied to raw files, only JPEGs. Shooting raw+JPEG can give you both the flexibility of the raw color version and the black and white JPEG version.

If you choose to do this, you will need to make a decision on how Lightroom is to handle these two copies of your photos.  You have two choices: to treat the JPEG and raw files as separate photos or not. This is specified on the General tab in Preferences (Lightroom>Preferences on a Mac, Edit>Preferences on a PC).

lightroom preferences raw jpeg option

Ultimately I can’t make a recommendation to you on which option to use, as it will depend on why you are creating the JPEGs, but here is how the two options work:

1. Box checked: JPEG files next to raw files ARE treated as separate photos

This means that when you import your shoot, you will see both the raw files and jpegs in the Import dialog, and unless you uncheck one or the other in the Import dialog, both the raw file and the JPEG will be copied to your hard drive and  imported into Lightroom, just as if they were two separate photos. You can store them in the same folder, or move them to separate folders; deleting one will not delete the other  — they are independent.

2. Box NOT checked: JPEG files next to raw files NOT treated as separate photos

In this case, when you import a new shoot, you will only see the raw files in the Import dialog. In fact, both the raw and JPEG files will be copied to your shoot folder on your hard drive, but only the raw file will be imported into, meaning visible and accessible in,  Lightroom. Lightroom will consider the JPEG file a sidecar file — meaning that it is linked to the raw file, and if you move the raw file to a different folder using Lightroom, the JPEG will move as well.   Similarly, if you delete the raw file from your hard drive from within Lightroom, the JPEG will also be deleted.

This option allows you to create and send off those camera-generated JPEGs, without having to deal with the confusion of having both copies in Lightroom. In the Grid in the Library module, if you are displaying the file extension, it will display as your raw file type +JPEG to let you know that you also have a JPEG out on your hard drive.

raw+jpeg lightroom grid view sidecar indicator

A Note on Working on Your Photos

Note that in neither case will your work on the raw file or on the JPEG (rating, flagging, keywording, developing, etc) transfer to the other. Particularly in the case of Develop work, I would argue that you would not want it to — your raw file and JPEG will look different out of the camera — the same Develop decisions will often not be appropriate. If you have imported both the raw file and JPEG and want to work on them together, you can use Sync or Auto Sync to do so

For those who choose to shoot raw+JPEG, and import both into Lightroom, in the follow-up post below I discuss a couple organizational options and tools available to you.

Related Post: Raw + JPEG Continued: Managing Raw + JPEG Files in Lightroom

I would be interested in hearing from you — all this said, do you still plan to shoot raw+JPEG, and if so, what are your reasons?

Thank you to Andre G. for this blog post idea.


  90 Responses to “Shooting in Raw + JPEG Mode: Why Most of Us Shouldn’t, And How to Set Lightroom Preferences If You Do”

  1. I shoot RAW+JPEG and will continue to do so. I have two main reasons for doing this:

    1) I like having an instant copy of my photos to share, if necessary.
    2) I back up ALL of my JPEG files to Flickr. I back up the RAW files too (to CrashPlan), but only the keepers.

    I never import directly from cards. I copy the contents onto my hard drive and separate out the JPEGs to a different folder. Then I import only the RAW files into Lightroom and start editing.

  2. I shoot only RAW on my Canon 7D for all the reasons listed above. However, my smaller Canon Powershot S95 only allows me to shoot in RAW + JPEG. Until now I have been importing both RAW and JPEG files into LR because most of the time it is too much trouble to uncheck one or the other in the import dialog. Not any more, thanks for the tip!

    • The Canon Powershot S95 allows RAW-only shooting — I have used this setting for over 65k photos on my S95.
      For further info, consult p. 78 of the “Canon PowerShot S95 Camera User Guide” available on the Canon USA website (if you are in the USA):
      “1. After pressing the ‘FUNC SET’ button, press the ‘Up/Down arrows’ to choose ‘JPEG’.
      2. Press the ‘Left/Right arrows’ or turn the dial to choose to choose ‘RAW’ or ‘RAW+JPEG’, then press the ‘FUNC SET’ button.” (For step 2. simply choose ‘RAW’.)

  3. Thanks … I did not know about the Microsoft plugin so I was shooting in both RAW and JPEG so I could open the photos on my travel laptop that does not have Lightroom. Thanks for the tip.

  4. - LR should offer the option to treat jpeg as a different file *per import* .
    – LR should offer an option to NOT import jpeg at all – also per import.
    – Nikon D7000 and others can save raw and jpeg in separate SD cards.

    – If you configure the camera to monochrome (mostly for shooting people), and want to share jpegs fresh from the camera, Raw-only would forcibly imply a import-develop-export-workflow. (Except in a specific Leica, Raws are never BW).

  5. How about corruption of files? Since the camera writes 2 “separate” files onto the card, isn’t there a chance that if one file is corrupt (the RAW, for instance) the next one (the JPG) will be fine? Right now for me it’s the only reason for shooting both until the 5D MkIII comes in.

    • @Narcis – This is a bit late for your post, but…
      If you are experiencing file corruption during the Import process, you have a HARDWARE issue – Bad cable, bad SD (or CF if you’re using those) card reader, an issue with the hard drive (developing errors, you should run a scan to check… Google hard drive check) or a problem with the USB port on your computer (try using a different one on your PC, the plugs are notorious for going bad and will cause just this type of issue!).
      The only other thing I can think of is if you’re transferring over a network, and THEN troubleshooting it gets real complex!!
      Just some thoughts to help you & others … :-)
      All the Best, PuterPro

  6. I have the J-Pegs set to monochrome when shooting for myself. There is impact, when interpreting a scene in camera in B&W, that running RAW files thru in post-production later doesn’t have.

  7. I also shoot raw + jpg on my Nikon D800.

    After my files are imported, I use lightroom to create 3 subdirectories. JPG, Raw, and Exported

    In Library module, I press \ and then sort using the term jpg. I move all those files to subdirectory JPG
    Then I sort by !jpg, and move all those files to subdirectory RAW

    I like having the jpgs, although I only process raw files (usually).

    (As a side note, I color rate my raw files in ACDsee 14, and it writes xmp sidecar files. ACDsee is many times faster than lightroom to review files ( especially D800 files ) and to rate them. I then synchronize my Raw subdirectory in Lightroom, and then process my files in lightroom that I previously rated in ACDsee 14.)

    I export my processed raw files to subdirectory Export. I run my slideshow on ACDsee, which can play a whole sub-directory of music, and not just one song like lightroom is limited to.

    I save original files on a Blu ray disc.

    • Thank you so much for the tip, now i dont have to freakinf seperare them manually! <3

    • wow… a one year old tip, but so fresh and so useful for me… thank you so much, I am new to LR and it is really time saving to apply that tip while importing almost 500,000 photos that I have.

  8. With the Panasonic GH-1 and 2, it has two GREAT B&W settings. Dynamic B&W and SMOOTH. I have not found a way to match that look. So I can shoot B&W. Preview in my viewfinder in B&W and in the case I want to do color I have the RAW.

  9. Laura,

    I use Canon 1D cameras, and have done so for years. I shoot both RAW as well as JPGs, the way I get this is I split my RAW onto the CF card, and JPGs onto the SD card. This way on the night at a wedding, I can get some photos onto my iPad and show the couple what we shot (from JPGs).

    Also, when I import my photos to my external HDD, I bring both JPGs and RAW. This way once they are all in LR, I can then back up my JPGs to DVDs and keep my RAW to work on.

    Having someone’s wedding photos on 2 cards at time of shoot will also help should one card blow up, which has happened. But having 2 of RAW files will force me to have too many cards, so a back up in JPG is OK for me.



  10. I quickly realized this after moving to a camera that does both raw+jpeg (nex7). It is good to make the right decision as I am new to LR (I was on PSE for many years). However I am now grappling with whether to use the sony raw file or convert to adobes raw format (.dng i believe).

    • Hi Daniel, I don’t consider this proprietary raw vs. DNG a mission-critical decision. DNG has some advantages — the files are maybe 10% smaller, if you set your preferences to embed fast load data, they will load in the Develop module somewhat quicker, XMP info is stored in the file rather than as a sidecar, and a few other things, but there is nothing wrong with keeping them as Sony files. Some people don’t trust the conversion to carry over all info that may prove important somewhere down the line, and/or don’t like that imports take a lot longer if you choose to import, and therefore don’t convert.

      • My main cameras (Pentax DSLRs) shoot straight to DNG, so I don’t have to think about converting them later (or worry that the newest camera might not yet be supported).

        However, I also use a Samsung NX100 (mirrorless) which uses Samsung’s RAW format. I convert these to DNG, in order to have everything in the same format. I’ve heard the objection that converting to DNG on import takes extra time. Copying, importing, and building previews takes so much time, that I wouldn’t want to add to it.

        So, I DO convert my RAW files to DNG, but not on import. First I rate the photos and delete the rejects. Then, I wait until I am leaving my computer for the evening and tell Lightroom to convert all RAWs to DNGs while I’m sleeping (or otherwise away from my computer). It’s so easy to convert them later. I don’t know why anyone would waste time converting them on import.

        • I convert to DNG upon import. I haven’t noticed any difference in the time it takes to import.

          My only issue has been making up my mind about whether to convert to DNG in the first place because I did worry about the possible loss of important information. I have read as much as I can find about it though and have decided to go choose DNGs.

  11. Thanks for your comments on raw + JPEG, everyone — it is great to hear different perspectives.

    • Hello Laura: May I ask you a couple of very basic question about shooting in Raw please ? Does shooting in Raw mode render all camera adjustments at time of capture, ie ISO, Exposure Comp, WB, F stop, etc. moot? Will those adjustments made at time of capture be intrinsic to the jpeg image embedded within the raw file? Will images display any enhancement if shot in raw, then simply batch converted into jpeg format (without any pp adjustments)?

      • Hi Harry, sorry for the delay in responding. Shooting in raw does not render ISO, Exposure Comp, F-stop or Aperture mute, because these affect the capture itself. The white balance is tagged, meaning that when you import the raw file into LR, what you shot it at will come up in the Basic panel, but you can override it, and it will be as if you had shot it differently in camera. Settings that are in fact ignored when shooting in raw include color space, sharpening, contrast, noise reduction, and saturation. All of the settings are indeed baked into the embedded jpeg — which is why when you import, you may see the embedded jpeg flash up initially, but then see the image change as a preview from the raw file is rendered.

  12. Hi Laura,

    Your comment and point of view are interesting. I always take RAW+jpeg on my D3. I have to admit that I am not very good in adjusting colour etc using RAW. A few times, I tried to see whether my tweaking can beat the jpeg processor on my camera and after some 15 minutes of adjusting, I was disappointed with myself as my adjustment is nowhere comparable to what my camera can do.
    My workflow is first to ensure that my photos are properly exposed. This means that post processing is unnecessary or down to a minimum.
    Next, I just noticed not long ago that LR did not tag “Color Representation” to sRGB on the jpeg file produced even though this is ticked on the Export window. This render LR completely useless to me. This problem puzzled me for a long time because the printed photos from my colour lab was never anywhere close to what I see on my screen… the pictures always look very brown and like being too contrast.
    Unless LR fixed the non tagging of Color Representation (see using file properties on Windows), LR will continue to be of limited use to me for a lot of my photos.
    On the other hand, I think my jpeg processor is doing a decent job to more than 90% of my photos, I will continue to shoot in both RAW+jpeg. RAW is just my insurance … just in case!
    Having said all the above, LR is fantastic in processing my studio photos. It really speed up in areas where it is a pain-in-the-neck to correct in PS.

  13. Brilliant article. Not many people know that every RAW file has a JPEG embedded you just need a software to extract it. Save your memory cards people!

    • Hi Tony…

      Can you explain the jpg embedded into every RAW file? I have all these jpg and RAW files that are filling up my external hd space. I do not have the means to go out and purchase more space at the moment.
      – If I back up my RAW files to a dvd, can I trash the jpg files since I don’t use them anyway? Is there a point to keeping the jpg files?
      – My LR catalogue is on my external hd. If I back up RAW files to a dvd, do I still need to keep the original copy of RAWs on the same hd as my catalogue?

      I am just trying to find the best way to use the external hd space that I currently have. I am afraid that I have possibly way too many files that are just taking up valuable space.

  14. Brilliant post. I use a Nikon D7000 and boy do the Raw files take up some space, add a decent sized Jpeg to that and my PC goes into overload. No more messing around with files I never use. Thank you for showing me the way around it. I will also be inserting a 2nd card into my D700 which,when full will be yet another backup for my files.

  15. OOps, that should have read D7000…..sorry!

  16. I like to shot RAW + JPEG right before I do a time lapse or stop motion shoot. For these two techniques I shoot in Jpeg medium size. This is about 2K. This gives me some room for cropping but keeps my computer from overly lagging when processing 7200 images for one 10 min movie. It’s a very fancy computer but that’s a lot of images for premiere pro to chug through.

    I edits the one RAW to give me a baseline for my thousands of Jpegs. I know I shouldn’t try sync adjustments, but it’s nice to see what’s capable in RAW before going over to jpeg

  17. I shoot both JPegs and RAWs and have them appear side by side in LR. The JPegs, with the vivid and contrast settings I like, help me quickly identify the RAWs I want to work with and they give me something to compare my editing to. Later, I’ll delete everything that doesn’t make the final cut or appears in any collections. But every once in awhile, I’ll come across a RAW that I can’t seem to make look better than the JPeg and I’ll go ahead and use it in my annual Fly Fishing Dreams Calendar. But the better I get at editing, the less this happens.

    • Thanks for the comment, David. Sounds like a good use of raw+JPEG. I’m happy to hear that the better you get at editing, the less it happens. Are you using camera profiles from the Camera Calibration panel?

  18. Laura;

    Hello from New Zealand, my winter home away from British Columbia.

    Yes I use the camera calibration Panel for my Nikon D7000 /16-85 lens but there’s nothing yet in Lightroom for my new Fuji X E-1 which a bunch of my gang bought in Nov./Dec. and love. But it’s quite different to the Nikon Look.

    Anyway, I travel all over the world getting photos for my annual Fly Fishing Dreams Calendar and feeding my website: DavidLambroughton.Com. I also send out a fishing/photography newsletter twice a year to a few thousand people. Seems like tons of fly fishing enthusiasts love photography. In the next one I will be sure to mention your site as an utterly superb source of LR Info. I really appreciate your website! If there’s anyone in your life that likes Fly Fishing, I’d be happy to mail you/them my 2014 Calendar from Montana in July to say thanks for your ongoing info.

    Thank You Again,

    David L.

    • Hi David, you may want to check out the Lightroom 4.4 release candidate on They have greatly improved the demosaic process for the Fuji X series. I don’t know if they have also developed camera profiles.

      I don’t think I know any fly fisherman, but nice work!!

  19. People who use their iPad for sorting and rating photos
    tend to shoot RAW+JPG and only transfer JPG to the iPad
    as the iPad has limited space.
    RAW will be saved directly from the SD card to the PC.
    The metadata from the iPad’s JPGs also.

    • Hi,

      Since the iPad camera connection kit does not let the user choose to import soley the JPG half of the RAW+JPG combination, how are you doing this?

      I would LOVE to be able to just import my JPG images to the ipad — since editing RAW on the ipad is limited (possible, but slow and far fewer features than on a desktop or laptop), RAW takes up tons of room, etc.

      The only hack I have seen, is to use a wireless card, but they don’t have room for all the RAW files I want to keep while traveling, are slow and power hungry, and often don’t work well for me.

  20. Hi Laura,

    after years of shooting RAW only, I’ve taken the decision to switch to RAW+JPEG for the following reason. I have recently started to do freelance paid jobs where I have to produce a lot of volume (up to 1000 useable pics) within a week or so. Have done three of these jobs so far. Shooting on the average 500 pics a day while on the field. Even if I unload my pics everyday on my Macbook Air and scrap half of them, the question of the processing is still there. It happens that Lightroom 4 auto-toning is close to useless, and as I’m a freelancer, I’m loosing time and money processing the pics one by one after I come back from the assignment. Now I’m finishing processing the pics from my third assignment, with the flu, doing nothing else 4 hours a day for the third day in a row and realizing that sticking to this workflow would amount to irrational RAW fetishism. So here I am, googling for RAW+JPEG Lightroom workflows!
    Never again… :P

  21. I shoot RAW+JPG as a) I like having a decent thumbnail when hunting through things on my desktop initially (I find it easier to look at the images and original file numbers than anything I have subseuently named them if I want to play with the original RAW for any reason) and b) when I am away, I take my not-quite new netbook with me and I cannot do a decent RAW conversion on there so having a JPEG file accessible means anything I really love more or less straight out of the camera can be shared on my blog or resized for Twitter or Google+ pretty much the same day.

  22. Hi Laura, I am shooting an event tonight on a 7D and I’m planning on shooting small raw at 4mp in case the exposure goes wonky and large jpg at 18mp in case I need to crop later for a long shot. I prefer to have LR treat them both as one file, but Lightroom only uses the lower resolution of the raw file, so if I need to crop, I have go out and use Photoshop on the jpg, which interrupts my workflow. Any tips apart from shooting large raw?

    • Hi Brad, there is no way to treat them as one file but get both in LR. I would go into Preferences and check “treat raw and jpegs as separate files”. (I personally would shoot large raw.)

  23. Thanks for this. I have been shooting raw & Jpeg for my last two weddings and for the life of me couldn’t figure out where the jpeg is/was when I imported to LR. Now I know!

  24. “If you are on a PC and can’t preview your raw files in Windows Explorer/My Computer and want to be able to, just like you can your JPEGS, you can install a plug-in from Microsoft that will allow you to do so” Thanks for this – it is just what I wanted and could not find.

  25. I do both. I shoot in JPEG on monochrome mode with a 1×1 ratio, and these are images I can use right away, and the raws are a back up in case I decide I want a color shot or a different crop.

  26. A few cameras I have owned or used in recent years allow saving in RAW + JPG.

    I have noticed that JPG files in SONY NEX and Panasonic GF1 and Panasonic FZ18 produce something better than just more vibrant “looking” colour and sharper “looking” images out of the box. They also do a good job of correcting lens problems including barrel distortion and pincushioning issues.

    I have just bought a copy of LR4, moving on from PICASA and a very old copy of PSE and I had intended to shoot both RAW and JPG so that I could use the JPG as a ‘model’ or guide for where I am aiming to go when developing RAW images.

    Sometimes the lens correction produced by the JPG version are very subtle and I have chosen to use the JPG version because I could not reproduce any lens correction in PICASA and the version of PSE I have does not appear to support RAW files from newer cameras.

    So I bit the bullet and decided to spend a little more money on LR4 in the hope of achieving better quality images.

    I have just started to install it this morning so I have not tried any RAW conversions so far.

    Having read your article I am tempted to only shoot RAW and take more care when editing.

    Let’s see how things go.

    Thanks for the article.

    I will be back to read more.


    • Thanks for the note, Tom. You certainly could continue to shoot raw+JPEG for the comparison you state, but I personally just found that frustrating. You will find excellent lens correction, sharpening, and vibrance and saturation controls in Lightroom. You also will find camera profiles in the Camera Calibration tab that mimic settings in your camera, in case you feel those give you a better starting place.

  27. I always record RAW + medium- to low-quality JPG on my K-5. I find it much faster to review the pictures in small JPG files, and throw away the bad ones. Loading a 2MB JPG is instant, while it can take up to a few seconds to read, load and convert a 20MB RAW for display. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when you have to review hundreds of pictures it is crucial to go through them very quickly and not to loose time loading and converting large files.

  28. Thank you – just bought a cannon 7d and your simple raw+jpg insight made my decision to go RAW only. New to Lightroom as well it simply makes sense. For years on my 20d I had those pesky jpg files hanging around and never used them. Cheers from NYC!

  29. Thanks for the article – it has helped my decision to stop shooting jpg.

    I started shooting RAW alongside jpg when I got a camera capable of holding big enough cards (Olympus EM-5). This was a step forward as I am a scuba diver and many of my shots are underwater – most of the specialist underwater photography sites strongly recomend RAW for improved control over white balance.

    I kept shooting jpg alongside RAW so that I could transfer photos to my iPAD while travelling, to give me a back-up and to begin filtering the good from the not-so. A while back I also began to use Photosmith 2 on my iPad, which was a nearly-brilliant iPad app that can render RAW images. Unfortunately it had some stability issues, so I never quite felt comfortable to loose the jpgs.

    Photosmith 3 has just come out, which seems to have fixed most of the stability issues, and is now a really-nearly-brilliant app for pre-viewing and rating photos prior to uploading to Lightroom (can also be used to synchronise existing collections for scoring, tagging etc). The only problem area I’ve found so far with V3 is that it doesn’t always seem to synchronise RAW + jpg pairs properly.

    This is what starting me thinking again about whether it is time to ditch the jpgs, then Google brought me to this article.
    Which is where I came in…

    Thanks again for such well articulated information – I’ve book-marked the sight and I’m sure I’ll be back!

  30. Hi

    I am Ronak from India, I have Nikon d7100 can u suggest me, how to capture raw file direct pc which software we use than possible it, right now we install Nikon camera control pro but there are shoot option is hidden plz suggest me which software we use than possible it

    Ronak N. shukla

    • Hi Ronak, Lightroom allows you to shoot tethered. I am not sure if the d7100 is supported though. I would try one of the forums ( or the Adobe forum).

  31. hi laura,

    i absolutely agree with you BUT I am so happy that i chose raw + jpg for my first holiday shoots using raw/lightroom -> I didn’t use the newest Nikon-transfer version on my laptop on which I used to save the files (and another copy on a second external storage) -> during the import, the .nef-files (Nikon 7100) have unfortunately been damaged.

    Maybe this info will help some people avoid the same mistake.

    Now I know the problem and it will not happen again (hopefully) – so I will take my pictures only in raw in future… (or as you mentioned for fast mail-exchange in jpg. but in this case i will only use small/basic-files)


  32. I now only shoot raw. Then process in lightroom. But I have a question these days. Should I keep my exported jpeg files? After published to Flickr, stored them in original folder with raw? Delete them?
    Any suggestion? Thanks!

    • Hi Keith, I personally rarely keep JPEG copies — I export, send them off, and then delete them. If I need them again, I just create them again. I’m sure that some users want to keep them as documentation of what they sent (even though the History panel in the Develop module has a step for the export). If so, if the output was for a particular shoot, I personally would put them in a subfolder of the shoot, and not have them in LR.

  33. I have been shooting RAW+JPG for a while now. I process all the RAW (at least the good ones) and export them to JPG with watermark or not for uploading to social media sites, or sending/giving to people that I may have taken the photos for. I for some insane reason keep every photo I have ever taken in both formats, using an enormous amount of hard drive space.

    Last year on vacation I took about 2500 photos in a little under a week, but I had my laptop with me so I could upload all photos from the day that night and actually did some editing in my hotel room.

    This year I’m going on a cruise for vacation and will not be bringing a laptop, so I’m thinking of just shooting RAW only to conserve space so I don’t run out of memory card space, as I can’t transfer to computer until after entire week long vacation is over.
    I found this forum while searching for what other people think about using RAW only instead of RAW+JPG, certainly I will not be going to Alaska anytime again soon, so I want to make sure I have all options available to me for the photos I take.
    I’ve rarely used the JPG files that are taken, I have a few times sent them out as proofs when I have done some photography for someone, but I always take the time to look at all RAW photos in Lightroom and if the photo has some value I process it, so I don’t think I will miss the JPG, I did like having them so when searching for specific photos I could look in the directory and see the thumbnails, but I will download the Microsoft raw camera codec pack, and that issue is solved.

    I will probably go with RAW only, that should give me a fair amount of room for photos.

    Thanks for bringing up this discussion, it was interesting to hear everyone’s opinion and see how other handle their files.
    does anybody else have Terrabytes of photos like me of which probably 75-80% are just not viable photos. hahaha

  34. Laura,just read your article on Raw vs jpeg mode and concurr with your tips on shooting RAW only. I just started shooting Raw a few months ago with jpeg on my canon t4i and they do take up alot of hard drive space. I”m just downloading 1096 files(raw-jpeg) and it takes more work to do so & move them to their proper folders. But i have not started using the developing module in lr5 ,only the quick developing module so i am not confident in my post processing skills of raw images. If after developing many raw images and become skilled at it ,then i will probably switch to taking RAW images only. But even after using the quick developing module in LR5 with some Raw images, I seem to be able make the images pop out over the jpeg ones. Great info!!

    • You’re welcome, Irwin. If you don’t have it, you might benefit from my Lightroom 5: The Fundamentals & Beyond course, which will teach you all about developing (as well as about managing your photos). Great to hear that just with Quick Develop you are getting results better than the JPEGs!

      • Laura, today i went out and took a few shots and just used the RAW setting. Am i correct in assuming after finishing editing a raw file(s) that they can be exported in jpeg to the particular hard disk folder etc. A ?: i tried to e-mail a photo set up the necessary presets then hit send message and filled out the needed info on the e-mail form and then hit send. But i got an error message that it could not be sent because it could not be found on disk #1.. How can i correct this laura?

  35. Hi Laura, I have recently become more active in my local photography club where I was encouraged to start shooting RAW and also heard about Lightroom. I found your article only after having imported and flagged my favorites of almost 1000 vacation photos (without “checking the box”). I have found that previewing and zooming in and out is taking a toll on my PC and is much quicker to view the jpgs. I really want to get these out to my family and friends quickly and realize I should have just rifled through the jpgs for posting on FB and emailing, etc. Is there a way to apply my ratings to my jpgs that are currently sitting on my hard drive but cannot be viewed in LR? I look forward to working on the RAW images in post but only want to spend that much time on the best ones for now. Thank you, Kristal

    • Hi Kristal, as far as zooming in taking its toll, if you select all your photos (Ctl/Cmd-A) and then go to Library>Previews>Build 1:1 Previews, Lightroom will build all the previews you need. This will take a bit of time, but once this is done, moving from photo to photo and zooming will be very quick. Otherwise if you want your original JPEGs, do an Import, choosing Add in the top center in the Import dialog so that they are added to the Lightroom catalog without copying or moving the files. You would then do a sync of the metadata, but you would have to do it photo by photo. I could tell you how to do this, but I suspect that simply building the previews will be more appealing.

  36. LAURA – Will Microsoft Camera Codec Pack (16.4.1970.0624) support Nikon D7000’s RAW (NEF) – I have checked and the list includes D70s – is that it? Just to avoid me downloading unnecessarily and then having to uninstall; I avoid such operations. But I see your point in shooting RAW only. I am still grasping videos 04 and 05. Jesus! Now I am beginning to realise their importance.

  37. Okay, this article And especially comments have been extremely helpful. Let me ask this out there, when shooting both raw and jpeg, which setting do you use, basic of fine?

    • It depends on what you plan to use the JPEGs for, JJG. If they are just for quick comparisons to the raw file or emailing, Basic would be ok. For best quality, choose Fine.

  38. I make audio visual slide shows and my workflow means that I need to save my images as Photoshop files (psd) and also as jpegs.
    (have separate sub folders for both original psd files and another for downsized jpeg files for my slide shows)

    I shoot only in RAW and save these to an external hard drive for importing into Lightroom.
    After processing the Raw file in LR, how do I export them as psd files to the appropriate folder, where I can then resize and save as jpegs in the jpeg sub folder?


    • Hi Ron, I’m not sure how I missed this question, but my apologies. You can save copies in both file types using the Export dialog – under File Settings \ Image Formats.

  39. i only shoot RAW+jpg when i have to show the photos to someone right away, using my Toshiba Thrive tablet with full-sized SD card. otherwise, it’s all RAW.

  40. I have recently purchased a Canon 6D and see that it has a raw converter in its menu. I have used this to convert from Raw to jpg but am told that it would be better to use Lightroom (I have lightroom 5 but am taking a while to come to terms with Lightroom. Would it be better to convert Raw to jpg in Lightroom 5?

    • Hi Kay,

      Once you convert from raw to JPEG, you lose editing flexibility — so if you convert right away in-camera, you lose the benefit of shooting in raw. I would instead import your raw files into Lightroom, edit them, and then as you need to share photos with folks, export JPEG copies.

  41. RAW + JPG or RAW only: Although Camera Codex for Windows 8.1 was listed on the Microsoft website and downloaded ok, it would not install on my computer running Win8.1. So I still need the jpg.

    However, Lightroom 5.3 has a selection for loading only the RAW file and treating a JPG with the same name as a duplicate and not loading it. That may solve the problems of those who take RAW + JPG, but don’t want to import the jpg into LR.

    Meanwhile, I will stick with RAW+JPG for shots I want to print and JPG only for those not intended for printing (such as documentation work photographing tombstones to add to findagrave).

  42. Hi I have Lightroom 3. I pull my raw files from a folder on my hard drive, When I have finished processing most of the time I will export back to the folder I imported from. I have noticed lately that my raw file is no longer there. How do I get my raw file back to the folder.

    • Hi Rickey,

      I’m not sure I understand, but the Folders panel in the Library module shows you where your original photos are. If you don’t see your folder hierarchy there, right-click on a folder and choose Show Parent Folder. Right-click on this parent and show its parent. Continue this until you see your whole hierarchy. You can also right-click on a photo and choose Show in Explorer/Finder. This will open up Windows Explorer or Mac Finder and show you the selected photo.

  43. I quickly realized this after moving to a camera that does both raw+jpeg (nex7). It is good to make the right decision as I am new to LR (I was on PSE for many years). However I am now grappling with whether to use the sony raw file or convert to adobes raw format (.dng i believe).

    • To me this isn’t a mission critical decision, B. For most camera files, DNG’s tend to be about 10% smaller, they will load a little bit faster in the Develop module, and at any time in Lightroom you can verify that there is no corruption in the files (i.e. validate them). On the other hand, if you convert when you import, expect your imports to take substantially longer.

      In my Fundamentals & Beyond video series, you’ll find one video dedicated to the pros and cons of converting, and another video covering all the how-to’s of converting and managing DNGs.

  44. Most obvious reason to shoot both: jpegs are smaller, so for culling it’s much easier and more economical on laptop disk space to use jpegs. After you pick the winners, you can import matching raw files for the detailed developing. (For many purposes, the jpegs are good enough, and you don’t need the raws.)

    So, you can keep your complete library in 1/3 of the space, and still have the raws off-line for when you need them.

    Aperture has a feature to “import matching raws”, but I haven’t found anything similar for LR, now that aperture is being discontinued. Any ideas?

  45. One thing that can make Raw+JPEG a better idea is a lot of cameras do the in-camera review with the JPEG (rather than processing the Raw file), and if they don’t have a separate one they will use the one embedded in the Raw file, which is usually a lot more compressed than a separate one.

  46. So Question …

    If the Lr preference to “Treat JPEGs as separate images” is not selected prior to RAW+JPEG import, is there a way to view and manipulate the JPEGs that are part of the Raw sidecar? Or do you have to re-Import with the Preference checkbox selected? If so, how?


  47. I used to shoot just RAW but I now shoot RAW+jpg and here is why. For most of my shoots, the .jpgs turn out great and I prefer to work on them starting with the base of work done (although I will change my camera profiles and see if that helps). I was getting tired of spending so much time getting RAWs fixed up (even with presets) and just liked how the .jpgs looked (I shoot a lot of pets). Plus, the RAW files were taking up huge amounts of space on my hard drive and I have a hard time throwing files away. But yet, I like the idea of having the RAW files in case a file needs a lot of work or I missed the mark on exposure or something. So I look at the files on my card, and if the .jpgs were good, I only copy those to my hard drive and I delete the RAW files. If it’s a really important shoot, I put the RAW files into a file folder called “RAW files” in the event folder, just so they are there, but I don’t import them into LR.

    This is how I do it right now, but maybe I will go back to RAW at some point… this is just working well for me at this moment.

  48. I believe shooting RAW+JPEG to be the best option for enthusiasts photographers like me, and I’ll try to state my reasons here with an example:

    Earlier this year, I went to Disney World with my girlfriend and got something around 700 shots with a 16MP camera (16MB DNGs and 3MB jpegs, more or less)

    Among those shots, I selected around 50 keepers and post-processed the get the best out of them.

    If I discard those 650 unused RAWs, that’d be around 10GB of HD space…..I know storage is really cheap today, but anyway, why would I keep 10GB of files that’ll never be used??

    So, after that, I don’t believe I need to keep all the 700 RAWs, but I do want to keep the JPEGs as keepsakes since there’re many places on my trip that I wasn’t able to get a beautiful shot worth of post-proc or publishing.

    If I were to shoot only RAWs, I’d have to do at least a basic post-proc on every 700 shots and export all of them afterwards…..shooting RAW+JPEG saves me this work.

    • Sounds like a good reason for you, Mietto! Thanks much for sharing it – I like how my provocative title (Why Most of Us Shouldn’t) has led to folks contributing some good examples of where it makes sense.

  49. this is very old question, but nevertheless..why shoot RAW if Lightroom is the only PP software I own?
    Especially for someone who do not own Photoshop, just LR. As I know it, LR in Raw only gives more WB flexibility. Maybe I am missing something?

    • It also gives you more flexibility in recovering highlight and shadow detail, applying lens corrections, noise reduction, and probably more, Michael. Raw files are also 16 bit (or 12 or 14), which gives you more editing headroom generally. (Read more about 8 vs. 16 bit here.) I’d definitely shooting in raw.

      • Thank you Laura.
        I shot quite a few Raw during my recent OBX outing when most of the time light was very low, but did not notice much difference. Will look again now.

      • For other examples of using Lightroom Tony Northrup does regular videos looking at images sent in by people who have bought his book. He and his other half usually have a go at improving them and they always work in Lightroom. It’s not instructional at all, but an example of the sort of things you can do in Lightroom and I think you’d find it interesting in deciding if Lightroom might be for you. The most recent one is:
        About 20:30 on…

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