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Which Format to Shoot In (RAW, JPEG, or TIFF)

Most digital cameras these days (and all DSLRs) offer at least these three main file formats: RAW, JPEG, and TIFF. Here’s when to use each: JPEG: Shoot in JPEG if you’re really good at nailing your exposure every time. If you’re dead on (or really close) on your exposure and white balance, and don’t think you’ll need to tweak it much later (or at all) in Photoshop, then JPEG is for you. The file sizes are dramatically smaller, so you’ll fit more on your memory card, and they’ll take up less space on your computer. RAW: Shoot in RAW mode if you don’t nail the exposure and white balance most of the time, and think you might need to tweak your images later in Photoshop or Photoshop Lightroom. In RAW mode, you can control every aspect of the processing of your images, so if the image is underexposed, overexposed, or has a color problem—you can fix it easily. RAW offers the highest-quality original image, too, and offers maximum flexibility. TIFF: Shoot in TIFF if you’re loose with money. This is a great format for people who have money to burn, people who shoot to huge 128-GB memory cards and have plenty of ‘em handy. TIFFs are also perfect for anyone who has lots of spare hard drive space and lots of spare time, because TIFF files are huge to deal with. Outside of that, I can’t think of any really compelling (or remotely reasonable) reason to shoot in TIFF format.

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