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Why JPEGs Look Better Than RAW Images

I know what you’re thinking, “I’ve always heard it’s better to shoot in RAW!” It may be, but I thought you should know why, right out of the camera, JPEG images look better than RAW images. It’s because when you shoot in JPEG mode, your camera applies sharpening, contrast, color saturation, and all sorts of little tweaks to create a fully processed, good-looking final image. However, when you switch your camera to shoot in RAW mode, you’re telling the camera, “Turn off the sharpening, turn off the contrast, turn off the color saturation, and turn off all those tweaks you do to make the image look really good, and instead just give me the raw, untouched photo and I’ll add all those things myself in Photoshop or Lightroom (or whatever software you choose).” So, while RAW files have more data, which is better, the look of the RAW file is not better (it’s not as sharp, or vibrant, or contrasty), so it’s up to you to add all those things in post-processing. Now, if you’re pretty good in Photoshop, Lightroom, etc., the good news is you can probably do a better job tweaking your photo than your camera does when it creates a JPEG, so the final result is photos processed just the way you like them (with the amount of sharpening you want added, the amount of color vibrance you want, etc.). If you just read this and thought, “Man, I don’t even use Photoshop...” or “I don’t really understand Photoshop,” then you’ll probably get better-looking images by shooting in JPEG and letting the camera do the work. I know this goes against everything you’ve read in online forums full of strangers who sound very convincing, but I’ll also bet nobody told you that shooting in RAW strips away all the sharpening, vibrance, and contrast either. Hey, at least now ya know.

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