For lots of amateurs and family photographers, JPEG is just fine. Make sure the camera is set to the highest quality resolution setting and to save pictures with the least amount of compression. The camera manual will explain how to do this. A photo retailer can also help. JPEG is fine for snapshots, but you have limited ability to correct overexposed or underexposed areas. A professional wanting greater control will probably shoot in RAW.
RAW format allows a photographer to capture more detail than when shooting in JPEG format; it also provides more control over color correction and exposure adjustment in the digital darkroom. The ability to change the white balance on a RAW file or dig out some extra detail in highlight and shadow areas can make an immediate impact on the overall look of a photo. Since RAW files do capture lots of detail without applying processing or compression algorithms, they will take up more space on a memory card and hard drive.
Formats for Saving Pictures First of all, whether shooting in JPEG or RAW, remember to back up photos after moving them from the camera to the computer. Burn them to a DVD, or transfer them to a portable hard drive kept in another location – away from the computer. Better yet, seek the advice of a local photo retailer for archiving and storage options. RAW files create a problem because different camera manufacturers have different “flavors” of RAW. For example, Canon RAW files are known as .CRW, Nikon files are .NEF, Pentax files are .PEF, and Olympus uses .ORF. The DNG format (for “digital negative”) was recently created by Adobe in an effort to unify the slightly different RAW formats created by the various manufacturers. Many photographers fear these differences may potentially become problematic in the long term, as one manufacturer’s RAW files may not be future-proof in new software applications. Programs like Adobe® Lightroom® have an option to back up RAW files as .DNG files. To protect digital negatives (RAW files) for many years to come, converting them to DNG may be well worth the effort. The presumption is all new software will recognize DNG, while some RAW versions particular to a manufacturer may fall by the wayside and possibly be unreadable in the future.
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