Here are some commonly asked questions that, once answered, will demystify setting camera file format.

“Should I set my camera to JPEG, Raw, or JPEG and Raw?”

If you want to create files with the highest quality, set your camera to create Raw files. Raw files contain the widest color gamut, highest big depth, have flexible white point, can have highlight and shadow detail recovered, can be reprocessed infinitely, and are free of compression artifacts. Raw files are larger and require post-processing before presentation. They take up more room and they take longer to use.

If you want files to create files to share immediately without (or with minimal) post-processing, set you camera to create JPEG files. JPEGs are excellent for transmission, posting to the web, and print on demand. (Remember, the highest quality JPEGs are the ones created by post-processing Raw files, not the ones created by your camera.)

If you want both Raw and JPEG, set your camera to create both.

A camera creates a Raw file every time it makes an exposure. Setting a camera to create a JPEG file requires it to make a conversion to JPEG, which it does with incredible speed. If a camera is set to JPEG, it will replace the Raw file. If a camera is set to Raw, only a Raw file will be created. If a camera is set to Raw + JPEG it will create a JPEG copy in addition to the Raw file.

“How do you set file format on a digital camera?”

Camera interfaces and terminology vary. On the Canon 1Ds Mark II, you can set image- recording quality by pressing the Quality button (a square icon that breaks into pixels) and dialing to the setting of your choice. Four quality settings are available – one Raw and three JPEG: Large/Fine, Large/Normal, and Small/Fine.

“Should I save my JPEGs in another file format?”

If you edit them, once you edit them, save copies of JPEGs as TIFFs to avoid additional JPEG compression artifacts. Every time you save a JPEG file it’s re-compressed, which causes progressive artifacting and cumulative damage.

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