Every new photographer feels the same confusion when hearing about the differences between shooting images in RAW vs. JPEG.  In the past, most photographers used JPEG because you could get more images on your memory cards and the photos looked good. But now all DSLRs, many point and shoot cameras and even smartphones are giving you the option to shoot in RAW. And if you want to be able to do more in post-production with your images, then you might want to consider using that option. JPEG mode allows the camera to run the images through its image processor, which varies with each camera brand.A RAW file is essentially a digital negative.  A RAW file is unprocessed, but it also contains more data than a traditional JPEG. Because RAW files contain more data, they have a wider range of possibilities inside Adobe or other software editors.

Unlike a JPEG, you can’t immediately pull a RAW file from your camera and upload it to your favorite social network or take it to a printer. RAW files contain more data because the camera hasn’t yet applied any of its own adjustments to the file. That means the image hasn’t been sharpened, and if you shot in black and white mode, you still have all the color data inside that RAW shot.

dslr photo

As a photographer, you should always aim to “get it right in camera.”  You get a second chance to get it right—first chance when you take the picture; second chance when you edit the picture inside the Raw converter. Which is really helpful when you are still learning to nail the perfect exposure! If you over-exposed or under-exposed your photo, you will be able to recover details and rescue what, otherwise, may be lost. In other words, you can make a decent photo out of a not-so-decent one, which is fantastic. So which does it better?  A smartphone or a DSLR?

iPhone 7 Plus JPEG
iPhone 7 Plus JPEG

If you’re on a budget to take your own product photography, it all boils down to one question – should you use the phone you might already own or invest in a DSLR camera?  Honestly, they both do a really good job.  A DSLR camera offers all the features you love about a DSLR and consistently shot a great photo. A smartphone, however, is superior in ease of use and it takes a great photo as well. The capability to take a RAW photo from the phone is a really great new feature that makes it even harder to compare the two.

iphone 7 plus raw
iPhone 7 PLUS RAW

However, in several instances, the DSLR takes a higher-quality photo over the iPhone in pixel size and RAW editing capabilities. But a smartphone (such as an iPhone) might be the overall winner for shooting product photography on a budget, for several reasons:

  • Ease of use. The iPhone is a straightforward point, click, and shoot without the hassle of reading a camera manual.
  • Value. Although the price of the smartphone itself costs more than a DSLR, it offers a wider range of value being, well, a smartphone.
  • Sharing capabilities. To support the point above, you don’t have to transfer your photos to any additional devices to get your photos online or on social media.
  • Control. Although a DSLR has a bunch of classic ways to adjust your camera settings, with apps like Adobe Lightroom you can shoot in RAW and manually control exposure settings.
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