Should You Shoot in RAW + JPEG?
Before I discuss the best ways to handle RAW+JPEG files in Lightroom, let’s go over some RAW+JPEG basics.
All cameras come with the ability to shoot and store a RAW file AND a JPEG file at the exact same time. The question is, when and why should you use this feature?
The simple answer is almost never. Let me explain:
When I first started shooting RAW files, I chose to shoot RAW + JPEG because I was not comfortable shooting only in RAW. So, in essence, the JPEG’s were my backup plan.
But it didn’t take me very long to realize how much better I was able to process and fix my RAW image files vs. my JPEG versions in Lightroom. And as a new photographer, I was making a lot of mistakes.
The problem was that by shooting RAW+JPEG, I now had twice as many image files being added to and taking up space on my hard drive. It also got pretty darn confusing trying to figure out which version of the files I had actally developed. So I quickly made the decision to shoot RAW only.
When to Shoot in RAW+JPEG
In my opinion, most people should pick a single file format (RAW or JPEG) and stick with it. However, there are a few instances when you may want to shoot both:
1. Photography Beginners
If you are justing starting out in digital photography, you may feel more comfortable having both RAW and JPEG options at first. I know I did as a beginner. If this is you, go ahead and use both, but be aware of the confusion this may cause and at some point you should choose one or the other and stick with it.
2. Wedding Photographers
Some wedding photographers like to shoot RAW+JPEG in order to show a client a slideshow of some of their wedding images at the reception and still have the ability to process the RAW file versions for use in albums and prints.
With very little time to develop photos between a ceremony and the reception, JPEG files are the best-looking and quickest option to make the slideshow happen quickly. So shooting in RAW + JPEG in this case, makes perfect sense.
There may also be other cases where shooting both is warranted, but those situations are few and far between.
How to Handle RAW + JPEG in Lightroom
If you decide that shooting RAW + JPEG is right for you and your situation, just be aware that you are going to have LOTS of images to deal with. The good news is that Lightroom CAN handle the duplicate files for you.
There are a couple different options you can use in Lightroom to effectively import and manage your RAW and JPEG files. Try them out to see which one works best for you!
Option #1. Import ALL Photos, but Only See RAW Photos in Lightroom
To do this, go to the general Lightroom preferences menu and make sure the box labeled “treat JPEG files next to RAW files as separate photos” is unchecked. If you don’t know where to find this menu, go to Edit>Preferences on a PC or Lightroom>Preferences on a Mac. Make sure the “General” tab is selected.
Unchecking this box will ensure that Lightroom imports ALL of your photos, but will only show you the RAW files in Lightroom and will treat the JPEG file as “attached” to the RAW version, so if you move and/or delete the RAW file, you will also move and/or delete the JPEG file.
Option #2. Import ALL Photos and See ALL Photos in Lightroom
To choose this option go to the general Lightroom preferences menu and make sure the box labeled “treat JPEG files next to RAW files as separate photos” is “checked”.
By checking this box, you will ensure that Lightroom imports both files AND shows you both RAW and JPEG files in Lightroom. Upon import, both versions will be in the same folder, but I would recommend sorting them into two different folders.
Sorting the files is pretty easy to do using the Filter Bar in the Library Module. To sort out the JPEG’s, create a new folder within your folder, select all the JPEG’s and drag them into the new folder.
Option #3. Use Lightroom’s Stacking Feature to Manage Duplicates
Lightroom has a feature that allows you to stack photos together based on capture time. Since both the RAW file and the JPEG file will have been captured at the exact same time, it is easy to force them together in a stack.
Both the RAW and the JPEG will still be in the same folder just like when you imported them, however, the RAW and its JPEG will be stacked together. You will be able to choose to see both at any time and you can also choose which photo is on the top of the stack.
To do this, go to Photo drop down menu and hover over “stacking.” From the new menu, choose “Auto-Stack by Capture Time.” In the box that opens up make sure the slider is set to 0:00:00.
To choose which file to have on top, once again go to Photo drop down menu and hover over “stacking.” This will open a list of stacking options to choose from.
Keep in mind, a potential problem can occur with this method if you take LOTS of photos in quick succession. Its possible to end up with more than one RAW and JPEG photo stacked together if you took more than one photo in the same second (for example: burst shooting, etc).
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