Why JPEG file format is not great

Let's talk JPEG file formatIt's a lossy compression method (it loses image info when saved) but because of its smaller final file size, still is the default choice of camera manufacturers worldwide.

Shooting in RAW (if your camera lets you) is currently the better choice. When your camera saves a file as a JPEG it does its own form of processing in-camera. The resulting file is basically what you get. RAW file format gives you the unprocessed file, allowing for post-processing by external software with much more control of the image exposure, color balance, highlight/shadow details, etc.

But if your camera (or cell phone camera) only allows for saving the file as a JPEG, is it the end of the world?  No.

Some camera raw software allow you to open that JPEG and do limited adjustments. Nothing like you can if it was a RAW file format, but some.

But the thing to always remember, when its time to save that file after you have worked on it in your image editing software, DO NOT SAVE IT AS A JPEG AGAIN! Save your files as a TIFF or PSD if possible. Both are loss-less file formats.

Below are two images saved as JPEGs. The top one was saved just one time. Not much loss of image quality. The bottom one was saved as a JPEG twenty times on top of itself. Notice the image degradation.

Click on each photo to view larger version.