If you don't have a digital camera and/or don't care about such things, skip this entry. But if you do, I want to share an example that illustrates the difference between shooting RAW vs. JPG. I've got a Nikon D40 that I picked up a couple of years ago. For those not familiar with the model, it is, a now discontinued, entry level 6 Mega pixel digital Nikon SLR. Other than being at the lower end of resolution, it is typical of the kind of images you can get with a Nikon. When shooting outdoors and in good light, I typically shoot with the white balance set to the automatic setting. This typically gives adequate results.
This weekend I was shooting near sunset at Garden of the Gods, south of us in Colorado Springs. Up until recently, I followed Ken Rockwell's advice and only shot JPGs. He, as a professional photographer only shoots JPG's unless forced to by the client. My understanding of his argument is that RAW is over kill for most people. The images take more space, and CAN require more processing. So he argues to take your time and get it right from the beginning rather than fix the image after the fact. Over the last few months, I've started experimenting with shooting in RAW format. The Nikon has a mode that captures both a RAW and JPG file with each shoot. Below is an example of this:
This first image is from the RAW file. Notice that the colors aren't as saturated. The sky is purple, and the tree earth toned.
The second image is the JPG capture. The colors are significantly warmer. The red/orange rock and sky especially.
In the past, I would have been pleased by the warmness of the second image. But honestly, the first image is closer to the truth. It was overcast that day, and the clouds weren't in any way red. While I could have fiddled with the white balance to get the JPG to look exactly like the RAW image, the light was fading and I didn't feel like taking the time. So I went with what the automatic settings produced.
In the end its a matter of taste. The JPGs produce acceptable images, and for simple things I still use the JPG setting to have smaller file sizes. But more and more often, I find the RAW image to be closer to the truth, and preferable.