A lot of us like to shoot in two different modes. If I’m shooting fast pace sports like tennis or racing, I like to use JPEG mode because it allows me to take a longer burst of photos before my camera has to start sending the images to my memory card. When I want a little more control over the final result, I shoot in RAW instead. I recently received a question from one of my readers. If it okay to keep RAW files and JPEG files on the same memory card? The short answer is YES. Now here’s why.
It’s all the same file system
When it comes to files, your computer is the same as your camera. The only real difference is the storage medium itself. Most computers rely on hard drives to store files, but camera use special flash drives. The data on both is exactly the same (just a bunch of 1’s and 0’s when you really get down to it). It's just the storage medium that works differently.
You can, and do, store a ton of different file types on your computer. You’ve got pictures, documents, movies, Excel spreadsheets, pdfs, and more. None of them make your computer crash. They’re just different types of files, that’s all.
The same is true of RAW image files. They’re just a horse of a different color. Your memory card can store RAW files along with JPEG files, movie files, and pretty much anything else. If you really wanted to, you could plug your memory card into your computer, transfer a few Excel spreadsheets onto it, and none of them would affect your camera in the slightest.
Well, let me rephrase that. If you have too many files your camera can’t read, it might affect your camera’s estimate of the space you have available for more photos. Your camera might “think” you have more space than you actually do. All that means is you’ll run out space earlier than expected. It won’t affect the quality of your photos at all.
As a matter of fact, some camera brands have a mode that shoots both RAW and JPEG at the same time so you have the option to choose one or the other after the shoot. This is particularly nice for sports photographers who have to meet deadlines but want to keep the original RAW file for their portfolio. If the camera makers are confident enough to make a mode that shoots both types at the same time, you can be confident that it doesn’t really matter what you keep on your memory card. However, note that can use up the space on your memory card very quickly. I still remember the night I first told my camera to save both RAW and JPEG - I ran out of space on my memory card very quickly.
Thanks for the questions. Keep on shooting, and always keep your curiosity.
If you have a question you'd like me to answer, head over to my Ask David page.
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