I generally shoot Raw when possible, but there are a few exceptions.
The Pros of shooting Raws are numerous. Raw files record more information, but don't lock it in. You can, for example, adjust the overall exposure of the image +/- 4 full stops. For an amateur, that gives me a lot of leeway to make mistakes in exposure.
Most camera sensors record 12 bits per channel, or 4096 tones, or shades in each of the red, green, and blue channels. Raw files preserve all of this information. A Jpeg file only saves 8 bits, or 256 tones. You may not see the difference (the untrained human eye can only differentiate about 200 tones), but starting with more detail means a greater chance to finish with more detail. People often talk about losing information with different save formats, but you also lose information when you edit an image. More initial information means more editing leeway.
So with Raw files, it's all about starting with more information, and getting as much of that information as possible to the final print. However, more information means a larger file size, and taking so much control of the conversion and editing means longer editing times. These are the two biggest drawbacks for Raw files. With a Jpeg file, you can print the images straight from the camera's memory card, if desired. For Raw images, editing is mandatory. Many camera manufacturers include a Raw+Jpeg setting on their cameras so that you can print the Jpegs right away, and process the Raw images later for the best image quality. However, this eats up even more memory.
- Joe U