A lot of people have come to me asking for a disc of RAW image files (for their wedding etc.). In most cases, what they really want is the High-Resolution JPEGs. So what’s the difference?
Asking for the RAW image file is akin to asking for the negatives from a film camera. You would have to have special equipment and a darkroom to be able to view and print the images. With digital files, you would need specialized software, like Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, etc., to be able to view and edit the images. The RAW file format is a proprietary format specific to the camera manufacturer that sometimes may even vary with the model.
JPEG or JPG is a universally accepted format, which can be read by most image applications that come with your computer, from MS Paint to iPhoto and most printing labs accept these types of files when you want prints made. JPG files are also a lot smaller in size, a typical RAW file can usually be around 25MB in size versus an equivalent JPG would be around 5MB, making it a lot easier to share.
The only time you should want the RAW files is if you plan on editing the pictures yourself. You can’t really use the files unless you perform some post-processing on the them, then convert them to another image format.