Should Police Shoot RAW or JPEG?

Can the court trust photographic evidence anymore now that it is so easily doctored in a photo editing software? Mark Wood addresses this issue in an interesting article over at BJP. He encourages Police (and CSI) photographers to shoot in RAW instead of JPEG. He argues that not only does a RAW file provide more data to work with but, because RAW is read-only, it has more integrity in court. How do you prove that a JPEG has not been tampered with? By having the RAW file available. Used in a camera that records GPS location, the EXIF metadata encoded with every picture provides a pretty good record of the when, where and what was recorded at the scene of the crime and what changes may have been applied to the JPEG version.

It’s a very convincing case and this is no doubt the way to go.

Read the whole article at: BJP.

I would however still caution that photographic evidence should not be granted unchallenged status in court, especially in JPEG form and even when backed up by the RAW file. A picture could still be doctored in-camera before it is saved as a RAW file. In that case, what the RAW file would be recording would be already suspect.


  • Hi Dave,

    Don’t see how this will resolve anything. It’s not the altering after the picture is taken that concerns me but the altering while the picture is taken, i.e. in-camera (using double exposure, hacks and other creative effects and photography). Once the picture is falsified in-camera and saved to RAW or write-once sd card, the court could be under the wrong impression that the picture has not been tampered with, therefore authentic and admissible in court testimony. Where the tchnology stands right now, I’d say that pictures and video should no longer be admissible in court; the JPEG are simply too easy to doctor and how many really ask for and understand RAW, etc.?