Higher megapixel count, better pictures (?)
Picture and print quality depend more on lens and camera sensor size than megapixels. You can cram 24 megapixel in a compact camera but since its sensor and lens are so small the picture will suffer increased noise. Compared to a 12 megapixel picture shot with a full-frame DSLR, your 24 megapixel compact camera image will look like crap.
Higher megapixel count increases file size as well and requires a faster computer to edit.
The biggest advantage of a high megapixel count is the ability to crop more (finding a picture in a picture). But getting your composition right when taking the shot more or less negates that advantage.
RAW is better than JPEG (?)
A picture shot in RAW contains the raw information coming from the camera sensor before it’s being processed by the processor. Shooting RAW skips all the fancy processing technology in your camera leaving that job up to you.
RAW images more or less force you to post-edit in a program like Lightroom because the camera will not have optimized anything: colors, contrast, noise, etc. will all be at a default flat value. You’ll have to do that optimization yourself which costs time. That’s fine for a few images but you probably don’t want to do that for – say – a 1000 picture counting wedding.
RAW-files are also flash card and hard drive eaters. A 24 megapixel camera will generate images of +/- 30 MB. A 50 megapixel camera (cf. Canon 5DS) will eat 60 MB away per RAW. When your catalogue gets bigger, free space on your hard drive will melt like snow in the sun.
Aren’t there any advantages to RAW? Well yes, you’ll have some more headroom for post-editing. If you screwed up a picture you’ll have a bigger chance fixing the RAW than the JPEG. However, if RAW provides any safety it is only related to the light in the image: overexposure, underexposure, white balance. It can’t fix blur (camera shake, subject motion blur), bad composition, something or someone blocking the subject, dropping your camera while bride and broom are kissing or being at the wrong place or time.
Personally I always shoot JPEG and I’m perfectly happy with it since it saves me the endless drag of post-editing. Practicing photography – and failing a few times in the process – have made me a better photographer over the years, so I rarely need the ‘safety’ RAW provides.
That being said, I am fully aware of the fact that the RAW camp has ‘won’ over the years. People look shocked and shake their heads in disbelief when I tell them I shoot JPEG. RAW has become the official photography religion. I’m ok with that, I’m just not a believer 🙂
Expensive camera’s make better pictures (?)
They generally don’t. The 500$ Nikon D3300 has exactly the same technology as the 1200$ costing Nikon D7200. You wouldn’t notice any difference comparing pictures shot with the two camera’s. The difference between them lies in build quality and controls, not picture quality.
There is however a noticeable difference between types of camera’s: full frame SLR’s shoot better quality than APS-C frame SLR’s that shoot better quality than compact camera’s. These 3 types have different sensor sizes, and the bigger the sensor the higher quality pictures you’ll get, especially in low light conditions. Considering a good compact camera will cost about 200$ and a full frame SLR body 2000$ + 1000$ lens, that difference may not be all that important to you.
Technology also matters. As sensors and image processors get more advanced, picture quality – generally – improves as well. Comparing images taken on my old Nikon D70s (2005) with my newer Fuji x100s (2013) shows this quite clearly.
Real photographers shoot in Manual mode (?)
Manual mode was the standard way of shooting 60 years ago when light meters, processors and other fancy technology we have today did not exist. Modern camera’s calculate all settings in a fraction of a second generally giving better quality photo’s than you would get after fiddling in manual mode for 15 minutes.
That said, if you would want a picture that’s either very under- or overexposed, exposure compensation may not be able to reach that required level, and you may have to switch to manual. Then again, in this digital age you can shoot a correctly exposed photo and over- or underexpose it afterwards in your favorite photo editing software.