It is time to Shoot Raw
What is RAW?
Let us start with a brief description of what the RAW file that your camera creates is. More importantly, what can you do with such a file? A RAW file is the unedited and unchanged file that is sent to your memory card by the camera sensor. While they may have become obsolete now, the RAW file is actually the negatives on the film that we needed to get developed before using them.
Your camera makes irreversible changes to the photograph that you take in the form of jpeg files. Thus, you will be getting the product after it has been developed. Of course, this will be time saving; however, it will also mean that you won’t have the freedom to edit the jpeg files if you are not satisfied with how they have come out. We say that because with every edit you make on the photograph, its quality suffers. The reason behind the degradation of the quality is that editing is the result of change in the photograph’s pixels. If you were making these edits on a RAW file, you won’t be manipulating the pixels. Instead, it is as if you add extra layers to the original picture, which is why the quality remains unaffected.
If you want to get a RAW file of a photograph, then you will have to forego the auto mode. It is only possible to end up with RAW, if you are shooting in manual or semi-manual mode. When you shoot in auto mode, the result will be jpeg.
Something to keep in mind when you aim to get the RAW images is if you have the software that can read them correctly. Older versions of the software might not be compatible with the new camera’s RAW files and you won’t be able to edit them. Additionally, there may also be a problem with the format of the RAW files. If the image is in jpeg, then you don’t have to worry. Due to there not being a standard RAW file extension, its format will often depend on the camera manufacturers.
Before shooting in manual mode and thinking about editing the resulting RAW files, ensure that you the right version of the software you will need. If you are updating the software, then check compatibility. The software needs to be compatible with your camera’s raw file format.
Since RAW files have much more detailed information, you can edit your photograph more thoroughly. In fact, the amount of information contained in such a file could mean it is even possible to change some of your cameras settings after taking the photo and uploading it to your computer. Some of the amendments that you can make include the exposure setting, white balance etc. When you are done with the editing, all you need to do is convert the RAW file into a format of your preference, such as TIFF or JPEG.
If you don’t want to risk losing your photos, then you might want to take this route and shoot in both RAW + JPEG. While this may be the safest route, you will also have to dedicate considerably large space to save the pictures on your memory card /hard drive etc.
If you do intend to follow this tip, then you might want to keep one other thing in mind. While shooting in both forms side to side, the jpeg shots will be looking better as compared to the RAW ones. Do not worry if that is so since the JPEG is the result of minor adjustments made by your camera before it compresses your photo. On the other hand, the raw file comes off looking duller than its counterpart looks. Nevertheless, it will also have more potential for improvements without quality compromises.
Think of the improvements you make on a RAW file as sticking a post-it note on a piece of paper. When you want to revert to the original or change something else, all you need to do is remove the post-it. All the editing you want without any of the pixels being broken.
As mentioned before, there is no universal RAW format that is followed by all brands. That means, the format your camera uses will depend on its manufacturers. For instance, Canon cameras when shooting in RAW produce a .CR2 file. Similarly, Nikon cameras will save a .NEF file. The extension will be different for Kodak, Sony, Pentax, and Olympus, as well.
Summarized here are some of the advantages that shooting in RAW has over the JPEG mode:
- Editing in RAW mode does not compromise the picture’s quality. This non-destructive editing is possible because the amendments are being stuck on the file and not influencing the pixels like it does in jpeg.
- When you save a picture as a RAW file, you also save all the information that comes with it. That means fixing areas of the picture that either are under- or overexposed becomes easier. If you think the photograph has lost some of the pertinent detail while it was converted to jpeg, then you can bring it back with a RAW file.
- Trying to make an image appear sharper when it is saved in jpeg format can result in a low quality photograph. The RAW format is your best choice if you also want to retain the ability to sharpen the image during post-processing.
- Noise reduction is possible with RAW files to a certain extent. Doing the same thing on a jpeg file often results in the loss of a lot of detail.
- Have your camera work to its fullest potential when you shoot in RAW. This is because each file is saved with all of the data that your camera’s sensor senses and sends to storage. There is less chance of the picture losing some of its detail as compared to when it is converted to JPEG format.
- It is easy to fix white balance in RAW according to your needs and mood as opposed to in JPEG where it will remain unchanged.
- When you save a photograph in jpg format, then converting it to RGB for use on the web or CMYK for print could mean loss of quality. This is not the case with RAW files, which can be optimized for both web and print.
- An HDR picture is actually made of three pictures: one is underexposed, the other is overexposed, and the third one is a well exposed image. The purpose of using different modes of exposure is to get the details from the dark and lighter parts of the scene that is being photographed. As evident, the smallest details tend to matter when it comes to HDR. If you use different jpeg files for HDR editing, the result will likely be of low quality. This won’t be the case with RAW files.
- RAW files are not sharing friendly since they will need to be processed before you can share them.
- RAW files will take much more space on your memory card or hard disk since they are bigger in size as compared to the JPEG.
- It takes time to process and convert the RAW files and if you are short on time, then this won’t be the right choice for you.
- Moreover, since the files are larger, it will take the camera more time to write the images to the memory card, thus slowing down during the process.
The cons may make you think that RAW files are not worth the hassle. However, that would be a mistake! You can find a solution to all the cons that were mentioned above. If the files are too big, then you can invest in a memory card that not only has more storage space but also works faster. If processing each photo takes a lot of time that you’d rather spend sharing them, then there is a solution for that too. If you shoot in both jpeg and RAW, then you can start sharing right away. You will be sharing the images that come out good in jpeg anyway, so go ahead and do so. The images that you think will require improvement can be edited in the RAW mode before you share them.