You’ve probably heard over and over that you should be shooting in RAW.
But do you know why it’s so important? And what it really means for your images? Let’s sort it out!
And happily many cameras these days shoot RAW, including point and shoots! So even if you’re using a little camera, you might still be able to take advantage of the RAW file format (just check your camera manual to see!).
When to shoot raw
There are many advantages to shooting raw, from making edits that are impossible with JPEG images, to the ability to easily alter white balance. In general, processing images on a computer instead of in-camera means you’re in charge, so you can tailor all raw conversion decisions to your taste and needs. And because your computer doesn’t have to rush to process the image (your camera, after all, needs to be ready to take another shot) it can use more sophisticated raw processing algorithms.
Even if you’re not convinced to always shoot raw, you should still consider switching your camera to raw mode in these specific situations:
1. Get the Highest Level of Quality
This is one of the biggest benefits. When you shoot in RAW you record all of the data from the sensor. This gives the highest quality files. And when it comes to your awesome images, you want high quality.
Look at it this way: all cameras technically shoot RAW. Yes, it’s true.
The difference when you shoot in JPEG format is that the camera does it’s own processing to convert the RAW information into a JPEG.
However, your camera is nowhere near as smart as your brain, nor is it as powerful as your computer. When you shoot RAW, you’re able to do that processing yourself. You can make the decisions on how the image should look, and produce way better results.
2. Easily Correct Dramatically Over/Under Exposed Images
Obviously you want to get the best exposure in camera, but sometimes things move fast (especially with weddings!) and you wind up with a dramatically over or under exposed image.
With RAW you have additional information in the file, so it’s much easier to correct the image without a drastic reduction in quality. You can also recover more blown highlights and clipped shadows. Good stuff.
3. Easily Adjust White Balance
When you shoot JPEG the white balance is applied to the image. You can’t just easily choose another option. With RAW the white balance is still recorded, but because you have way more data, it’s easy to adjust.
Great white balance and color are essential to an awesome image, and shooting RAW lets you make the adjustments easier and faster, with better results.
4. Get Better Detail
When you shoot RAW you have access to sharpening and noise algorithms in a program like Lightroom that are way more powerful than those found in your camera.
Plus, these sharpening and noise algorithms are always improving, so in the future you’ll be able to re-visit your RAW files and take advantage of these improvements. And jet packs.
5. Enjoy Non-Destructive Editing
When you make adjustments to a RAW file, you’re not actually doing anything to the original data. What you’re doing is creating a set of instructions for how the JPEG or TIFF (another file format) version should be saved.
The awesomeness of this is that you never ever have to worry about ruining an image, accidentally saving over, or being unable to go back and make changes. You can always reset your adjustments, and start over again.
JPEG files lose quality every time you open them, make adjustments, and save again. True story. It’s what is known as a “lossy” file format. So if you’re making edits to JPEGs you always have to be duplicating the image and saving out a new version if you don’t want to lose file quality. Hassle.