Do you shoot in RAW? If not, you should...


Photography has always been one of my passions, It gives me a chance to get out from behind my computer, and commune with nature. In fact, my wife and I, try and go on photowalks at least once a week. But as much as I enjoy the photowalking, I think the geek in me, really enjoys the post-processing of the images the most. Post-processing is where the magic happens. Here’s where my creative and technical side converge. Of course to make the most of your creative juices, you need to be shooting in RAW format.

So let’s start off with a basic explanation, and some of the differences between RAW and JPEG formats. 

JPEG is the most widely used image format utilized today. Almost every digital cameras has the ability to shoot directly to JPEG. When you shoot in JPEG format, the camera’s on-board software carries out all the image processing in the camera, then compresses it using JPEG compression. JPEG is actually a compressed image format, which means that some visual quality is lost in the process. With this compression, you give up image details that you will never get back in post-processing.

RAW is a true digital negative. RAW is the actual raw data coming from your cameras sensor.It’s every bit of detail directly from the sensor, it's totally unprocessed, no sharpening, no white balance adjustments, etc, basically it the “raw” image with all the pictures data intact. RAW images have a much greater dynamic range than JPEG processed images. There is more color information in a RAW image because it is typically a 12, 14, or 16-bit image which means it contains more color information than a JPEG which is almost always 8-bits. More color information means more to work with and smoother changes. This means that you can recover image detail in the highlights and shadows. With JPEG these details are clipped or baked in and just aren't available within a JPEG processed images.

Why shoot raw?

The answer is simple, shooting RAW allows you to maximize the potential for any image. and provides maximum control over the post processing of the image. RAW gives you the highest quality files. And when it comes to your photos, don't you want the highest quality you can get. When you shoot JPEG, the camera’s on-board software carries out all the image processing to produce a color image, then compresses it using JPEG compression. And while JPEG does a pretty good job of preserving luminescence data, it really reduces the color depth, leading to problems with skin tones and gentle gradations. When you shoot raw, however, you get to control the scene interpretation through all the aspects of the conversion. With raw, the only on-camera settings that have an effect on the captured pixels are the ISO speed, shutter speed, and aperture. Everything else is under your control when you convert the raw file. You can reinterpret the white balance, the colorimetric rendering, the tonal response, and the detail rendition (sharpening and noise reduction) with a great deal of freedom, and you can even reinterpret the basic exposure itself. RAW sounds great doesn't it.

So if you're serious about your photography, and your camera supports RAW, you owe it to yourself to turn it on now. Why not get the most your camera can offer. A RAW file isn't called a digital negative for nothing.