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 photo-walks at least once a week. But as much as I enjoy the photo-walks, I think the geek in me really enjoys the post-processing of the images the most. Here's where my creative and technical side converge. Of course I'm talking about Photoshop and RAW images.
So let's start off with the basics explanations, and some of the differences between RAW and JPEG.
JPEG is the most common image format used by digital cameras. 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 compression. With this compression, you give up subtle image details that you will never get back in post-processing.
RAW is the raw data coming from the cameras sensor (CCD or CMOS).It's unprocessed, no sharpening, no white adjustments, etc, basically it the "raw" image with all the pictures data intact. RAW images also have a 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 that just aren’t available in JPEG processed images.
Why shoot raw?
The answer is simple, shooting RAW allows a photographer to maximize the potential for any image. and provides control over the interpretation of the image. 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 luminance 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 aforementioned 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.
So if you love photography, and your camera has a RAW setting, turn it on now. Why not get the most your camera can offer. A RAW file isn’t called a digital negative for nothing.