Why I shoot in RAW, and Why You Should Too

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eHow Tech Blog

Have you heard photo enthusiasts talking about shooting in RAW, but you have no idea what they are talking about? I’m going to share some questions I often get about shooting in RAW, what that means, and a few reasons for why I love it for my photography.

1. What does shooting in RAW mean?

RAW files are basically digital negatives, not unlike the negatives in film photography. You can’t do a whole lot with a film negative (or RAW file), but it has all of the information in creating the image. They are called RAW files because they are not yet processed as an image, and are not print ready.

2. What do you do after shooting in RAW?

RAW files can be edited in many photo editing programs, but must be converted to a JPG or other file format in order to be printed or used online.

3. How do you shoot in RAW?

It’s a setting you have to change on your camera. If you remember when you first got your SLR camera, you could choose between Small, Medium, and Large file formats. If  you choose small,  you can take more pictures because you have more space. If you choose Large, it will take up more space on your digital card. I always kept mine on Large, so I could print bigger–you just never know what you will need in a large size. In the same location on your camera, you can often choose RAW or RAW+JPG. They both take up more storage space, but RAW + JPG is a great option for folks who don’t always have time to edit their RAW images; the camera automatically gives you a JPG of the same image, also.

How to edit a RAW file

4. What size digital card should I get to shoot in RAW?

I use at least a 4GB card, and I can take about 200 RAW files. That is about what I shoot for a mini photo shoot of a family.

5. How do I edit RAW files?

You need a photo editor that can open RAW files. I use Adobe Photoshop and Bridge, but there are many other options online as well.  Once there, you can open your files (many at once or just one at a time) and use sliders to alter the lightness/darkness, contrast, color temperature, and so on.

6. I heard I can “batch edit” in RAW, what does that mean?

This is one of my most favorite aspects of shooting in RAW. Lets say I’ve taken 25 pictures of a family in the same pose, same lighting, same setting. Once I get home to edit, I notice that my color temperature, or white balance is off a bit.  I can select all 25 of those images, take my white balance sliding scale, and slightly tweak all of them at the same time! I don’t have to open and fiddle with each one individually. Though this may be done in some programs on JPG files, there is more ability to “save” files taken incorrectly on RAW files.

How to batch edit RAW files

7. So why is shooting in RAW so much better than shooting in JPG?

The RAW file is, simply put, the largest, highest quality file your camera can make. Unlike JPG, the camera doesn’t do any automatic image processing on it, so it’s absolutely pristine — but also up to you to color correct it, sharpen it, and make any exposure adjustments afterwards. More importantly, RAW images have more “hidden” exposure information than JPG, so you can bring details out of shadows, for example, that simply don’t exist in the JPG version at all.

Moreover, I love that I can work on the RAW “negative” and create a JPG from it, leaving my original file intact. I also love the batch editing option. Though a lot of this can be done in any standard photo editor, they are all done to the JPG file, which affects the overall quality of the image in a negative way. The more you “work on” an image, and save on top of it, the worse it will look when printing. That simply isn’t the case with RAW.

Photo credit: Kristen Duke

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