Why Should You Shoot in Raw Format

Shooting in raw format is a big challenge. It could take a while to master every tricks. However, just thinking to shoot in raw format could be the start of it all.

Since I learned photography, I wonder why should I have to shoot raw format images. I am fine in shooting with jpeg format but this question made me wonder.




So I made my own research at that point and here’s what I found. To shoot Raw format images is like having an unpolished diamond. It is because an image in raw format has all the data at that point of shooting. These data are important to make a better image. You could recover the details in the area that is underexposed during the post processing.

I started shooting in Raw since I realized how important the lost data during image compression in the camera. It is very evident during the post processing. Sometimes, due to rushing a shot, you underexpose or overexpose a photo. Most of the the details could be lost because the camera will decide what to retain.

There are more advantages of shooting in raw in the discussions below. In addition, I compared jpeg with raw to explain further what I have learned through research and own experience.

What is a RAW photo?

A Raw photo is simply a photograph that is not yet processed as captured by the camera sensor. It is comparable to a negative back in the days when digital photography is not yet in existence. You could put it this way, you press the shutter and an image is produced without any additives.

Usually, the camera make the adjustments to the resulting photo. That is, if you didn’t shoot in raw. The image produced here is in JPEG format. “JPEG” is acronym for Joint Photographic Expert Group who created this standard.

Different camera raw format

Raw formats do not have a standard format for all different brands. That is why there are different Raw formats. This somewhat made things a little bit complicated. You cannot use other brands to open a certain raw image captured using another brand. The most common raw formats for some brands are the following:

  • Canon–CR2, CR3, CRW
  • Nikon–NEF
  • Kodak–DCR, K25, KDC
  • Epson–ERF
  • Pentax–PEF
  • Panasonic–RW2
  • Sony–ARW, SRF, SR2

What is the difference between Raw and JPEG?

Raw and JPEG are two of the most popular image format. These two are often compared against each other. There are lots of advantages and disadvantages between the two.

JPEG

Let me discuss you with their differences. First is about JPEG since I prefer Raw over jpeg. What I like about jpeg is that it is the smaller file size. If you don’t want to spend more on storage then jpeg is a go to. Next, it is processed from the get go. You can give it to your client straight from the camera. It is already processed somehow. Lastly, and what I think is the real advantage of jpeg is widely supported by software. Most, if not all, smartphones and computers can read and show you the image in jpeg format.

However, it has as many disadvantages. I have said a while ago that the camera process the image to arrive with a jpeg photo. With this, a lossy compression happens such that details are lost. It also has a lower bit depth of 8 bit with 256 levels of brightness and a low dynamic range. Moreover, there is an irreversible process once you retouched it.




RAW

Advantages

Now, here are the advantages of shooting in Raw format. When you shoot raw, you retains so much information in the image. When you retouch it in Lightroom, you will see details in the shadows as you brighten up the photo. The transition of the bright part and the shadowy area is smooth. And It has a higher bit depth of  12 or 14 bit which is also 16,384 levels of brightness. You can have the ease in correcting the shadow and highlights. Raw file format has high dynamic range data. Post processing in Lightroom reveals how easy it is to work with a raw file. Raw undergoes a lossless compression that keeps all the meta data.

Disadvantages

Although there are tons of advantages in shooting in raw format, there were some disadvantages. Being a large file size format is the first in the list. But, I think it is not a big deal. There are affordable storage nowadays. You also have a Google drive that is an additional cloud storage. Next is you cannot have a raw image in full auto camera setting. Though I think it is no bearing if you can shoot in manual mode or in semi manual.

Post processing is a must

There is also a lot of post processing needed with this kind of image format. You might noticed already that raw images are kinda pale and boring. That is why you need time in retouching the photos. I have made a process to make the retouching in Lightroom simple. Just some brightness, highlights, shadows, sharpness, and basic adjustments should do it. You could also use presets to save time. Next disadvantage is that there is no standard raw format. I have provided you with some of it. Lastly, a raw ready software is not common. This could be a big problem since you cannot open a raw image in your computer without a software used to read and open raw files. If you have some bucks just buy softwares to retouch your raw image.

Sum up

Having these advantages and disadvantages of both raw and jpeg, I would still recommend you to shoot raw. If you don’t know how to deal with it yet, then shoot raw + jpeg. This might consume your storage faster but I think it is practical. You might need these raw images in the future when you are ready to deal with them.

How to process Raw format images?

The first thing to consider is what software you are going to use. For this, I would suggest that you use lightroom. Not only because it is much easier to use but also due to the undestructive process within your post processing.

Lightroom

In Lightroom, you would have to import your raw photos first. Then choose the first image you want to retouch. Now, I do not want to complicate my post processing so I just move the sliders in the software and see what happens in the image. The first thing I recommend you to do is set the Exposure properly. Then, move the highlight slider and the shadow slider to fix the contrast. Since the raw image is pale you should also adjust the vibrance and saturation but make sure it is in a minimal level.




My problem here is that I am color blind. So I set an average numbers for the slider. For example in details, I set it to 70 then I set the noise correction to around 30-40.

Image shot in raw
I captured this image in raw and post processed in Lightroom. However, I made very minimal retouching.

Can you shoot in Raw format on iPhone?

The answer is NO. This is if you plan to use the stock IOS camera app. The good news however, is YES because there are third party apps that you can use as options. There are many of them. The most common is VSCO. There are paid apps but this one is free. The camera default is to shoot jpeg. You can shoot raw by tapping a raw icon at the lower portion of the screen.

Thank you.

I hope I have provided you with some knowledge about the Raw file format. Hit like if you find this article useful. Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive our latest articles.

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