RAW doesn’t mean I don’t wear clothes, RAW is a type of image format a digital camera uses to capture and store photographs. Every camera “takes” a RAW image, but most point and shoot cameras then process that image into the popular JPG format. So what is all the hoopla on RAW vs JPG and why does it matter?
Starting in 2012 I began to shoot RAW, I have my canon rebel set to RAW +jpg. I love getting a shot perfect SOOC, (straight out of camera) it saves time on the post processing side. But even in the film era professional photographers spent hours in the darkroom burning and dodging negatives to get the print quality they desired. Ansel Adams and other photography masters spent a lot of time retouching negatives to get the amazing images that have become iconic.
Even the best photo with the perfect exposure can benefit from a clean “pop” of contrast and sharpening.
Today the RAW image format gives professional and serious amateurs the same options in a virtual “digital darkroom”
1. Photographers excitement: Sometimes the excitement of an event will cause the photographer in you to forget all about settings and metering. I can easily over or underexpose a shot. This happens to me more often than not. THANK goodness for RAW!
2. Wider option of enlarging an image: I take a lot of scenery photos and my camera is only a 10 megapixel, so I need every pixel. The JPEG compression algorithm is lossy . That is, when an image is JPEG-compressed, data is discarded, and the image is permanently degraded. Apply enough JPEG compression and the degradation will become visible. If you want to enlarge your image a lot, JPEG artifacts could be a problem. Because raw files are not compressed, you never have to worry about this.
3. Control my white balance: Ever get that yellowish hue when you take photos inside at night? When shooting in RAW that yellow hue can be removed without the noisy pixelation. The same with the blueish cast that sometime tints the skin on cloudy days.
4. Non destructive editing: Did you know that every time you open a JPG tiny parts of information are lost. When editing RAW files the program only records the edits and creates a new file. Your original is not lost.
5. Higher level of photo quality: In the JPG compression artifacts occur which can throw tiny dots of obtrusive color into unwanted areas. (more on this later) Your camera probably captures 12 to 14 bits of data per pixel, but a JPEG file can only hold eight bits of data per pixel. This means that, when you shoot in JPEG mode, one of the first things your camera does is throw out a bunch of data that it captured. This can also lead to “banding” as evidenced in my previous example.
The digital photography school gives the best definition and explanation of RAW files
A Raw file is…
• not an image file per se (it will require special software to view, though this software is easy to get).
• typically a proprietary format (with the exception of Adobe’s DNG format that isn’t widely used yet).
• at least 8 bits per color – red, green, and blue (12-bits per X,Y location), though most DSLRs record 12-bit color (36-bits per location).
• uncompressed (an 8 megapixel camera will produce a 8 MB Raw file).
• the complete (lossless) data from the camera’s sensor.
• higher in dynamic range (ability to display highlights and shadows).
• lower in contrast (flatter, washed out looking).
• not as sharp.
• not suitable for printing directly from the camera or without post processing.
• read only (all changes are saved in an XMP “sidecar” file or to a JPEG or other image format).
• sometimes admissible in a court as evidence (as opposed to a changeable image format).
• waiting to be processed by your computer.
How to Print RAW Files
Think of RAW camera files kinda like film. It needs to be processed and exposed to be printed in a common format like JPG or TIFF. If you are going to step into the RAW photography world then you will need to use post production software, such as Lightroom or Photoshop. Don’t think negatively of photo editing programs, in the right hands they serve as a tool to get your photo to look as it did when you saw the scene with your eyes.
My favorite program is Lightroom, for reasons for many reasons. I can batch edit groups of photos with the same settings in just minutes instead of hours. I can also metatag, keyword and organize my files and folders for easy searching later. I use Photoshop for those designs which require text, layers and cloning. Individual photo work. For most people Photoshop Elements will be more than you will need and the full Photoshop is overkill.
If you don’t want to commit to buying the stand alone programs you can subscribe to Adobes Creative Cloud program for $10 per month and get both the full version of Photoshop and Lightroom to use as much as you want. The choice is really yours.
There are a myriad of Photoshop tutorial videos on YouTube, but some people really like a hard copy book to hold and make notes in the border.
Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan (Photoshop CC + Lightroom) [Digital Membership]Adobe Photoshop CS6 – Windows ; no monthly chargeAdobe Photoshop Elements 13The Photoshop Workbook: Professional Retouching and Compositing Tips, Tricks, and Techniques