RAW: Why You Should Be Shooting This Format

raw You’ve probably heard quite a bit about this format if you have a DSLR.  Maybe you haven’t heard much about it or maybe you have questions about RAW or would just like to know more. 

I read a blog post yesterday that said that only about 50 percent of the photographers polled actually shoot in RAW.  That is a little surprising considering the benefits of RAW over JPEG and TIFF. 

“So what exactly is RAW and what can it do for me?”  Simply put, RAW format images are exactly the same as what your camera sensor captures.  There is no compression, no changes to the image in the camera, no nothing. 

So what makes RAW so great?  Well for starters, RAW gives you the most flexibility of any file format available today.  Why is that important to you?  Unless you can nail your white balance and exposure EVERY SINGLE TIME you click your shutter release, then you really should be shooting RAW.  RAW files allow you to easily change white balance and exposure in your images without disrupting the image overall.  The image data isn’t compressed and it’s therefore easier to manipulate in Photoshop, Lightroom, or Aperture. 

JPEG is great if you like to take snapshots and aren’t concerned about your final image.  A lot of wedding and sports photographers use JPEG because the files are compressed and they can fit more of them on their memory cards.  JPEGs are written to the memory card faster (because they are smaller files) so when you are shooting in continuous mode you can get in more frames before your camera’s buffer fills up.  Also, JPEG files don’t require RAW processing software to view the images straight from the camera on a computer.  If you’re already using Photoshop, Lightroom, or Aperture they will all import the RAW images for you and automatically recognize them.

TIFF files are nothing more than a waste of hard drive space because they are HUGE files. 

I love the flexibility I get with RAW files and I shoot with RAW exclusively on my D90 and D40.  If you’re not already using RAW, then shoot a photo in RAW and shoot the same photo in JPEG and bring them both into Photoshop and try and make some adjustments.  You will see how much easier it is to adjust with RAW and I guarantee that you’ll be hooked.


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