What is RAW ? Benefits & Drawbacks of shooting in RAW

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

You must have heard over and over that you should shoot in RAW. But do you know why it is so important to shoot in RAW? So lets understand what is RAW in photography and why I recommend shooting in RAW

RAW image is an unprocessed image right out from your camera sensor. When shooting in a format like JPEG image information is compressed and lost. Because no information is compressed with RAW you’re able to produce higher quality images, as well as correct problem images that would be unrecoverable if shot in the JPEG format.

But shooting in RAW is not a good idea for some of you. So let’s understand this better and find out , should you shoot RAW or not for your images. The image quality option in your camera menu offers you multiple options . It allows you to shoot in JPEG or RAW , even has an option of shooting RAW+JPEG which is what i shoot most of the time. When you configure your camera to shoot RAW+JPEG it will give you two files with the same name. The extensions would be different only .

RAW to JPEG process

As you see in above figure, Your sensor records the RAW Data and pass that on to your camera processor, where it adds up all the processes you have asked for. And will then produce the compressed JPEG file and save in your cards.

When you are asking the camera to give you just RAW, it will not process anything and simply forward the RAW to your cards. You can also ask for RAW+JPEG as i mentioned above, which will give you two files of the same image. I always shoot RAW+JPEG so i can give the JPEG files for selection to my clients, and the RAW files stays with us for the post processing.

Benefits of shooting RAW

  • Shooting in RAW gives you maximum image quality

  • Ease of exposure corrections and better dynamic range

  • Quick lens corrections

  • Enjoy non-destructive editing

  • Gives you better prints

  • Allows you to change megapixels without losing image quality

  • Better workflow

  • Gives you all pro options for image retouching

Drawbacks of shooting RAW

  • For opening and accessing RAW you need specific softwares

  • Needs regular software updates for accessing new camera RAW

  • RAW files are very heavy so will consume more space on your cards

  • Slows your camera

Shall i shoot in RAW or Not

Well you should shoot RAW if

  • You are shooting for commercial jobs

  • You are giving out your files for post processing

  • You process limited number of images from the entire lot

  • Planning printing large scale images

You should not shoot RAW if

  • You are not having much storage on your memory cards

  • You are shooting sport events

  • You does not own any processing softwares

  • You do not want to edit the images later

When it comes to your photography, however, you are the ultimate decision maker on what is best. I recommend that, if you haven’t, you play with the Raw format. You certainly won’t harm yourself or your camera. In fact, a great test is to go out just to shoot something (even just in the backyard or around the block). Shoot several photographs under various lighting conditions using the Raw + JPEG setting on your DSLR (if it has that capability). Take them back to your computer and compare after processing the Raw files. Take into consideration your time in doing so and see if the gain is worth your extra time.

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