So, that last post about file formats was incredibly long winded and quite boring, so I decided to simplify it for those of you who’d rather note wade through all that information. Here I present to you Keeping your Photographs RAW, Abridged; a list of the top 4 reasons to shoot in RAW and, just to be fair, the top 4 reasons not to.
TOP 4 Reasons to Shoot in RAW
1. Get the highest level of quality possible;
When shooting in JPEG, your photographs are compressed to make the file smaller and more manageable; that’s all very well if you want to fit thousands of pictures onto the one memory card you remembered to take on holiday, but if your highest priority is quality rather than quantity, it really isn’t the best option.
Compressed files means less pixels, and therefore less detail in your image; bigger files equal more pixels, which means there’s a greater level of detail to be seen.
Higher quality RAW images are also less prone to ‘banding’, which is that nasty line of colour you often get on horizons, or sometimes around the edges of macro shots. Banding is often bright red or green, and looks absolutely awful on prints.
2. Easily correct unwanted colour casts on your images (modify your White Balance)
When you shoot in JPEG, the colour of the image is more or less set in stone; the camera decides what White Balance to apply to the scene, and once it’s applied it’s very hard to correct. For the most part cameras are pretty good at measuring colour and light correctly, but every now and again it will get it wrong, and you’ll end up with a horrible yellow or blue colour cast that is difficult to remove.
When you shoot in RAW, the camera doesn’t do any kind of colour correction to your image, meaning you can adjust it yourself in post-production and get it absolutely perfect.
3. Recover ‘blown’ highlights and dark shadows
Sometimes your camera will measure the amount of light in the scene completely wrong, and you’ll end up with an image which is far too bright, or far too dark. Again, when you shoot in JPEG, it’s incredibly difficult to fix this problem; in fact, it’s just about impossible. You can sort of brighten up shadows, but it will look incredibly pixelated and horrible. When you shoot in RAW however, you can often recover the details from both the highlights and the shadows, meaning you don’t have to do a complete re-shoot.
4. Bit of a perfectionist? Non-Destructive Editing FTW
When you edit a JPEG image, once you save the alterations, you can never recover the original image. Made a mistake? Changed your mind about the colour? Tough luck mate, nothing left to do except set up the shot again and re-capture the image. With RAW images however, when you save the file you’re essentially creating a copy of that image in a different file format. Whilst you can’t edit the resulting JPEG, you can go back to the original RAW file and make other adjustments. Or, even better, you can save your work in a non-destructive format such as .PNG or .PSD until you are absolutely sure you’re done editing; these formats will save all of your settings and layers etc so that you can come back and play around with your photograph again and again until it’s just right.
And finally…a BONUS POINT
As far as I am concerned, this is one of the most compelling reasons to be shooting in RAW. How many hours do you spend at the end of each shoot editing each one of your photographs individually until they’re all just right? How many times do you think oh but I did this on the last one, and how many times do you wish you could just edit all your photographs at once?
Well, if you shoot in RAW and own a copy of CameraRaw, you can! If you’re not sure whether or not your version of PS came with cameraraw, don’t worry; just open up bridge, right click on a RAW-format image, and if you have the program installed you’ll see a little option called ‘open with camera raw’. Do you see it? Great! Now you can edit dozens of photographs all at the same time, and save yourself hours of hard work in the process!
For more details about batch editing, you can read this little tutorial 🙂
Shoot RAW guys! I promise you’ll never shoot JPEG again.
TOP 4 Reasons to ignore all the above
1. You use a compact camera
Yeah, okay, you’ve got me. Most compact cameras simply can’t shoot in RAW. Go ahead and ignore all of the reasons I’ve listed above; JPEG’s are definitely for you (you have my sympathies).
2. You don’t want to spend a great deal of time editing your photographs
Well, I suppose that’s a good reason to not shoot in RAW. JPEGs are pretty much final images; the camera does all of the processing for you, and whilst it doesn’t always get it right, you can make some subtle adjustments in your photo editing software to perfect it. RAW images do take quite a bit of editing, but honestly I think that that’s half of the fun; but then I did spend two years chained to a desk learning how to do it, so I would think it was fun, wouldn’t I? I do think that shooting in RAW gives you more control over your final image, but if you know your way around your camera’s settings, you can get excellent results just by making the camera do the work for you 🙂
3. You don’t have software that will read RAW format images
Try downloading PhotoPlus from here. It’s a free photo-editing program that will read RAW format images, and has almost all of the same tools and functionality as Photoshop. You can also get an older version of Photoshop for free (legitimately; Adobe have officially made it free) which also includes Bridge – and excellent program with which to view and sort all your pretty new RAW files. You’re welcome 🙂
4. You’re stubborn and don’t like to try new things
Fair enough dude. I’m pretty stubborn too; now that I’ve started shooting in RAW, I have to admit that I’m a bit of a snob about it. I can’t even pick up a compact camera without wincing; oh, the horrors of JPEGs!