As a person wielding a camera, you have probably encountered the term RAW at least once during your photography work. If you’re not sure what it is, read on. RAW is a file format that captures all the image data which is recorded by the sensor when you take photos. It is different from JPEG in the basic sense that it stores far more information since JPEGs tend to compress or lose a large portion of the data. RAW allows for the production of higher quality images as well as storing information for post-production editing. Hence, changes can be made that would not be possible if the image had been stored as a JPEG. This is part of the reason that most photographers insist on shooting RAW. It helps in being more professional and making more defined edits. Below, we give you six main reasons that you should switch to shooting photographs in RAW if you haven’t already.
An image generally goes through the image sharpening process of the camera’s software before being saved as JPEG. When images are saved in RAW, this problem can be avoided, and the information is stored completely, leaving room for better sharpening by using more complex and advanced software tools. RAW editing also gives the option to smooth or sharpen images as per your requirements, instead of standard levels of sharpening throughout the image that can be problematic for editing in the post-production stages.
Most times, at least some elements of a photograph will be under or overexposed, and editing this in post-production can be a painful process. Either there will be perfect lighting on the subject and overexposed backgrounds, or the other way around, and manipulating this to perfection during the shoot can be a hard task. When shooting in RAW, since proper information has been recorded for all parts of the image, exposure can be appropriately corrected in post-production. This is also helpful when shooting moments or candid photographs, since adjusting exposure may not be possible in the spur of the moment. Hence, it is useful to capture the image or movements and then come back to edit them properly later.
Editing white balance in JPEGs often makes them look grainy or gives them an edited look that most photographers strive to avoid. If you have ever found yourself struggling with maintaining the quality and crispness of your image while simultaneously trying to get a better white balance, you will understand why having a file format that stores enough information to ease this process is a blessing. With RAW, you can ensure sharpness even after white balance edits.
JPEG images record 256 levels of brightness, while RAW records anywhere between 4096 and 16384 levels of brightness. This should give you a fairly good idea of why it is ideal to shoot in RAW when you are shooting images with complicated light sources and varying brightness. The brightness levels are essentially the number of steps you have to go through to get from black to white in your photo, and this transition is better and smoother when there are more levels. Hence, it makes sense to save your images in RAW so that you can change the brightness level with greater precision when you are in the editing stages.
Since photographers usually edit their photographs in Lightroom, Photoshop, and similar software, it makes sense that they want more details to be available for them to explore with during post-production with the powerful sharpening and noise reduction tools that this software can provide. Using the software with RAW images can feel underwhelming since the photos usually do not have enough image data to use these tools to their highest capacity.