10 Reasons Why You Should Be Shooting RAW


You’ve probably heard over and over that you should be shooting in RAW.

But do you know why it’s so important? And what it really means for your images? Let’s sort it out!

First off, what is RAW? RAW is a file format that captures all image data recorded by the sensor when you take a photo. 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.

And happily many many cameras these days shoot RAW, including point and shoots! So even if you’re using a little camera, you might still be able to take advantage of the RAW file format (just check your camera manual to see!).

So, the benefits of RAW. Let’s list ‘em out:

1. Get the Highest Level of Quality

This is one of the biggest benefits. When you shoot in RAW you record all of the data from the sensor. This gives the highest quality files. And when it comes to your awesome images, you want high quality.

Look at it this way: all cameras technically shoot RAW. Yes, it’s true.

The difference when you shoot in JPEG format is that the camera does it’s own processing to convert the RAW information into a JPEG.

However, your camera is nowhere near as smart as your brain, nor is it as powerful as your computer. When you shoot RAW, you’re able to do that processing yourself. You can make the decisions on how the image should look, and produce way better results.

2. Record Greater Levels of Brightness

Levels of brightness are the number of steps from black to white in an image. The more you have, the smoother the transitions of tones. Smooth is good.

JPEG records 256 levels of brightness, and RAW records between 4,096 to 16,384 levels! This is described with the term “bit”. JPEG captures in 8bit, and RAW is either 12bit or 14bit. That’s what that bit business means!

The effect this has on your images is huge. Those additional steps of brightness let you make more adjustments (expoosure, blacks, fill light, recovery, contrast, brightness) to your image without a significant reduction of quality, because there’s more levels to work with!

It’s also easier to avoid or correct posterization in your images when you shoot in RAW. Posterization is the banding that you often see in bright skies, which really doesn’t look good in prints!

3. Easily Correct Dramatically Over/Under Exposed Images

Obviously you want to get the best exposure in camera, but sometimes things move fast (especially with weddings!) and you wind up with a dramatically over or under exposed image.

With RAW you have additional information in the file, so it’s much easier to correct the image without a drastic reduction in quality. You can also recover more blown highlights and clipped shadows. Good stuff.

4. Easily Adjust White Balance

When you shoot JPEG the white balance is applied to the image. You can’t just easily choose another option. With RAW the white balance is still recorded, but because you have way more data, it’s easy to adjust.

Great white balance and colour are essential to an awesome image, and shooting RAW lets you make the adjustments easier and faster, with better results.

5. Get Better Detail

When you shoot RAW you have access to sharpening and noise algorithms in a program like Lightroom that are way more powerful than those found in your camera.

Plus, these sharpening and noise algorithms are always improving, so in the future you’ll be able to re-visit your RAW files and take advantage of these improvements. And jetpacks.

6. Enjoy Non-Destructive Editing

When you make adjustments to a RAW file, you’re not actually doing anything to the original data. What you’re doing is creating a set of instructions for how the JPEG or TIFF (another file format) version should be saved.

The awesomness of this is that you never ever have to worry about ruining an image, accidentally saving over, or being unable to go back and make changes. You can always reset your adjustments, and start over again.

JPEG files lose quality every time you open them, make adjustments, and save again. True story. It’s what is known as a “lossy” file format. So if you’re making edits to JPEGs you always have to be duplicating the image and saving out a new version if you don’t want to lose file quality. Hassle.

7. Get Better Prints

Because of the finer gradation of tones and colours you’ll get better prints from RAW files. Even though more and more people are shooting digital, great prints are as important as ever (maybe even more so, due to their relative rarity!)

You’ll also get less banding, which is really yucky on a print.

8. Select Colour Space on Output

Colour space is a bit of a complex topic, but here’s a quick tip. With RAW you can choose from any colour space when you are exporting it out, so you can adjust depending on the situation!

Is the image going on to the web? Then output in the sRGB colour space to ensure maximum compatibility among web browsers.

Are the files heading to a client? Save it in the common Adobe RGB (1998) colour space.

Do you want the widest colour space possible? Use ProPhoto RGB.

Basically there are different colour spaces that work best for different situations, and when you shoot RAW you can export a single image in multiple spaces! Sweet!

9. Have an Efficient Workflow

It’s easier to work through large batches of images when you’re using a workflow centric program like Lightroom or Aperture. They’re designed to easily process groups of RAW images. Photoshop is not meant for that kind of thing, it’s built to handle one image at a time.

In order to take full advantage of all the benefits of Lightroom and Aperture you should be shooting RAW!

10. It’s the Pro Option

Professionals should be providing their clients with the highest quality possible. Issues like banding and blown h
ighlights are big deals when you’re offering your clients printed products. Achieving proper colour balance, and choosing the right colour space for the situation are critical as well.

By shooting RAW you take control, and are able to manage these problems to create the best results possible.

Now that some point and shoots are capable of shooting RAW, hobbyists and amateurs can also take advantage of this pro level option, and get better files and prints! Good deal.


Downsides and Solutions

Now, there are always pros and cons to every option, and RAW does have a few downsides. We’ll chat about those, as well as some potential soluations!

Need To Be Processed

A common argument against shooting RAW is that because the files need to be processed, it takes more time to shoot RAW than JPEG. If you don’t do any processing to your JPEGs that might be true.

However, most photographers do some level of processing to their JPEGs so already the argument is getting flimsy.

Then, when you add in the fact that adjustments like white balancing, and recovering highlights and shadows are way faster with RAW files, and it actually begins to looks like processing RAW can be faster than JPEG!!

Then, with RAW, you can easily export to JPEG, as well as convert to various sizes (like web res) at the same time. If you really wanted you could even shoot RAW + JPEG simultaneously!

RAW gives you way more options, and can be processed just as fast, if not faster, than JPEG.

Takes Up More Space

Since RAW files have more uncompressed information they can be 2-3 times larger than JPEG files. This is definitely a concern for many shooters, especially those who create a lot of images.

But over the past few years, the cost of hard drives has really dropped, and they’re incredibly affordable!

Let’s consider a 3TB hard drive.

  • A 3TB drive costs about $129
  • If a large JPEG file is about 8MB, you’ll fit 375,000 images on the drive, at $0.000344/image
  • If a RAW file is about 30MB, you’ll fit 100,000 images on the drive, at $0.00129/image

Obviously you can store fewer RAW files, but the number of images that you can cheaply store is so large for both formats that it’s not really an issue! It’s also probably a good idea to not place so many images on a single hard drive. Don’t put all your photographic eggs in one basket!

Memory cards are the same deal. They’re constantly dropping in price. Remember when a 2GB card was over $200?? Nowadays you can hardly even buy one that small, and 4GB is as cheap as $15. Madness!

Yes, RAW files are bigger and take up more space. But that’s because they’re of higher quality. Go with high quality for the extra $0.00121/image.

Slows The Camera Down

RAW files are larger than JPEGs, so they’ll fill up the buffer of your camera faster. The camera will still shoot the same frames per second, regardless of whether it is RAW or JPEG, but you may have to wait for the camera to write to the memory card if the buffer fills up.

If shooting fast sequences if critical for you, and you want to shoot RAW, you can purchase faster memory cards, or a more expensive camera with a larger buffer.

In A Proprietary Format

RAW files are often recorded in a proprietary format, which means that the camera manufacturers haven’t officially disclosed how the raw data can be converted. Companies like Adobe either need to license software to decode the RAW files or reverse engineer how the files should be converted. (For Canon cameras the RAW format looks like .CR2 and for Nikon it’s .NEF).

The problem here is that you can’t be certain that in 5, 10 or 20 years you’ll be able to easily open that RAW file if you don’t have the proper software to decode it!

A new open source RAW format has been developed in order to overcome this obstacle. It was developed by Adobe and is known as DNG (Digital Negative). Using a program like Lightroom, you can convert your proprietary RAW files into the open source DNG format. It’s an extra step, but it will ensure your files are readable far into the future!

Already the Leica M9 shoots in the DNG format, so look for more camera manufacturers to support this open source format in the future!

Wrap It UP!

Hopefully this look at RAW and it’s benefits has cleared things up a bit! Suggestions that RAW takes too long, or is too much work, don’t really hold water anymore.

These days, it’s super duper easy (and fast!) to process RAW files, and you’ll be able to get the absolute best quality out of those images that you put so much time, effort and love into!

UPDATE: Due to the overwhelming response to this blog post, and the questions many readers have had, we have created a followup blog post called 12 Answers To Your Burning Questions About Raw. Go check it out! 

Rob Lim

Hi there, I’m Rob! I’m a photographer and head ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I love all things photography: shooting, teaching and always learning more! If I’m not reading up on the latest photography news, or studying a technique, I’m probably reading a book or planning our next adventure!

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148 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. i've been shooting RAW for ages, and won't go back. However, I loved this article. You explain complex things in such an easy to understand way! Thanks for laying it all out!

  2. Thank you so much Tamsen! We're really glad to hear that we make it easy to understand!!

  3. I remember when I first decided to shoot RAW a few years back – i thought it was a such a risky choice! How amateur tho – RAW is simply the best!! I will never go back to JPG, and I recommend it to everyone that asks :)

  4. Have I toooooold you lately that I love yooooou? <3
    Raw is awesome!

  5. What an awesome post! I've just started to use RAW on and off as I keep hearing it's "better for processing" but never really knew why. Now I do and will definitely be making the switch permanently :) thanks for the great info!

  6. Thanks for the comments everyone! Really glad you're all digging RAW!!

  7. I'm one of those nerdy kids who felt the need to go to some sort of photography class before I started to use my camera. Even though it was years ago the teacher begged us all to shoot in RAW even though we were a bunch of amateurs. I'm super I listened because I think it could be a daunting switch for some people even though it's soo totally worth it.

    Great post!

  8. Thanks Nikki! :)

  9. Excellent and concise. I love having this as a tool to inform friends who aren't shooting in raw yet. Thank you!

  10. I've wanted to shoot in RAW but was told that the images would have to be converted to jpeg to download to my computer anyway, so why shoot in RAW. Is this true? My computer is less than a year old and I use Photoshop Elements.

  11. another great post.. thank you.. I always shoot raw+jpeg. I just have one question, why crop to square?

  12. sorry im suppose to ask my question on your last post..:)

  13. Lakshmeesh Bharadwaj says:

    Thanks for sharing articles, about lighroom, raw, shooting with panning. etc..

  14. donna noyes says:

    I did some photos is raw & loved them but had a really hard time getting downloaded into elements? Loved your article. donna

  15. I know how to shoot in RAW and completely understand the benefits, but I don't know how to get the file from my camera to my computer in RAW and not JPEG. I use CS5 for my editing. Can anyone help? I'd be so grateful.

  16. This was a great read, thanks!

    Heidi, do you have Adobe Bridge? That is an easy way to organize your photos and keep the raw files in there and open them through Photoshop that way.

  17. I used to shoot jpeg an I switched to raw, and what a difference, thx for the article.

  18. Thanks for commenting everyone!

    @Liz – It's not true that the RAW files would need to be converted to JPEG before being able to download them to your computer. You can easily download RAW files to your computer.

    What you need to do is convert (process) the RAW files before you print them, or post them online. So you end up converting back to JPEG (or TIFF).

    The quality of RAW files is so much greater than a JPEG straight out of camera, that it's better to convert RAW files to JPEG on your computer than let your camera shoot JPEG.

    @Gino – No particular reason to crop square, sometimes it just works better for the composition. I feel rectangular crops often work better because composition is less constrained. With square crops symmetry feels more important to me.

    @Donna – I don't have experience with Elements, but you should be able to just copy the RAW files from your memory card to your computer and then open then in the Photoshop Elements RAW editor. Something I'll have to look into further.

    @Heidi – It sounds like you might be shooting in RAW + JPEG mode. When you connect the memory card to your computer and view the contents of the card do you see both JPEGS and RAW files?

    If you're shooting just RAW you shouldn't see any JPEGS on the card. If you're only shooting JPEG then you won't see any RAW files on the card – in which case you'll need to change your camera to RAW mode or RAW+JPEG mode.

    I'm not sure if this really answers your question? Let me know if that helps and we'll go from there!

  19. Great suggestion Liz! Lightroom is also a great program to use to import, organize, and process RAW files!

  20. what if you don't use lightroom or aperture? I tried opening raw images as a test in elements, and found it difficult and tedious, if it even worked.

  21. I started shooting in RAW a few months ago…i was nervous about doing it but would never go back!! I use elements and it's not hard at all to get the RAW images in there, although i did have to make sure the actual software that came with my camera was installed first b/c windows media viewer (or whatever it is called) won't show .NEF files but once you load them into elements it will bring each one up so you can change the exposure, fill light, etc and then once you've got the lighting etc the way you want you select all the images from the left hand side you want to process in elements and wa la they will open just like a jpeg then :)

  22. Good post ! Maybe you can help me out ? I was shooting RAW up until a year ago when I upgraded my camera to a 5dmk2 – I am unable to find the appropriate plug-in for CS2 – without it, if I shoot RAW, my Photoshop doesn't regognise the file . Help , your post made me realize I need to get back to RAW !!

  23. Thanks for sharing Jessica! I'm afraid I don't have much experience with Photoshop Elements yet (sorry Amanda) :)

    @Loren – From what I understand you need Photoshop CS4 or later in order to open the 5D mk II's RAW files. "See this forum post for details":http://photo.net/digital-darkroom-forum/00TpeN Apparently what you can do is download a "free DNG converter free from Adobe":http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/product.jsp?product=106&platform=Windows&promoid=HTENB, and convert your RAW files to DNG. Worth a try!

  24. Pentax cameras are able to save RAW in DNG format.

  25. Great tip Artur! Thanks for sharing!

  26. I shot in raw from our vacation. Converted a few to jpeg and the didn't look as sharp. What is the best way to convert and make them pop. I have a few thousand pics too.

    Shot with a canon.

  27. Hey Nick! Right on for trying out RAW! As we mentioned in the article, RAW files do need to be "processed" before they look as poppy as JPEGs.

    With JPEGs the camera is doing the processing, but with RAW you get to take control.

    The best way, in our opinion, to make them pop and then convert to JPEG is by using "Adobe Lightroom":http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshoplightroom/. You get more control over the final look. Or you can just apply some contrast and brightening to them all in a batch. Totally up to you and what you want to do!

  28. I dont have lightroom… Can you do that same process in cs5??

  29. Hi Jessica!

    CS5 does have Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) which is basically the engine that Lightroom runs on. While you can make the same adjustments, Lightroom is much easier to use from a workflow perspective.

  30. I just discovered the perfect workflow solution for my RAW images, Corel Aftershot! i prefer it to lightroom

  31. Katie Jackson says:

    this week on NEWEGG.com they have a pack deal on corel paint shop and corel aftershot for $100 together! Just a tip for anyone in the market for those programs:)

  32. Christy Marie says:

    @ Heidi if you have set to RAW your camera probably came with software installation disc and info should be in user guide or manufacturers website.

  33. Hello, I have Photoshop CS2, and am considering using RAW for a shoot Saturday. Just got my Canon DSLR & this is my 1st shoot. Anyone know if it's worthwhile to shoot RAW? Will it be compatible? Haven't done this in a while.

  34. *@Matt:* Interesting, I haven't heard anything about Aftershot. What you do like about it over Lightroom?

    *@Pamela:* You can open and edit RAW files in Photoshop using Adobe Camera RAW. Bridge also lets you do this. We find Photoshop isn't the most convenient method, however. We find Lightroom to be a far easier way to edit RAW files. Hope that helps!

  35. Yes :) Thanks!

  36. Mei Teng says:

    I always shoot in RAW format.

  37. This article was inspiring and informative. I only shoot out of hobby and I've never used RAW on my Nikon D5000. I now realize I've robbed myself of brilliant photos for nearly three years by neglecting this feature.. I've processed gorgeous photos directly on my camera without losing the depth in the photo.. It's stunning. I'm on vacation in the country right now and capturing unforgettable images of my family and wildlife.. IMO grateful to know how much better RAW shoots, the photos wouldn't have been nearly as special in JPEG..

  38. Of course, I now shoot RAW, but I have hundreds (if not thousands) of priceless JPEGs that I would love to be able to process but am afraid of degrading the files. What do you recommend?

  39. Thank you for writing about RAW in a way that finally makes sense to me!

  40. What is the difference in saving a file as aJPEG or TIFF? Is there an image quality difference. I give my customers a CD. Can they read a JPEG or TIFF the same? I want to give them the best product I can. Which is better after shooting RAW?

    • Hey Brian!

      JPEG is a compressed file format which means that some of the image information is lost due to compression. The upside is that it’s a convenient format to save photos in because the file sizes are smaller (and thus more manageable for your customers), and the quality can still be quite high. TIFF is a lossless file format which means that it can hold images in an uncompressed state (though the format also supports compression).

      Something to note is that if you’ve captured the image in the JPEG format there is no benefit to converting to TIFF (though it does support layers unlike JPEG). If you’ve captured in the RAW format, then you may want to consider outputting your files as TIFFs, this maintains the highest level of image quality. We would really only do this for images that we know we want to print large, since outputting everything as TIFFs takes up a lot of space (same size as the RAW file).

      If you’re delivering images to clients then you’ll likely want them to be in the JPEG format. While most professional labs will accept TIFFs a lot of consumer labs do not which might make it difficult for your clients to print the photos themselves.

      Hope this helps! :)

  41. Hi Rob, Thanks for all the help – I love the website. However, I am having some issues with some advice I took but can no longer find here. Somehow, I changed the order lightroom saves to xmp sidecar files. I can’t even remember what I did, but remember two little boxes to switch the order and believe it had something to do with trying to bring the file into camera raw. Ring any bells? thanks so much in advance :)

    • Hey Anna, I think you might mean the “Automatically write changes into XMP” setting which you can find under the Lightroom Menu> Catalog Settings > Metadata tab. What was it that you were trying to do/change?

  42. One of the best things about RAW is being able to use Lightroom as a non-destructive form of editing. Its true you can use non-destructive editing in Photoshop but not with the same kind of ease as you can in Lightroom. It streamlines your workflow 100%. Shooting RAW is the smartest choice for anyone interested in turning Pro.

  43. Hi, there. I have a quick question: when I process in CameraRAW, and hit Open Image, have i altered my RAW file? If I now flip my image into a .tiff file, is my RAW file still original, or does it now include my edits from CameraRAW?

    PS- I love this site! Thanks for all the help you guys provide. :)

  44. Can you open a raw file in paint shop pro? ( I know.. Old software but it works! )

  45. I have been shooting JPG for more of my 5+ years with my DSLR. After reading this and how much of a difference RAW format can have on the outcome of my photos I am changing my camera over to RAW and never touching the setting again. Already researching storage options for the home PC to allow for the extra space the photos will take up :)

    Thanks for the very informative article. Just wish I found it earlier as there are many photos I would have loved to have come out better than they did.

  46. I shoot RAW only in bad lighting situations like the wedding ceremony in church with not much light, otherwise I shoot in JPEG. RAW is for amateurs, not professionals. If you are not able to set up your camera according to current conditions, you should think about your work, not to shoot in RAW and then save the image in Lightroom.
    And yes, it takes 2,5 times more space on HDD, then archiving is an issue (I shoot about 10 000 images a month), have three spare backup hdds and having all in RAW would be extra costs (which are not necessary).
    My conclusion – use RAW only in situations with bad lighting, like churches, basements, theatres etc. Otherwise JPEGs are sufficient.

    • Jan… sorry to completely disagree with the ABSURD comment that “RAW is for amateurs, not professionals.” A pretty arrogant statement, actually.

      I would certainly say that it quite possibly is the other way around. Not that people cannot get great jpg’s straight out of camera, but there is absolutely no denying that a RAW files is superior to a JPG.

      And, by the way, I am not shooting so that my work can be “sufficient”. If that is the case, I would certainly be using a P&S and a not DSLR.

      Anyway, just my thoughts.

      • I agree with Jan,

        RAW is a good safety net for amateurs. If you are a high volume shooter (i.e. Wedding Photographer), you only shoot Raw when necessary. Otherwise get it right in the camera the first time (that’s what your settings are for). For hobbyists that enjoy shooting and fiddling with images, go ahead and shoot raw… however, as a business, you will never deliver RAW images to a client and is clearly for a person that wants to investigate every minimal thing about a single image. Practice makes perfect and if you have quick turn arounds, only shooting RAW slows you down. I shoot mixed mode or jpeg only and have shot over a 100 weddings… My business would come to a complete stop if I shot in RAW mode only. What I say to most of this is to simply ask the client “What do you want to do with your images”. If your deliverable is a photobook, simply shoot in JPEG and get it right on the spot.

        Trust me. It’s best to get it right the first time instead of relying on Lightroom to bail you out. Any minor adjustment of +1 or -1 can be made in the Photoshop / Lightroom.. any adjustments beyond that, put your camera down).

        This is what separates the hobbyist from the professionals. The professionals understand that there is a business to run and to continue a specific streamlined workflow that involves working on things that actually need working on. People always think that bigger or larger is better but in essence if you have to change that much about an image portfolio that a client is paying you thousands of dollars to shoot, then you probably shouldn’t be shooting.

        If you are a hobbyist, please proceed and shoot RAW until your hearts content.. :)


        • Johnny, I too am a professional wedding/ portrait photographer with over 15 years of experience. I started in the days of film, when you HAD to get it right the first time, as you say. And my camera (Mamiya RB67) was 100% manual, so I know how to use a light meter and expose correctly! And you are right that JPEGs are high enough quality for virtually anything. Few of my clients would know the difference between RAW and JPEG, much less care!
          Still, I disagree with you that shooting RAW is for amateurs. You make it sound like professionals never make mistakes, or if they do, they should get out of the business. We are still human, and weddings are fast-paced, high pressure events. Even professionals make mistakes. I understand that you don’t and never have, but you are the exception. It must really be nice to be perfect, I, however, have under-exposed pictures once or twice, and later wished I had shot RAW. And yes, I still dare to call myself professional.
          I will admit, however, that I don’t use the shotgun approach that so many with DSLR’s use, so I don’t shoot hundreds of useless pictures to get a few good ones. To me, THAT is another thing that separates a professional from an amateur. Since shooting medium format in the old days cost about $1 per shot, I learned how to make each one count. Therefore, unlike you, I can afford the extra space required for RAW.

          • Good morning Chuck,

            Part of my defense is simply to shoot in whatever format you feel comfortable in. If you are shooting raw, understand why you are shooting raw. In some of my other posts, I dont’ discredit anyone from shooting raw, trust.. if you need to, then shoot.. however, for weddings, I explained that sometimes i shoot raw medium + large jpeg just in case.. I know that I’m not perfect :) My approach is that if I’m in a room, I surveyed all of the lighting areas during the day and I’m pretty much ready set. This is what I use my custom controls for in case I get a really different lighting situation. From there, it’s usually a few quick adjustments on the fly. Ensuring that clients have good temperature, exposure and sharpness in pictures is basically what we deliver. Usually the only thing that I may change to a jpeg is +/- on exposure and is the same adjustment that i’d make to a raw file.. I don’t go all up the spectrum.. pictures that need that much changing do not make it out of my cameras.

            Again, I do think that shooting ONLY raw is a preference, but I only shoot mixed mode and find myself looking at a venue and saying.. L only. lol Sometimes I just don’t feel like changing cards.

            Additionally, when I meet with clients, part of our sale is that what you see at our bridal shows and in our advertising is not what you see at your wedding. No wedding photographer should be delivering 1000 edited images of your wedding day. Everything isn’t going to be photoshoped and whatnot. :). If it’s dark in a corner, it’s dark in the corner… We’ll try to get it right and as close as possible but as wedding photographers, I’ve taught my staff not to kill themselves to make something happen that could of been planned better.. (that’s the photojournalist side of me). In the end, I simply tell clients, “we are photographers, not magicians and if you give us dogpoo, we’ll try not to fling it everywhere…”

            Again, only defending preference that I shoot in mixed mode sometimes. Telling someone to shoot in RAW only because it’s “just better” is a bit misleading and depends solely on what you’re doing as a photographer..

            on that note, rainy wedding today! Enjoy


          • One purpose raw certainly serves, it gives you a sometimes painfully honest reflection of your photographic skill. The idea that JPEG is a more accurate display of your photographic skill is false. You’re camera is using algorithms to church you up. If u wanna see what you actually shot, raw is superb. All the warts and blemishes are there in all their unprocessed splendor., and if so inclined, you can learn how to fix them, during the shoot and/or in post. And if there’s one thing that I’ve ever learned from any professional in any field, it is that the moment you have ceased to desire to learn more about your art, trade, etc. is the moment you should step away, and tell others about what the definition of a pro is…or some other useless crap.

            Sincerely ,
            An obsessive, inconsistent, absurdly passionate, and deeply in love with sublime representations of reality….uh…yep…..artist.

  47. Dee Rittenhouse says:

    Very well written article…I have been a bit apprehensive to shoot in RAW as an amateur/hobbiest but this was so well explained I am going to jump in with both feet! Thanks so much, Dee

  48. I have just found your website and want to say a MASSIVE thank you for your ability to make understanding RAW data so much easier. I have been looking on line for a while now and this is by far the best!! Thank you!! :)

    • Lauren Lim says:

      Hey Paula! Thanks so much for the kind words! We’re so glad you found our site, and that this was helpful!! :D

  49. It depends on the type of photographer your are. 10 year pro photographer here and I shoot 95% JPEG. Get it right in camera, deliver to the WEDDING client and keep it moving. Shooting 60 weddings a year… I prefer to get it right in camera FIRST, not go back and and edit 1000’s of images from one wedding.

    RAW = When you are very critical of your own image and/or couldn’t get it right the first time. Considered, your “money shot”. Mostly for those shooting models or one specific image in which they don’t mind spending time editing.

    JPEG = When you can compose the shot correctly, won’t make any corrections and shoot high volume. Mostly for wedding or event photographers that can shoot in ANY lighting situation and have a business to run.

    Sorry to be the lone ranger here with this point of view.. but I’ve shot Raw + Jpeg and understand the benefits of both but for what I do, it just doesn’t make sense. I’ve literally shot in raw and jpeg and can make the same minor adjustments to both files (raw and Jpeg) and deliver to client… simply because I have near perfect original shots coming from my camera in the first place.

    Have a great day!

  50. Hi,

    Thanks for this article. But my problem is how am i going to approach a wedding photographer to shoot or give us digital negatives? I have been looking for wedding photographers in my town and all the photographers that i have visited says they give RAW and edited photos. But when i checked their contract they stated RAW as unedited JPEG format not the digital negatives. My fiance and i were sad because of that. We really want the high quality images. :(

    • @JC

      From my experience, most consumers/clients cannot process raw photos or interpret what they are looking at. Not receiving RAW files shouldn’t be construed as “not receiving high quality images”.

      • Hi Johnny,

        In our case, we wouldn’t request for the digital negatives if we cannot process them. We also offer storage devices if the size is the issue. It will actually saves the photographer more time to process the only selected photos for the album (in jpeg), and it is only some clicks away from their cameras right? Photographers have an option to shoot both, right? like what you do (RAW+JPEG).

        It’s not only the quality that we are worried when we get just the JPEG files. Good for you that you’re confident on the photos you shoot and comes out right and you can handle low light venues, congrats for you.

        I know my venue, and the critical of lighting that we will have there to incorporate our theme is a challenge. So even if the photographer can master the low light, why can’t the photographers provide RAW files?

        • I guess because some photographers don’t want you to see the mistakes I guess. I simply don’t provide the raw files because consumers don’t normally know what to do with them and what’s required to make the changes if needed. On the surface, a high quality 12mb jpeg should be more than enough for your average client. We even catch process wedding portfolios to 1mb files so they can share easily. I’ve had a few clients that were photographers and they specifically requested RAW which we provided but later came back and said they didn’t even do anything to the pictures because the jpeg files were more than enough to post up and share with family and friends. He may have edited 1 picture out of several hundreds. I usually delete anything in box while on assignment that clearly wouldn’t make the mark so the ratio is there

          Anyone that usually requests raw files, I try to find out why and when I see the argument about being able to change and do editing, I do my jpeg vs raw edit test and they usually fail. Lol.

          • Hi Johnny,

            If that was the reason why they cannot provide RAW then ok. I will still request for RAW anyway. Because if the photographer’s camera shoots RAW then why they cannot provide it? Even if we do not edit the photos, why photographers cannot provide the RAW?

            I would really love to see your portfolio, if you don’t mind.

            Thank you so much and i appreciate your response. I’m learning a lot from this conversation.

          • I don’t mind delivering a raw file.. Again, I normally try to find out why. Most people can not tell the difference. If a “wedding photographer” feels the need to deliver raw files to the client, they are basically saying.. fix my mistakes for me. A good wedding photographer shouldn’t have to fix too many mistakes. A good wedding photographer can shoot on the fly and ANY modifications to a file can simply be made to the jpeg. I hardly ever touch the wedding image portfolio that I send to clients. If I send them the raw files, they wouldn’t know what to do with them anyway… and if they did, the same edit that they would make to a raw file, is minor. maybe something brighter or -.05 on EV/exposure.. but nothing drastic..


            If a “wedding photographer” needs to edit that many images, they probably shouldn’t be shooting your wedding. After all, we are capturing THOUSANDS of images for one wedding and are doing 2-4 weddings per weekend. It doesn’t fit the workflow to only shoot in RAW so we normally do mixed mode MAYBE with RAW being Medium/small size. But if you are just the person that feels that RAW is better, then certainly go for it. I haven’t had one person yet to tell the difference between an edited RAW file and an edited JPEG file.

            My portfolio is at http://www.artsgroupphoto.com and is about 2 years old.. (really need to update) we shoot over 60 weddings a year, mostly all in Jpeg unless there is a specific requirement to shoot in RAW. Many of my photographers shoot in RAW and fight with their workflow quite a bit, but I make sure they only deliver me JPEGS. I also shoot quite a few “photographers” wedding as well that has a high demand and simply want to process raw files because they know how to.

            Ultimately, it’s your event day.. so if you wanted the RAW files, I would send to you… However, as I have received a few times… that monumental call… “Johnny, please convert these files for me or edit this picture…… I don’t know what to do with it… “.. #FACEPALM. #sigh

            I quietly tell myself.. “I told her so… “.

      • Johnny, thanks for providing a dissenting view in these posts.

        I’m curious, what editing software do you use? Why?


        • Hi, I edit in Lightroom when I need to edit. Most of my images from weddings are around 400 – 500 images and I do 4 or 5 batches adding vignette and custom preset I made for different styles of weddings that I shoot.

  51. bill griffith says:

    An excellent report and explanation. After the completion of this comment I am going to my trusty old Nikon ( well reasonably new D7000 ) and convert to RAW. Up until now I’ve been afraid to learn the processing bit but now I will face this fear and with better photos for myself and clients.

  52. Hi! Just finished up a wedding (shot in both raw/jpg) and starting my pp workflow. Do you save only the raw files to your hd or both jpg and raw? Since shooting raw/jpg, I have only edited raw files. I have all these jpg’s saved to archive folders, but feel that they are taking up so much space (jpg are shot as large/fine files). Is there a need to keep the jpg once the event is over and the raw files are saved to hd?


    • Hi Amy,

      If you have the RAW files, you don’t need to keep the JPEG files. Your JPEGs are actually just a fraction of a size to your RAW files (which are larger). But I guess to answer your question, you don’t need to keep the jpeg if you are not delivering to a client.


  53. Well explained, good arguments. You’ve convinced me to start shooting RAW (I’ve been using large JPEG). But one question: I have Photoshop CS6 Extended. But you’re saying I need Lightroom as well, if I want to shoot RAW? Isn’t there a better (meaning cheaper) alternative?

  54. Peter Moeller says:

    Good article, but maybe a few comments:

    I don’t think that “printing” qualifies as a reason for RAW. Most (all?) consumer printing kiosks will not read RAW formats. Not sure about professional labs – but I guess your articles is rather addressed to consumers?

    Banding? We print hundreds of photos and I have never seen banding on any of our prints, and we started with cheap point and shoot cameras in the early days of digital. In my experience, banding just isn’t an issue. And if it is for some people, I wonder how RAW will not fix it? The smallest JPG’s on my Nikon DSLR’s print with no banding at all.

    Also “pro option” is not really a pro for RAW. I guess the reason why pros use RAW are the other 9 reasons in the article. Maybe you just struggled to find another argument to get the round number 10?

  55. Quick simple question. I’m a videographer going back and learning photography like I should have from the beginning. I shoot in RAW and process in Lightroom 5. When I export the jpegs, I save them all on an external HD. Should I be saving the RAW files as well in another folder because I assume once I export the jpegs, I can’t revert back to RAW from those files. My reason for asking this question is because the non-destructive editing aspect confuses me because if it exports as a jpeg, isn’t that destructive? Basically I’m asking, should I save 2 copies of the same photo (RAW, and the exported jpeg)? Thank you! This article has been extremely helpful for me even though I get confused easily.

    • Hi Dan!

      Good question! When you export from Lightroom what you’re actually doing is creating a separate file (jpeg, tiff, or whatever you export as). Your original RAW file remains untouched. So it’s not necessary to export another RAW file. You also cannot save over the original RAW file, this is why editing a RAW file is non-destructive – you can always undo the changes you make to a RAW file. Hope this clears things up!

  56. Forever RAW ;)

  57. anoop pandey says:

    i love raw. and my aim is raw. raw is the best and very best.

  58. Something that’s killing me more and more, would love some thoughts. Been shooting for a long time, with prosumerish Canons (Old Rebel and now a 60D). And my question concerns landscape stuff (so, outdoors, on the fly, no studio) and #5 above: Getting better detail from RAW. In my experience, for whatever reason, I feel like I can’t get images to that “next level.” By that I mean, you see more and more of these landscape shots that are just insanely detailed to perfection; seems like every website has some kind of photo contest now, and some of the detail is astounding. And I bet some were taken in the worst conditions too, forget about best case. (I can only hope that description explains where I’m going with this.) Ok, as for my thoughts as to why I’m not getting this level of detail… I know that a good exposure is key, and magic hour can generate great stuff. I understand about getting a great exposure (I swear I’ve had a few!). I use Photoshop professionally as a designer, so I know about levels and sharpening. And at this point, I can only guess: Is it simply a pro camera or better lens, and I’m kidding myself? Could it be everyone just cranks their sharp filter to 100% (but that won’t work if the detail isn’t captured)? Or could it be — RAW! And finally, I’ll admit I really don’t shoot in RAW out of laziness and storage fears, basically.

    • Hey! Thanks for commenting!

      So there are several factors that could be contributing to the “photo contest” style landscape images you’re referring to. A newer technique that is spreading throughout the landscape photography world is the practice of shooting several shots of a composition but adjusting the focus for each shot. So for example they’ll shoot a scene at the lens’ sharpest aperture (usually f/5.6-f/8) then they’ll focus on the foreground, middle ground, background (and usually several spots in between). Then they’ll bring those multiple shots into Photoshop and use layer masks to perfectly control sharpness throughout the image. So essentially they’re able to have a perfectly tack sharp image right from foreground to background. This is a time consuming, post-production intensive method.

      Shooting in RAW is also essential in terms of controlling sharpness and overall quality of the image – landscape photographers are definitely shooting in RAW in order to bring the best out of their shots. Give RAW a shot, try comparing it to a JPEG of the same scene. I’m sure you’ll be impressed.

  59. Why is Raw always spelled “RAW”?

    What does the ALL UPPERCASE SHOUTING letters stand for?

    If they do stand for something, then I stand corrected. But if so… then what?

    • Lauren Lim says:

      Hey Frank!

      Great question / comment. RAW isn’t an acronym for anything, and it should in fact be spelled with lowercase letters (Raw). It was a conscious decision of ours to commit to writing it out one way. The reason we went with RAW instead of raw was because we found most other people (photographers, educators, and our audience) refer to it as RAW.

      And to be honest you’re the first person to speak up about it! Maybe it’s time for a change?

  60. If i participate in any photography contest with processed raw image, dose my photograph qualified or disqualified. Many of my friends told me this photo is edited and it’s not good, they want me to shoot in jpeg to prove my creativity. I am confused.

    Actually i want to know “How international photography contest’s committees are recognize “RAW Proceeding” Method.

    • Hi Shakil,

      I the rules of photography contests will vary. Some may not permit editing of any kind – though I think the majority would allow it. I don’t believe shooting in JPEG proves your creativity, and shooting in raw gives you more options for correcting problems (not just creative adjustments)

  61. Nice Article…I’m about to change my photography towards using RAW…
    Thanks for sharing valuable information…

  62. This raw thing makes me crazy. I hate post processing. Why would I want to spend hours post processing and fixing mistakes I could have easily prevented by simply taking a little more time composing the shot? I want my images to look like I want them to right off the camera so I don’t need to post process. I feel that in many cases, RAW allows for sloppy photography. If there was no digital, serious photographers would take more time composing shots, and understanding the function and impact of their camera controls. Very few “professional photographers” (please understand I am making a distinction between true professionals and those who call themselves professionals) are willing to take the time to get to know their primary tool–the camera. I also feel like many RAW shooters do so only to make themselves seem distinct and more serious than that other photographer. I don’t doubt that there is more latitude for correction and even creativity when shooting raw, but IMHO, going too far with post processing is a different kind of art than photography, more of a hybrid of photography and painting, and the subjects begin to seem less real to me.

    • Well, I guess there are a good few reasons to shoot raw over JPEG. Bit depth is one good reason enough for me. Also JPEG records 256 levels of brightness, and RAW records between 4,096 to 16,384 levels, so another reason to consider using it. Processing the raw file does give one several opportunities to ensure all is well with white balance too, even if just a minute adjustment is needed. Using input sharpening in the raw converter can be less destructive than the output sharpening carried out in edit software too. If JPEG files suit one’s workflow that’s fine. But getting it right in-camera with digital isn’t quite the same as it was with film. I remember shooting Velvia 50 slide film which is similar in dynamic range to a JPEG file. Shooting could be very difficult with regards clipping shadows or burning out highlights and needed great care. As hard as I tried with slide to get it right in-camera, light can change in less than a fraction of a second, as you fire the shutter in fact. Having the larger dynamic range of RAW can often save that masterpiece you would have otherwise ditched in the bin. I have put my thumb through more slides than I want to remember, because the cost in terms of wasted time and cash could have easily bought me a copy of Photoshop.

  63. Thanks for the article! Really helpful.

  64. Peter Moeller says:

    A few more thoughts…

    My general camera setting is now Raw + Basic JPG. Generally I process Raw in Corel Aftershot Pro.

    For action/sport type photography my buffer fills quickly shooting Raw. For this style shooting I switch to High Quality JPG.

    The other thing I find is that sometimes skin tones are more pleasing on JPG straight from the camera, compared to the Raw… even after tweaking the Raw in software.

    Have done some Googling and a fair few people have encountered this (JPG producing better skin tones than Raw), but there seem no straight forward solution.

    I guess this means there is a place for JPG and people should not simply throw out JPG as “inferior”. Besides the smaller files that allow more images in a burst, the camera manufacturers JPG engines may produce results some amateurs may struggle to reproduce from Raw.

    • Peter,

      Absolutely… and great way to inject. I have photographers that shoot with me and live and swear by raw and have never taken one course on how to properly compose a shot. I’m just not getting to the point where I don’t always have to back over their images prior to delivering to the client. The last few weddings, I shot mixed mode and delivered the jpeg images after a minor batch process which added glows to selected images I needed to send over.

      It also depends on the type of photography you are doing as well.. as a wedding photographer, we shoot close to 25000 images a month so it’s not always practical to shoot in raw when you have great lighting already and feel you need to go over each picture one by one…

      just my .02.

  65. I don’t have a DSLR, I have a bridge over Nikon and at this time I’m trying to get really good at using this camera before going to the next level. My question is: Since my camera doesn’t have the option to shoot in RAW (only jpeg) can I still benefit from Lightroom to organized and lightly edit my photos, or is there a better software option for my needs such as PSE? I have not been able to find an answer to this question in my website search. I’ve enjoyed reading your articles. Thank you so much…

  66. Kakooza Naswifu says:

    Am finding it difficult to convert my photos to jpeg

  67. Very Useful information. Thanks for sharing such a awesome stuff…keep it up….

  68. I recently graduated with a diploma in digital photography and to start out i thought i would work with a photographer in my area. She told me that she was in the business of professional photography for 30 years. Naturally i trusted her judgement and photography skills would reflect that. One day i saw that her camera was set to shooting jpegs so i asked her if that was normally her preference (knowing well that a professional should be shooting in RAW). She told me that she was such a good photographer that she didnt need to shoot in RAW.. and that all the photographers she knew shot in jpeg. I asked her if she had ever experimented with RAW because she might find it to be rewarding and more efficient. She then told me “No but my friend tried once and could only fit 30 pictures on an 8gb card, so I don’t even want to bother.” I dont know about you but to me that did not seem professional at all. There were so many other incident with this photographer that were so unprofessional and rude towards me and moments where i was ending up teaching her.. needless to say I quit working for her and i am better off on my own. Thank you for posting this amazing blog post! it really solidifies my strong belief in shooting RAW and the professionalism and efficiency it can bring to a young photographer like myself :) i really enjoy reading these posts!

    • Peter M says:

      Rob, I have a question.

      The other day I did a baby shoot. The JPG’s rendered the baby’s skin beautifully. On the RAW’s the skin just didn’t look “right”. Zooming to 1:1 showed what appeared to be small blood vessels under the baby’s skin on the RAW images. (I’m happy to upload/email sample images.)

      Had similar effects before –JPG’s rendered skin tones nicer than RAW. Sometimes with a fair bit of tweaking, skin on RAW’s did not look as “pleasing” and “smooth” as the JPG’s did from the start.

      I’m generally shooting RAW + JPG, so I have always the options to go to JPG. But I like to get to the bottom of this.

      Have done a fair bit of research, but have so far not found a clear cut answer. Have seen pro photographers describe and discuss this phenomenon, eg Dom Bower has a Youtube video on this. Some say “overexpose skin ½ stop”. Some reply “get the camera settings right”, but don’t explain what exactly that means.

      What is your view on rendering of skin tones RAW vs JPG?

      • Rob Lim says:

        Hi Peter!

        Thanks for your comment. I can definitely understand your frustration! I know what you mean by JPEGs rendering a different look than raw files. The JPEG should look better right out of the camera. A JPEG will have contrast and sharpening already applied and if you’re using a camera picture style the settings may be more pronounced. Raw files definitely need to be editing to bring them back to a level consistent with straight out of camera JPEGs.

        When I first started shooting RAW I was disappointed that the straight out of camera raw file didn’t pop as much as the JPEG preview, but after a while I found it was pretty easy for me to make some quick adjustments that made the raw files look much better than the jpeg previews.

        I haven’t noticed any specific issues with raw files and skin tones but I’d be happy to take a look at the files if you like. You can email me at rob@photographyconcentrate.com

      • Hi Peter

        I have a Nikon D90 and had exactly the same issue as you. The skin tones on my RAW files looked terrible compared to the JPEGS. Like you say this reddish tint where you can see all the blood vessels. I did tons of research on skin tones with various camera makes and how to correct it Lightroom but I was missing one very basic step, camera profiles. Under the Camera Calibration panel in the Develop module you can select various camera profiles. The default profile is “Adobe Standard”, I changed this to “Camera Standard” and like magic the skin tones were so much better.

        I’ve decided that until I’ve mastered Lightroom, which may take a while, I’ll be shooting JPEG & RAW, trying to get things right in camera as much as possible, but also having the back up of RAW to perhaps return to at a later stage. From research that I’ve done, the best camera setting for skin tones in a Nikon is the neutral profile with saturation +1. I’m going to give that a try and see how that goes.

        Hope that helps!

        Cheers Sean

  69. My website: http://www.StephenWilliams.co.za

    99 percent of it shot on JPEG…. If you learn how to shoot professionally: i.e. use correct exposure settings, use correct colour balance setting and keep an eye on your histogram, then shooting in RAW is pointless.

    My opinion.

    • Peter M says:

      Fair comment, but even if you learn how to shoot the perfect JPG, do you think you *will* shoot the perfect JPG every time?

      I always try to “get it right in camera”, but adopted the strategy generally saving both RAW and JPG. (Unless I need a high burst rate, then it’s JPG only, maybe even small or medium.)

      If the JPG is good (which often it is) I don’t bother editing the RAW and just use that. When I need the additional information from the RAW, I use that.

      Best of both worlds.

      I see no benefit for me following slogans like “always shoot RAW.”

      • Do I think that I will shoot the perfect JPEG every time? No, only about 99% of the time. The more practise I got shooting on manual exclusively, and keeping an eye on exposure by looking at my histogram, the better I became at judging the scene in my viewfinder, and adjusting my exposure accordingly.

        I think that the professional photographer understands that RAW has its uses, and that JPEG has its uses, and knowing when to use it. The vast majority of the time JPEG will more than suffice under the conditions you’re shooing in, in cases where the contrast between bright and dark is so high that JPEG wont be able to record both light and dark parts of the scene, shooting RAW is the best option.

        So I agree with you when you say that there is no benefit in believing that one format is superior in all situations over the other.

  70. Tiberman Sajiwan Ramyead says:

    Does TIFF lose quality upon opening/closing and further processing?

    • Peter M says:

      The answer is “depends.”

      From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tagged_Image_File_Format

      TIFF is a flexible, adaptable file format for handling images and data within a single file, by including the header tags (size, definition, image-data arrangement, applied image compression) defining the image’s geometry. A TIFF file, for example, can be a container holding compressed (lossy) JPEG and (lossless) PackBits compressed images. A TIFF file also can include a vector-based clipping path (outlines, croppings, image frames). The ability to store image data in a lossless format makes a TIFF file a useful image archive, because, unlike standard JPEG files, a TIFF file using lossless compression (or none) may be edited and re-saved without losing image quality. This is not the case when using the TIFF as a container holding compressed JPEG. Other TIFF options are layers and pages.

      TIFF offers the option of using LZW compression, a lossless data-compression technique for reducing a file’s size. Use of this option was limited by patents on the LZW technique until their expiration in 2004.

      The TIFF 6.0 specification consists of the following parts:[8]

      Introduction (contains information about TIFF Administration, usage of Private fields and values, etc.)
      Part 1: Baseline TIFF
      Part 2: TIFF Extensions
      Part 3: Appendices

  71. Hi,
    I have been running a small photography business for about 20 years ( cut back since 2nd child). I guess you could say I’m old school ( but not old -started at 18). Back then I was taught on a Classic NIKON FM2 . Shot manually and also lugged around a Hassleblad ELM2. When I reluctantly switched to digital I felt I knew how to get my exposures pretty spot on. For this reason I tend to agree with the sentiments ” get it right the first time” and no need to spend ages getting in right after with lengthy processing. I personally think normal wedding clients wouldn’t appreciate the difference either .
    That being said I have lately been shooting for other studios who insist I shoot everything RAW. So I do but since I only download and handover the files and my life is hectic I honestly haven’t even looked at a RAW file that I’ve shot compared to the JPEG version.
    However, I’m not perfect and I know I have been slack on keeping up with changes ( no time for seminars anymore!)
    Had to do a beach family shoot yesterday for a couple who’s wedding I shot 13 yrs ago. Three young kids now and she just found out breast cancer. Shaving the hair and starting chemo Thursday . Heartbreaking. Being beach , facing all that harsh light I pulled out the polarising filter – brushed up on using polarising filter and found a few articles that said picture quality suffers. So I thought – I’ll give RAW a go.
    I’ve used Lightroom a few times but shooting only High Quality Fine JPEGS I didn’t really like the corrections ( after this article understand better why).
    I want to get them the files before Thursday- a create a nice slide show for her to be able to watch – so I’ve got not much time. You can spend hours googling and not get your answer !
    Got a few questions re Lightroom-
    Can you apply same corrections to JPEG that you use on the RAW – or not worth it / don’t bother ?
    Am I correct in saying when you apply corrections to a RAW and then eventually export it , you are exporting a “new” file and the original stays the same ?
    When you do the export – how do I know / set for the exported files to be high quality JPEGS ?
    I shoot now with a Nikon D600, Adobe RGB . Are RAW FILES RGB / CMYK ? Or do I select that preference in Lightroom ?
    From what limited info I’ve heard people say biggest thing about Lightroom is the white balance ability to correct? I do find white balance to be an issue in dark churches , especially with blood red carpet ! Any best pointers on the white balance issue?
    Do you really loose quality every time you make and save a change to a JPEG ? I’ve enlarged images to 1.5 x 2.8 metres and they were pretty good ! I tend to work in tiff with layers until it’s all done then flatten and save ( for wall enlargement stuff) .

    Sorry for all the questions but this seemed like most informative and willing to help sites !!!


    • Peter M says:

      Hi Rose, I learnt on a FM2 as well and my current FF body is a D600.

      Not sure if Rob or Karen will answer, but one comment about the color space – don’t use Adobe RGB, use sRGB. See here, why: http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/adobe-rgb.htm

      There may be reasons for using Adobe color space, but unless you know exactly why, stick to the default = sRGB.

      The Thursday in your message is long past, so I won’t reply to your questions…

    • Peter M says:

      Just couldn’t restrain myself… here are some more answer:

      “Can you apply same corrections to JPEG that you use on the RAW – or not worth it / don’t bother ?“

      Theoretically, you can, but out-of-the-camera JPG’s look different to out-of-the-camera RAW. The same corrections won’t work very well on both. Eg the saturation appropriate for RAW is likely to give you an over-saturated JPG, because the camera increased saturation already of the JPG already.

      “Am I correct in saying when you apply corrections to a RAW and then eventually export it , you are exporting a “new” file and the original stays the same ?”

      That’s correct.

      “When you do the export – how do I know / set for the exported files to be high quality JPEGS ?”

      In AfterShot Pro you press “J” and the marked images are exported to proof quality JPG, or “F” for full quality JPG. You’ll see this in the Batch panel.

      I don’t use Lightroom, I don’t like the way Lightroom stores all your images in one large library file.

      “I shoot now with a Nikon D600, Adobe RGB . Are RAW FILES RGB / CMYK ? Or do I select that preference in Lightroom ?”

      Again, don’t use Adobe RGB, that’s an internet myth that this gives you better colors. See the link to Ken Rockwell’s site in the above post.

      Regardless, “color space” does apply to JPG images, it does not apply to RAW files. A RAW file is pretty much the sensor information written to a file. The “color space”, if you can call it that, varies from camera to camera.

      “Do you really loose quality every time you make and save a change to a JPEG ?”

      Theoretically, yes. JPG’s are compressed and the compression is not loss-less.

      However, when there is something in the image you don’t like (eg too dark) you probably want to correct it (brighten it up.).

      If you notice problems with quality loss, you’ll probably have to look at your workflow.

      Most photographers will keep the original RAW file, to be able to go back and adjust at a later time. When you delete the RAW files, so save space, you loose that option.

  72. Very clear, thank you. I’m just starting, and I was thinking something is not right in the photos in JPG format.. Should maybe try RAW. Tried one photo, used an online converter, came out pretty bad. Probably a local installed program will give better results.

    • Peter M says:

      Dave, you need proper processing software. You may have received something with your camera, otherwise there is Adobe Lightroom or Corel Aftershot (which I prefer.) You’ll have to adjust things like exposure, fill light, clarity, saturation and vibrance, for the individual image. In the beginning it’s a learning process.

  73. Dave Carter says:

    Hi Rob,
    I was wondering if you could help me please. I have a Canon EOS D30. Yep, its older, but it sat unused in a closet for 12 years and is in perfect shape. I have a question. I want the best images possible and would like to shoot in RAW. I have Photoshop 7 but do not have the original camera included software. How to I edit raw photos? How to I then convert them where others can view them on Facebook or a website.

    Thank you

  74. Awesome, awesome article! Well written and easy to understand.

    That last point hit home for me… about the NEF format for my Nikon. Shortly after receiving my first amazing camera, I came across a similar article that convinced me to shoot RAW… and I mindlessly changed my settings to do so.

    Then, a month or so later, after downloading sets of images to my PC, I went to go browse my pictures and could not view a good portion of them on the computer… I thought the files were corrupted in some way. At that point, I’d kind of forgotten about this little setting I decided to turn on and I was freaking out… the very first pictures of my very first baby were on those images and I thought that they were possibly at risk of loss!!

    Of course, with a little googling, I realized that I just didn’t have the proper viewing software and I was quickly and freely able to get some and get reunited with the images I was so afraid of losing.

    I freaked out so much that I quickly went to change it back to saving in JPEG and I haven’t given it much thought until just now. I’ll be changing it back in the AM as soon as I figure out how!

    Kudos for the great article!

  75. Tiberman Sajiwan Ramyead says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with the 10 reasons.

  76. Hi, As a fellow professional photographer I can only say I absolutely agree with every word you say.


  77. Hi everyone!

    Due to the overwhelming response to this blog post, and the questions many readers have had, we have created a followup blog post called “12 Answers To Your Burning Questions About Raw” (http://photographyconcentrate.com/12-answers-to-your-burning-questions-about-shooting-raw/). Go check it out, and if you have additional questions leave them in the comments in that post. Thanks!

    Rob :)

  78. Where can I go to learn ‘how to shoot in a raw format’.

  79. Thanks for the article. just started to use raw a couple of months ago. I shoot real estate and jpegs are the proper format, but i discovered raw can turn an acceptible photo into a very good one.

    did not know the non destructive processing…smart.

    thanks again

  80. I am a beginner, and really don’t understand what it means to shoot in raw. Can someone please explain as simple as possible? Thanks

  81. Great information, i will switch to shot in RAW from now. Thank you Rob for this great post!

  82. Bruce Holmes says:

    Hi I use a Nikon D200 and process with Elements 11.No problem down loading to a file and the opening and processing in Elements. I just can’t view photos in file to select which ones I want to process. To me this is a huge disadvantage sure there must be a solution. All I can think of is shooting in both raw & jpeg but don’t like that idea????

  83. Perfect article you discussed this topic in a simple way, thank you!

  84. I’m a little new at this, so I need some pointing in the right direction. My question is how do I get to “rqaw” on my camera, which is a Canon SX40 HS. I don’t see it on my dial.

  85. Thanks for this clear, easy to understand look at what it means to shoot in raw. I recently purchased a camera that can shoot raw and was not interested in using this feature until I read your article. I have read some articles, including yours, on buying memory cards in the proper size and speed to make raw shooting quicker. It’s amazing how affordable the class 10 cards are these days. I am looking forward to trying this out and learning to edit digitally. I plan on getting Lightroom next learning to use it. Good stuff!

    • Well worth considering Corel Aftershot, instead of Lightroom. The 64 bit version of Aftershot is a lot snappier, compared to Lightroom. Aftershot also is cheaper. You get 30 day trials, so you can try without risk.

      There are free Raw processing packages (and we all like FREE!)… like this one: http://rawtherapee.com/ which is actually very good for beginners. I believe it may be programmed with beginners in mind.

      I would recommend you shoot JPG and RAW for some time. The reason is that the JPG out of the camera sometimes look more “pleasing”, compared to the processed RAW, especially for skin tones.

      Also be aware that with RAW you cannot do long bursts all that long. I find that shooting weddings in RAW I frequently run my buffer full and I have missed shots because of that. I have occasionally asked the couple to repeat “the kiss” for the camera – nobody seems to mind 

      Also, be aware of the limits of RAW. I find often images overexpose outdoors in sun light are “beyond repair”, so be careful there and don’t think RAW can fix everything. However, the other day I did a portfolio shoot with beauty lighting for a new model and when I checked the images after the session, often the forehead and nose were “too hot”. To my delight I found the “highlights” slider allowed me to save the whole lot in post. These are the moments when RAW shines! I would have lost about 50 great images, if I had shot only in JPG.

  86. Graig Smith says:

    I used to shoot raw with my old camera. It was a Pentax k20d. 14 megapixels and it didn’t always get the color correct. Raw was great for that camera because i often would get unusable images in jpeg. it wasn’t too bad to have an 8or 9 meg raw file.

    I just got a new camera the Pentax k3. This camera takes 24.3 megapixel images. That equates to around 30 mb raw files. and 8-9 mb jpegs. I have never had this camera mess up the color balance or the exposure. The scene processor in the camera is great. I plan on mostly shooting jpeg with this camera. These newer cameras do such a good job with jpeg processing you almost loose the need for shooting in raw all the time. Especially if the raw files are 30 meg.

    • Graig, you say your camera never got “color” ( I guess you mean white balance) or exposure wrong, you also say you don’t have the camera for long.

      Maybe you didn’t get the chance yet to shoot a bride in a white dress, which auto exposure makes look grey, or inside under some exotic fluorescent light, which may cause you auto white balance to give the pictures a green or blue twinge.

      Just be assured, no camera is perfect…

      Which goes well with the fact that no photographer is perfect.

  87. RAW is not an acronym, its simply “raw:” data… but yes un-prossed data is wonderful.

  88. xubayer says:

    Just love this article bro . U explained everything . (y) nice job

  89. Great article,that’s why I always shoot in raw!

  90. Phil Gardner says:

    Great post. Very informative. I have been shooting RAW for quite some time too and will never go back to shooting JPEG. I most certainly can live with the CONs of shooting in RAW. These are not an issue on my end. RAW is the most absolute best. I would encourage all camera users to give it a try and report back with your findings/comments. Thanks again.

  91. Great post and very interesting, I am new to photography and the closest I ever got to owning a decent camera is when the phone companies installed better cameras to phones. This post made me doubt my decision in buying a Nikon P900 due it not shooting in RAW format and made me rather want to buy the Canon SX60 HS, is this a good decision or will it not really matter to a fresh beginner like me, I need it to take photos of my children doing sports, Athletics, swimming and then I would like to start bird watching and take photos of Wildlife, lots of times we go to the nature reserves and I will see Lions, Giraffe, Rhino etc with my binoculars and my phone will never be able to zoom in that far, nor my Video camera, very old and due for replacement, this is why I am looking at buy a bridge camera, with HD video recording.

    • In photography the best solution is almost always whatever it takes to get you taking more pictures. When you hit a technical roadblock, that is the time to upgrade the hardware. The reason being that you will then understand the how and why on a very personal level. First priority is to do it, then do more of it, then do it better.

  92. sadie webster says:

    Thank you so much for this information. Im an aspiring makeup artist and also love photography. Looking into building a portfolio is daunting. I have been looking into shooting my own and had no idea about the best kind of bridge camera to purchase. I now understand ‘ Raw Format ‘
    Thank you

  93. Victoria Mcspadden says:

    I am a jewelry designer, and I want to know what is the best program to use for editing my handmade jewelry? I have Apple products, my iMac desktop is my primary computer, I do however have a mac pro laptop. Any ideas?

    Thank You!

  94. Raymond Desparmet says:

    Thanks and very interested by your clear explanations on formats. Through my life I have collected and or shot worldwide a great quantity of pictures (a few thousands of gigs) and the DNG format may be a good choice to pass on this collection to posterity. Thanks again and cheers.

  95. “Because of the finer gradation of tones and colours you’ll get better prints from RAW files. Even though more and more people are shooting digital, great prints are as important as ever (maybe even more so, due to their relative rarity!)”

    I’m a printer, and the dirty little secret is that printers, be they large or small format, do not print RAW files. Large format systems (Epson, Canon, HP) print jpegs, usually in the Adobe RGB (1998) color profile. Small format printers (Noritsu, Fuji) do things a little differently but still require jpegs. It’s not our fault, it’s just what we’re forced to work with.

    Another dirty secret: you hear about these new printers printing at stunningly high resolution (2,880 dpi for example). But did you know that the human eye can’t discern anything beyond 322 dpi? Never pay more for a high resolution print because you won’t notice the difference no matter how good one thinks one is. And high resolution prints don’t cost me any more to print in the first place!

    The issue here is that printers, photographers, and camera/cell phone makers should have a group discussion about the many dimensions of taking and printing a quality image. And it must start from the fact that technological advances have far surpassed the ability of the human eye to know the difference.

  96. Kelly Kardos says:

    What a great post Rob-I’m a hobbiest photographer, not a very technical person but you’ve written something that I can understand. I’m going to go practice shooting in RAW today.

  97. RAWesome!!!!

  98. hi photography concentrate I’m 12 and I’m completely obsessed with photography my camera at the moment is the canon 1200D I love this SLR loads. I’m basically just righting to say THANK YOU ROB AND LUARAN thanks to you I understand photography the light the exposure what lenses are good and way way more thanks so much for this website I would love it if you guys went and checked out this website
    thanks again for all your help with photography Anna xoxoxo

  99. Great article.
    raw *****

  100. Thanks mate really helpful i came here sorely for that purpose to understand Raw format.

  101. hi everyone , need help here , I am using D3000 Nikon and even though my setting is on JPEG , when I transferred the photos to my PC they all read as NEF and the problem with that is I can’t open them by Photoshop !!
    so i need now to know how can I be sure that the photos will stay JPEG and how can I convert what I already shoot from NEF to JPEG ? I do know about the converter but it takes forever talking about 700 photo
    thanks in advance

  102. Wendell says:

    without a doubt, RAW is better than Smackdown!

  103. Thanks for the article! I always shoot RAW too because I like its flexibility.

  104. For a couple of decades I have been shooting photography in wilderness river settings where the natural scenery is simply beyond explanation to somebody who has not been there and seen it in person. Since 1997, I have been a web designer and most of my work has been for websites where jpg is the accepted (and until recently preferred) best quality format. On occasion, I have been asked to use my work for print publication and jpg just really does not cut it.

    I am just learning about RAW because I have my first camera that offers it as an option. My new Nikon is now set to shoot RAW + jpg so I can get both at once, and if I don'[t need to process a photo (which is frequently the case) then the jpg files are ready to go onto the web, but it is great having the ability to do so much more and I am excited to be learning this technique. The article above was excellent in explaining answers to the many questions I had, and I am now confident that I am making the right choice in shooting in RAW format. Hopefully, Nikon will adopt the DNG format soon, and make it available through a software update so that I don’t have to buy another new camera.

  105. Sandesh de rijk says:

    Thank you so much, all has been clarified! How cool! All questions answered.

  106. Pierre Bedard says:

    Picture taken both in jpg large fine and RAW. Then, RAW opened in TIFF 16 b.
    jpg : 294549 bits
    raw : 24713711 bits
    raw open in TIFF : 72328462 bits
    Can we assume that RAW is none the less a compressed file even if all claim that it contains ” all ” the informations ?

  107. Carl Armani says:

    What great 5 star post. I have been hesitant to shoot RAW because of the heavy data use age. You have converted me !
    Well written and easy to understand.

    Thank so much

  108. Luis Ramirez says:

    Nice article! I came across it and noticed you mentioned something about pictures for Web resolution. I am starting up my own webpage and need to know; what is a good resolution for photos to upload on the web?

  109. I always swear by RAW and found this great and ‘straight to the point’ article while searching for something to convince a fellow photographer to switch to RAW…

    One thing I would add to the ‘TAKES UP MORE SPACE’ issue is that if you do a lot of post-processing to your images and like to save several versions of the same image you will probably find that you will actually use up a lot less space than you think when shooting RAW. This is because these post-processed versions of the file, as mentioned previously, only contain the information about the edits/filters that have been applied to the file and not a complete duplicate every time.

    Good work.

  110. Shannon roy says:

    This was an awesome article. Thank you so much!!!!!!

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