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!).

Want to create stunning photos by easily controlling your camera?
Here’s our complete guide!

Advantages of shooting RAW

So, the benefits of RAW… There are quite a few, and they’re super important!

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 (exposure, 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!)

So, 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 disadvantages.

We’ll chat about those, as well as some potential solutions!

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!

Want to create stunning photos by easily controlling your camera? Here’s our complete guide!

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 photography 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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218 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.

    • Tiger78232 says:

      You can store the RAW images on your computer (preferable). From there use a tool like “lightroom” to convert that RAW image (touch it up as much as you’d like) to JPEG.

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

    • Square is useful for photographers who shot using 120 film and twin lens reflex cameras. It makes them feel at home.

      I used a small Linhof with the same film and ideal format, 6X7.

  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.

    • I use an external sd card reader, I never go from camera to computer

    • There are several ways to move files from a camera to a computer. The ones I use are the same for JPEG or RAW.

      1) I can use a USB cable to connect between the camera and the computer. The computer recognizes the memory card in the camera as a drive and I simply select, copy (or cut) and paste the files into My Pictures.

      2) I can remove the memory card from the camera and insert it into the slot in my laptop. The computer also recognizes the card as a drive and I can follow the procedure above.

      3) If you do not have a card reader in your laptop, you may attach an external one via USB and do the same thing as in 2).

      I don’t think there is any problem moving the files to your hard disk. What you do after that varies.

      Note that if you need it, Adobe Bridge is able to open JPEG files in a RAW editor provided by Adobe. Bridge was free with my CS5 package. My Canon 60D is set to record jpeg files at highest quality. Photoshop opens jpeg files directly. It opens .CR2 files in an editor. I seldom edited them, so I stopped using CR2. When I need it, I open the JPEGs in Bridge and make corrections. The editor is very useful in saving a bad exposure. I find that using the RAW editor is similar to correcting negatives after development with chemical processes. There were reducers and intensifiers to do this in the rare cases when it was necessary.

      I hope this helps.

  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!

    • charlotte says:

      Hello rob just seen your article, im currently shooting jpeg but have read your post and it seem raw is the way forward I’m currently using a nikon d3300 along with my 50mm 1.8 my favourite lens to use mostly. I transfer my Imsges to disc and usb for my client in which format do I need to save these images in for them to be able to view on there own devices? Many thanks
      Also I’m looking to go to full frame d610 or would you suggest buying a better lens for my current camera?

  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.

    • Tiger78232 says:

      As the article states, RAW images are proprietary. Not all imaging tools can read them. I have a Nikon and all RAW images are stored in “NEF” format. I am unable to open this image with many normal imaging software. But Nikon does have its own viewing software called “ViewN2” (something like that). It opens great.

  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.

    • Be sure to set the quality setting to maximum when saving a file to JPEG, The compression algorithm will then do minimum damage to your image. As an experiment, I once opened JPEG file, made a minor edit and saved it as a max quality JPEG. I did this 11 times and could not tell the difference from the first to the last. I believe most of the problems with JPEG files are the result of saving at too low quality. Keep the slider to the right!

  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??

    • Yes you can. Bridge CS5 has a feature to open JPEG files in a RAW editor. It is the sixth item down under the File menu in Bridge. You may also use control + R. Try it, you’ll like it. I always save the file first under another name and edit the copy. The editor makes changes to the original file and saves it to a CR2 Format. It isn’t necessary to do it, but I like to have both versions. Two features of the editor are very useful. Setting the black point (Hold down the alt key and move the black slider until you just see some detail) and correcting the exposure with fill light. The other features of the RAW editor may be useful, but they require skill and practice. Good luck.

  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?

    • Copy the files into another folder on your computer and edit the copies using the RAW editor in Bridge.
      That way, the original files will be untouched and you may see the improvement (if any) in the new folder.

      The copy and paste process is easy. Create a new folder and name it from the original with the word copy added to the name. Then in the original folder, use Control+A to select all the files, Control +C to copy them. Open the new folder and use Control + V to paste them all. Super easy on a PC. A bit more complicated on a MAC.

  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.. :)


        • Chuck McLaughlin says:

          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.

        • Donna J Paul says:

          Johnny, Did you even read the 10-reasons-why-you-should-be-shooting-raw?

          Johnny, look at #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.

      • Donna J Paul says:

        Jan, you are right! I shoot RAW because the image is better; I don’t have to edit but to put my watermake on the photo and make a copy in JEPG for the web.

  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. Chuck McLaughlin says:

    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 [email protected]

      • 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. Nuno Carriço says:

    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!!!!!!

  111. I am a photographer and videographer…. photography since the 60s and videography since the early 90s.
    We went though all this lossless vs lossey stuff a way long time ago.
    There is no way you an ever shoot a movie in RAW. No reason to discuss why but it should probably be obvious. All digital video must be compressed and the movie industry is sooo waaay aware of what kind of loss is acceptable and what kind is not so CODECs (COmpression DECompression algorithms) were written to take care of deciding exactly what could or could not be compressed (color, luminosity, whatever).

    So It is surprising to me that there is all this debate about JPG vs RAW… jpg is just a codec and acceptable for 90% of my shots. I try to shoot RAW and JPG at the same time but if something “must” go it would probably be RAW because it slows down high burst rates… as in wild life captures. If I want to get all the true color and detail possible I will shoot Velvia in my 4×5, develop it myself, print/enlarge myself, and then, should I care to, I have it Drum-scanned it to highest quality TIF.. editing is easy after that.

    It just seems to me that raw vs jpg argument is so out of the realm of reasonable debate that it is rendered immaterial as long as there is something far superior to both… film.

    — old timer form Arizona Highways —

  112. could you advise me about ‘RAW’ images and what you’re supposed to do with them?

    I’ve heard so much conflicting advice. People say raw images need to be ‘converted’ to use in photo shop

    but surely you lose quality & detail. And why shoot on raw in the first place if you have to convert it later and lose so much information and important data?

    If it’s possible I want to work on raw files in Photo shop to get the highest quality possible when making huge prints.

    I’ve got lots of raw files that are completely useless because I can’t open them in photo shop.

    I use a PC not a mac and i shoot Nikon camera.

    Thank you.

  113. Expoosure?

  114. Still couldn’t get how to process raw file…..

  115. Recently i capture some pics in RAW format but unfortunately i can’t open them in my Laptop or Android mobile
    I think its just becoz of Raw format
    I want to change those pics format to JPEG
    I really so much worried about it
    Can anybody tell the solution that how can i change the format easily

  116. Cliff Smith says:

    Why does everyone call it RAW mode? It’s not an acronym, so there’s really no need to write in all capital letters. I’ve been a camera journalist for 20 years, and I keep seeing people make this mistake; almost every website, book and magazine, and even some camera menu screens call it RAW mode. All it means is that you’re recording the raw uncompressed data from the camera’s primary image processor, so just call it raw mode.

  117. Hello everybody what a nice friendly forum for a change!!!
    Love the mood( friendly, open non- judgmental and acceptable for everybody)
    My name is sash and I am total beginner in digital photography although have been taking good old film photographs since I was a kid – maybe 10 or 11. My dad gave me my first camera then back in Russia and it was Russian FED SOMETHING OR OTHER…
    I had a chance ( I am very lucky!) to go to the North Pole aboard Russian nuclear powered icebreaker and since it was a trip of a lifetime and since I got to know the capitain of this ship I managed to get dramatic huge reduction in usually very high cost and as a result of this indirect saving of thousands of dollars I decided to buy myself a digital PANASONIX GX8 camera with a couple of Olympus and LUMIX lenses.
    After having red huge amount if articles on RAW and JPEG I decided to shoot in both and finished up in over 5500 images with massive storage size.
    I have just downloaded all images to my trusted laptop Nd back them all up on 2 Tb external drive.
    Now what to do with them and his to process them???
    Of course first thing to do is go through all of them visually and discard those of poor quality and keep those which are good
    With my camera came a software called SYLKIPIX which I have already installed into my laptop!!
    What’s the best software to use for processing? Maybe my “free” SYLKIPIX IS good enough?!?
    Or maybe I should invest in Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop?
    My intention is to get more involved with digital photography As I love taking pictures
    So learning processing them would be great fun
    Of course I don’t want to leArn many programs but only one since it’s huge time investment
    Any advice would be appreciated!
    And my net and final question here is following:
    My lAptop is 15 years old and running W VISTA so it’s getting on and old…
    I’d’ve a bit of a budget d want to buy new computer: which one would anyone of you guys recommend: MAC OR WINDOWS PC/ LAPTOP????
    I read a bit on other forums and the overwhelming opinion is that if one wants to get seriously involved with digital photography them MAC is the best way to go but there is arguments on both sides
    MACs are more expensive than PC BUT LESS FLexible!
    What do you think guys??i went to APPLE shop the other day and I must say I was overwhelmed with variety of MACs on the markets!!
    There is even a mini MAC now which cN be connected to 4K monitor with unbelievable picture quality!!
    What’s your Dvice guys??
    Also what’s the best way to obtain Adobe softwAre or Lightroom?
    Trial version download? Or maybe get like m’ship nd pay them periodic fee?
    Of course if I get MAC then there are different software for MACs so I will be entering different world altogether!!!
    Any advice will be greatly appreciated!!
    By the way that was great article read with huge interest!!
    Rob you are very gifted young man!!
    Thank you so much for all advice and ideas

  118. H.E. Jones says:

    Excellent and helpful post, and I’ve also read through all the comments. But I remain confused about two things, probably because I am a complete amateur. If I save in RAW, does that mean that I can’t use, or the saved photo will automatically eliminate, the “auto” adjustments made by the camera? As an example, I have an “intelligent auto” setting on my camera that makes most adjustments for exposure, etc., automatically. If I save in RAW instead of JPEG, are the iA adjustments not made, or lost, or do they get made and just saved at a much higher resolution?

    Second question, as to which there seems to be some disagreement in the posts: even though I use the iA setting a lot, I also edit most photos in Photoshop Elements 15 before saving them as final. If i save as RAW rather than JPEG in the camera, will I be able to import directly into Photoshop or will there be intermediate steps I will have to go through?

    Thanks for your help.

    • In reply to your question (H E Jones), the camera always takes a raw image as in this is the raw light data that hits the sensor (the information that you really want).

      The camera then looks at this raw image (remember that the camera is not intelligent enough to know what the objects are in the scene or how they should look in real life) and then tries to work out the colour balance and a few other things based on a set of built in rules and applies this to the image and then outputs result to a compressed file.

      In the process some of the original colours/contrast will be lost and no amount of post processing will ever get them back because it will have decided that some elements which are actually different colour/contrast in real life and the raw image are in fact the same and so it will make them the same value and their original values will be forgotten… On top of that to save space the compression process interpolates the values of adjacent pixels and replaces it with a mapping that best matches.

      What software like Lightroom and Photoshop do is look at the raw image in the same way that the camera does but then gives you the option to apply your own adjustments (you will find that a lot of camera preset rules are found in these packages and so you can normally reproduce what your camera would have done anyway).

      Raw is raw, it doesn’t matter what settings your camera would have applied to the image as all this process involved was the camera software looking at the raw image, not the environment outside, and interpreting it. This is something that can be done at any time and with the software set to your particular camera the result will be the same every time.

  119. Just found this post. It’s good, clear explanation my bro. Now I start wondering is there any app to edit a RAW format in Linux? I tried to open a CR2 file using GIMP but it can’t open it.

  120. is at all possible to convert from a AWB format to RAW i went on my travels using manual but did not realize RAW was the way to go and now when i print the pictures out the quality sucks :(

  121. Steve Landt says:

    I am a point and shoot man, this really is a great article making sense of something I’ve heard of but didn’t understand, both my cameras have the raw option which I will definitely give a try.
    Thanks for the info
    Regards Steve

  122. Hmmm. I am a total newbie. I just bought a Panasonic LX-100. I shoot in both JPEG and RAW at the same time. I never see a difference when i download them on my computer. Am i missing something?? Is my camera too lame to register the difference? I want to gain any advantage I can to attain the best image.

  123. Thanks for the clear explanation! :)

  124. Excellent article! This is by far the most user-friendly explanation of RAW I have ever read. Thank you!

  125. Charlie Spencer says:

    Interesting that this article is still drawing comments 6 years later!

    “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.”

    My Panasonic FZ70 will save in RAW and / or JPG. It came with an application called SilkyPix Designer Studio, although I don’t know if other apps are compatible with the camera’s RW2 format. I have no problems getting the files onto my computer but I have no clue what to do with them once I have them open in the app. I don’t understand most of the settings. The instructions are big on how to adjust them but not much on the effects they have. There are some pre-defined ‘tastes’ (the app’s word for a collection of settings), but it seems like the camera-generated JPGs usually look better than whatever I do to the RAWs.

    For what it’s worth, I’m taking photos of birds as an aid to identifying them (capture details so I don’t have to remember them, get more details than I can see even with binos, etc.). I have no plans to print them, and the only sharing would be on bird-ID web sites.

    Is it worth shooting RAW in my case?

  126. John Hromco says:

    Thank you for you explanation about raw vs. jpg images. I am an armature photographer who has shot only Nikon film cameras for the last 30 years. Now I have my first Nikon digital and I need to learn everything new in digital photography. It is like starting all over again. So thank you for your clear and simple explanations. I would like to learn more from you. Can I get a list of all your articles or writings dealing with digital photography. What web site is most complete. Thanks, John

  127. Hello Rob,
    I find this article very interesting and easily understandable: the non-technical style and the subdivision of arguments in a list is particularly suitable for the inexperienced readers. For these reasons I’ve linked this page in the latest blog post of my travel photography website as a starting point to know more about this argument. I hope it’s ok for you.
    Thank you and keep up the good work.

  128. Thank You for very insightful blog! Much Appreciated…Heading for the next one.

  129. Miriam Olsen says:

    Hi, I have Adobe Lightroom cc/6 installed on my laptop. I have a desktop computer that has low disk space I need to buy a tower so I can install Lightroom on my Hewlett Packard. Do you have any suggestion what would be compatible with Windows 10 and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom cc/6? Best Buy had lenovo, asus, macs, & Hewlett Packard. I have always used windows. Thanks for your knowledge on this concern.

  130. marcia Darby says:

    I Transferred my photos from my phone to laptop, but some have some over as JPEG and the others say error when you click on the photo its says RAW. Can you tell me why I have both? What do I need to do to have all the same.
    Not very good with these things.


  131. Ive been shooting raw for a long time until I moved to shooting jpg. I did so after being taught to do by a professional photographer. Since then my photogrpahy has massively improved and has become more fun too! Its very satisfying producing a photo that does not need postprocessing.
    I believe it is because a large part people of people that shoot in raw do so because they dont want to care about setting the right exposure and other in-camera parameters such as color, contrast and such. Also a good jpg can be postprocessed without visible penalty if those settings arent too way off. Without the need for postprocessing I can quickly deliver my results to the customer.

  132. Good explanation…. As a beginner i am wayyyy less confused now.

  133. Thanks a lot! Just purchased a Sony A6000 and started studying+shooting. Did it in JPG till now. I was asked by a friend of mine who plays in a jazz band, to make a photo shoot while they record they new album at a small studio. Since I’m not sure about the lighting there (I suspect it will be dim), it occurred to me to do some research about RAW format and your explanation was just great! Thank you Rob!

    (I’m a Linux user, so I’m learning how to use Darktable, which is the open software version of Lightroom)



  134. Donna J Paul says:

    Thank you for writing 10-reasons-why-you-should-be-shooting-raw. It was very well written and very easy to understand.

  135. I need help! I have heard over and over about the benefits of shooting in RAW and have tried it many times. For some reason, though, my raw files always look worse than the ones I shot in jpg! Yes, I have more control with exposure and everything else and that is great, but they are so noisy. Why is this??? I have googled and read forums and can’t seem to find any information on it. It is not the way I’m shooting because I shoot in RAW and JPG and the JPG looks fine, but the RAW is so grainy. I choose to shoot in JPG because I can’t stand to have such noticeable grain on my portraits. What am I doing wrong? I am processing in photoshop and even Lightroom with same results. I wish I could attach images here so I could show you what I mean. If anyone has any advice or knows what I’m talking about, please help. Thank you!

    • Daniel Peleg says:

      The JPG versions are less grainy because they are processed in-camera, not because they’re inherently less grainy. So the camera would essentially reduce the noise, but you also get the cons that go with in-camera processing. Please also see my other reply.

  136. Hmmm.. I just found the noise reduction tab and adjusted the luminance. Seemed to fix it. Is this all it takes? Do RAW files just normally look grainy before you adjust the luminance?

    Thanks in advance….

    • Daniel Peleg says:

      Hi Angela, it might have more to do with the ISO setting in camera for these particular shots. It could be the graininess that comes with higher ISO values.

  137. There is definately a lot to find out about this subject.

    I really like all of the points you made.

  138. Hi, I am new in photography and just bought a DSLR. Your explanation quite cleared my doubts.

  139. So great, thanks for you blog. I’m photographer and i need it it :)

  140. I am totally a newbie in terms of taking photos in raw. But your post did help me a lot to understand why raw is really an integral part of shooting. This article is surely helpful and very informative for me. Thank you for sharing in detail. It really opened my eyes. From now on I will keep in mind these 10 tips to craft the finest raw picture.
    Thank you for the post.

  141. My wife who is a digital graphic designer.
    When i try to capture raw format, she just told me that waste memory and time.
    All you need to know is photoshop, and you do not need raw format anymore.

    cause Photoshop can do almost everything to the picture without need to have raw.

    • Kaitlyn Luckow says:

      As a designer, I can see where she is coming from. However, while RAW does take up more room, the quality is better in the end.

  142. This is excellent. Thank you for this post. I do image editing in a pre-press department of a mid-sized printing press and am VERY MUCH fed up and frustrated already about clients giving me a 2MB JPG file to be enlarged to a poster-sized image. I have been constantly made to sound lazy, stupid and ignorant for explaining why their file cannot possibly produce the print quality that they have in mind. (I actually had a photographer email his client that I am lazy). I just sent this post to our sales rep so he can understand WHY I NEED A CAMERA RAW FILE for his client’s wall-sized project (190 inches). Can you tell how frustrated I am?

  143. franceska Sethman says:

    How can I shoot in raw and never be able to upload onto JPG only programs? What about RAW/ JPG setting? Thank you for your wonderful pointers.

  144. Shooting in RAW means preserving quality of your images. Thank you very much for such a helpful post as it encloses major issues of this format of shooting for both – beginners and professionals. It can be like step-by-step guide if you want to get acquainted with detailed post-processing. I’ll share it with my friends who are fond of photography as well.

  145. The main advantage of using a DSLR camera is its ability to shoot in RAW format. Shooting in RAW allows you to fine-tune the image. So, if we don’t use this feature then we are wasting it

  146. Your article really helps to understand, thanks! I’m always interested in learning something new about photography!

  147. Thank you for providing us information about Shooting RAW.its also very help full.

  148. John connelly says:

    Great article helps clear up some confusion. You may have converted me to the “raw” Army. Actually I’m going to renounce my jpeg affiliation, go Raw. Best, john

  149. I am a professional photographer and mainly shoot in-camera Tiff files. When shot correctly they offer incredible quality, great latitude for post-editing if needed, do not degrade when being saved, can be used with almost any type of photo software without conversion, and are already in the best format for archiving or going direct to highest quality prints on paper. After decades of using colour transparency film and understanding how to set up my camera profiles, with latest digital cameras I always try to obtain the best images I can at time of capture, so later editing with the computer software is minimal. That said, a Tiff file has almost as much leeway as a Raw file during editing process if needed. Workflow is much faster than if I shot in Raw, plus I don’t waste hundreds of hours sitting behind a PC trying to convert a Raw file into something that matches my in-camera Raw or Jpeg files.

  150. John French says:

    As gordon Ramsey would say …. it’s RAW,!!

  151. Great list. But I would add here also RawTherapee for raw photo editing. I’m using it besides Photoshop and Lightroom.

  152. RAW images are great, but how can you share the image online. Battling to find options. I have an Olympus, can display the RAW images in Olympus Viewer and used y\to be able to share the RAW images in Facebook. Can’t anymore and can’t seem to find an online platform, and no-one seems to be talking about how to display the images

    • Kaitlyn Luckow says:

      After you edit them, you can then convert them to JPEG files which will make them easier to share.

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