Beginners guide to shooting in RAW vs JPEG

At some point , every photographer who is a beginner, is curious to learn about shooting images in the RAW mode versus JPEG, which is usually the default format for all images . For a long time, I avoided exploring the RAW mode of shooting. However once I realized what I was missing out ,there has been no looking back . If you have been shooting for a while with Jpeg and want to improvise your photography, get more details in your image , have full control on editing and how the final picture looks like , I would definitely recommend to give the RAW mode a try.

For those who have never heard of RAW images , they are nothing but the format of the image wherein the image’s data is taken from the camera’s imaging sensor and saved in an unedited and uncompressed format .The file sizes are a lot bigger and so essentially you have full control on how the photograph will look like in post processing.

JPEG format of the image on the other hand, is a compressed file format .The camera automatically applies changes to the file for instance the saturation,exposure,contrast etc as it sees best fit.The changes made thus cannot be undone after they are saved .

Benefits of shooting in RAW:

Pros:

  • The highest quality of photograph can be obtained . You have full control of how the image should look like in post processing. Even if you mess up something while taking a picture, you get a second chance to correct it. RAW pictures are specifically preferred for portraits and when one has unpredictable lighting conditions while shooting.
  • There are many times we end up with overexposed or underexposed images ,Using RAW images they can be easily rectified. It is said that RAW files can record great levels of brightness from 4096 to 16384 bytes compared to jpeg which is only 256 bytes. The additional levels of brightness helps improve and recover exposure, temperature,white balance etc.
  • Helps with improving white balance .Some pictures when taken end up with too much yellow or blue due to lighting or lack of it which makes the photograph unappealing. This can be corrected as well
  • Editing RAW files is non destructive unlike JPEG files .When you are making changes to the RAW file it is basically making a set of instructions to the original and how it should look like and finally saved into a jpeg or tif file .The original file which is usually a .CR2 file (in Canon) or .NEF file (in Nikon) is not overwritten .So you can always come back and make changes from the start.
  • RAW files are especially preferred when lighting conditions are not so perfect and preferred when used for digital printing for clients.

Cons:

  • The files are very large as they are uncompressed and may occupy a lot of hard disk space and you can capture only fewer images with them compared to the JPEGs
  • The RAW files look flat as is when downloaded to the computer and will need processing to make it look colorful and sharp.
  • RAW images are not preferred when taking time sensitive images in short continuous frames for eg capturing a fast moving action when compared to the JPEG which are smaller and can be written faster to the memory card.
  • Every manufacturer has their own format for RAW files.They also cannot be uploaded as is without processing.

How to set the camera in RAW mode ?

From the menu and the first folder, find and select the quality option , it will list the choices and you can choose RAW from that .There is also an option to choose RAW + JPEG which is also beneficial as it saves both in JPEG and RAW ,but the disadvantage is you can only get a fewer images with this option as it needs more storage space.

Select RAW option from Quality

How to process the images in RAW mode ?

Once you are done with clicking the images and downloading them into the computer , open them using a software like Adobe Photoshop CC , a RAW converter program automatically opens up.

This comes free with Photoshop & elements or Lightroom. There are many sliders with options to change the Temperatures & Tint, exposure, High Lights, shadows,whites, blacks, clarity and more .Keep changing them until you are satisfied . See example screenshots above to see how the images can be recovered when underexposed . After all changes are made, open the images in Adobe Photoshop. Here you can make the final touches and then save the file as Jpeg . If you have not explored the RAW option do try and explore .

Disclaimer: I am not a photography tutor or professional .This is only an effort to share the tips I learnt and compile my experiences using the digital camera .

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Caz / InvisiblyMe
    August 20, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    I must admit I didn’t have a clue about the option to shoot in RAW, let alone the differences. I guess I’ve always seen JPeg as the gold standard and usual default, so it’s interesting to learn why you might choose RAW for some occasions!

    • Reply
      InspiresNish
      August 20, 2019 at 9:30 pm

      Same here Caz , I have recently started shooting in the RAW mode and it is really a wonderful option as the possibilities with it are endless.Thank you so much for stopping by!

  • Reply
    Sandhya
    August 20, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    What a super helpful post Nisha! There is so much to learn and explore in photography and your post will help so many.

    • Reply
      InspiresNish
      August 20, 2019 at 9:32 pm

      Thank you so much Sandhya! You bet there’s a lot to learn in photography and is never ending .

  • Reply
    lavapuyexe
    August 21, 2019 at 4:41 am

    nice

  • Reply
    Deeksha
    August 21, 2019 at 4:46 pm

    This is such a wonderful post! I am saving it to read and learn. Probably it will be followed by some more tutorial posts…..

    • Reply
      InspiresNish
      August 21, 2019 at 7:18 pm

      Thank you so much, Happy to hear it helps. I do have a section under photography tips where I compile all the tutorials, tips and tricks .Do check it out!

  • Reply
    Jyo
    August 22, 2019 at 7:03 am

    I don’t have DSLR, so I didn’t have any clue about raw images😁 all my pics (recent) are from my one plus 6😉.
    But this is such an helpful post for sure Nisha👍😍

    • Reply
      InspiresNish
      August 22, 2019 at 8:51 pm

      Thank you for stopping by Jyo! Glad this post helps to learn something new .

  • Reply
    Megala
    August 23, 2019 at 10:28 am

    Great article! I never tried to shoot in RAW mode, now I’m eager to try my hand. Thanks much for sharing a detailed post with beautiful illustrations.

    • Reply
      InspiresNish
      August 23, 2019 at 4:55 pm

      Happy to hear it helps and that you will try it out! Thank you so much for stopping by!

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