The Importance of Shooting in RAW Format

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I once saw a conversation about RAW vs JPG going on in a photography Facebook group. The question was, “Should I shoot in RAW or JPG?” And the photographer in question was stating that he only shot in jpeg – not only did he get more shots on his card, but he felt RAW gave no benefit to him.

 

Large files – are they worth it?

I have a particular fondness of my work. I have several drives that save every photograph I’ve ever taken, and sometimes I sift through older works and edit them with my MCP Photoshop Actions, just to see how they look. Other photographers have a time limit and delete files after a certain length of time. I could never do this – that work is, a part of me.  Storage is a little tough for me since I shoot in RAW. Each edited image has four copies – The RAW, the PSD of my editing process, the high res jpeg saved out, and the low res for internet use. Sometimes there is an extra copy where I make a collage of several images together. Each image folder from a session is a gigabyte or more in size.

I shoot in RAW even though it takes up more space. It allows you to do things after the fact that a jpg won’t… In short, it provides photographers with flexibility and a margin for error.

Raw saves the day…

In June of this year, at a session I did for free, I decided not to set up lights.  It was a mistake as there was not enough light, even at a higher ISO. This is the RAW image, SOOC. It was the darkest image from the whole session, as her placement in this pose put her off the ground and at a different position from the window than the others. As you can see it is way under-exposed and really should be a deleted picture. But…it is fun to push the editing limits.

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If this was a jpg, this would have been the result in Photoshop or Lightroom after increasing the exposure. Not acceptable.

DSC 7187 increase opacity twice 600x905 The Importance of Shooting in RAW Format
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This image isn’t useable. It isn’t even worth saving – it’s the kind of image I wouldn’t feel bad about permanently deleting because no amount of Photoshop wizardry on any level can enhance data where there isn’t any. This simply isn’t saveable.

UNLESS…. I shot in RAW…  which I did.  Here is the same image with exposure increased in ACR (Lightroom would get the same results). This is the image that comes out of it.

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Not the best image by any means.  I had better images from the session, but this ended up being one of mom’s favorite images of her baby girl. Once I had this image, I applied edits to it with MCP Actions.

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  • Number one, I applied One Click Color from the Fusion set at 50% opacity.
  • Number two, I masked Hush the Reds and Hush Jaundice onto the face from the Newborn Necessities Photoshop action set. Reds at 29%, Jaundice at 42%.
  • Number three, I applied Natural Vignette from Newborn Necessities at 53%.
  • Number four, I masked Increase Opacity to Darken onto the wrap from the Newborn Necessities set.

Here again is the final image:

DSC 7187 3 natural vignette The Importance of Shooting in RAW Format
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If you shoot RAW, and accidently underexpose (even by a lot), you can see how Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and Photoshop can get you great results. Those little tweaks in color balance, exposure and contrast help your images in ways you wouldn’t realize until you tried it! Every once in a while, a shoot turns out some darker images. I am glad that I have a raw file and MCP Actions to help it.

Jenna Schwartz is a newborn and senior photographer in the Henderson, Nevada and Coshocton, Ohio. You can find her on Facebook or her website.

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 The Importance of Shooting in RAW Format

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11 Comments and 11 Replies



  1. 1
    ana says:

    I have always had photography as a hobby for me. I am now only starting to learn more about the things behind the camera and the editing. How do I make a file RAW instead of JPG?

    • Hi Ana,

      It will be in your settings in your camera menu. I want to make you aware that unless you have an editing program like Lightroom or Photoshop, you probably won’t be able to do much with the RAW files until you get one. A great alternative is to set your camera to shoot RAW+JPEG – it saves both files, you can work easily with the JPEG and save the RAWs until you do end up getting a good editing program.

    • Lacey says:

      Hi Ans,

      I recommend looking up your cameras manual (they have copies of most camera manuals online if you’ve misplaced yours) an many tutorials on YouTube about shooting raw.

  2. 2
    Ginger says:

    Thanks for this! I plan on writing a blog post soon on why I only shoot raw. This helps a lot. No worries, I won’t be using your post. But I may link to it if you don’t mind.

  3. 3
    Kristin says:

    I like to shoot jpeg! I love the jpeg preview I get on the back of my camera when I’m shooting. I can’t seem to figure out how to match the sharpness and clarity of my RAW files in post production to my in camera Jpegs. My raw files are always noisy and not as crisp as my Jpegs. Any tips on how to process your raw files to match your Jpegs?

    • Stephanie P says:

      I’ve been shooting in RAW lately and LOVE what ACR can do…but I too have noticed a LOT of extra noise in my RAW files in comparison to when I shoot jpegs. I’d love to hear any input…

    • Byron Rivers says:

      Kristin I would encourage you to combine contrast, exposure and brightness along with clarity to adjust your sharpness.

      I find that group of tools to give me the best resulting clarity.

      I have also noticed that the initial preview for raw, whether in camera, or on your computer is a bit out of focus. Adjustments address that issue quite well.

  4. 4
    Melanie says:

    Question, when I shoot in JPEG, Photoshop gives me the option to open the file in RAW. Is this different than when I shoot in RAW? When I open either image it does come up in the same place. Just curious!!

    • Paul Conrad says:

      Hi Melanie,

      What is happening is that your Photoshop ACR preferences are set to open Jpegs.

      You can change this by going to the Preferences drop down menu and at the bottom is one for “Camera Raw.” A window will open and at the bottom are options for Jpeg and Tiff files.

      Click on the Jpeg and set to “Disable Jpeg Support.” This will prevent your jpegs from opening in ACR.

  5. 5
    J Mc says:

    Show me a blurry image cleaned by shooting in RAW.

    • Jenna says:

      Hi J Mc,

      A blurry image, in most cases, cannot be saved by shooting in RAW. Something slightly out of focus could be with sharpening it, but not a blurry photo.

  6. 6
    matt says:

    you forgot to mention that RAW is the digital negative. If someone rips off your image as their own you have proof. You can’t make a RAW from a jpg because the jpg is a picture where the RAW is the actual data from the sensor.

  7. 7
    Charissa says:

    I shoot in RAW, correct exposure in Lightroom, and then convert to JPEG before pulling them over to Photoshop to run actions, etc. Do you see any benefit to leaving the files in RAW when using the MCP actions in photoshop? Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Charissa,

      It depends. If you are doing all the adjustments you need for exposure and white balance in RAW, then you probably won’t see a difference when editing the RAW or the JPEG file. But if you plan to do more adjustments inside of PS, you might see a difference. I have not saved it as a JPEG and edited it afterwards before, I just always open them up into PS as RAW files.

  8. 8
    FranP says:

    That is exactly what happened to me. One morning I saw a wild turkey walking through my back yard, (a rare occurrence). I got my DSLR and began shooting pictures, not realizing I had it on Manual and hadn’t exposed for the shot. Pics turned out quite black, but fortunately I had them in RAW and was able to rescue my images. It’s been RAW all the way from that point on.

  9. 9
    Henry says:

    I’ve been shooting with RAW since my cameras would allow me to do so. Thing is, my cameras also support “RAW+JPG” capture which I generally do. I don’t mind taking the space on the cards, or on my HD’s at home. I like the convenience of having the JPEG for easy upload/email without conversion. But when I use Lightroom, should I just import the RAW files into the catalog?

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Henry,

      It’s personal preference, really. If you plan to edit the jpeg files, you should import them. If you don’t, then you won’t really have a reason to, unless you want them in the catalog.

  10. 10
    Shane says:

    I have been shooting in RAW for the last few years and just had the most horrific thing happen this weekend while on a shoot. Lately my batteries have not had their multi-day life expectancy and this weekend was no different. Halfway through the shoot my battery died, I did a full charge the night before. I replaced it and when I depressed the shutter for focus it beeped at me. I thought, “That was weird.” Ended up my camera reset to factory settings. I did not catch this, until I downloaded the pictures. Argh. So the rest of my shoot was all JPEG. You forget how nice RAW is to work with until you have to work with JPEG.

  11. 11
    Toni C. says:

    I would love to see a tutorial on what to do with a RAW image after it’s downloaded from your camera to you computer. I have taken raw & jpeg images… but what’s the next step to being able to work with them in Lightroom and Photoshop.

    thanks!

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Toni,

      Lightroom and Photoshop (with the most recent versions of Camera Raw) will all open the files, and that is where these edits were all done. Really it’s just a matter of importing (with LR) or just opening the RAW files (PS). Edit exposure, white balance, and other things with the small menu, and then save out or open in PS/LR to do more edits.



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