Editors Note: Why Shoot RAW? | From Lastolite School of Photography was originally written by Mark Cleghorn for www.lastoliteschoolofphotography.com and has been reproduced with permission.
Why Shoot RAW?
When you shoot your image, your digital camera needs to store it in a format that a computer program can then read later. The two main formats are RAW and Jpeg, but the choice has never been an issue for pro photographers unless data storage was a problem.
A RAW file is a non-compression format and will give a better quality image once it has been processed through a RAW file converter like Photoshop’s Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) or the camera manufacturer’s own software. The file can be fine tuned in post production to correct any slight exposure errors or colour cast problems with a simple click of a button and better still, these corrections can then easily be applied across a whole batch of images very quickly.
Once the RAW file has been corrected it will then need to be converted into a more usable file format to enable more common computer programs as well as photo labs to read and print the file.
There are two main disadvantages in shooting RAW, the first is the post processing time involved, however this can be outweighed the majority of the time by the time saved in Photoshop later. The second problem is storage issues as the file is vast in size compared to a Jpeg compression file, however once the RAW file has been post processed, the file can be backed up and stored like any other file but with the advantage of being fully editable time after time with no loss of detail.
Jpeg’s are the most common image file as they are a small file by comparison and they are usable straight out of the camera. A Jpeg is a compression file, which means from the moment the image is first saved on camera and then subsequently, colour information is being thrown away and lost every time its re-saved.
Jpeg files can be saved at different levels of compression, each level will lose a different amount of information every time the file is saved, and then each time it is saved more information is lost.
If you are shooting a Jpeg file on camera it is recommended that you shoot the highest level of quality to try and keep as much of the colour and file information as possible.