How many times have you heard photographers talk about shooting in RAW and extolling all the virtues of how it makes for better photography? Are you confused about what it means to shoot RAW images or how to edit them?
Well, let’s jump in and figure out what shooting in RAW really means……
What is a RAW image?
You can look at RAW images like a digital negative. If you were shooting film photography you would have a film negative. In digital photography if you are shooting in RAW, you are creating a digital negative of the images you are shooting. The RAW image itself is not usable as an image until it is converted, but that RAW file contains all of the information that you need to create an image and it is minimally processed, so there what you see on the RAW file is the closest to what the sensor actually recorded.
Most DSLR cameras come with a software CD to install onto your computer that will help you convert your RAW files to usable files, such as a JPG file. You can also download some RAW converters or even purchase one. (But make sure they are compatible with your camera or one you plan to upgrade to!)
What is the benefit to shooting in RAW?
Easily the biggest benefit to shooting in RAW is that you have more control over your images. You can correct colors, saturation, hue, white balance and lighting and much, much more. You can correct the small things and assign color profiles without the loss of data when you do that in RAW as opposed to working on a JPG.
RAW files are not compressed. So, a 10 mega-pixel camera will produce a 10 MB RAW file. And one of the biggest advantages of shooting RAW files is that you have a 16 bit image (post RAW conversion) to work with. This means that the file has 65,536 levels to work with, whereas an 8 bit JPG only has 256.
What is the downside to shooting in RAW?
RAW images are easily twice (some even more) the size of a standard JPG file and they take up a lot more space on your memory card, and your computer or external. But the improvement in your images makes up for this!
How do I set my camera to shoot in RAW?
You will have to check your camera manual. Follow the instructions from your manual. Also make sure to upgrade your memory card and that you have the software to convert the files! You don’t want to start shooting in RAW until you have the memory space on your card and the software installed to convert the files.
How do I convert my files for editing?
Programs like Photoshop and Lightroom support RAW conversion. Once you pull the RAW file into the program, you would make the adjustments needed (and set the white balance also, if it is off in any way) and then save your image. (I use Adobe Camera RAW.)
I edited in RAW, now what?
If you have done all your edits and you are happy, you will just need to do a Save As and name your file. Make sure you don’t just click Save, you will want to do the Save As and rename the file. If you still feel like some tweaking needs to be done (like running actions) then this would be the time to do that!
You would then just open them up in your regular Photoshop and begin working on them.
I tweak photos in RAW and then do my major edits (skin, undereye circles, etc.) in Photoshop, not Adobe Camera Raw.
And that is it! Easy, right?
Well, it will be once you get the hang of it! I promise. And then you will wonder why you haven’t been using it all along!