I wanted to share a few points on why I choose to shoot raw for 95% of my workflow. I still encounter many users who are afraid to make the switch to raw, so I offer these considerations to help you decide what’s right for you.
The image on the left is how the camera captured a JPEG. Making adjustments to the image is possible, but will lead to more degradation in image quality. The image on the right is a properly developed raw file. Working with raw files gives you access to greater control over an image.
- Memory cards used to be expensive. Photographers could not afford multiple or high-capacity cards, so they wanted more images to fit on a single, smaller card. This is not the case any more for almost all users. Cards have gotten dirt cheap.
- JPEGS are small. Internet connections can be slow… that’s why JPEG files were popularized. JPEGs are meant to post to websites and send via email. Make a JPEG after you develop your high-quality file.
- Small is not best. A distribution format like JPEG (one that’s easy to email) doesn’t mean it’s a good authoring format to capture your photographic vision. A JPEG file looks for areas where pixel detail is repeated, such as the color white on every key of your computer keyboard. The file then discards repeated information and tells the computer to repeat certain color values or data to re-create the image. The drawback is that a JPEG file is lossy, so every time you modify it and re-save, additional compression is applied to the image
- More info means more options. Raw (or native) formats have several benefits over shooting to JPEG. The images are usually captured at a higher bit depth, which means that the pixels contain more information about the color values in the image. Most raw files have a depth of 10, 12, or even 16-bits per channel instead of the 8 used by JPEG. This raw format also has a greater tonal range, resulting in better exposure for shadows and highlights.
- Almost everything works with raw. Whether you use iPhoto, Aperture, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, Photoshop, Photomatix, Nik, or more… they all support raw files. Most cameras work with most software tools. You already own the tool set, why not use them?
- Get better exposure, sharpening and contrast. While your camera may contain settings for sharpness, exposure, or lighting conditions, the raw file stores that info as modifiable information and captures the original (unmodified) data that came through your cameras sensors.
- Advanced photography works better. Want to shoot HDR or Panoramic images? The use of raw makes it easier to blend images together. You’ll get better looking results by feeding in more information to start.
Be sure to get the most from your camera. If it shoots raw, use it. If you really want JPEGs out of camera, you can shoot Raw+JPEG and simply write both to the card.