Nowadays, the majority of photographers record photographs in RAW format. Taking photos in RAW format provides advantages over taking photos in JPEG format. Most DSLRs and powerful compact cameras have the ability to take photographs in RAW format (.NEF format in Nikon, CRII format in Canon, etc). RAW images are frequently referred to as digital negatives.
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Importance of capturing in RAW format
When photographs are recorded in JPEG format, the color information is compressed by the camera’s built-in software (permanent loss of color information in an image). The JPEG image has around 250 odd color information, but the RAW image contains several thousand color information.
The photographer then downloads the RAW photographs from the memory card. The image is then tweaked to get the desired white balance, contrast, exposure, saturation, color, sharpness, lens correction, and so on. One of the most recent additions is the ‘Dehaze’ option in Lightroom when editing, which is quite handy. The ultimate output of a picture is determined not only by the image that is acquired but also by the editing abilities of the user.
It is worth noting that the size of a RAW format image is significantly larger, nearly double that of a high-quality JPEG image. The size of the JPEG image is determined by the type of JPEG format used while capturing the image.
When do I capture images in RAW format and in JPEG?
- Whenever I am on a photo assignment, project, paid photo shoot, photos that I plan to sell; I make sure that the images are always captured in RAW format.
- The not so important, casual shots of known and unknown friends, unpaid work is something that I prefer to capture in JPEG.
- My memory card was almost full. It happened to me during one of my Himalayan treks and I will not be traveling to that place again (as I have many more places to cover). My memory card was almost full and If I were to capture images in RAW format, it would almost double the space. I had two options – either to continue capturing images in RAW format and ignore the important shots later in the trekking trail or capture in JPEG (which takes half the space) and capture all the photos. I opted for the second.
- If you are lazy and fine with JPEG quality and with what your camera has captured, then go ahead with JPEG.
- Go for JPEG if you don’t want to edit an image.
- I have seen some of the photojournalists/war photographers capturing images in JPEG, where one of the conditions is not to edit images and the images are to be delivered in no time.
Here’s an example: in the above image, the foreground seemed dark and was subsequently modified by raising the shadows to be in details. The same is true for the backdrop sky, which was blown out in the original photograph. However, because it was captured in RAW format, I was able to retrieve the information from the sky region by reducing the shadows. You may do the same with JPEG photos, but the image quality suffers as a result. It will also be unsuitable for professional use. Note that the above image was captured after the sunset and the actual image appeared dark.
How to edit RAW format images?
The RAW format image always appears dull and is an incomplete image. It has to be processed using a photo editing software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop or other image editing software. Note that the RAW format images are not supported by the websites and has to be converted to JPEG or PNG format. I would highly recommend to super compress if it is for websites so that the image can load fast. By the way, you can go through my courses to know more on how to edit using Lightroom.
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