3 Reasons You Aren't Shooting In RAW Yet :: Digital Photo Secrets

3 Reasons You Aren't Shooting In RAW Yet

by David Peterson 7 comments

I have said in previous posts that RAW photography isn’t for everyone. It definitely takes a little more effort to get into RAW, but once you do, you’ll find you have a lot more control over your images. A lot of people ask me if it’s worth getting into RAW photography, and I always say it definitely is. Are these three things holding you back from trying it out?

You don’t know what RAW is or why it’s better than shooting in JPEG

RAW files represent the unaltered image data stored the moment after your camera takes a picture. It is the pixel-for-pixel representation of exactly what was captured at the moment you pressed the shutter. If you shoot in JPEG, your camera deletes the original data and stores a somewhat processed version of the photo as a means of saving space (or saving you time if you aren’t into post-processing).

By shooting in RAW, you’re holding onto the original camera data. What does this do for you? In a nutshell, it gives you more choices when processing the image. I find that I can usually improve colors better, sharpen exactly how I want, and change the brightness with more accuracy when I start out with a RAW file. That’s why so many people call RAW files “digital negatives.”

You don’t have enough hard drive space

Sometimes the simplest reasons prevail. I didn’t get into RAW photography until I ended up purchasing a desktop computer with a lot more hard drive space. Before I got this computer, I was always thinking about how much space everything is going to take up. I was literally down to the last few gigs. When your situation is that dire, it’s hard to experiment with doing things a new way.

Now that I have my nice big 500 gig hard drive, I don’t feel bad about filling it up with as many RAW photos as I want. I’ve also realized that my initial fears weren’t founded on reason. If you only save the best photos from every shoot, you’ll still have plenty of space for your photography. Each RAW file from my camera takes up about 8.3 MB. If you do the math, you can store around 125 photos per gigabyte of hard drive space. It’s not a lot, but it’s more than I pictured in my head.

You don’t know what software to use

Before you get into it, RAW photography has this aura of mystique surrounding it. You always wonder what software people are using to process the photos, and you assume that it must be some very expensive version of Adobe Photoshop CS. Not true at all! Did you know you can process all of your RAW photos with Adobe Photoshop Elements, an $80 piece of software? That’s an amazing deal for all of the other tools you get bundled with it.

While you’re at it, go ahead and have a look at my series on Camera RAW and Elements. If you’ve ever doubted the benefit of switching to RAW, you’ll see some of the handy adjustments you can do with this software.

If you like to process your images, I recommend making the switch

You will find RAW photography to be so much more fun and interesting during post processing. Because RAW files are like digital negatives, you can always open them up and make new changes later. It’s just like developing an entirely new photo. All changes are non-destructive, something that cannot be said of shooting in JPEG format.

The world is your oyster, and RAW photography will help you get the most of it. If you’ve convinced yourself you don’t want to use RAW files for some of the above reasons, I strongly urge you to reconsider your position. There is a fair amount to learn, a small amount equipment to invest in, and a ton to gain with RAW photography.

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  1. Emily says:

    Hi David,
    I have always shot on JPEG, I shot action pictures for my grandson's baseball games and I also love landscape photograph. I've never once tried RAW. I'm afraid to mess up such good actions pictures where my grandson either is batting, running, jumping so high in the air or steeling bases.
    Any advice on that?

    • David Peterson says:

      Hi Emily,

      You won't mess up an image by saving in RAW if you're already shooting successfully in JPG. It's just a different file format (with more data, so you can create a better image).

      Most cameras have a dual mode where the camera saves in both JPG and RAW mode. Try that first if you're unsure!

      I hope that helps.


  2. George Streissguth says:

    During the past few years there have been significant and continues improvements to "point-and-shoot" cameras; however, there's often a tradeoff between having either more and powerful features (e.g.smooth slow-motion by increasing fps), in-camera editing, manual focus capabilities, space on the hard drive for more photos/shots to choose from with JPEG; or having RAW capability. For these reasons, as an "advanced" amateur, I prefer using lossy JPEG.

  3. Bob F says:

    RAW may give flexibility but it still entails a lot of overhead. RAW conversion can be batched, but that doesn't give the picture by picture fine tuning that RAW promises. Unconverted RAW images don't always display in Windows' native apps (i.e., vertical format pix don't display). RAW + JPEG lets you look at the images but means that duds need to be deleted twice. I'm still looking for an app that gives near-instant display of unconverted RAW images in both portrait and landscape formats for initial triage and discard of bad pix.

  4. Mike says:

    It's important to note that good photographs are good photographs not matter what camera they were shot with and what format you use. Neither RAW or JPEG is better, they are just different. Using RAW doesn't mean you have lost your training wheels and using JPEG doesn't mean you are not a good photographer. The reasons I shoot JPEG sometimes is simply do to lack of time to process. I use Nikon's Capture NX which enables the RAW files to appear almost exactly like the in-camera JPEG but the program is slow and buggy and not free (that last part is important, since I paid $1500 for my camera but Nikon won't give me a free copy of their $150 software to open their NEF files). If you don't want to use Capture NX, you could always use Lightroom or Aperture (neither are free) but you will spending more time "dialing in" the settings and colour correcting, etc. Frankly, I like my life, I like my friends, my girlfriend, etc and I really like doing a lot of other things in addition to taking pictures. I do not like sitting in front of a computer for days going through 3000 photos I just shot in India or even locally, where a days shooting may give me 300-400 shots to sift through and THEN process. Life is too short and there are too many pictures to be made to worry about post production.

  5. Joe Bowers says:

    Diane, RAW photos are not noisier, they simple haven't had the noise removed yet. When the camera makes a JPEG it automatically removes the noise from the RAW data and saves the result in a compressed form.

    If your RAW photos are softer than your JPEGs after removing noise, you're probably using a more aggressive noise reduction software than what the other cameras are doing internally. PhotoShop's built in noise reduction filters suck. They damage detail without even effectively removing much noise.

    I suggest Imagenomic Noiseware for noise reduction without losing detail.

  6. Diane Darlow says:

    Just today, I did a test. We shot with 3 Canon camera's - 1100D, 450D, and 60D. By mistake I left my 60D on RAW while the others shot on JPEG. My photos had an incredible amount of noise, noticable enough to be able to say which photos were mine 100% accurately. When the noise was removed left my photos less sharp. When I shot JPEG thereafter, I had much less noise, but the 1100D was sharper still! Is this normal?

  7. stan phillips says:

    What Photo Sharing Service do you regularly Use?

    One selection missing:


    I email any photo's I want to share with friends.

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