You Should Always Be Shooting in RAW
For years I had read that it was best to shoot in RAW format. Many articles claimed there is much more data in the RAW format, then in the compressed JPG format.
Like many, I decided to give it a shot hoping for better looking pictures. I would compare the JPG image to the RAW image, and could barely see any difference between the two.
I did see my hard drive space quickly dwindle as the RAW files were occupying 40MB+ per picture, while the JPG images were a small fraction. Ultimately, it didn’t seem to make any sense to shoot in RAW with the massive files and negligible difference between the two formats.
Everything changed for me once I learned about the RAW editor in Lightroom and Photoshop. It was here that I realized the incredible benefit shooting RAW had over shooting in JPG. When the pros had said “more data”, I misinterpreted exactly what they meant. I know others misinterpret as well, because I know more than a few people who asked “why bother shooting in RAW?”.
In a JPG image, if something is pure black or pure white you cannot alter the image in terms of exposure or color. Those sections of a JPG photo that are completely blown out or underexposed are gone forever. You can’t ‘brighten’ black nor can you darken ‘white’.
If you take the same image that appears to have blown out or underexposed areas in a RAW format, using Photoshop or Lightroom you can reduce highlights (aka the bright parts of the photo) or boost shadows (the dark parts of a photo). Shockingly you will see detail come back into the image like magic. That bright blown out white sky will turn blue. The underexposed face with the sun behind it will suddenly look like you had used a fill-flash.
A good picture starts at the time it’s taken. You can’t expect to take a picture with terrible exposure and magically fix it in post, however you can have a good picture that may have a small area blown out and easily recover it making it a perfect photo.
If you don’t have Photoshop or Lightroom and have never used them, don’t worry about it. Shoot RAW no matter what. I’m so frustrated as I look back at pictures I’ve taken in the past, knowing pictures I discarded probably could have been great had I shot in RAW.
RAW benefits are not limited to shadows and highlights. You can make adjustments to exposure, color temperature (white balance), and more. You can go much further with the RAW image then the JPG counterpart.
Shoot RAW and have no regrets!