When I started on these forums It took me a long while to 'get' RAW. I know some people love it some people hate it but we all do need to understand it to make the choice.
So I came across this article today and I do hope this helps someone understand. Id have liked this article when I was unsure but alas.. things never come along when you need them do they!
It was in Dec 2006 issue of Practical Photography.
Meet Terry (Pretend his face is smiling back at you with a Nikon round his neck!)
Terry thinks that RAW is a waste of time. He shoots all of his pictures in JPEG and doesn’t realise what he’s missing. We asked him why….
What Terry Said…
1. Its only for professionals
2. You can make all enhancements in photoshop
3. They take up loads of space on my memory card and high capacity cards are expensive
4. JPEG is easier to use
5. Fine JPEG files are good enough quality for me
6. They take ages to process I want to enjoy images now
7. You need expensive software
8. You don’t need RAW if you get your shot right in camera
9. The RAW’s look flat when you open them
10. The results are not true to life like JPEG
11. JPEG is fine for snaps
12. Ill convert to RAW to a JPEG anyway so I might as well shoot in JPEG in the first place
13. They’re too big to use on the web or email
14. The large files will clog up my hard drive
…Now if you believe any of that they you need to take a second look at RAW.
What Is RAW?
RAW is a type of image file format like JPEG, TIFF and PSD that can usually be selected from the quality settings menu in your camera. Unlike other file types, RAW contains the picture information exactly as it read on the camera’s image sensor before the camera’s processor has had a chance to enhance the picture and turn it into a standard file type. Like JPEG. The picture is unusable in the RAW state and needs to be converted into a standard image before you can do anything with it.
Back on your computer, you can use a RAW converter to take the place of the camera’s processor and turn the RAW into a TIFF or JPEG. This might sound like an unnecessary extra step but it does offer significant advantages. The main ones are the quality and flexibility. RAW’s are a lossless file, so give the ultimate image quality. Plus, you also have the opportunity to change the appearance of your image by adjusting the white balance, sharpness, exposure, contrast and saturation. The Raw Data contains much more detail than a standard JPEG, so amazing quality adjustments can be made quickly and easily.
Its only for professionals
Raw is for everyone no matter what your experience. Every current D-SLR and the majority of digital creative compacts offers a RAW shooting mode, so its simply a case of activating that option.
In fact, we could eve argue that RAW is better suited to beginners that Pro’s. As you’ll see over the next few pages RAW gives you the option to easily and effectively correct common photo mistakes including white balance, contrast and exposure. Although shooting RAW shouldn’t be seen as and excuse for sloppy picture taking RAW can help you to bring some life back into a dud photo. Beginners are generally more likely to benefit for RAW. They can give you a second chance to get a reasonable result from a once in a lifetime photo opportunity if your camera settings have let you down.
You can make all image enhancements in photoshop anyway
Photoshop offers hundreds of ways to enhance JPEG photo’s but the very nature of RAW means that not all adjustments are possible or at least to the same degree. The extra latitude in a RAW file means that additional highlight and shadow detail can be found. In extreme cases this may mean that blown highlight detail can be recovered when they’ll remain pure white in JPEG. The control you have over white balance is also a big plus, as it can be changed perfectly to simulate the different settings on the camera. With JPEG it’s a time consuming job to recover the white balance, particularly strong colour casts and the results are seldom good.
They take up loads of space on my memory card
Yes, you’re right, RAWs do take up more space on your memory card but that needent be a problem.
A RAW image is generally three to four times larger than the equvilant JPEG, which means you’ll fit a third to a quarter of the number of shots onto the card. However we need to put this into perspective. With most RAWs you can expect 1 mega pixel to take up 1 megabyte (1MB) of space on your card. With and 8 mega pixel camera, for example the RAW images should be roughly 8MB each.
In this example you’ll be able to fit around 125 RAW pictures onto a 1GB card - this equates to three and a half rolls of 36 exposure film, which is plenty for the majority of users. As for the cost of memory this is becoming less and less of an issue.
FACT : Amazingly, basic 1GB cards now cost roughly the same as film, shot for shot when you consider the cost of developing and that taking into account that the cards can be reused.
Its too complicated
When you are starting out there are a few new things you will need to learn, but within hours you should be upto speed then things actually become easier and less complicated. The only extra step you need is to master a RAW converter to open up pictures, make adjustments to them and export them to TIFFs or JPEGs. Once you’ve done that though you’ll find the basic corrections and enhancements are simpler and much quicker compared to photoshop.
Fine JPEGs are good enough for me
You’re missing the point. Its not just a matter of ultimate image quality and clarity, its also a matter of flexibility and creativity. RAWs give you the option to quickly enhance or manipulate many aspects of your photo to create the best looking image. Marginally superior sharpness is just one of the many benefits.
They take ages to process - I want to enjoy my images now
You don’t have to convert your RAW’s before you can enjoy looking at them. Many Canon and Nikon RAWs can be previewed in windows XP much like a JPEG without any additional software. But all good RAW converters boast intuitive and management tools that allow you to browse and open your RAW’s in a variety of different ways before you process them. You may even be able to watch a slide show of your images.
You need expensive software
Its true that you may need to install additional software onto your computer, but it needn’t be a costly experience. As there is no true standard for RAW files, every model of camera produces a unique RAW file format.
That means that you will need to install compatible software to extract the picture data and make sense of it - This is know as RAW converter. Fortunately all the latest DSLR’s come bundled with their own RAW converter, So you needn’t spend any extra cash.
There is a question on usabilty though Canon, Olympus and Sony come with pretty competent RAW converters which provide enough control for the majority of users but it must be said that we’ve been less impressed by the bundled converters that come with most Pentax and Nikon camera’s. In any case you may prefer to use a third party converter that will handle RAW files from huge selection of cameras and offer a bunch of different controls. Two attractive budget options are CaptureOne LE from PhaseOne and Adobe Photoshop Elements 5, with its simple built in coverter. Both options cost around £65, which is nothing if you consider the cost of camera kit.
You don’t need RAW if you get your shot right in camera
That’s a fair comment if your only interested in representing your subjects 100% faithfully. However if you have a more creative vision then you may find that the shot in your minds eye is not actually in front of you to photograph. With film cameras we could use Fuji velvia slide film to give strong colours, Black and white film for dramatic mono shots, or eve cross process colour negs to get all sorts of funky colour effects. With DSLRs we cant change the film, but we can process our RAW’s to create similar effects to give our straight shots more style.
The RAWs look flat when I open them
Unline JPEGs, RAW files remain largely untouched by the camera’s processor so they can look a bit flat and lifeless straight out of the camera. JPEGs are normally enhanced before being saved to the memory card to give the shots more impact. Flatness shouldn’t be an issue though, Because your RAW converter will give you plenty of options to make the RAWs more punchy, if not more punchy than standard JPEGs. If you need to make identical adjustments to multiple images to beef them up, many converters give you the option of pasting the same RAW settings to many images at once to speed up your workflow.
The results aren’t true to life like JPEG
This is a common misconception. Just because JPEGs come straight out of the camera with Hough any user intervention, it doesn’t mean they are as pure as you think. JPEG’s are created from the RAW data, after the shot has been taken by the camera’s image processor. The white balance corrections are made, the colour saturation is often boosted along with the contrast and sharpness, and a multitude of other adjustments are made. The resulting image is a compressed (losing some of the picture detail) and saved to memory card as a JPEG. So RAWs aren’t necessarily any less lifelike than JPEGs. What you’re getting with JPEG is consistency , as the same adjustments to every shot you take. With RAWs you have the option of changing the contrast, saturation and so on to suit your image. So you can choose to make the shot realistic or unnatural - you are in control.
I might shoot Raw if I was shooting something important, but JPEG is fine for snaps
If your not spending time crafting serious shots then it may seem sensible to shoot JPEGs to save on card space. The thing is that RAW is probably eveb more useful when time is of the essence and your quickly grabbing a few snaps. As we have seen you don’t have to be quite so critical with your white balance or exposure so there is a greater chance of getting a usable image with RAW.
Also you can never be sure if the snap you’ve just taken is only a silly snap or a great candid family portrait that your going to want to put on your wall for all to see. If you have the option then its best to be on the safe side with RAW.
Ill convert RAWs to JPEGs anyway so I might as well shoot JPEG in the first place
This is true if your going to leave the image untouched, straight from the camera. However if your going to want to make any adjustments to it, subtle or extreme then your better off using RAW. Due to the lossy compression used to crunch down the size of JPEGs. Some of the detail that is less obvious the naked eye is discarded. This is fine as the image stands but if you make any adjustments to the JPEG, such as brightening the shadows, then the missing details may start to become more obvious. If you create a JPEG from a RAW after you’ve made the corrections then you can rest assured that the missing details will remain hidden to the naked eye.
They’re too big to use on web or email
Raw files are too large to email and cant be used on a web page directly, but neither can fine quality JPEGs as they take and age to open into the web browser. In either case you’ve got to resize the pictures. Most RAW converters give you the option to resize and save as compressed JPEGs ready to use. If batch processing is an option you can resize many images at once. What’s more you still have high quality high res file for later use when if needed.
FACT : Its also important to remember that you’ll lose image quality every time you open a JPEG file, edit it and save it as a JPEG again. With RAW your cutting out this stage.
The large files will clog up my hard drive
Raws are bigger than JPEGs and will fill up your hard drive quicker. However an external USB 2.0 hard drive is a simple cost effective solution. All you need is to plug it into your USB port and it’ll come up as a separate drive on your computer. Surprisingly they cost as little as £85 for a massive 320GB of storage, which is around 40,000 8Megapixel RAW’s. That’s enough to keep even the most prolific snappers busy.
RAW : THE DOWNSIDES
So far we have only looked at the positives but there are some negative points too, which we feel are far outweighed by the positives. Have a look at this round up and make up your own mind.
LARGE FILE SIZE
RAW’s being so large can cause an issue with archiving and you will prob want to use record able DVD’s rather than CD’s so you can a lot more pictures on.
THEY ARE HEAVY ON YOUR BUFFER
The larger RAW files take longer to store to the memory card. This means that the camera’s buffer (memory) will fill up faster if you take lots of shots in rapid succession, and the camera may lock up temporarily, for sports photography this can be a problem.
Every camera model produces a unique RAW file format, so finding software that opens them can be a problem. With third party RAW converters you may have to wait a month before new camera models are supported. Upgrades are downloadable online and may require broadband.
COMPATIBILTY WITH OTHER PC’S
You may have to set up your own PC to open every RAW file under the sun, but the files may not be supported by anyone else. They’ll have to install your RAW converter software inn order to view your RAW images.
Please note these are not my view's!!!