Importance of Shooting in a RAW file format

Article by - Harika






Importance of Shooting  in a RAW file format

One of the most frequently discussed questions amongst experienced professionals and the ones that are just beginning to start out in digital photography, is whether to shoot in RAW or .jpg file format with a DSLR camera.  The answer is quite simple. By the end of this article you will know it for yourself ;-)

A RAW file is an uncooked, uncompressed  file format. RAW files hold all the unprocessed data captured by the camera. The data on these files are unaltered. RAW files in simple language can be interpreted as digital negatives. Well, the whole idea of shooting a RAW file is to be able to capture as much information as possible from the real world in pertinence to the color depth & a full range of tones. A high quality Digital SLR captures more of this kind of information than can actually be displayed, whether on screen or in print. This means there is a great potential of choice for the processing of such files.

Lets do a quick check on the pros and cons of a RAW file format:


1) No sacrifice of Image quality as the RAW file acts as a digital negative which holds maximum information.

2) There are various software’s that allow you to easily and quickly process RAW files, i.e adjust exposures, color tones, white balance settings, sharpness, noise reductions, saturation, contrast, levels, curves without any loss to the original file (All the original file properties can be retained).

3) You can even do a batch process for applying exposure and other RAW file settings.


1) Takes up a lot of space on your hard disk.  It is almost 3 times more heavy as compared to a large size .jpg file shot from the same camera.

2) RAW files always require a good deal of post processing, which takes up a lot of time. Also it requires you to change into editable & printing file format.

3) RAW file handling requires some learning in the beginning and it can be intimidating initially.

4) Handling RAW files require a bigger RAM in your computers for smooth functioning of the files.

Now lets talk a little bit about the JPG file format:

A JPG file compresses data into a smaller file size. It contains lesser data as compared to a RAW file. This is determined by the compression or quality settings. But this file format is clearly able to reproduce an image when it is fully loaded. The camera processes the image for you on the spot. Also when you save an image on a photo editing software you can save an image with different compression levels from 1-12. This enables you to create files that take lesser storage space depending upon your usage.

Lets do a quick check on the pros and cons of a JPG file format:


1) JPG is a universal file format recognized easily and quickly everywhere making accessibility, printing and display simple.

2) It takes up less space on your camera’s memory card as well as your computer’s hard disk.

3) Most DSLR’s allows you to shoot in various different sizes of JPG quality(s,m,l) depending on your  shooting requirement.


1) They are not a loss-less file format. Which mean that every time you save your file, the data is compressed. The overall impact could lead to a loss of color saturation, tones, sharpness etc.

2) JPG files are a one time interpretation, i.e once you shoot at a particular exposure, white balance, resolution etc, it is inflexible to alter the same. The control of editing is very limited.

3) Defects like Artifacts and colore moire are more prone in JPG file formats.

If you are still confused which file format you want to shoot in you must ask yourself the following questions:

What do you want to achieve as a photographer? How comfortable are you with post processing?

If you are commissioned to do a photography assignment then I would advise you to shoot in a RAW file format for better control of exposure and other camera settings. Also if you want to make huge enlargements of some special moments frozen by you, even if you are an amateur, shoot in RAW, it will help you to blow up a print to a size of a billboard. But if you are very clear that you do not want to undergo  the stress of post processing or blow up prints, then shoot a large quality JPG.

Lastly if you do not know how to handle RAW files but you still wish to shoot in RAW, it is a good idea. Once you have learned it, in future, you have the special files from the past which can be  processed & used to its best.

I guess now you can make your choice.



(2) Comments

  1. Joel Becker

    No question about it. For control raw is best. In the early days of digital capture you had to use whatever the camera gave you. Kodak did have a click on a spot for color balance, but learning Photoshop and all it's different ways of doing the same change was the way to control the product I delivered to my customers.

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