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Digital Photo Manual – What is RAW?

When I started photography in secondary school, my seniors told me to take photos in RAW and I was like, “What is RAW?”. And they keep repeating in RAW format, and then I found out it refers to another type other than JPEG. If you’ve been happily capturing images in the universal JPEG file format, you may be wondering what’s the point in switching to RAW. JPEGs allow you to view, edit and share your images easily, so why bother changing? The answer is simple – quality and control.

What exactly is RAW?

Although the term RAW looks like a clever acronym, it is not. It is exactly what the name suggests – raw picture information recorded by your camera’s sensor at the time of the capture. When shooting RAW images, the picture information is written to a memory card without any adjustments being applied by your camera’s image processor. It is like organic vegetables without any chemicals or pesticides applied. When JPEG files are written to a memory card, a whole series of automatic adjustments are applied in a split second, such as changing the exposure, altering the saturation or adding some sharpening. That’s why you see JPEG files are usually nicer.

Reasons to use RAW

A RAW file allows you to take charge of the image, have complete control over the look of the shot and make a broad range of adjustments in a much more considered manner via your computer. When you find out what you can control in a RAW file, you have control over a host of variables such as Exposure, White Balance, Saturation and Sharpness, but there is also Contrast, Highlight detail, Shadow Depth, and in some instances, you can even control noise, and vignetting.

RAW requires post photo processing and this of course requires your precious time. If you have the time, why not? Explore Lightroom and Photoshop as an additional skill to your journey of Photography.

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