Why do I use RAW file format?

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A lot has changed in technology in the last few years since I took up photography – Lightroom 3 had just been released and it was a significant improvement on the previous version.  Once I got my hands on a copy, and a book to learn how to use it, I immediately saw the benefit in shooting in RAW format.

A picture says a thousand words and the slideshow above is a great example – one image is a tiger cub playing at Melbourne zoo taken in 2010.  Its really dark and hard to see any details and back when I tried to edit it, both my skills and the software weren’t quite up to the task.  So I never bothered with working on these images.

Cue 2015 and Lightroom 6 is released.  Plus I have had many more years experienced working with the software and have invested time proper education as well.  Now I see there *is* potential in this image – there is light beaming down on the face of the cub, the fact the background is dark is now seen as a bonus, careful cropping highlights the subject and now it is an image I really like, and am pleased to have in my porfolio.

The key thing here though, is that I shot the original in RAW, so it retained all the file information needed so that Lightroom could be used to edit it, pull out the highlights, brighten the shadows, change the white balance, do some local adjustments to the face with clarity and exposure.

Many people complain that RAW files are a pain to work with.  They take up LOADS of space and you need to have sufficient space to store them long term.  Plus you have to edit every image you want to use to be able to see it at is best.  Both quite valid points and justifiable reasons, no question there.

But to be able to take an image that looks like it should be deleted, and make something good out of it?  Or take an image that had OK lighting and make it better or taking an excellent image and making it the best it could be?  If storage space and time is the price I have to pay to get the best out of my images, then I am OK with that 🙂


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All of these examples have ONLY been edited in Lightroom 5 or 6. 

Edit: The image in the unedited version is a different frame shot before the one in the edited version – I didn’t want to reset my editing on the finished images and for the example purposes used here, I didn’t think anyone would be too bothered by it.

There is no Photoshop here – these examples show what can be done with a RAW file and a conversion program.

There are lots of different options for RAW conversion software – I picked Lightroom because it was affordable and there were lots of people teaching it, so it was easy to get books or find online tutorials.

Do you use RAW?  If not, why not?



About lensaddiction

Mad keen photographer figuring it out as she goes!
This entry was posted in For Beginners, LR & Photoshop and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Why do I use RAW file format?

  1. Brilliant! Great examples and explanation of the benefit of using RAW

  2. Reblogged this on Julie Powell – Photographer & Graphic Artist and commented:
    Simply the best explanation of the benefits of shooting in RAW.

  3. jafvisions says:

    Great job on the comparisons. I’ve been shooting RAW for the last 12 years. It’s the only way to shoot professionally. Think of it like this: Shooting in RAW is like cooking a fancy meal at home. Everything else is fast food.

    • lensaddiction says:

      Thats a different way to look at it I guess 🙂 I know there are circumstances like sports or photojournalism where they have to turn the image around and get uploaded to a news channel ASAP so some togs shoot in JPG for that reason

  4. Would help if the before an after images were the same image (3 out of the 4 images are different)…

    • lensaddiction says:

      Yes that is true, but they were taken one frame away from the originals and I felt that was sufficiently similar for the example purpose I was putting them to

  5. green_knight says:

    I’m shooting dual format, which gives me the best of both worlds by far: small (ish) JPGs that I can work with right now which fulfil most of my needs and RAW for those 5% of images that I want to deal with later . RAW mainly turns out to be a belts-and-braces thing for me – the number of times I’ve needed a RAW file has been minute; but it makes me feel much better to know they exist.

    Then again, coming home from a photoshoot with 13GB of files is a problem.

    • lensaddiction says:

      Yeah but if you ever want to print your images BIG a small jpg isnt going to cut the mustard there

      • green_knight says:

        I had a print – 50x75cm – from my first camera, which shot at a measly 6MP (now up to 16MP). We had to downsize it to 67% of the image to print it, and it was sharp as you could possibly hope.

        At that point I stopped worrying about whether the resolution was enough; I don’t have enough wallspace to have prints even in that size.

  6. leecleland says:

    Really great examples of the benefits of shooting RAW, Stacey. And so glad you kept the average looking shots from 2010 until you had the skills to make them shine.

  7. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for explaining the RAW and showing us the examples.They do take a lot of space, you are right, we can always save these images on clouds. 🙂

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