10 Steps to Manual Mode: RAW vs. Jpeg

a woman taking a picture of a man
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This is the ninth part of the 10 part series: 10 Steps to Manual Mode.

You can access the series here—> 10 Steps to Manual Mode Series.

In this part of the series, we are going to talk about RAW vs. Jpeg.

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What is a RAW file?

Many pro and semi-pro digital cameras include the option for capturing RAW files, which—unlike JPEGs, TIFFs, and other file formats—contain all of the data captured during the exposure in an unedited format. When processed, RAW files can be adjusted far more extensively than images captured in other imaging formats, and can be saved as JPEGs, TIFFs, etc. The original RAW file remains unaltered and can be reprocessed at any time for other purposes.

Pros of shooting in RAW:

  1.  All the data is saved from your camera without changes. When a jpeg file is made, color corrections, sharpening and compression all occur to make that file. In a RAW file, data is captured with no alterations, so you have the original file you can save and rework for years to come.
  2. There is more to work with for post processing. With RAW files, you have the most data to work with for editing. You are starting from scratch and you can make the photo into the best version possible. That allows you to bring back under or over exposed images easier than you can with jpeg.

Cons of shooting in RAW:

  1. It takes up more room on your memory card and your computer. RAW files are bigger, and therefore take more room on your memory card and hard drive than a jpeg file would. This could be a problem if you don’t adjust your workflow with more memory available.
  2. It has to be edited. If you are planning on taking pictures and then giving them to someone without editing, you want to use a jpeg file. But since most amateur and professional photographers do at least some editing before they show people their photos, this is not a big deal.

How do we use it to take better photos?

  • More data means it is easier to bring back some things that are lost if a picture is over or underexposed.
  • It also gives you more creative license to change a photo in post processing.
  • Edited RAW files seem to be more rich in color and sharpness than normal jpeg files.

Action Steps:

  1. Evaluate the pros and cons above to see if shooting RAW is right for you.
  2. Find in your camera settings the place to switch to RAW.
  3. Try out the advanced editing you can do with a RAW image.

This is the ninth lesson of ten that will be coming in the next 2 weeks.

Next week we will talk about bracketing and how to use it properly for great photos. Click here to go to the next lesson —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Bracketing Basics.

Shooting RAW is not for everyone. It isn’t a requirement for a good photo. But I think it makes the photography process more fun because it gives you more creative license with your photos to make them into exactly what your vision is when you take it. And to me, that is worth a little more space on your memory card.

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Do you shoot in RAW? Please let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

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