This one is for the anyone curious about RAW files. I’m going to talk a little about why I shoot in RAW file format and why you might want to consider doing it as well. But first, let’s rewind…rewind…rewind… (if you sang that like Angelica Schulyer in “Satisfied” from Hamilton, consider this your internet high five).
A quick and dirty intro on what a RAW file is; a RAW file is a digital image file that contains every bit of digital data. A JPG file which most people are familiar with, is a digital image that has been compressed into one digital “hunk”. To make this a visual, imagine a sandy beach. The individual grains of sand that make up the beach are your RAW digital pixels. The beach itself is the compressed JPG.
I’m pretty confident in my shooting ability, I know I’m going to get my exposure right, my focus, my DOF etc. I thought I was fine shooting in JPG file format. Having never really bothered to use RAW on my other bodies, I didn’t know what I was missing. I couldn’t see the grains of sand through the beach, so to speak. I decided to flip into RAW a while back and when I saw the preview on my LCD, I thought “what a waste, this is exactly the same,” and then I loaded the RAWS into my editing software and great gravy biscuits!
The amount of information that was available was like WHOA. You can edit a JPG file, but that was barely scratching the surface. A RAW file holds every ounce of data- I could pin point the exact white balance temperature, something I was doing pretty OK with (but why be pretty OK when you can be THAT’S AWESOME?). I can sharpen an image to my taste (rather than let the camera decide what is best), in other words- shooting in RAW gives you so much more creative space. I can move grains of sand, without destroying the beach.
Another thing RAW can do for you, is save your behind. The beauty of digitals is that you can delete out whatever garbage photo you happened to snag, however deleting from your card is bad for the card, and firing off junk shots (or “spray and pray” photography) is killer on your shutter. Shooting in RAW gives you the freedom, to make saves when need be.
While shooting a newborn in a relatively dark room, I needed to add some extra light. I set my speed light to bounce light in my soft box, and went to work. I got some shots that were great, but I hadn’t realized that my speed light wasn’t recycling fast enough. I did a quick setting change (less power from the flash until I could take a minute and put fresh batteries in) but I ended up with one totally black frame. I thought, “ Crap, she looked so cute…” and then I was like “DUH YOU’RE SHOOTING RAW. YOU CAN GET THAT BACK.” And guess what…
It’s pretty amazing to see the save, right? Had I been shooting in JPG, I would have had to toss it. I would have thrown out the pretty wrap, the open eyes, the little pucker lips! There’s no way I would have been able to bring this back. That’s not to say that you should shoot in RAW and just go ahead and blow your images because you can save them in post- it’s always best to get your shot right in camera. Recovering an image won’t make it perfect- there will be grain, and you may not be a fan of grain in images- but it can make them useable. This particular image was not one I was willing to let go.
If you shoot RAW, what great things do you like best about it? Did you always shoot raw or did you make the change? What made you decide to go RAW? Leave a comment!