Wow, have we been keeping busy! This NEXT week is going to be awesome... taking a little trip to Virginia Beach for one wedding and then to the mountains for another!
Recently someone asked us, "So what is a RAW file anyway and what makes it so much better than JPEGs? Do you give RAW files to your clients?"
When you first turn on your camera, it's almost always set to automatically take pictures in .jpeg format.
Lower end, consumer cameras only shoot photos in .jpeg and only give you the option to choose the quality of the .jpeg you want to produce.
DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, and some higher end point-and-shoots have an option to shoot RAW rather than JPEG.
When we are shooting with our digital cameras on jobs though, we shoot RAW. No exceptions.
The image on the right was initially overexposed... from one moment to the next, the sun came out from behind a cloud so the light coming from the window became much brighter. Shooting RAW allowed us to save the exposure and the highlights when Allie gave us this gorgeous smile, so that it looks no different from the image on the left which was exposed correctly.
What is a RAW file?
For a lot of people, it doesn't matter what it is. Not everyone "needs" to shoot RAW. It's basically a little folder of uncompressed, or "RAW," data. It's information that hasn't yet been turned into an image (or image file). That's why when, if you ever try to shoot in "RAW" mode on your DSLR and then transfer your images to your computer, you cannot open them to view unless you have a special editing software such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.
Because it's "raw" and uncompressed, it retains all of the information that reached your camera's sensor, making it very easy to save highlights (or the bright areas) in post processing. That's our favorite part about shooting RAW - being able to maintain greater "dynamic range," which is basically the scale of different shades of light from white to black. Finally, RAW files maintain their quality and can be edited and re-edited without a loss of quality. JPEGs lose information each time you edit them - even if you rotate them, I've heard. RAW files are through and through just far more flexible.
So while not everyone "needs" to shoot RAW, if you're a professional or even a serious amateur, you can see why it's the better option.
Shooting RAW DOESN'T mean:
Shooting RAW does NOT mean not paying attention to your exposure settings. Do not, do not, do not go on a serious shoot and say, "Well, I'll fix that later." You should try and do everything to get your exposure right in camera. As flexible as RAW files are, it's still possible to lose your highlights or underexpose, making either a harsh, white image with tons of lost information or a dark image which can be corrected but get's extremely "noisy" (noise = ugly digital grain) in the process. Also, trying to get your settings right "in camera" eliminates tons of time in post which could be spent doing better things! Like watching soccer, eating sushi or getting out in the real world (what we like to do in our free time).
Look at it this way:
A raw file is bigger, clumsier, takes more time to transfer, cannot be printed directly, usually looks slightly flat and needs a bit of sharpening. But that's because it is what it is - it's an unfinished product, and a far superior file than a .jpeg. It gives you more creative control with which to produce the final result.
That's also exactly why, although we offer "digital negatives," we don't offer our RAW files. If someone sees our photos and loves our style, but wants to have RAW files to edit themselves, then they're not really getting our style are they? You wouldn't go to a restaurant, order the house special, but ask that it be brought out for you to prepare yourself, right? 😉 What was the purpose of going to the restaurant then?
We hope this helps!
<3 xoxo, Michael and Carina
PS: If you have a question about photography, please leave a comment, send us an email at email@example.com or drop us a line at our Facebook page.