30 January 2012

Why you should shoot RAW

When you open up a JPG in photoshop, apply some actions, or add brushes, save it, open it again to add text, save it, open again to add more embellishments, do you notice a change in quality?

Every time you open a JPG, which is a compressed image file, its quality goes down. Think of it this way: When we compress images, we SMASH and JAM the crap out of them until it looks bent up, spit on and trashed. It's ugly and gross. We want our pretty picture back.

Well, stop shooting your pictures in JPG format! As your photography hobby grows, you should start introducing yourself to the world of RAW. RAW files are digital negatives.

Remember negatives? They're long strips of film with weird inverted images that we took on (gasp!) 35mm cameras. Goodness, those were the days. Well, most of us probably just dropped the roll of film off at the drugstore and came back in an hour to see prints magically appear. However, if you were lucky enough to have dark room equipment, you'd develop prints from your negatives yourself. Being able to develop your own negatives opened up many creative possibilities. You could control how light or dark the print came out, you could apply filters and adjust tones.

Now we can do that with computers AND MORE. That's where the RAW files come in. If you have Adobe Photoshop, you most likely have Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw. Adobe Camera Raw allows you to make edits to your RAW image without making permanent changes. You can process the heck out of a picture, hit "done" and you'll see the changes every time you open that RAW file. Say you hit done, but you want to make another change, or get the original look back. Just open the RAW file again and hit "camera raw defaults." You'll see the photo as it was straight out of your camera. Quality preserved and all! When you're ready to make a print or post the picture to the web, you can save the RAW file as a .jpg, .png or whatever you prefer.

Magical, isn't it?

So, here's what you do to set your camera up to take RAW photos:

  1. Turn on your camera
  2. go to your menu
  3. find the shooting menu
  4. scroll down to Image quality & hit ok
  5. select NEF (RAW) for Nikon Users or CR2 (RAW) for Canon Users
  6. Hit Ok
  7. Ta-da!

Remember, you need a program that allows you to edit RAW files. Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are great programs for doing this. You can also get away with using GIMP, which is freeeee!

This is part I in a series on taking better pictures. Come back next week to learn how to make great quality prints from the pictures you take.


  1. Owen's just starting to get into photography so I'll have to let him know about this.

    I'm looking forward to the next part of the series!

    1. So glad this could be of help! Yes, check back; I'll be blogging about how to edit the RAWS in Adobe Camera Raw and how to save them for web and for printing. :)


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