RAW

What is it?

RAW is the digital equivalent of slide or negative film. It’s a format that allows you to process the image after you have taken it to suit your liking, or to process it a very different way altogether. In short, it’s like the roll of film you used to take to be developed, and then go back to get your prints. With RAW, you do the developing.

How do I use it on my camera?

Usually your camera is set to take photos in .jpg format. This format gives you a processed picture that is ready to share or print. Depending on the make and model of your camera, you may have a dedicated button for selecting the RAW option or you may have to change it through the menu system. Your camera may be able to take both a .jpg and RAW image at the same time, or just one format. This function may allow you to choose different .jpg and RAW sizes as well. Please note: shooting RAW will produce large file sizes and will slow down your camera’s burst mode (ie, how many pictures you can take quickly in a row.)

What does it do to my pictures?

Shooting RAW gives you much flexibility when processing your images. It allows you to adjust every facet of your image, from brightness, colour, contrast, sharpness and lots more. Newer versions of Photoshop Camera Raw Editor even allow you to apply a graduated filter effect, remove dust spots and other unwanted elements in the image. Basically, you can manipulate your picture to your hearts content.

You may be thinking, “we can already do that with editing software for our .jpg files”. Yes you can! BUT, like slide film, any change made to a RAW file is just a tweak to the file. It is not destructive, which means that any change can be reversed, or improved with more changes. You can always revert to the original RAW file. Even cropping the image does not destroy the remainder of the picture, not to mention that in the future, there may be better software or you may have a better understanding of processing that could give you a better result.

Once you have made your adjustments to the RAW file, simply save as a .jpg for printing / sharing.

While you may not be able to process a RAW file now, it is worth shooting in RAW, because at some point you may be able to, or you may want to change the feel of a shot. Processing software will improve over time and will allow you to produce a better result!

The following examples show images that I took years ago, and have been able to re-process because I kept the RAW files.

Example 1

RAW Pics 1.jpgI took the picture above in 2004 on a then new Canon 300D (using a 18-55 kit lens). The picture settings were F16 (aperture), 60 seconds (shutter speed), and ISO 100. I processed the image with the Canon Raw editing software supplied with the camera.

RAW Pics 2.jpgI can now process that file with the latest Adobe Camera Raw Editor. You can see the many sliders and variables that can be used to adjust the look of the image. Please note that when you open the file, all the sliders are set to 0.

RAW Pics 3.jpgIn this image, I have moved the sliders, and the image has changed:

  • Moved white balance – toned down the yellow cast

  • Increased exposure – increased the overall brightness

  • Increased contrast – blacks are blacker and whites are whiter

  • Decreased the highlights – which remove some of the extreme white light around the street lights

  • Increased clarity – which sharpens the image

 

RAW Pics 4.jpgHere is newly reprocessed image. If I had not taken this picture in RAW in 2004, these edits would not have been possible.

Example 2

The photo on the left was taken on a Canon 1000D. The settings were F2.8, 1/750th shutter speed and ISO 100. The photo on the left was as shot, you can see that it is quite overexposed, as this image was taken in RAW i am able to repair the image and bring it back.

  • Decreased the exposure –  to darken the overall image

  • Increased contrast – blacks are blacker and whites are whiter

  • Increased the highlights – as they needed a little

  • Increased the shadows  – to highlight the flower

  • Reduced the whites – to remove the harshness on the lake

  • Increased the clarity – to sharpen the image

If this was a jpg image out of the camera, these adjustments would not have been possible.

Try This

Take a picture in RAW and have a go at processing it yourself with the sliders, moving each one at a time and seeing the results. Watch how the histogram moves left to right and how the peaks rise and fall.

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