3 reasons why you should shoot RAW (Part one)
If you’ve never shot in the RAW file format before, quite simply you’ve been missing out. Relying on JPEG is fine for some situations, but for the vast majority of photography, RAW is definitely the way to go.
As the name suggests, in this mode the camera captures RAW tonal data of your scene, rather than adding parameters such as contrast, saturation and sharpness, which is what happens when you shoot in JPEG.
By shooting in RAW you delay any decision making until you’re back at the computer and edit RAW files in software such as Adobe Camera RAW or Lightroom, where you can fine-tune your edit or apply presets to create a certain look and feel to the frame.
In this feature, we’ll not only explain what the RAW file format is all about, but we’ll also suggest when (and when not) to use it along with serving up some tips to help you get the most out of your RAW files.
More data, more memory
It stands to reason that if you are capturing more tonal data with a RAW file, it’s going to take up more memory on your SD card and this is one of the reasons that many photographers may have steered away from RAW in the past.
However, the photo industry has combated this problem on two fronts; first, memory cards have become more and more affordable and second, many camera brands now offer compressed RAW formats that still capture tonal data but take up far less space on your memory card.
Remember however that once you transfer the files to your computer, this data will switch from your SD card to your desktop, so a better approach is to invest in an external hard drive to stop the RAW data from clogging up space on your computer.
An even better workflow is to have two hard drives just in case one fails as you don’t want to lose all those precious memories due to a hardware failure.
Recover detail and save images
One of the greatest gifts shooting in RAW gives us is the ability to rescue areas of Highlights and Shadows in your scene.
Let’s face it, as photographers, we won’t always get our exposures right and this can lead to skies being overexposed or areas of shadow that are so dark you can’t make out any detail.
Well, RAW gives us a second chance at getting the exposure in our frames correct and the Shadows slider will reveal detail while the Highlights slider will recover colour and tone in the sky.
Of course, both these parameters will have their limits, but newcomers to RAW photography may be surprised by just how much data can be recovered. In essence, this process turns what would be a photo heading for the trash can, into one that can be saved, polished, printed and admired - all thanks to the RAW file format.
Tell a story through colour
Many people use the White Balance options in RAW conversion software programs like Adobe Camera RAW, Lightroom - or even your brand’s bespoke software such as Digital Photo Professional for RAW, or Nikon’s Capture NX-D - for correcting the colour temperature in the frame to simulate what the photographer saw with their own eye.
This is because cameras can often introduce subtle colour casts that may add a green or blue hue to the frame.
Using the White balance sliders in Lightroom for example, these casts can be quickly corrected, but simply using them to right the colour temperature means you will be missing a creative opportunity.
The colour temperature of a scene can be used creatively to set a mood, introduce atmosphere into the frame and tell a story through the use of colour.
For example, lowering the colour temperature to give the scene a cool, blue hue will increase a feeling of cold melancholy and is perfect for a baron landscape scene.
Alternatively, warming up a scene by increasing the colour temperature will add a happier, sunnier feel to the frame, all thanks to the white balance controls in your RAW conversion software.
Look out for part two next week.