Compared to JPEG, RAW is far less popular. Many photographers still unwilling to shoot in RAW due many reasons. Well, may be not too many. The most common reason why photographers prefer to shoot in JPEG rather than RAW is because RAW requires more complex processes before the photos are ready to use. The different story goes to JPEG. When you shoot in JPEG, you can use the resulted photos immediately without having to convert them. Commonly, all you need to do is resizing the resolution, nothing more.
Before stepping further with our discussion, let’s start by a question. What is RAW actually mean?
RAW is basically nothing than an image file format. Just like other formats you have probably known like JPEG/JPG, PNG ot TIFF. But, there is a significant difference between RAW and other formats. When you are taking a picture using your camera, the sensor of your camera will record the data regarding each image. Unlike JPEG which compress the information of the image, RAW captures all image data and let them just the way they are. That is why a RAW file is naturally far larger than JPEG.
Since RAW records all image data, you can do more things with a RAW file without having to worry about the quality. There are many advantages you can get if you “brave” to shoot in RAW. Here are some of the examples.
1. Better image quality
Every photographer wants the best results of the photos they take. If your purpose of taking photos is to get the best quality then RAW could be an option. As I mentioned earlier, when you shoot in RAW, all image data are stored from sensor without neglecting any single data. This gives you a better quality of photo though as the consequence you will have a larger file size.
Basically, your camera still capture in RAW even if you have set it to shoot in JPEG. The difference is, it will perform its own converting process from RAW to JPEG. Unfortunately, your camera not as powerful as computer in doing that as well as your brain. When you shoot in RAW you can convert the image format by yourself to get the result you want. In other word, you have the full control over the image quality.
2. RAW records greater levels of brightness
Levels of brightness are one of many aspects that make your image looks good in the proper exposure. Levels of brightness are the number of steps from black to white in an image. JPEG records 256 levels of brightness while RAW, on the other hand, records between 4,096 to 16,384 levels. The levels of brightness itself is described as “bit”. JPEG captures in 8bit while RAW is either 12bit or 14bit.
Levels of brightness has a huge effect on your images. Having more levels of brightness allows you to make more adjustment over your photos from contrast, brightness, exposure and lots more. Most importantly, your adjustments won’t reduce the image quality since there is more levels to work with.
3. Corrects exposure without sacrificing the quality
You go somewhere to take some photographs. Sure, you want the best possible results. But, the result sometimes (or maybe often) goes another way. There is always a chance your photos will be either under exposure or over exposure. If you shoot in RAW, you can do more adjustment to correct the wrong exposure than JPEG. This is because you have additional information in the file. And again, correcting the wrong exposure won’t affect too much on your image quality if you shoot in RAW. You will still get a good quality.
4. Easily adjust white balance
White balance is another aspect that affect your image quality. When you shoot in JPEG there is not much you can do if you get the unwanted white balance on your image. The different story goes to RAW.
Since you have more data, it’s easier to adjust the white balance in RAW. Again, you don’t have too much worry about the image quality
5. You will get a better detail
One of the huge advantages of shooting in RAW can be felt when you are processing the images. Shooting in RAW means that you will have the access to sharpening and noise algorithms in an image editing programs such as Lightroom that are more powerful than those found in your camera.
Just so you know, the sharpening and noise algorithms are always improving. Shooting in RAW enables you to revisit it. In the future you will be able to re-visit your RAW files and take advantage of these improvements.
6. More freely to make some editings
There is huge difference between JPEG and RAW in terms of editing. When you are editing a RAW file you are basically do nothing on your RAW file. The original data of the RAW file remains how the way it is. When you are editing a RAW file you are basically creating a set of instructions for how the JPEG should be saved.
Conversely, when you are editing a JPEG file, it will lose its quality every time you make some adjustments. You will never get the the original data back unless you make a backup of it. Editing your JPEG file over and over is not a good idea since you will lose its quality. This will not happen to RAW. To learn more this concept you can read some articles about Lossy compression as well ass Lossless compression.
7. Select color space on output
Color space is an abstract mathematical model which simply describes the range of colors as tuples of numbers, typically as 3 or 4 values or color components (e.g. RGB). The discussion about color space can be so long and complex but, but here’s a quick tip. When you shoot in RAW you have the possibility to choose from any color space when you are exporting it out. So, you can adjust the one which is best suited to your need.
8. Make you look like a pro
Last but not least. If you want to look like a professional photographer in front of your girlfriend, then you have to shoot in RAW. No matter if you are just a photography hobbyist who don’t want make money with your photos. Just shoot in RAW and your girlfriend will adore you as if you are Ansel Adams or one of Nat Geo photographers.