Business, Photography

March 30, 2018

Getting to Know Me: Why I Shoot in RAW

It’s been a little while since I wrote a post in my “Getting to Know Me” series!  When considering which topic to address next, I realized that I couldn’t write about my shooting or editing style without mentioning that I shoot in RAW.  You’ve probably heard the term “RAW files” before, but you might not know exactly what that means.  Today I’m breaking down what a RAW file is and why shooting this way is good for my business and my clients!

What is a RAW file?

According to Tech Terms, a RAW file is “a collection of unprocessed data.”  This means that the information contained in the file has not been compressed or altered in any way.  So basically, all of the information my camera picked up when I shot the image has been saved and preserved in one file.  Untouched.   

You might not realize this, but when you shoot an image in JPEG format, the camera actually compresses the file size and reduces the amount of data that is saved.  This is why RAW files are so much larger than JPEGs – they contain so much more information!

Why shoot in RAW?

I look at RAW files as a form of insurance for my business.  I shoot in manual mode, which means that I control every setting on the camera to create a proper exposure.  When lighting conditions change, I have to adjust my settings appropriately.  For example, if I’m shooting outside and clouds keep coming and going, making the location go from shady to sunny, I have to adjust my settings each time to make up for the change in environment.  Most of the time, this is easy.  Sometimes, though, I’m not able to change my settings fast enough and the image turns out over- or underexposed.  This is where shooting RAW saves the day.  

Since I only shoot RAW, my images contain a TON of information!  So, when I upload my files into my editing software, I am able to fix exposure issues.  (I can even break down the exposure into highlights, lights, shaddows or fill light, and blacks and adjust each of those parameters separately!)  Shooting in RAW also allows me to adjust the color tone of the image (white balance) as well as provides increased capabilities for things like noise reduction and image sharpening.  All of these things make shooting in RAW a no-brainer for me.

One other benefit of shooting RAW is that it forces me to be non-destructive in my editing.  RAW files can’t be printed or used as they are.  So when I edit I’m not actually making changes to the original data file.  What I’m doing is telling the computer how the final JPEG file should be saved upon export.  This means I can’t “write over” or delete any original information.  As long as I have the RAW file, I will always be able to revert the image to its original sate! 

Want to see what RAW files can do?  Here are some examples!

I decided to use our Easter cookies (in our house, that’s a thing) to demonstrate the difference between RAW and JPEG images.  When capturing these photos, I set my camera to record both RAW and JPEG files for each shutter click.

The images below show a normal exposure, straight out of the camera (SOOC).  No editing was done on these images.  You can already see subtle differences between the two formats.  The JPEG file is much more contrast-y and the colors are more saturated than in the RAW file. shoot in RAW, Samantha Ludlow Photography, Syracuse photographer, Syracuse photography, Syracuse wedding photographer, wedding photographer, Syracuse wedding photography, CNY photographer, CNY wedding photographer

In the next set of photos, I under-exposed the image so that it is really dark. Next to the SOOC file, you’ll see the edited version of both the RAW and JPEG files.  The edit on both files is exactly the same, but the resulting images are vastly different!  The RAW file retained a true-to-life color scheme, where as the JPEG’s colors were completely inaccurate.  I was also able to get back a lot of the detail in the RAW file, whereas the JPEG could not. 

shoot in RAW, Samantha Ludlow Photography, Syracuse photographer, Syracuse photography, Syracuse wedding photographer, wedding photographer, Syracuse wedding photography, CNY photographer, CNY wedding photographer

Finally, I over-exposed the image to make it really bright.  Again, the adjustments made on each both of the edited images were exactly the same.  This is where you can really tell the difference between RAW and JPEG.  The RAW file was salvagable, whereas the JPEG image was not.  The colors of the JPEG file were incredibly inaccurate and there were areas of the image that were completely blown out (no detail was recorded). 

shoot in RAW, Samantha Ludlow Photography, Syracuse photographer, Syracuse photography, Syracuse wedding photographer, wedding photographer, Syracuse wedding photography, CNY photographer, CNY wedding photographer

The bottom line: 

While it’s always better to get a great exposure in-camera, sometimes that just doesn’t happen!  Shooting in RAW allows me to use images that are slightly over- or under-exposed so that I don’t miss a shot!

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