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Why I shoot RAW

Recently I got into a discussion with someone online about why one should choose to capture images in RAW rather than JPEG. The comment to me was basically “the JPEG looks great right out of the camera but the RAW image looks flat and boring. Why should I bother with it?”

The reason is RAW files contain all of the visible light information that is presented in the scene and lets you decide how to develop it.

A JPEG file on the other hand contains only  small portion. Essentially your camera records every bit of light it is shown and then applies a predetermined recipe to create an averaged image and throws away all of the unused info when it writes the JPEG file to your memory card. If there was very dark shadows or bright highlights in the scene they will be in your image and there’s no way you’re going to recover those areas because the info is gone. If you had the incorrect white balance selected you’re beat there too, it’s baked in to the file.

Getting back to the RAW file, although it may look a little flat to start you have a tremendous amount of latitude when it comes to editing the image. Have a spot that’s a little too dark? You can solve that. How about a spot that is a little too bright? You can solve that too. Don’t like the overall colour that you achieved with the “Auto White Balance” setting? Well try changing it to “Daylight” or “Cloudy” or any of the other WB settings to get a more pleasing feel.

Here’s a perfect example of what I mean. The image on the left is straight out of the camera with the scene exposed for the light in the sky.

The image on the right is the same shot with only adjustments made in Adobe Lightroom.
Aside from the adjustments that you can see on the sliders I used the brush tool to selectively paint in a little exposure adjustment in a few areas and set the Camera Camera Calibration to “Camera Deep”
No HDR, No Photoshop, No other tricks, just Lightroom
This is why I shoot RAW.

So next time you think to yourself “why RAW?” just give it a try and you just may convince yourself.

Specifics:

  • Location: Hamilton Waterfront Trail
  • Camera: Sony NEX-7
  • Lens: Sony 18-55 f3.5-5.6
  • Focal Length: 18mm
  • Aperture: f/8.0
  • Shutter Speed: 1/20 sec.
  • ISO: 100
  • Metering Mode: Pattern Metering

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