If you’re someone who wants to get sharper, more detailed photographs that contains more accurate colours, with a greater dynamic range (the ratio between the lightest and darkest areas of an image), then you should consider shooting in raw.
What is RAW?
A raw file can be explained as being similar to the old film camera’s processed negative; it contains the complete lossless data from the cameras sensor, and is sometimes referred to as the ‘unprocessed’ image that your camera produces before it’s been modified with imaging software, although the digital image does go through a certain amount of processing before it is saved to a raw file.
Raw files also contains the ‘exif’ data; which has information such as, camera model, shutter speed, aperture and, date and time when the photograph was taken; which is all very handy information, particularly when you want to know the details of why a photograph worked so well when another one didn’t; you just check your exif data, the details are all there!
What Kind of Imaging Software?
When you shoot in RAW you’re using your computers processing power to convert your images, so,you will need some kind of imaging software to convert your RAW files; you could use the software that came with your camera, or you could try the reasonably priced Photoshop Elements for converting and processing and editing your raw files (and other formats such as jpeg and tiff) or the more comprehensive (and more expensive) Photoshop CS5.
Editing your RAW files
You will find it quite satisfying when you first start processing and editing your raw files, and with time and practice, you’ll find that you can do a better job than your camera’s own processer; you’ll be going back to your old photos which you converted from raw files, as I did, and be able to improve upon them because of the new skills you’ve learned, after all, as I mentioned earlier, a raw file is simply the equivalent of a film cameras negative. You can also get creative with the colour settings, contrast, white balance and sharpening and a host of other settings.
Of course, there is a downside to shooting in raw; the files are much bigger (around 20mb),there is no standard raw format; every camera manufacturer has their own format, raw takes longer for the camera to write, which decreases the FPS (frames per second) and most software has to be updated to support the latest cameras.
If you prefer photographing in the jpeg format without the hassle of post processing and editing then raw is not for you, but if you want to see more detailed images, and have the versatility and creative control of post editing then photographing in raw can be very rewarding; particularly when you see the end result.