Do you shoot your digital photos in Raw? You’d know it it you did.  Working with Raw images gives you much more power to correct photographic mistakes.  Was the exposure way off on an otherwise great picture?  Raw can help you fix it.  Is there a severe color tint due to improper white balance settings?  Raw can help with that too.

Most camera give you several options for the format in which to record your images.  The most common are JPEG and Raw.  Here are the differences between the two:

JPEGs definitely require less work. If your camera is set to record images in JPEG, it will make certain on-camera processing adjustments, such as:

  • Sharpening
  • White balance
  • Color processing
  • Contrast adjustments

Most cameras will let you set the amount of these adjustments that will be applied on camera before you shoot.  For instance, when I do shoot in JPEG, my camera will let me specify whether to make the colors more vivid or more natural.  That’s a handy setting.  Same for sharpness, contrast and white balance.

However, sometimes you don’t know which adjustments you want to apply to a photo until after the fact.  Sometimes cameras make incorrect assumptions about the shooting conditions.  If you shoot in Raw, no on-camera processing happens to your images, and you guide all these adjustments yourself in Adobe Camera Raw.

Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), by the way, comes with Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.  No new software to purchase to use the great features included!  Now, if you want to purchase Lightroom, it does everything that Raw does and much more.

Adobe Lightroom 2

But that’s a whole ‘nother post.

Are there any downsides to shooting in Raw?  Only two that I can think of.  First off, processing your images requires an extra step.  But you might find that after you do the work in ACR, you won’t need to do any Levels, Curves, or Color Correction in Photoshop.

Also, Raw files are HUGE.  They take up massive amounts of hard drive space.  Like 8 mb per picture or more.  So you definitely need to make sure that your computer can handle that before you switch over.

When you try to open a picture recorded in Raw from Photoshop Elements, ACR will open over your normal PSE workspace.  It looks something like this:


I know it’s a small picture, but can you read all the sliders on the right?  Those are all the different adjustments you can make.  Sharpening adjustments are on the next tab.  Many of these adjustments can’t be made in Photoshop or Elements.

Now, of course ACR won’t be able to fix a terrible picture.  If the highlights are blown out, for instance, there is nothing you can do to recover them.

My next post in this series on shooting in Raw will cover how to use those sliders to adjust your photo and make it great.

Until then, I’m curious.  How many of you shoot in Raw currently?  I’ve used Raw almost exclusively for maybe a year now, and I find it to be not much extra work at all.

Have a good day!  And thanks for reading.