The Power of Shooting in RAW

First, let’s start off with what a RAW image is compared to a JPG image.


  • * Equivalent to a PRINT (from a negative) in the film days.
  • * Immediately suitable for printing, sharing, or posting on the Web.
  • * Higher in contrast.
  • * Sharper.
  • * Compressed.
  • * Smaller file size.
  • * Takes up LESS SPACE on your memory cards as well as on your computer.
  • * Takes LESS TIME to write to your memory card.



  • * Equivalent to a NEGATIVE in the film days.
  • * Not suitable for printing directly from the camera or without post processing.
  • * Requires an image processing software to make adjustments to the image for printing/sharing.
  • * More FLEXIBILITY to change and MANIPULATE a photograph.
  • * Lacking in contrast (flatter, washed out looking).
  • * Not as sharp.
  • * Uncompressed
  • * Bigger file size.
  • * Takes up MORE SPACE on your memory cards as well as on your computer.
  • * Takes MORE TIME to write to your memory card.

The 2 Reasons I Shoot In RAW
1) White Balance

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: Nikon 50mm 1.4
Aperture: f/5.0
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO 200
White Balance: Auto
Shot in RAW

When you shoot indoor, the colors from the incandescent and fluorescent lighting can cast a nasty yellow and green tint to your image. If you shoot in RAW, you can very quickly and easily change the temperature and tint. If you shoot in JPG, the sliders won’t play nice; you’ll be adding color ON TOP of the colors that were engraved in the image when you shot it. Thus, if you shoot in RAW, you have greater flexibility to change the white balance settings come post production.

2) Brushes in Aperture / Lightroom

Camera: Nikon D3
Lens: Nikon 24-70mm
Aperture: f/5.0
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO 100
White Balance: Auto
Shot in RAW

One of my favorite websites for Lightroom info is LIGHTROOMKILLERTIPS.COM. Matt made a video called “Adjustment Brush Tip Extravaganza.” It’s definitely worth a watch (or a couple). Brushes is also a feature in Aperture, of course. iPhoto? No.

Should YOU Shoot In RAW?
Q. Do you have enough storage capacity (the size of your memory cards/how many memory cards do you have for what you are currently shooting)?

Q. Do you have enough room on your internal hard drive to house all the RAW images? Moreso, do you own an external hard drive to BACKUP your photos?

Q. Do you have an image processing application you can use to edit the RAW photos? Some of the bigger names that come to mind are Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Bridge, Aperture, and Capture NX. Believe it or not, even iPhoto can edit RAW images if you have a Mac.

Q. What do you shoot? Regardless of wether your answer is,” I only shoot family photos” or you want to shoot professionally, once you start playing with Aperture or Adobe Lightroom’s brushes feature, you’ll be sold in no time.

As for me, I only shoot in JPG when I am shooting some kind of sports game and need to be able to upload my images at half time and send them off to an editor, who then puts them up on a website almost immediately. In this scenario, I don’t have time to import them into my laptop, make a few changes, and export out a jpg version.

I’m sure every photographer has his or her horror stories that they could share with you while working on the job, but mine comes in the form of forgetting something pretty important to take photos: MEMORY CARDS! I forgot them back at home and didn’t notice till I arrived at the gig that I only had the two that were in my memory card slot. I switched to JPG for the event and conserved my shooting rather than firing off 20 photos for anything that moved. On one hand I couldn’t shoot as many photos as I would have liked to, but it did teach me to be a bit more selective when I held the camera up to my eye. In a way, it taught me to be a better photographer.

Lastly, if you’re really wondering, you could shoot in both RAW + JPG, but that’s a whole different story.

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5 Comments on "The Power of Shooting in RAW"

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Great article. For the kind of photography I do, I always shoot RAW so that I have more control when processing my images. That way I know that if I need to make corrections to the images, it’s a little easier. They do eat up space though because of their file sizes.


Sure, great article. Short crisp and to the point..

Mike Hughes
Excellent article. I took the plunge when I went full frame earlier this year. The reason I didn’t do it sooner was BUFFER SPEED. I shoot live music. My previous camera was a Canon EOS 500D (Digital Rebel T1i) and while it was a fine camera in many ways, the write speed in raw was too slow, so that when shooting bursts, the camera just slowed down to a stop until it caught up with itself. When you’ve got ‘that’ moment of light shooting a big rock band….nah. RAW + jpg was much worse again. On my 5D2 I wouldn’t… Read more »

I absolutely adore RAW, it really is the best thing about digital photography.

James Portentoso

I like the article it gave me a lot of knowledge on raw and JPEG I am just learning and getting started with photography.

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