The raw format is a type of digital file format that stores in the image all the information captured by the camera’s sensor, that is, it does not compress it, something that the JPG does. This type of file is known as negative digital.
Saving our files in Raw format has many advantages, but also its drawbacks. Next, we will analyze those advantages and disadvantages and we will see in what situations we may want to save our image in this format or in Jpg format.
Advantages of firing in raw format
The main advantage of shooting in Raw format is that it will allow us to make an edition of our photography without practically losing quality, that is, keep in mind that if we abuse too much of the edition we can give us problems. Now let’s see why we can edit without losing quality.
The Raw format is able to contain a total of 12/14 bits, which means this, because it has the capacity to reproduce a total of 68 billion colors in the case of 12 bits, if we pass to 14, this figure is equivalent to 4.3 billion colors. The JPG format “alone” is capable of reaching 8 bits, that figure is reduced to 16 million colors reproduced. This point is very important to correct the images that are underexposed since we can recover the detail in the shadows of our photographs.
The correction of the chromatic aberration and the distortion that our lens produces can also be corrected in the Raw format, something that we will not be able to do (at least as easily) in the JPG format, unless the camera corrects it automatically. Even so, it is advisable to use the raw format.
If you shoot in Raw format, you can also reduce the noise and improve the sharpness of your photos in postprocessing. The photo editing programs have a much more powerful software than the integrated cameras for this type of tasks.
The possibility of changing the white balance is also very important. It can happen to all of us that we make a shot and forget to adjust the white balance or we were wrong to do so. Another possibility is that it leaves the white balance in automatic, since the camera is the one that calculates the temperature of color of the scene, in these cases the camera can also be wrong, and if we photograph in Raw format we will have the possibility to correct Later without losing quality in our shot.
When we edit a photograph, there may come a time when we are not satisfied with the result. In these cases, the Raw format will come with pearls, since this format is not modified, but saves the settings in a different file, so we can always start editing a photograph from scratch. In the case of JPG we will have to create different copies so as not to lose the original file.
Another advantage of the raw format is the maximum use of the dynamic range of the camera (HDR). In short, the high dynamic range is the ability of the camera not to lose detail between the most expensive and dark parts of the photograph, therefore we will get well-exposed lights and shadows without losing detail. The reason for this is that Raw files save all the information captured by the camera’s sensor, unlike the JPG, which is not able to do so because it is a compressed file.
Disadvantages of shooting in raw format
One of the drawbacks of shooting in Raw format is that it needs to be revealed through photoshop or another photo editing program, which means more work and effort when it comes to having our photo ready.
Another problem with this format is its larger size compared to JPG, so if you shoot in Raw format you can save fewer photos on the memory card. This problem will also have other storage devices, such as your laptop or an external hard drive, unless once you reveal the photo you delete the raw file, something I do not recommend.
Another problem with the Raw format is that having a size larger than the JPG takes longer to save on the memory card. This does not have to be an inconvenience unless you are taking pictures in burst, as for example to a flying bird. In these cases a good reflex camera can record 7 and 8 photographs per second (more or less), and if we shoot in raw that number will be reduced. The reason is that the camera takes more pictures per second than it is able to record on the memory card, and when the buffer of the camera is full the speed will decrease. Maybe it does not seem important to you, but if you ever take pictures of moving elements (sports, animals, etc.) you will realize that it is.
Each manufacturer uses its own Raw format, this means that this type of files you will not be able to open them in all the programs, although if you use photoshop you will not have any problem.
When shooting in raw format
At first it is always advisable to use the raw format, because as I said before it allows us to make a series of adjustments to the photograph without practically losing quality, but there are some situations where I think it is absolutely necessary to use this format. Here are some of these situations and why.
Landscapes: Landscape photography is one of the most complicated but shooting in raw format can help us improve our photographs during digital development, especially when adjusting lighting, saturation or white balance.
Travel: When we travel we take pictures of everything we have around us, often we go in a hurry and we may not configure our camera correctly, or it may happen that we have it in automatic and it is the camera that does not calculate the exposure well or Make a mistake in the white balance settings. If this is the case you can always improve your photography in the postprocessing.
As I have already said in almost all situations, it is recommended to shoot on Raw, but in the two previous ones it seems essential.
When to shoot in Jpg
From my point of view there are two situations in which it is advisable to make your photos in JPG.
The first of all, as I said before, is when you shoot in a burst. In these cases the speed will be better and you will have more chances of capturing the picture you want.
On the other hand, when you do not have time to pass your photographs from the Raw format to the Jpg it is better to shoot directly with the compressed format. It may happen that you go on vacation and come back with 500 photos on the card. Editing them requires a lot of work and if you do not have time you can finish with your computer’s hard drive full of raw files without editing and not be able to enjoy your photographs.
Shoot in both formats
One piece of advice I can give you is to shoot in both formats if your camera has this option. This will take more space on your memory card but you can save yourself a good job later. If you shoot in JPG and Raw at the same time you will only have to edit those photos that you do not like the result, and those that are correct you already have the JPG file without needing to waste time in changing anything.
As I said, each manufacturer uses its own raw format, which means that these files can not be opened with all the programs, so we need a specific software to open and edit them. These are the programs to process Raw in the different brands.
Canon: Digital Photo Professional
Nikon: Capture NX-D
Sony: Data Converter
These programs are free and you can download them from the web page or install them with the CD that they will give you when buying a camera of these brands.
On the other hand we have photo editing programs, the best known are the following:
Camera Raw: It is a Photoshop plugin that is already integrated when you install the program. It is one of the most used by professional photographers, also has a simple and easy to use interface, at least at the user level.
Lightroom: Another Adobe product with many users. The main advantage of this software is the possibility of doing all the work without leaving the program, that is, you can open the file, edit it, put the metadata you want, save them on your computer creating your albums and even print the photo among other options.
Capture One: creado por PhaseOne, un fabricante de cámaras de formato medio, es gratuito para quienes compran sus productos, aunque si desea utilizar este software, puede hacerlo adquiriendo una licencia.
My recommendation is that you use one of the first two, not because they are better than Capture One, but on the Internet you will find much more information about Camera Raw or Lightroom than about Capture One.
There are other programs like dcraw, ufraw, raw studio and raw therapee among others that are also free, but do not have all the resources of the previous payment. You can start using any of these if you do not want to spend money, but in the long run I recommend you use any of the above.