What is a RAW photo

It is rather a common name for digital image files that contain minimally processed tonal and color data from the image sensor.

As RAW data is not edited or compressed, it takes up a lot of storage space. If you shoot such a photo you can notice that the file size will be close to the number of megapixels of your camera. So if your camera has 12 megapixels, then each RAW picture will be about 12 MB.

Actually, this image type can have different names, depending on the manufacturer. Here are some possible RAW image formats you can encounter:

  • Canon: CR2 or CR3
  • Nikon: NEF
  • Android phone: DNG
  • iPhone: ProRAW
  • GoPro: GPR.

Can your device shoot in RAW? Most digital cameras and the latest smartphones can do that. Usually, this option is not turned on by default. Most likely you will need to enable this feature somewhere in the settings. Some devices allow several shooting modes — RAW only, JPEG only, and RAW+JPEG, meaning you will have two formats saved simultaneously.

So what are the advantages of the format and why would you need it?

  • Editing: You will have more processing options and possibilities when shooting in RAW. You will be able to fix the settings of white balance, sharpness, noise reduction, levels, brightness, and deliver a perfect result.

When it is better not to shoot in RAW?

  • Shooting for the web: If you are planning to post your image on Instagram, in some web article, or use it for meme-making, then JPEG should be absolutely enough for you.
  • Saving the storage: RAW files are usually 2-5 times larger than JPEG files and can take lots of your valuable storage space. JPEG is a better choice if you plan to make hundreds of photos during your day trip.
  • Sharing and downloading: If you want to send your photo to a friend, make a photo slideshow available for download right away, it is safer to use JPEG.
  • Rapid shooting: When you want to shoot some live action or fast burst of images, RAW is not the best option. Your buffer might fill up very quickly and the photos won’t be processed properly.

To sum up, if you have lots of storage space and time to edit all your photos, then shoot in RAW. If you just want to capture a moment to share it immediately, then go with JPEG.