I thought I might give you a bit of a run down on some of the jargon us photographers use and what it means. You will see three examples to help explain in the gallery above. The beautiful example I am using is super speedy spaniel Cookie. This image was just taken in a field, so a basic, natural portrait.
I shoot in RAW format. A RAW file contains all the uncompressed and unprocessed image data captured by the sensors of a digital camera. RAW files are not images — they’re just large files filled with the image data as it was captured.
I can also shoot in Jpeg mode (but I don’t) which is how the rest of you will shoot using your phone cameras or own digital cameras. Jpegs are images.
What is the difference?
The main difference between any JPEG and RAW file is its size. RAW files are significantly bigger than JPEG (and any other) image file formats. That’s because they contain all the raw image information captured by your digital camera’s sensors, completely uncompressed. Like working with a film negative from a traditional camera, the RAW file holds all the original detail, so you have complete control over what you do with it. This makes it ideal for sharing in a large-format setting — such as blowing up to fill a billboard. Shooting RAW also means you’ll need larger memory cards and that they’ll fill up quickly, so you might not be able to shoot as much as in one go. JPEG files are a much more manageable size because the data they contain is compressed. When shooting in JPEG, the camera’s image processor has essentially developed the image already. Their smaller size enables you to store more files in one place — whether on your camera, computer, or another storage device.
The main advantage of shooting in RAW is that you end up with high-quality files to edit into the best possible image. Capturing and storing all the details that pass through your camera’s sensors means RAW files contain a wider dynamic range and far greater color spectrum than JPEGs. If a RAW image is under or overexposed, the wider dynamic range makes recovery a lot easier, with greater control over sharpening. Because RAW files are lossless, unprocessed, and uncompressed, they maintain their original high quality and don’t experience any drops in resolution due to resizing. When your camera compresses a RAW file into a JPEG image, it undergoes a lossy compression process. While the compression makes the file smaller, you will lose some of the data and detail from the photograph, and the image could appear grainy or pixelated. Because JPEGs are 8-bit, there are also color limitations compared to RAW files that can be 12 and 16-bit.
JPEG images are already processed, so can be quickly transferred from the camera and opened with editing software, or sent directly to someone, with no post-processing. Their smaller size makes transfers fast and avoids any camera slowdown when shooting, too. With RAW files, you need to factor in the time it will take to process and convert the file into a JPEG, PNG, or TIFF. This means storing two versions of the same image, which uses up more storage space, and leads to longer backups and transfers. It can also cause camera slowdown when shooting RAW, meaning your frame rate may fall. Much harder to get those super fast spaniels….
In a nutshell, shooting in RAW gives me more flexibility to create the image I see in my head not what the camera chooses to produce. I will show you what I mean below.
This is the RAW file converted into an image. It’s quite flat, no contrast, colours are a bit dull this is the starting point for my editing. It’s exactly how the picture was shot no editing by me, the camera or software.
A soft edit is when I do a minimal edit on the file, it’s a slightly improved version of the RAW file, more contrast, less yellow. A soft edit is what I do for events and commercial work.
This is how my camera would have produced the shot if I was shooting in Jpeg. For me the yellow in the grass and sky pulls attention from beautiful cookie. The grass is very vivid as is the sky and it’s split by the dark hedge.
This how I saw the image and how I chose to process it. I have changed the composition to fit the rule of thirds, and removed her collar too. Hopefully you agree Cookie is the main focus of the image and not overwhelmed by the background. I wanted the background to have a warm glow that complimented Cookies coat not distract from it.
I hope you found this information interesting? If you have any questions please let me know!