RAW is seen by many as the new solution for storing high quality photos, with the most natural rendering possible. But what exactly is RAW? What is it used for? Can we still do without it?
The RAW file is a mode of recording a photo in the same way as JPEG and many others. The RAW file has the particularity of saving images in raw, original and unprocessed format. This file is then based on the digital negative of the photograph. It plays the role of a “container” which, unlike all other formats including JPEG, will keep all the information from the photo, useful or not. It is then much more cumbersome, on average 4 to 6 times heavier than a JPEG.
RAW is becoming interesting for its post-processing capabilities: the possibilities of retouching are much more numerous. This gives you the opportunity not to define the white balance at the time of shooting, for example, which can be modified in post-production. An over- or under-exposed photo can then be retouched with RAW, for a very natural look. This is also the case for other settings, up to the zoom, which, due to the quality of the photo, can be done after processing, while cropping. The possibilities are then increased tenfold! With RAW, you have the same creative possibilities in post-production as you did during the shooting.
RAW has the advantage of capturing violent contrasts more spontaneously than JPEG. This is especially interesting when your subject is overexposed, the RAW will help your camera capture light and shadow simultaneously. This is the case especially during your outdoor shootings.
The color shades are multiplied with RAW, the rendering will be brighter, while being extremely sharp: this format increases sharpness without having to undergo the choices of the camera. This is useful when exposing very brightly, for example with clear sky or sunlight photographs. We often distinguish color lines with JPEG rather than a sharp gradient, without streaks with RAW.
But this does not prevent RAW photos from having a softer rendering: the shades blend well and the pastel colours for example are exacerbated by this format.
But RAW does not only have advantages. As explained above, its weight is quadrupled, or more. Many adjacent problems follow: long loading times, full SD cards, fast saturated storage….
RAW is incompatible with some touch-up software, especially cheaper software and semi- professionals. Sharing is then more difficult: by using RAW, your correspondents may not be able to read your files. Moreover, heavier than JPEG, it is not always possible to send your RAW photos by email. It is then advisable to always convert your files to JPEG before sending. This conversion is a waste of time that can be avoided if you work directly in JPEG.
RAW is also customizable: everyone can have their own RAW format, and not all devices use the same variants. A current variant of the RAW will not necessarily be readable within ten years, unlike JPEG, which is more durable.
In short, RAW is complicated: it takes up a lot of space, complicates sharing, and raises long- term storage issues. However, the advantage of RAW is that it produces softer images. It also makes it easier to retouch, with better preserved colours and light. If you spend time on your post production it is interesting to use it, but don’t forget to double your file to JPEG.
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