I used to be an unbeliever in the whole shooting-in-Raw concept.  Of course, knowing the way images work from a computer graphics background, I understood the theory behind why it should be useful, but I just didn’t see the applicable importance of shooting in RAW format in real life.  The problem was that I just hadn’t had the right images to see comparisons with.  One day the light clicked on for me (it takes a while for some of us) that the grayish washed-out color I got sometimes when darkening something that was blown out in at least one of the color channels was a result of not having enough color information on the bright end.  And when I used a RAW version of the same photo, I was able to make that color look completely natural when darkening it.  At that point I was almost completely hooked.

Then there was the problem I had had a couple years earlier:  I had shot some family photos, and some were done in jpg format, and others in raw format, just to try it out.  The problem was that (at that time on that camera) the raw files were pretty unprocessed, which meant you had to start from a really bad-looking image and figure out how to make it look at least as good as the jpgs that already looked pretty decent.   After that experience, my conclusion was — If you shoot in RAW format, you get lots of control, but you HAVE to color correct and process EVERY image!  When you start shooting hundreds of photos per month, the idea of having to process each and every image just sounds too overwhelming.  Because I got the bug for using RAW recently, I tried it out again with my newer DSLR camera, to just see what the process was like currently.

The other big problem was storage space — the RAW files are around 16MB on my camera, vs. around 3-5 MB in JPG format.  Well, with newer 4GB and larger memory cards, that gets to be less and less of an issue, fortunately.  In fact, there is enough space now on those cards that I realized I could shoot RAW+JPG, which would give me the best of both worlds – control if I wanted it, and a premade jpg if I didn’t need to touch it (for those quick snapshots that are more just for recording life events than for artistic value).

One downside still is that I can’t shoot machine-gun speed at quite as fast of a rate.  But it’s not too far off, like 15% slower, maybe.

Anyway, for the sake of understanding the value of shooting in RAW format here’s a quick comparison of saving a fun picture that just suffered from too short of an exposure, by using the RAW vs. auto jpg that the camera generated.  Both the original RAW file and jpg looked the same to start with.   Both were taken into Adobe Camera Raw (which comes as part of Adobe Photoshopin the last few versions), and adjusted to get fairly similar results, raising the exposure a little, the fill light a lot, and the contrast a little to counteract the effect of too much fill light looking fake.  Interestingly, the numbers were completely different when adjusting the jpg than when adjusting the raw, and in my opinion, the raw was much easier to adjust — fewer controls needed to be changed, and more intuitively.   Now I admit the results are pretty subtle in their differences, and I could even see some people liking the result from the jpg better, because of the stylistic look.  It should be noted that you could get that look from the raw as well, but just processing it some more, but I was having a really hard time getting the jpg version to look as natural as the raw version did very easily.  It’s a little hard to see at this size, but some of the color transitions in the jpg version are more abrupt, and don’t quite have the gradual smoothness that the raw version does.  A fairly visible artifact in the jpg version is the halo around the guy’s head, who’s in the water behind the boy.  When you only have 256 values of color, and most of the range is squished down into the bottom 40 values, it’s hard to get nice continuous tones when you stretch that range out to 256 again.  With the RAW file, you’re dealing with millions of colors, so scaling those up doesn’t really affect the continuous nature of them at all.  In both versions you get a lot of noise, which is just an artifact of the low amount of light coming into the camera sensor.

 

Another type of picture that I appreciate the raw format for is when you get blown-out highlights and you want to pull them back into a normal range.  With the jpg, it just stays clamped at white, and looks even stranger when you try to darken it, but with the RAW file (if it’s not TOO blown out) you can just pull it down like it was never over exposed in the first place.

If you have a picture for your Nouncement that is in RAW format, just let us know, and we’ll send you instructions for sending that (probably attaching to an email), as it will almost always be more helpful than a straight jpg file.

So does this help you decide to use RAWs, or more that the subtle difference between them in such an extreme image isn’t worth the extra storage space and speed hit?