dimanche 10 mars 2013

Is Shooting RAW Image Format Worth The Effort?

By James Somerset

As soon a keen photographer buys their first Pro range digital camera they are faced with a choice: whether or not to pick RAW mode. They'll give it a try but the technical and time issues involved beat many and they go back to good old JPEG. That's often a mistake as RAW has a lot of advantages. Let's explore this further.

Few compact digital cameras give you a choice: it's JPEG or nothing. As a keen amateur photographer whose pockets won't stretch to a high-end DSLR yet you won't have needed to think about RAW. Most compact digital cameras do a decent job at producing JPEGs. So it can seem hard to justify the extra time it takes to shoot in RAW and then go through your shoots converting them to JPEG at a later stage. So what is RAW and why do so many Pros recommend it?

In its journey from world to lens to memory card, your image normally goes through a fair number of transformations. Once it reaches the mini-processor build in to the camera it's usually converted in to JPEG format. This is a great choice if you don't intent to get creative later. JPEG can be shared with just about everybody.

It's assumed as part of the conversion to JPEG that all editing, color correction and sharpening has been finalized. Based on that assumption there seems no need to keep subtle details - such a shadow detail - as it will never be seen. This is a great assumption if the image is finished but if you decide you want some of it back later - when dodging in Photoshop perhaps - it's gone.

If you save your images in RAW format, everything the camera captured is there. Nothing is wasted. You can now go home, load your RAW editor and try as many different color corrections, sharpening routines and compression algorithms as you like. And the editor will not damage your RAW image in the process. It will keep the RAW intact and save the result as a new file. If your image editor understands your type of RAW image file you will be able to edit using the original data so that dodging the shadows or burning in a highlight is likely to reveal some hidden detail not visible until then. With JPEG all that extra detail is absent.

There are downsides to shooting RAW. First, you have to spend time on them before your friends can see them. As few people have RAW image converters on their devices you must, as a minimum, convert them to something better supported (such as JPEG). RAW files are also huge - taking up valuable space on memory cards and computer hard disks. A side effect of this massive size in memory is that it takes more time to save them to memory card while shooting which means your camera may not be ready to take the next shot when you need it to - not great for rapid fire photography.

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