Understand your Camera – What is a RAW file and why do you need it?

Steve Edwards Photography Commercial Photographer Nottingham

You’ll be using you’re camera in Manual Mode like a commercial photographer by now right? If you’re not then you should be as it really isn’t that difficult to deal with but your camera has a host of other options for you to play with too and one of those is the image quality. 

My Nikon has 8 different options available that include the more common JPEG and TIFF options that most people who are familiar with computers will recognise, JPEG files are image files that are compressed in the camera while TIFF files are not.  The RAW file, or if you’re using a Nikon too they use the designation of NEF (Nikon Electronic Format) but add RAW to correctly identify it, is the digital equivalent of a film negative, and while it’s not compressed it doesn’t use as much storage space as the TIFF, even though Nikon based their system on that format. If you’re shooting in Manual and have made all the decisions as to how you’re image will look, why would you then allow the camera to take control of anything as it compresses the file into the JPEG format? By selecting RAW the camera won’t touch a thing and will allow you to do as you wish, RAW also has the benefit that is includes metadata into your image which includes camera and lens data plus, if you have the option, any copyright material you’d like to include.  My camera also offers RAW+ JPEG options should you need to share the images immediately, if your equipment comes with the ability to access the internet, it’s not for me so I stick to just RAW.

The RAW file does need specialist software to open it but if you’re in this format you’ll already have Lightroom, Photoshop or something similar on your computer. Personally I’ve signed up to Adobe’s Photography Plan (20GB) that give me access to the latest versions of Lightroom and Photoshop plus a bunch of other things including 20GB of Cloud photo storage for just £9.98 per month. If you’re interested you can sign up here – https://www.adobe.com/uk/creativecloud/photography/compare-plans.html?promoid=9DJJ4N49&mv=other

Steve Edwards Photography Commercial Photographer Nottingham

A reasonable sized memory chip is required, it saves having to switch them out mid-shoot, and of course there are lots of choices there too. I’ve gone with a 64GB SD Card, it operates at the Class 10 speed meaning that it can keep up with the camera under normal circumstances, the last thing you want is to have to wait for images to be saved while you’re shooting.  The only time I’m waiting is when I shoot long exposure shots when the camera is attached to my rig which has been fixed to a car for a rolling shot, but more of that in another post.

Steve Edwards Photography Commercial Photographer Nottingham
Steve Edwards Photography Commercial Photographer Nottingham
Cool long exposure Rig shot

When it comes to processing your images, using RAW makes the most sense as the majority settings can be adjusted, not every image can be rescued though so it’s best to try to get the best photo in the camera as possible to make the post-production as easy and fast as possible. 

I have managed to save a few images that would have been lost if I had just been operating in JPEG as while adjustments are possible they are limited.  This photo of Julian Hall was taken at Restaurant Six at the world famous Trent Bridge cricket ground, we are at a Catena Network/East Midlands Business Link event and Julian was taking a selfie, I managed to catch him in the act but the photo in the camera was very much over-exposed.  I was able to make adjustments to the exposure along with the highlights etc to bring the image to a more acceptable level, it wasn’t posed but Julian did see me taking his picture and so the smile was genuine, which I’m sure made a better photo for us both!

Steve Edwards Photography Commercial Photographer Nottingham

I hope that’s helped and you have a little more understanding of your camera’s image quality systems, if you have any question I’m happy to answer them. Head over to the contact page and drop me a note.