DSLR Cameras Shoot in Camera RAW – What the Heck is RAW?

Is your goal to learn how to take better pictures with your DSLR? Are you wondering why you have this RAW image quality setting on your DSLR camera?First let’s discuss what we know about JPEG. Every digital camera has the ability to record images in the JPEG format. When you look at your camera’s menu, you will notice that there are several JPEG selections, possibly including Fine, Medium Fine, Normal, etc. When your camera is using the JPEG file format, what is essentially happening is that the camera software compresses the image to make the file size smaller. Basically it throws away unnecessary bits of information (these bits of information are called pixels).

Whenever you choose one of the creative camera modes, such as “night portrait” you are telling your camera to use its software record the picture in JPEG format, changing the picture and compressing it digitally.For many of us this is just fine, because many people just want to go from camera to printer with their pictures. And since the creative modes are getting better all the time, it enables the photographer to get really good prints right from the camera.So what about RAW? RAW is a format that stores all the “RAW” data without any compression. Therefore, when you are shooting in RAW, you will notice a major difference in the number of pictures you can get on your storage media – much less photos.After you take your photos, you must transfer them to your computer and use photo editing software such as Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro to get the effects you want. You may also need to get a RAW converter if you do not have it built into your photo editing software.The beauty of RAW is that you will always be able to return to your original file, because once you make edits to a RAW file on your computer, you will save it into a different file format, such as JPEG or TIFF, thus preserving the original.

Another advantage of RAW is that you have much more image information recorded. So if you are planning to print larger images, there is a good chance that the quality of the print will be better because there is more picture data (pixels) to work with.Bottom line is this. If you are serious about getting the best quality images possible from your DSLR camera, consider shooting in Camera RAW. If you are just shooting to share pictures with friends and family on Facebook or Flickr, you can shoot at a lower resolution in JPEG and use the creative settings on your camera.