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Camera RAW secrets revealed from Photography for Beginners magazine experts

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Blog, by Mark White
October 1, 2013

Confused about RAW files? Learn the facts from Photography For Beginners magazine!

One of the most difficult things for beginner photographers to get to grips with is the RAW file format. However, it really isn’t that confusing once you know what it is and it can even help you have more control over your photography and photo editing. Discover the basic things you need to know about RAW with some help from Photography For Beginners magazine.

What is RAW?

RAW is a file format that you can shoot in on many cameras that have manual controls. RAW files are uncompressed, which means that your camera has recorded the image but not processed it. It is then up to you to process the image using editing software. Think of them like  film negatives that need to be processed in a digital darkroom (i.e. editing software).

How is it different from JPEG?

JPEG is the standard file format for photography and is often the default setting on most cameras. You have probably noticed that your photo files end with ‘.jpg’, this mean that they are JPEG files. JPEG files are compressed, so they have already been processed by your camera. You can then share and print your photos straight away after taking them off the camera.

How do I shoot in RAW?

Cameraphones and most compact cameras will only allow you to shoot in JPEG, but CSCs and DSLRs usually give you the option to shoot in RAW instead. This setting can usually be found in the Quality option in your camera menu. Many cameras even allow you to shoot a JPEG and RAW file simultaneously, so you can have the best of both worlds.

What are the benefits of shooting in RAW?

  • Because your RAW file has not been processed, you can have lots of control over how you edit it. You computer is much more powerful than your camera when it comes to processing images, so you you will be able to correct things like your exposure, white balance and contrast much more effectively.
  • When a JPEG photo is processed in-camera, some of the data, such as colour and resolution, is lost. RAW files give you all of the data recorded by your camera’s sensor, so you have much more to play with.

Is there a downside to shooting in RAW?

There are a couple of reasons why you may decide to avoid RAW and stick to JPEG.

  • You will need to spend a bit of time processing your RAW images, whereas JPEGS are instantly ready to print and share.
  • RAW files are usually very large, so will take up more space on your memory card and computer

How do I process a RAW file?

To process a RAW file you will need an editing programme that will support it. Different camera’s shoot different types of RAW file (Nikon’s RAW files end with the ‘.NEF’ file extension name, whilst Canon’s end with ‘.CR2’ or ‘.CRW’) so you will need to make sure the software you use will support your particular RAW files.

Most camera’s come with software included in the box that will support that camera’s particular file formats. Alternatively, you could use a standard editing programme such as Adobe’s Photoshop or Photoshop Elements which will be able to process most RAW file formats. If your software does not support your RAW files, then it may be because you have a new make of camera and need to update to a newer version of the software to be able to process them. You can also use free programmes such as Picasa to convert your RAW files into JPEGs.

Processing a RAW file in Adobe Photoshop Elements. Simply adjust the sliders on the right to tweak your photo.

For more great photography and editing tips and tricks every month, check out Photography For Beginners magazine and visit for news, reviews, handy tutorials and more.