dSLR cameras and most bridge cameras have the option to shoot in raw, but what exactly is it and what are the benefits? Let me attempt to explain.

A camera raw file contains all the data that is captured when the shutter button is pressed whereas a JPEG is compressed and a lot of the data is lost. They are often called digital negatives as they serve the same purpose as the negatives in film photography; they are not ready to be used as the final image, but hold all the information and data needed to produce one. This all means that you are left with a higher image quality which also allows you to have more control and manipulate more parameters than a JPEG. All of the metadata is also still in tact, meaning that the original state can always be referred back to if needed.

So, surely you want to see the difference, right? Well you're in luck.

Step 1: RAW - Photoshop

Once you've made the basic adjustments, this can either then be exported or saved as a JPEG for uploading to Facebook/Flickr/deviantART/wherever. If you want to edit it further, you can open the raw file in Photoshop which is what I did with the image above.

As you can see, the image has been edited and brightened tremendously without losing quality. This is because a JPEG records only 256 levels of brightness, while a raw file records 4,096 to 16,384 levels. This is what is known as a "bit". JPEG captures in 8bit, while raw captures in 12 or 14bit. Those extra bits allow for more control over the adjustments - brightness, shadows, recovery, fill light, exposure, etc. This will give you best results as the images are easier to edit to just how you want them.
Thank you for this Instructable! VERY USEFUL. I have shot in raw before - but not too many times as I didn't understand fully what you managed to explain here. So thank you..I will try it more often. I enjoy editing in photoshop so to have a higher quality image would be ideal.
It's definitely a little scary at first, but the benefits are superb. Like I say, most cameras have the ability to shoot in both formats at once until you feel ready to jump straight in. Good luck! :)
Thanks again. For my last instructable, I did shoot in raw for some of the photos and like editing them that way too...lots more options...quality is def. better!
I agree, it just opens up so much more than shooting in jpeg :)
I like your last paragraph also - abotu how this will open up so much more with my photography...that's what I needed...thanks for the instructable. I think it would be great if you had time to put the images side by side to show the comparisons..but either way - thank you!
I'm glad you found it useful! And I'll keep that in mind when I make my next one. Thank you for reading :)
Thank you; this is a helpful tutorial for a photography/photoshop newbie like me. :)
I'm glad you found it useful :)

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Bio: I'm a 25 year old girl from the North West of England. I live with my husband and my 10 year old step son ... More »
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