Why You Should be Shooting Your Photos in Raw

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I’ve been going through my old archives of photos I’ve taken over the years. There are trips from all over the world. But the saddest thing I’ve come across is that for some of my early pictures, I wasn’t shooting in raw. They were in JPEG. JPEGs can be great for certain things. Sometimes you just need a quick snap of something that can be shared quickly without the need to process it.

Eiffel Tower in Paris France
One of the raw images I’ve had on a drive and reprocessed in my new software

But for everything else, you should be shooting in raw. Going through my archives has made that abundantly clear. I have grown as a photographer in the many years I have been doing this. And my style has changed. My skill in post processing has changed. I love being able to go back to old images and reprocess them. Shots that I may have skipped past or discarded originally can be remade into something great.

Deciding to shoot in raw

I have photos from when I went to Europe in 2008. I started the trip with my camera taking JPEGs. But after a few days, I realized that I wanted to have more control over what I was shooting. So I switched to raw. Raw requires more user input at the end of the day. For a JPEG, your camera applies a profile, does some auto adjustments, and then compresses the file. With raw, you have to do all that manually.

Programs like Lightroom make raw processing and batch processing easier and quicker, but it still takes more user input. But the plus side is that you get much more control over how your image looks. This one from an alley way in Germany was originally a throw away file. I found it a few months ago and processed it in Lightroom and love the way it turned out.

A cobblestone alley way in Heidelberg, Germany
A cobblestone alley in Heidelberg, Germany

“Salvaged” some images

I have also been able to go back through and salvage some unruly images that didn’t turn out the way I originally wanted them. Back when I took them, I really didn’t have a vision for how they could look. So they got shelved. It’s great to be able to go back through old images that I shot and be able to breath new life into them. Sometimes stepping away from a project for a while can help bring a new vision for them as well.

I shot this one in San Francisco in pretty poor conditions. The sky was blown out and didn’t have any detail because the sun was trying to break through. But there were some really nice light rays filtering through the trees that made me stop and snap a picture. Looking at it years later, I figured I would sit down and put some work into it. I really like the way it came out.

The original image I gave up on
Shooting in raw gave more latitude to this shot from Lands End in San Francisco
With a quick sky replacement and removal of a few eyesores, the final image came out really nice

San Francisco Sunset

I found another one from San Francisco and gave reprocessing it a shot as well. I ran it through Lightroom and then did some selective color and lighting adjustments. This was, again, an image taken outside of what my camera would be able to comfortably process well. But, because I shot it in raw, there was a lot more image data to help salvage it.

A blown out version of the sunset from San Francisco
The original image with some minor color correction before I moved on to other images
Shooting in raw saved this image from San Francisco
After some masking in photoshop, I got a relatively nice image

The fact is, you may have more than you think sitting on your hard drive. I love going through old images and giving them another shot. Different days and different moods can result in fun new images. Shooting in raw has given me the options to play with photos and get something new and fun out of them.

It also has given me the chance to gain insight into how I’ve progressed and changed in my post processing. I have new techniques that yield entirely new prospects that I never would have gotten before.


1 Comment

  1. for those of us that just enjoy your photography…we had no idea the craft of altering and adjusting light and color… thank you for sharing. I hope it inspires lots of photographers!

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