When you purchase your new DSLR and have a little play around you’ll notice that you can take photos in two different formats.  Jpeg and Raw.  The Jpeg option usually has about three different options: Jpeg basic, Jpeg norm and Jpeg fine.  The one you choose will depend on what you want the photo for.  Basic means just what you would think it means, the picture will be small at 100% and of a lesser quality.  Norm, or normal, is a medium size with a better quality that is usually good for most snapshots.  Fine is for those shots you might want to print off in a larger size.

You will also find that the number of photos you can take will diminish as the picture gets larger.  You might be able to take 4000+ photos on the basic setting, 2000 on the norm setting and 1000 on the fine setting.  ”So” you ask “Why wouldn’t I just take all my photos using the Basic setting?”  Well, as I said earlier, the photos will come out small and with not the best detail.

So as the file size (or photo) gets larger and more detailed, it needs to use up more memory space on your memory card.

Now there is also one other setting you could choose to shoot in, and that’s the Raw setting.  You will find that Raw images take up even more space on your memory card than the largest Jpeg. So maybe this time your memory is down to 700 photos.  So why on earth would anyone use this setting?

The reason a Raw file uses up so much memory is because it contains so much more information about the scene that was just shot.  For instance, when you take a photo in Jpeg format, the camera records 256 levels of brightness.  In Raw format, the camera records 10 000 levels of brightness.  That fact alone should convert most users who want to take professional looking photos.  With that many extra brightness levels, details can be preserved so much better.  No longer are items lost in the shadows or the glare of the sky.

Another great reason to choose Raw is that you can change the white balance later on if you feel you need to.  The white balance can be described as a ‘reading of the light’.  The camera reads the temperature of the light and tints the photo accordingly so that the whites appear white and not some yellow or bluish color.  You can choose your own white balance in the cameras settings or you can leave it on auto.  But even auto can sometimes get it wrong.  Later, in a Raw converter on your computer, you can change this setting so that your whites really do appear white.

There are many other advantages to shooting in Raw which I’ll let you find out for yourself, But I just mentioned Raw converters so I should tell you a little about that.

A Raw file cannot be opened by Photoshop or Photoshop Elements in the normal way so the Raw file needs to be converted.  Photoshop and Photoshop Elements come with their own Raw converter so all you have to do is open your Raw file and Adobe Camera Raw will automatically open and present the image to you with a host of commands allowing you to alter white balance, exposure, saturation and so on.

For those that don’t use Photoshop, your DSLR should also have come with some software.  This software includes the companies own Raw conversion software.  Where this converter is probably best suited to the camera (it’s made by the same company), it doesn’t always have as many options for photo processing.

There are also third party Raw converters on the market, as well as Raw converters integrated into some browsers such as Lightroom or Aperture.  All Raw converters have their own pros and cons and the one you choose to use totally depends on your own needs.

For any professional photographer, Raw is the standard way to take photos.  The detail that is preserved far outweighs the plethora of images you can take in Jpeg format.  So for those wishing to take their photography to the next level, start shooting in Raw.

The images below were all shot and processed in the Raw format.

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