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If you don’t Shoot in RAW are you missing out?

Mandy Photography Tips 10 Comments

Now we’ve been looking a little deeper at the 12 tips for DSLR beginners, and at what modes are best to shoot in for creative photography, and what they can do.

So next I want to look at something I feel is very important; what type of file format is best to shoot in?

Are you missing out if you don’t shoot in RAW?

I think you are…

I shoot in RAW.

But I haven’t always shot in RAW, I wish I had, now I shoot exclusively in RAW.

And this is one of the first tips I give to DSLR beginners, I think it’s that important. I wish someone had said this to me when I was starting out with a DSLR…. and that’s why I’m making it my heads up tip for you! You too should be shooting in RAW!

First though what’s RAW?

RAW is a type of camera file format – like a jpeg.

The simplest way (and you know I like simply) to describe an image shot in RAW is a digital negative.

A RAW file holds all of the data that the image sensor saw when taking the image without any compression by the camera, and that’s a lot of light information!

Because it’s uncompressed and therefore unprocessed (that’s why it’s called RAW!) it means that the file size is a lot larger than a jpeg because of all the extra information that it holds.

So this basically means that the camera hasn’t touched it so it means you have to, you’ll have to post process the RAW file before it can be viewed or printed.

I don’t feel this is a biggy because if you want to be creative with your photography then post processing your images goes hand in hand with it, and is part of it.

Also you’ve probably already got some RAW processing software with your camera. I use the Canon ZoomBrowser software that I got with my camera (as the 1st step) to process my RAW images. Or you could use Lightroom, Aperture, etc to do it…..


Jpegs are compressed files produced by the camera and therefore they do lose some quality. They are the most common camera file format that we come across.

With jpegs you get what you shoot and there is no way of changing any errors.

Every time you open and adjust them then there is a loss of quality.

Although, they are instant and can be viewed and printed straight away.

Pros to shooting in RAW

  • You can collect the most light information that is possible from the image
  • They are very flexible and you can alter any errors that you may have made with exposure
  • With so much light information you have a lot of post processing possibilities
  • You can go back to the original RAW file in the future and try a different style

Cons to shooting in RAW

  • They have to be processed before you can use them
  • You need processing software to process them
  • They have large file sizes so memory cards fill up faster

How to shoot in RAW

Lastly…. It’s all well and good saying shoot in RAW, but how do you do it?

camera menu

camera menu

Well it’s just a flick of a button in your cameras menu.

This might be slightly different depending on which camera you use but in essence it should be similar on any camera.

Firstly, go into the menu on your camera through the menu button.

Then select the quality menu (on my Canon it’s the first menu and the first option in that menu).

When it’s open you’ll see a list of choices for the quality of the images the camera will take.

quality menu

quality menu

On mine I have these options: S, M, L, RAW+L, RAW.

Then you scroll to select RAW (or my camera will shoot RAW and jpeg at the same time – RAW+L).

Once I’ve selected RAW the camera gives me some information about that mode, here it is:

RAW      12mp      4272 x 2848      [160]

This tells me that I’m shooting in RAW mode at 12 megapixels which is 4272 pixels by 2848 pixels and with the memory card that I have in the camera I can shoot 160 images in this mode.

It’ll also show on the main screen of the camera that I’m shooting in RAW.

All done!


There are pros and cons to shooting in RAW, personally I wouldn’t shoot without it now.

But if you really don’t want to do any post processing then it may not be the choice for you.

Although at the very least if I were you I’d shoot in RAW+jpeg, then you get the best of both worlds. You’ve got jpegs if that’s what you want now, and you’ve got the RAW files if you change your mind in the future….


Comments 10

  1. RAW is wonderful, when your exposures are bang-on it allows for amplified editing should you choose. However if you make a slight boo-boo, RAW’s magnified light information makes it far easier to recover in post. Shoot RAW, storage is cheap nowadays.

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  3. It doesn’t look like my camera has a RAW setting, it stops at L. Is it possible I’m missing it, or do some camera’s just not have it?

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  4. As I am not a full time photographer, I have been debating over shooting RAW or jpg. The only excuse I had for not using RAW was because I didn’t want to buy a larger memory card or another one.

    I do enlarge my photos and sell prints of my photography though.
    Well I guess it looks like I will be heading to the store to pick up a larger card!
    Thanks for your post.

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    Mike – if you’re getting a larger memory card then you could shoot RAW+L (RAW and jpeg) and get the best of both worlds….. and probably some more memory cards!!!

  6. Hi Mandy

    Wow, am I so glad I found this forum. Many, many thanks. I am new to DSLR having shot heaps in film in Namibia as I worked for Nature Conservation.

    I look forward to reading heaps over here as I wish to sell my prints in future. I have used only Auto but want to go Manual and Raw. I have joined a photography club which has another 2 members. I live on an island.

    Once again thanks


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      Hi Steve, you need to freeze the action by using a fast shutter speed eg 1/1000. To select this put the camera into TV mode. It can also be useful to track the runner with the camera to help with focus while you’re shooting? Just in case you’re not sure what ‘track the runner’ means – say you’re stood on a corner of a race, pick a runner that’s coming towards you, look through the camera to frame, and as they run past you follow them (half press to focus) with the camera and shoot as you go. This also works well in continuous burst mode…

  7. I am pretty new to photography. My husband and I just bought our first DSLR camera earlier this year. We would love to make a small side business of this hobby once we finish college. I have read a lot of good things about shooting in RAW, but I have questions maybe you can answer. I have a Windows PC and I currently use Paintshop Pro for editing. My husband has a Mac, but to be honest I prefer my PC. 1. Can you shoot raw and still edit in Paintshop? 2. Is it the worse thing ever not to use RAW, especially with newborn and portrait photography? 3. Is it harder to edit? What is the big deal and why isn’t everybody shooting in RAW?

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