What does RAW even mean?

What the heck does RAW even mean?

Alright you guys. If you are a photographer or interested in photography you have probably heard of the term RAW. What does that even mean? Unfortunately for me, I had to learn while second shooting for someone when I thought I knew what RAW meant, but it turns out I was way off. So I am here to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

When I first started this photography journey there was so many terms I had never heard and when I heard the term RAW I seriously thought of raw meat. Raw meat isn’t cooked or changed in any way so I thought RAW was just a way of saying you don’t make any changes to the photo in your camera, such as putting a filter on it. Go ahead laugh, it’s a little embarrassing, but the truth of the matter is, sometimes we don’t even know what we don’t know.

I found out when a photographer was looking for a second shooter for a wedding, and I volunteered in order to gain some experience with weddings. Her only stipulation was I had to shoot in RAW, which according to my definition I was. *YIKES* All you photographers are probably cringing at this point, but this is real life. At some point during the wedding this topic got brought up as we were chatting, and she kindly informed me what RAW actually was. I am very grateful with how kind she was about it even though it was clearly going to affect how she was able to edit my images. Let’s just say I was very embarrassed and certainly learned from that experience.

A RAW file comprises of all the data captured by the sensor when taking a photo, whereas a JPEG is a compressed file and loses a lot of the image data. So there is an actually setting on my camera that I had to change in order to be shooting in RAW. The benefit to shooting in RAW is that photos have a lot more data to them and can be manipulated easier in post-production. The downside is you have to have a program, such as Lightroom, that can convert them to JPEG after the post-processing is done because they are not images on their own. They also take up a lot more space than a JPEG because they are a much larger file. But if you are a professional photographer it is in your best interest to shoot in RAW. If you are just looking to shoot decent photos of your kids, you could get away with just shooting in JPEG.

Hope this helped and will help make your photos even better if you aren’t already shooting in RAW!

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