I shoot in RAW for one reason, because it is better. Shooting in RAW allows me to produce better final images with more detail and a greater range of colours but the best reason is that it gives me more control over the image especially the highlights and shadow areas than with a JPEG.
What is RAW
The default image format for most cameras is JPEG. This is a method of compressing image data from the camera sensor within the camera to produce a smaller image file size.
If I shoot in JPEG then the camera takes the RAW image, processes it according to the camera settings and then compresses the image. In other words, the camera throws away most of the image data.
RAW is the unprocessed image data from the camera’s image sensor. Most if not all cameras shoot in RAW but not all can save or store images in a RAW format.
If I shoot in RAW, no image information is lost and I am able to import the RAW image into my computer and process it to produce a higher quality image. Shooting in RAW allows me to adjust colour balance, recover any highlight or shadow information that would not normally be recoverable from a JPEG image.
Why shoot in RAW
- Best image quality. The raw data from the camera sensor is giving you essentially what the sensor has captured and there is no or minimal processing by the camera electronics.
- More control. RAW images are taken into Lightroom for non-destructive image processing or Photoshop for more detailed changes and enhancements. The photographer makes the artistic decisions regarding the image and not the camera.
- Best dynamic range. There is more detail particularly in shadows and highlights that can be recovered in a RAW image. JPEG records 256 levels of brightness and RAW records between 4,096 to 16,384 levels for each pixel and because of this and the corresponding finer gradation of tones and colours you’ll get better image quality prints from RAW files.
Cost of shooting in RAW
There are costs for shooting in RAW and post processing the images and these are:
- Time, it can take a lot more work and therefore time to produce the final images. This is the reason that I will take a week or two to process your wedding images.
- RAW files are very large, in my case using a Nikon D800/810 (36 MPix) typically around 45Mb each. This requires large amounts of redundant computer storage.
- Large memory cards for the cameras. The cameras I use have dual cards which allows me to use one card for storing images and the other as a backup. The cards I use are typically up to 128Gb in size and quite expensive.
- RAW images require complex software to edit and enhance your images to get the best possible final result. I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to do this.
- More powerful computer. I need a fast PC with lots of hard disk storage and backup storage as well to handle large numbers of large images.
All of the above add both costs and time for me to produce the best images of your wedding that I can. Low cost wedding photographers would most likely be shooting in JPEG and just burning the images to a DVD/USB with minimal adjustment. They would most likely also to be using consumer cameras without redundant storage.
When you select a photographer for your wedding, one thing you should do is ask if they shoot in RAW, how long they have been doing so and who will be processing your images. If your photographer does not shoot in RAW or understand what RAW is then you should consider looking for another photographer who does.