How many of you are still trying to figure out what this whole RAW file thing is about? How many of you have no idea what I’m talking about and think that you’ve been fine this whole time shooting JPEGS and that this doesn’t apply to you? Well guess what? You’re the ones that need to read this the most. In this post I will explain what the difference between RAW and JPEG files, how to use RAW files, and what to do in the meantime before you are ready to take that next step in shooting RAW files. If you really want to get serious about your photography, people, you have to learn how to shoot RAW files.
First of all, what the heck is a RAW file anyway? A RAW file is an uncompressed file that contains data used to produce a new image from that file. RAW files are not stand alone files. This means in order to even look at the file, you must use software, like Photoshop Bridge or Adobe Lightroom to process this file into a new file. You use the RAW file as if it’s a negative that needs to be printed.
Above is the Adobe Photoshop Bridge program. This is a RAW processor that comes with Adobe Photoshop.
RAW files are what I call recipe files. A RAW file contains the recipe for an image. This recipe for an image can be tweaked and modified in an unlimited amount of ways without doing any damage to that RAW file. It still amazes me to this day, to be honest with you how much you can play with and edit a RAW file.
Now, of course you can also tweak and modify a JPEG file, but here’s the major difference: a JPEG file is it’s own stand alone file. You do not need software to process it. You can literally take a shot as a JPEG file and put it on a website without doing anything to it – if the file is small enough of course (not recommended). You can’t do this with a RAW file. It simply won’t work. This file has to be processed and translated into a new file that you can either print or put on the web.
You can take a JPEG file directly into Photshop, edit it and re-save it, essentially overwriting what the file previously looked like. You can not do this with RAW files. Your original RAW file will always stay exactly as you shot it, then you take it into software to edit it. Then after editing, you create a new file from your RAW file.
Above is a RAW file in Adobe Lightroom. I have highlighted one of the most important image settings, White Balance, also called, Color Temperature. This one setting can turn your image into a very appetizing yummy shot, or completely trash your image and make your food look disgusting.
When shooting in RAW files, you can completely change your color temperature on your files to anything you want very easily without having to do any other color tweaking to fix anything. You can fine tune this setting with ease.
On the other hand, with a JPEG, if you didn’t shoot the color temperature or white balance perfectly, you will have a much harder time correcting this in Photoshop later.
The image above is showing a JPEG in Adobe Lightroom. See how our color temperature slider is no longer the extremely accurate range of numbers that correlate to white balance? Instead there is a plus sign or minus sign that goes from cooler to warmer color temperatures. It just doesn’t shift the color as nicely.
Also with a JPEG file, any major adjustments you do to that file are most likely damaging that file permanently, and if you don’t have a back up copy of that file – you just trashed your shot.
Raise your hand if you are still shooting all your images in JPEG format. Starting out, that’s the easiest thing to do. Most new food bloggers are shooting in JPEG (without a tripod, naughty, naughty), then downloading those JPEGS to their computer, maybe tweak (edit) the images a little bit, maybe not, res them down (reduce file size) for their blog, then upload those JPEGS. Sound familiar?
This way of shooting is the easiest way of course, but it certainly isn’t the best. In my previous post I talked about how to properly shoot in JPEG file format if your camera does not give you the option to shoot in RAW file format.
You can get by with shooting JPEGS for a while. But there will come a time when you will take some JPEG pictures that need some major correction or editing, and because you shot in a JPEG format you might not be able to do the correction you need to because that file will break down and just look like crap. I’m guessing this might have already happened to some of you.
The goal with this blog is to teach you how to take great food photos AND how to do that properly.
Here is what I suggest you do while you are learning about RAW files. Make sure your camera can shoot both RAW and JPEG files. If your camera only shoots JPEG files, then my friend, you will eventually need to upgrade that camera. Many Point and Shoot cameras do not offer RAW format files.
For those with cameras that have RAW file format options, set you camera to shoot BOTH file formats at the same time.
I call this a piggy-back file set up. You take one picture and you will get two identical files at the same time. You will get a RAW file and a JPEG file. You will need to be organized to do this. So, if you are still learning how to process RAW files, save all your RAW files for a later time. Then use your JPEGS as you have been doing so that your blogging schedule doesn’t get slowed up by this. Then when you have time, practice on some of your RAW files.
I’ve always shot RAW files since this whole digital thing started many years ago. As our processing software has improved over the years, I’ve gone back and re-processed many of my RAW files. The software we have to choose from for processing RAW files keeps getting better and better all the time, enabling us to improve our images more and more.
As you learn how to process and manipulate your RAW files, you will also want to go back and re-process your earlier RAW files.
My workflow for shooting a food photo is as follows:
- Shoot my image in RAW file format while tethered to the computer into my processing software.
- As I shoot, I tweak my files – I add saturation, lighten or darken the image slightly if I don’t want to change my F-stop, and I pick the perfect color temperature for the food.
- Then when I’m happy with how my image looks, I have to process the file to create my new, working file – I always process my RAWS into a TIFF file.
- I then take this TIFF file and do any major retouching, like compositing, or other manipulations in Photoshop and this becomes my master file for the image.
- After all my editing is complete, I make a copy and resize that copy for the web.
If you’ve been counting, this workflow above will end up with several files of the same image. Again, you have to be very organized and label all of your work accordingly so that you know which files are to be used for which purpose.
My original RAW file is my backup file. The master TIFF file is my master file for making JPEGS and is the file I will be sending to my clients. The JPEG files created from my master TIFF files are to be used for my website and blog.
I hope this solves the mystery for you of RAW files VS JPEG files and inspires you to get your photography to the next level.
This is not a sponsored post. I use photoshop every day and they have no clue who I am 🙂
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