The purpose of learning to shoot in manual is so that you can have full control over how your photo looks. Part of that control is editing. In order for you to have almost full control over the editing you should be shooting in RAW. If you’re still using JPEG only, you really need to read this article. I’m going to explain exactly what a RAW image is vs a JPEG. I’m also going to list out the benefits and drawbacks to both. Hopefully, this will convince you that shooting in RAW or at least RAW+JPEG is the best way to go.
First of all, what is a RAW image?
A RAW image is a compressed format of the picture. It allows you to produce better quality images because you can bring back a lot of details in the photo during post-processing. You can do this to an extent with JPEGs however, with the JPEG, your editing is limited. Bringing back details is also limited.
I like to think of a RAW image as film from back in the non-digital days. The image was just on this strip of film that you had to take into the darkroom and process. Well the RAW image is basically the same thing, it’s a dull boring looking version of your image. You upload it to Lightroom and process it in the “digital darkroom.”
When you upload your RAW file to Lightroom, it’s going to look darker and pretty dull. Now you have complete control over the image and you can bring up the exposure, boost the highlights, play with the colors, and much much more.
A JPEG, however, is an image that your camera does some processing on for you. So you’re not starting from scratch. When you upload the JPEG to Lightroom you will see basically what you saw on the back of your LCD screen. Some processing has been done to the image, and there are certain things that you won’t be able to fix. For example, if you shot something that was very overexposed in JPEG, most likely you’re not getting any of those details back no matter what you do. But if you shoot in RAW there is more of a chance to save some details.
To be fair there are a couple of drawbacks to shooting in RAW. The images are a much larger file size than JPEGs, and when you upload the RAW file to Lightroom you’re not going to see what you saw on the back of the screen. This is frustrating to photographers sometimes because they liked what they saw on the LCD and then it looks totally different in Lightroom. Luckily there are some features in Lightroom that can make the image look pretty close to what you saw on the back of the LCD.
In my opinion the benefits of using RAW most definitely outway the drawbacks. If you just can’t let go of shooting in JPEG, most cameras have the option for you to shoot in both. But this means two files of the same image. At least if you shoot in both and you like the JPEG, you’ll have it there and you can do minimal edits and be done. But this is a personal preference, so whatever you are comfortable with.
Here is a before and After for you, The first image is what the image looked like when I first uploaded it, before any edits. The second is the image after I’ve edited and uploaded it as a JPG. You see how I was able to bring back a lot of the details in the clouds and the water? This is very difficult , if not impossible to do if I was working with a JPEG.
Go switch to shooting in RAW in your camera and take a few shots and play around with the sliders in Lightroom, or whatever editing software you have. Let me know in the comments how it turned out and which you prefer.
If you missed any of the lessons, just check out the “Beginner’s Photography Course” at the top of the page.Lesson 4 Lesson 6