What the Heck Do You Mean, You Shoot in RAW?

Invariably, when I’m doing a photography session, somebody wants to see their photos “in camera.” I hesitate to show them at that time, but always with the warning, “I shoot in RAW, so these won’t be processed yet.” Needless to say, nine times out of ten, they first of all, don’t get it; and second of all, still want to see their photos “in camera.”

So, I’m going to try to explain just what the heck I mean by “I shoot in RAW”…….

I have two cameras – a Canon 7D crop sensor and a Canon 6D full frame. Both are capable of shooting in Camera Raw format or JPEG format (or a combination of the two). Camera RAW is what I shoot in…and here’s why. If a camera is set to JPEG, when a photographer captures a photo, the camera does the processing (and compressing). What you get is a photo that you can’t “tweak” much because the camera already did it for you. This is great for snapshots, but not so great for professional photos. If a camera is set to RAW, when a photographer captures a photo, the photographer does the processing. As a photographer, I want total control on every aspect of my work – including areas of the photo that I want to highlight, add shadows, adjust contrast, exposure, tone, levels…you get the idea.

In essence, the camera captures a whole lot of data when the shutter is fired. It holds all that data on a memory card that I can transfer to Lightroom and Photoshop and do all the adjusting and tweaking myself. (P.S. this is why it’s important to look at a photographer’s work to decide if they are a good fit for you. Find somebody who’s artistic eye is something that appeals to you).

Here is a shot that I took from the big bridge in Devils Elbow, MO this past weekend. This is the RAW file:


Kind of blah! This is pretty much just raw data my camera captured. Think of it as a negative from the film days.
It hasn’t been processed yet!

Here is the same file loaded into Photoshop, but not yet processed:

Screenshot 2014-11-06 15.01.43

See my adjustments are all dead center and “as shot”. It’s up to me to figure out what slider to move where. There are several ways to make adjustments on a file, but this is the basic “camera raw” adjustments.

And, this is the same photo after I processed it:


I only did some minor processing to this photo. I wanted the “end of Fall colors” and the blue of the sky and water.

Quite a difference from the RAW file, huh?

Now you know why I am hesitant to show you photos “in camera”.


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