Shooting in RAW saves me time and allows for mistakes (deliberate and otherwise). There are photographer-snobs who will say you should get it right in the camera and yes, in a perfect world that would be best, but in the real world, there are compromises, unforeseen circumstances and time constraints.
Recently I was hired to shoot a two day charity event (clay pigeon shoot) at a beautiful estate called Mulgrave Hall in Whitby. At the start of both days I needed to gather together about 100 shooters for a group photo. They just wanted to get out and start their day so things had to be quick and efficient whilst ensuring a good result. I had a choice between a beautiful view of the sea as a backdrop, or a scruffy marquee. Easy choice, yes? Well, facing out to see meant shooting directly into the sun. Now I know, filters and settings would make this possible too but a) I mostly don’t use filters as I find they downgrade the picture quality and b) I have SO much confidence in RAW.
I hopped on a table for some height, had my Sigma 12-24 on ready, got a couple of quick snaps and they were on their way. As I climbed down from the table, a photographer who was shooting for a hunting magazine stopped me and asked how I was able to get that photo… she said she’d have had to line them up against the marquee (which, aside from being a poor backdrop would mean they’re all squinting from the sun – not a good look!) and wouldn’t they all be just dark shadows? I asked her if she shot in RAW and she told me she only shot in JPEG as she often had to send photos straight off. I asked her if she knew she could shoot in RAW + JPEG and she said she didn’t and would I mind emailing her about it. As it’s something I often come across, I thought I’d do a very quick blog on the basic benefits to shooting RAW.
If you want more info, this article, 10 reasons to shoot RAW is a good/quick read.
So basically, RAW maintains all the data from the sensor rather than your camera processing and compressing its interpretation of the picture. This gives you amazing scope for recovery of highlights, shadows and many other things. So, here was my SOOC (straight out of camera) group shot from the day:
You can see by looking at it and from the histogram in the top right corner, that the shadows are far too dark. So, the first thing I always do is go to the little camera lens icon and click enable lens profile correction (you may have to customise this if it doesn’t recognise your camera/lens but most are fine) which slightly compensates for the bend (handy in wide-angle lens shots) and reduces vignette in the corners.
Once I do that, I go to the camera iris icon (far left) and by dragging the shadows all the way up (lightening) and bringing the highlights down (to bring some of the blue back to the sky and definition back to the clouds, it makes a world of difference.
You can also see from the histogram now that things look much more balanced. So here’s our difference side by side (forgive the low quality screenshot):
So there we go, a quick insight into the difference shooting in RAW can make. I’m not saying it’s a replacement for knowing your camera settings but it’s a big time saver for me and generally just gives me scope to do a lot more with my images. Hope you’ve found this useful.