Amateur and professional photographers can’t live without it, and a majority of smartphone fans will have heard about it a lot in recent months: we’re talking about the RAW format. In this article, we outline the differences compared to normal JPEG images and explain where and when the RAW format is useful.
JPEG photos gather the values of the three color channels with a precision of 8 bits. This is the equivalent of 256 values, from complete darkness, to light. By modifying the values in the 3 channels, we have a total of 16.78 million possible colors. As the human eye is able to distinguish between around 20 million colors, 8 bits appears to be more than sufficient for viewing photos.
Advantages of the RAW format
We often want to edit our photos afterwards, for example, to brighten a dark area of the image. When we increase the brightness of the area in the post editing process, dials appear on the image. These demonstrate the so-called color-banding effects in color gradients as can be seen, for example, in the photos of the sky.
RAW photos store 10, 12 or 14 bits per color channel, which are 1,024, 4,096 or even 16,384 levels of color (instead of 256). By using the dials, this is the equivalent of between a billion and 4 billion different colors, and offers much more capacity for post editing. The dark or light areas of the image play an important role, as often in the case of JPEG formats, it’s not possible to obtain more details.
Another huge advantage of the RAW format is that, when image information is stored no additional effects are implemented (Image sharpening, noise reduction, white balance or contrast, among others). With JPEG images, these corrections are ‘burned’ into the image. So, when the camera has not captured the white balance while taking the photo very well it’s more difficult to edit at a later stage.
Disadvantages of the RAW format
The freedom of RAW images can also be a disadvantage: in this format it’s not possible to quickly take a photo or to send one to the printer. Instead, they must be processed by a RAW converter. This is usually called ‘revealing’ and the RAW photos are called ‘digital negatives’, an analogy for reel photographs.
Correcting the noise in an image or marks on the lens (like distortion and color aberrations) can be a tedious job. This should be taken into account. Generally, there’s the possibility of taking a photo in RAW and JPEG formats simultaneously. For those who don’t want to make any corrections or any retouches to the photo, they can simply use JPEG photos. For more complicated photography, RAW photos are available as a backup copy.
The only problem is storage space. While JPEG photos on the Huawei Mate 9 usually occupy between 2 and 6 MB, the RAW archives can take up to 24 MB. So, 1000 photos would take up, instead of 4 GB, 30 GB in RAW + JPEG formats. Another problem is the storage speed. Nota ll quick-fire photo methods are compatible with the RAW format, meaning that you can’t maintain the shot frequencies that the JPEG method allows.
In summary, you must decide for yourselves whether this would bother you or not. From my own experience, I can say that the RAW format is worth it, as long as storage space isn’t a problem and that speed is totally irrelevant. The editing and post-processing possibilities are far superior. Any photography mishap due to some kind of technical error due to light exposure can be saved thanks to the RAW format. Therefore, I would say that the additional storage space that I had to use was totally worth it.
Are you using the RAW format for your photos? Has the quality of your images improved? Let us know in the comments below.