RAW FILES;

WHAT ARE THEY, HOW THEY DIFFER FROM JPEG AND WHY YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER WON'T RELEASE THEM TO YOU


If you have looked at a photographer's contract you might have seen reference to RAW files or if you have friends in the industry you may have heard them say that the switch to shooting in RAW is a game changer. So what is RAW, what's the big deal and why is it professional photographers refuse to release RAW files?

What are raws?

RAWs are totally unprocessed, uncompressed files which come straight out of digital cameras. Essentially they are the equivalent of old school negatives. To capture images in RAW you need to select this in your camera menu.


WHAT is so good about them?

Serious hobbyists and professionals love RAWs because they contain ALL the data captured by the camera's sensor. By providing everything RAW format allows the photographer maximum creative control when developing and processing the images in the post-production (or editing) phase allowing the delivery of the highest quality product.


WHY DOESN'T EVERYONE SHOOT IN RAW?

You might be thinking if RAW is so great why wouldn't everyone select to shoot in that format? Some of the considerations are;

  • RAW files are BIG, like HUGE, so you need memory cards and computers with greater levels of storage and running capacity.
  • RAW files need to be processed using specialist software and accessing this is normally an ongoing, monthly expense.
  • Processing RAW files is a totally additional skill set to be learnt, practiced and developed.
  • Processing RAWs can be incredibly time consuming.


HOW DOES RAW DIFFER FROM JPEG?

Unlike RAW files JPEGs are compressed by the digital camera. When shooting in JPEG the camera applies editing techniques like colour saturation, sharpening, contrast and other tweaks to generate an automatically processed image that already looks pleasing to the eye. Essentially they come out of the camera looking more like a photo and less like a negative.


WHY PHOTOGRAPHERS DON'T RELEASE RAW FILES TO CLIENT

There are lots of reasons professional photographers do not provide RAW files to clients including;

  • They are not the final product.
  • They don't reflect the full talent, final vision and technical ability of the photographer.
  • They can undermine the photographer's reputation and brand as they just look wrong.

RAW file

Final edit

SAMPLE

Ultimately, a discussion on RAWs is best demonstrated visually. The images above give a comparison of how a RAW file appears (flat, often dark and like a negative) compared to a fully edited image. In an upcoming blog post I will provide further examples of the transformation of RAW files into finished images ready for delivery to clients.

Kate Cashin is a family photographer based in the Dandenong Ranges outside of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

She specialises in nature sessions and forest adventures with the motto "Play. Move. Explore.".