Here at How-To Geek we usually recommend you shoot RAW format images instead of JPEGs because you capture a lot more information about whatever scene you’re shooting. Let’s look at how to make the most of the RAW format.
Camera RAW is an uncompressed file format that is capable of storing a lot more image data than JPEGs or other compressed file formats. If your camera’s sensor can capture it, it will get stored in the RAW file. This means that RAW files can contain billions of colors—compared to JPEGs 16 million or so—plus the full dynamic of a scene. The biggest problem is that most cameras can capture—and RAW files can contain—a lot more information than any screen can currently display.
Now, let’s look at how to maximize the amount of data in your RAW files for better photos.
Take Manual Control of Your Camera
If you want to take good pictures—in any image format—you need to be in control of what your camera is doing. Putting it in Automatic and just banging the shutter button won’t get you very far. If you’re in control, you can get the exposure right, stop highlights being blown out or shadows crushed, and adapt to the situation in which you’re photographing.
This doesn’t mean you need to go full retro and use only manual features; instead, you should use your camera’s features and modes that let you control how the automatic features work. For example:
- Use Aperture Priority or Shutter Speed Priority shooting modes along with exposure compensation to get the exposure you want.
- Learn how to use the different autofocus modes, select autofocus points or groups, and use the right setup for the subjects you’re shooting.
- Understand how your camera meters scenes and pick the right metering mode for the results you want.
- Know when to use autofocus lock and autoexposure lock.
As you can see, the “automatic” features on modern cameras give you a large amount of control over what they’re doing. Once you understand what’s going on, you can use them properly to capture the images you picture in your mind.
Expose to the Right
Once you’re using your camera properly and taking the photos you want, it’s time to maximize the amount of data you capture in your RAW files. Due to the quirks of digital photography, data is not captured equally by the sensor. The brightest areas of an image take up the bulk of the data in a RAW file; this is why noise is so much more prevalent in the shadows of your photos than the highlights.