We take you through the benefits of the different settings that you might need to know about when you’re shooting raw format images out in the field
Most cameras on the market can shoot in RAW, and even the smallest compact has to shoot RAW before it can process JPEGs. In fact, you can liken RAW to an exposed but undeveloped film that needs to be processed using software. A JPEG, on the other hand, is an exposed and developed film all ready for viewing. If you haven’t shot in RAW mode before, then now is the time to start – you won’t regret it.
Most cameras on the market can shoot in RAW, and even the smallest compact has to shoot RAW before it can process JPEGs.
In fact, you can liken RAW to an exposed but undeveloped film that needs to be processed using software. A JPEG, on the other hand, is an exposed and developed film all ready for viewing.
Shooting in RAW mode is much more versatile, as greater adjustments can be made after the shot, especially pulling back any clipped highlights which can then be used to make a composite image for a better exposure. An image where the sky is burned out can be underexposed in RAW software, then saved as a separate file. The several files can be blended for a better overall exposure.
Shooting RAW also produces higher quality images which are captured as 2 or 4-bit files which enable 6-bit editing (65,563 levels of brightness), compared with 8-bit JPEGs (256 levels). This means there‘ll be smoother transitions between light and dark areas when editing, fewer visible artefacts (grainy noise) and more detail contained in the shadow and the highlights.
If you haven‘t shot in RAW mode before, then now is the time to start – you won‘t regret it.
The best settings when shooting in RAW
Shooting JPEG means getting the white balance spot on, because the RAW data is processed according to the selected WB setting. RAW enables you to change the white balance later in the digital darkroom. However, it‘s also important to set it to the shooting conditions so the LCD preview looks natural for checking composition.
By either using your camera’s menu system or a separate button on your camera body, you can select the correct white balance for the shooting conditions.
Taking pictures in RAW isn‘t a cop-out for a good exposure. Activate and use your camera‘s histogram to check you‘ve captured the widest dynamic range possible. Get it right in-camera to get the full benefit
The histogram of a wide dynamic range will contain information all across the tonal range, from left to right, without being chopped off at either end.
A narrow dynamic range will lack data at one or both ends of the histogram. In this case the graph is clipped in the shadow area (left) and lacks highlights (right).
The controls to display a histogram on a camera will vary depending on the model you are using. Usually, pressing the Info button or scrolling left/right or up/down on the navigation thumb pad during playback should bring up the histogram.
Choosing to shoot RAW offers some special advantages if you want to create black and white shots. The RAW software conversions for mono have many more creative options than 8-bit JPEGs.
To make the most of RAW mono in the field choose the option for shooting in black and white. This will give you mono LCD previews but will store colour RAW files that you can work on later.
Mono mode is usually found in your camera‘s menu, although the location will vary depending on the camera model. On the Canon 30D we‘re using here, it‘s contained within the Picture Style sub-menu. Scrolling to Monochrome enables lack and white previews, yet captures the RAW file in full colour.