Raw format can be confusing, so here’s a quick guide to help you get your head around shooting and editing raw images.
Beginner tips for raw images: 01 All images in your camera start life as raw images
When you fire the shutter, the image is recorded on your camera’s sensor, where the light is converted into an electrical signal that forms the image data.
It’s then combined with the information needed to build the image and written to your memory card.
With a JPEG, however, before the image is written to the card, the original raw data is processed. How it’s processed depends on what camera settings you’ve chosen.
The file is then converted to JPEG format and finally written to your memory card.
Your camera produces raw images, but it’s up to you whether you let it process these for you into a JPEG or stick with a raw file.
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Beginner tips for raw images: 02 You need to select raw on your camera
Most cameras will automatically shoot in JPEG mode, so you have to tell the camera to shoot in raw. How you do this depends on the camera.
On most DSLRs and Compact System Cameras, you do it via an option in the menu (it’s usually found under Picture Quality or a similar setting – your manual can tell you exactly). Some newer cameras may have a dedicated button for selecting raw.
Once this is done, you can start firing away. On some Canon SLRs, such as the EOS 60D and above, there are three raw file options called raw, mraw and sraw. These are simply different resolutions for the raw file you capture.
Raw is the full-resolution file (for example 18MP with the EOS 7D), while mraw is 10MP and sraw is 4.5MP.
These lower-resolution settings allow you to save space on your memory card if you know that you aren’t going to need to use the camera’s full resolution (to make enlargements, for example), but still want to make the most of the benefits of raw shooting.
On many Nikon cameras above the D7000 you also have a couple of settings for raw images, enabling you to set the level of compression or number of bits. Just remember, more bits, bigger file size!