Photography Cheat Sheet: Why Shoot Photos in RAW

If you’re new to shooting with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, one piece advice you’ll often hear is to shoot in RAW. Today’s photography cheat sheet quickly explains why.

We hear pro photographers say all the time that it’s best to shoot in RAW because it gives more room for editing in post later. We can easily apply the edits we want because, unlike JPEG, this format comes with all the information recorded by the camera sensor. This is just a simplified explanation, so we thought of sharing an informative infographic for today’s photography cheat sheet feature.

The photography cheat sheet below is part of a tutorial on The Customize Windows explaining the RAW Format and how it allows us to push our digital creativity. If you’ve seen the RAW format option on your camera’s menu, the infographic hopefully will answer any questions you may have about it.

In a nutshell, shooting in RAW format means exactly what the term suggests: it’s the uncompressed image file that contains all the information captured by the camera sensor. As such, it comes in big file sizes and requires viewing using an image editing software. The cheat sheet also summarizes what happens when we shoot in RAW, and all the actions that occur the moment we press the shutter button. In contrast, it also explains what happens when we decide to shoot in other formats like JPEG and TIFF. While RAW files keep the captured image as is, all information intact, the camera applies other changes and settings to the other two formats in an attempt to make the best final image possible. JPEG files are also compressed, which means much of the information is lost in order to keep the file size small.

So, when do you shoot in RAW, and when is JPEG the better option? The tutorial tells us that while pros often suggest the former, there will be cases where you might prefer to shoot in the latter. Cameras are getting better and better at producing good photos in JPEG format, so it may not be a big issue in the long run. In cases where you need to churn out good or usable photos very quickly (as with sports and other event coverage situations), JPEG may be preferable. But, if you’re after producing final images in the best quality possible (as with fine art photography), RAW is your best choice.

Looking for more photography tips and tricks? We have loads more for you to check out on our photography cheat sheet collection!