Q&A: What actually makes shooting raw the best?

Maria asked:
“Why does everybody say RAW is the best way to shoot? What actually makes it the best?”

When you create a JPG image in your camera, the camera automatically processes the image (adding things like contrast, saturation, and sharpening) and compresses the image to make the file size smaller. Because of this, a lot of the original image data is lost and unrecoverable, which means if you wanted to do some heavy editing (like brightening the image) you would be quite limited. A raw file on the other hand is the complete opposite – an uncompressed, unprocessed, straight-out-of-the-camera image. Because of this, the file size is huge, and you have to have specific photo editing software to even be able to open the file (Lightroom or Photoshop with Camera Raw). There are no adjustments made or loss of data however, so if you need to really lighten an image, there is more data so you have more options while editing. I know of photographers who shoot only raw and other photographers who shoot only JPG. Generally speaking, if you are a professional photographer, if you want to shoot JPG you have to be very good at nailing exposure because there’s not as much room for error.

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