If you’re relatively new to photography you may not be familiar with the idea of raw photography and editing. Unlike a JPEG, a raw photograph is the image as exactly captured by the camera with no clever digital processing added by the camera to enhance it.

raw photography and editing

Image sourced from dphototographer.co.uk

It is a way of having complete control over the look and feel of your photograph and requires a good understanding and knowledge of things like exposure and white balance.  It is more difficult and it’s not for everyone but by honing your raw photography and editing skills you will dramatically improve the look of all your photographs and so it is good practice for anyone wanting to take their images to the next level.

Unfortunately not all SLR cameras include an option to shoot raw so this is something to keep in mind when choosing your camera. On the other hand some digital cameras will let you shoot both in raw and JPEG and will store both formats within the camera’s memory. This flexibility is great for the improving photographer as it allows you to play with raw capture with the cushion of traditional JPEG processing if it all goes wrong.

To edit raw images you will need image processing software such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. If you are unsure how to use this software there are plenty of photography courses that will give you the confidence to edit your pictures and produce professional results.

When editing raw images you will want to focus on the following three basic adjustments:

  • Exposure and temperature – usually a sliding tool that is very sensitive and applies the changes instantly to the raw image. When you first set out on your raw photography journey you may find you are using this function a lot just to stop the images feeling cold but once your images become more refined you can use this to make them pop and even apply the same skills to your JPEG images to create something different and unexpected.
  • Recovering detail – if you have blown your exposure you can use the editing software to bring back the photograph’s detail including the subtly of light and shadow.  This is probably one of the first features new photographers working with raw images will want to master as it can hide a multitude of rookie mistakes.

working with raw images

Image thanks to White on Rice Couple

  • White balance – you can use the white balance function to adjust your image to make white areas true white.  This is the same as setting the white balance in your camera only you have more control over the end result as you manipulate the image rather than relying on the camera to do the thinking for you.

Stay inquisitive and explore the possibilities of raw photography. It might feel daunting at first particularly if you are used to taking good pictures and feel like this is a step back when your raw images are lacking clarity or depth.  However the key here is confidence and the ultimate reward is a better understanding of how an image works, yourself as a photographer and how to exploit editing techniques for professional images.

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