What is the RAW photo format?

Photography is an art that has evolved dramatically with the advent of digital technology. One of the critical aspects of digital photography is the format in which images are captured and stored. Among the various formats, Raw stands out for its ability to retain the maximum amount of data from the camera's sensor including the 360° cameras, providing photographers with a wealth of possibilities in post-processing.

This article explores everything you need to know about the Raw format, including its advantages, inconveniences, and comparisons with other formats like JPEG. We will also cover how to convert Raw files to JPEG and tips on shooting in Raw.

The Advantages of Raw Format

Superior Image Quality

The primary advantage of shooting in Raw is the superior image quality it offers. Unlike JPEG, which compresses image data and discards some information to reduce file size, Raw files retain all the data captured by the camera's sensor. This includes a higher dynamic range, more detail, and greater color depth, allowing for higher-quality images.

Enhanced Post-Processing Flexibility

Raw files provide a significant advantage in post-processing. Since all the sensor data is preserved, photographers have more leeway to adjust exposure, white balance, contrast, and other settings without degrading image quality. This flexibility is particularly useful for correcting mistakes made during shooting or creatively enhancing the image.

Non-Destructive Editing

Editing Raw files is a non-destructive process. When you edit a Raw image, the original file remains unchanged, and the edits are saved in a separate file or as metadata. This means you can always revert to the original version if needed, preserving the integrity of your work.

Better Detail and Sharpness

Raw files contain more information about the image, which translates to better detail and sharpness. When processed correctly, Raw images can reveal subtle textures and fine details that might be lost in compressed formats like JPEG.

Optimal Color Correction

Raw files provide extensive color information, allowing for precise color correction in post-processing. This is crucial for professional photographers who need accurate color reproduction, such as in commercial or fashion photography.

Check our accessories here.

Bedroom 360° photo RICOH THETA Z1


The Inconveniences of Raw Format

Larger File Sizes

One of the most significant disadvantages of Raw files is their large size. Raw files can be two to six times larger than JPEG files, which can quickly fill up memory cards and storage devices. This requires more robust storage solutions and can slow down workflows due to increased transfer and processing times.

Proprietary Formats

Raw files are often proprietary, meaning each camera manufacturer has its own Raw format like Pentax, Theta or GR. This can create compatibility issues, as not all software programs support every Raw format. Photographers may need to use specific software to view and edit their Raw files, adding complexity to their workflow.

Slower Shooting Speeds

Shooting in Raw can sometimes slow down the camera's performance, particularly in burst mode. Since Raw files are larger, the camera's buffer can fill up quickly, causing delays between shots. This can be a drawback in fast-paced shooting environments, such as sports or wildlife photography.

Increased Post-Processing Time

Editing Raw files typically requires more time and effort compared to JPEGs. The increased data and flexibility mean that photographers need to spend more time in post-processing to achieve the desired results. For those who need quick turnaround times, this can be a significant inconvenience.

Software Requirements

Processing Raw files often requires specialized software, which can be an additional expense and learning curve for photographers. Popular programs like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop offer robust Raw processing capabilities, but they come with a cost.

Is RAW Better Than JPEG?

The debate over whether Raw is better than JPEG is ongoing, and the answer largely depends on the photographer's needs and preferences.

Raw Advantages

Raw files are superior in terms of image quality and post-processing flexibility. They are ideal for professional photographers or serious amateurs who prioritize image quality and are willing to invest time in post-processing.

JPEG Advantages

JPEG files are more convenient due to their smaller size and widespread compatibility. They are suitable for casual photographers or situations where quick sharing and minimal post-processing are required. JPEGs are also advantageous for high-volume shooting situations where storage space and speed are critical.

Use Cases

  • Professional and Creative Work: Raw is typically better for professional work, where the highest quality and post-processing flexibility are essential.
  • Casual Photography: JPEG is more suitable for everyday photography, where convenience and quick sharing are priorities.
  • Speed and Storage: JPEG is preferred in situations requiring rapid shooting and minimal storage use, such as sports photography.
Bathroom 360° photo RICOH THETA Z1

How Do I Convert RAW Files to JPEG?

Converting Raw files to JPEG is a common requirement, especially when you need to share or print your photos. Here's how you can do it:

Using Adobe Lightroom

  1. Import: Load your Raw files into Adobe Lightroom.
  2. Edit: Make any necessary adjustments to your photos.
  3. Export: Select the photos you want to convert, click on "Export," and choose JPEG as the file format. Adjust the quality settings as needed.

Using Adobe Photoshop

  1. Open: Open your Raw file in Adobe Photoshop. The Camera Raw interface will appear.
  2. Edit: Make your adjustments in the Camera Raw interface.
  3. Save As: Click "Open Image" to load it into Photoshop, then go to File > Save As and choose JPEG.

Using Free Software

There are free alternatives like RawTherapee or Darktable that offer similar functionality. The process generally involves importing the Raw files, making adjustments, and exporting them as JPEGs.

How to Shoot in Raw?

To shoot in Raw, you need to change the file format settings on your camera. Here's a general guide:

Camera Settings

  1. Access Menu: Turn on your camera and access the settings menu.
  2. Image Quality: Navigate to the image quality or file format section.
  3. Select Raw: Choose the Raw format option. Some cameras may offer different types of Raw (e.g., compressed, uncompressed).

Adjust Other Settings

  1. White Balance: Set your white balance to Auto or choose a preset that matches your shooting conditions.
  2. ISO: Adjust your ISO settings according to the lighting conditions.
  3. Exposure: Ensure your exposure settings are correct. Raw files have a higher dynamic range, but proper exposure is still crucial.


Once your settings are configured, you can start shooting. Remember that shooting in Raw will require more storage space, so ensure you have adequate memory cards. After shooting, transfer your Raw files to your computer and use appropriate software like Lightroom, Photoshop, or other Raw processors to edit and convert them as needed.


Raw format offers numerous advantages for photographers who seek the highest image quality and extensive post-processing flexibility. However, it comes with its own set of challenges, including larger file sizes and increased processing times. While Raw is generally superior to JPEG in terms of quality, the choice between the two formats ultimately depends on the specific needs and preferences of the photographer. Understanding how to shoot in Raw and convert Raw files to JPEG can help you make the most of this powerful format, enabling you to capture and create stunning images.