why hobbyist & amateur photographers should shoot RAW

I’ve owned a DSLR for ten months and have shot in manual (all settings controlled by user, no automatic settings used) for at least eight months. I am nowhere near where I want to be in terms of my photographic skill but am proud of my progress (of course I’m proud have you seen these? Ouch.) I previously posted my six month progress and am looking forward to a one year recap in May.

When I think back to the early and overwhelming days of the DSLR learning curve my decision to shoot exclusively in RAW is fresh in my memory. I can’t remember what pushed me to make the switch (this was in my pre Clickin’ Moms * days) but the decision was a game changer for me. Shooting in RAW provides the post processing flexibility that all photographers (even amateurs) need.

Here’s why:

The benefit of shooting in RAW is that you get complete control over what your image looks like. When you shoot JPEGS your camera automatically processes and compresses your image file. You can and should read about the technicalities here but I am going to keep it simple. No need to reinvent the wheel. I’m just a mom with a camera (wink) who enjoys taking thousands of pictures of her kids. No judging here : )

On our way home from Massachusetts during Thanksgiving break we stopped at a park in Albany, NY to play and stretch our legs. The weather was unseasonably warm and Cameron was just learning how to walk. The sun was setting and I took the shot below. I was so looking forward to checking out this shot.


What a mess. I totally underexposed it. If I hadn’t been shooting in RAW this one would’ve gone straight to the trash can. Is it a huge deal? Not really. I don’t have clients to answer to but I do love pictures of my family and it isn’t everyday I catch my husband and daughter snuggling during sunset outdoors. I wanted to fix the shot and because I shot it in RAW I was able to. Somewhat.


This picture is noisy, grainy (in a bad way), and sadly out of focus BUT it illustrates my point about shooting in RAW (and another point I will get to in a minute). You can recover and repair many mistakes but it isn’t perfect. It is always best to get things right in camera (the image above was a disaster from the beginning so it wasn’t possible to fix it entirely) but accidents happen and shooting in RAW gives you some peace of mind. There aren’t any real downsides to shooting in RAW but be aware that the files take up more space than JPEGS and will decrease speed slightly when shooting continuously if you don’t have an appropriate memory card but both issues are easily remedied.

I edit my pictures, convert them from RAW to JPEG using Photoshop, save a handful of really memorable shots I want to keep in RAW format or edit later, and delete the rest. I then backup my JPEGs and keep it moving. Easy breezy. Oh, and upgrade your memory card if you need to. I use a SanDisk SDSDXP1-008G-A75 8GB Extreme Pro SDHC Memory Card* and love it

My last point relates to technically imperfect pictures. The one above might be a hot mess to the outside world but to me it is perfect. It will always remind me of that beautiful winter afternoon my husband and I spent playing with our babies under the setting sun.

Don’t send all your shots to the trash can because you think they aren’t good enough. If they make you smile: they’re good enough. I even printed this one at a non professional quality lab and it looks decent. It is safely stowed away in my kids’ memory box. I look forward to sharing these snapshots with the kids when they are older. Give RAW a try. You’ll love it.

shoot raw

Shooting RAW is great, proper exposure is even better but it is nice to shoot with piece of mind.

Have you made the switch to shooting RAW yet?

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  1. Sol

    Now that I have a big ole memory card I shoot most of the kids’ pics in RAW. What a difference! By the way I LOVE how the new blog looks!

  2. I am reminded how badly I want a DSLR, I will be filling these tips until I get on.

  3. What great information. Purchased a DSLR about a month ago and still shooting in the auto settings. You make is sound so easy…going to give RAW a try today!

  4. It tOok me a while to be convinced to shot in Raw. But now that I do, I won’t go back. I love being able to ” adjust” or save an image that’s underexposed. And even the ones that are not perfectly in focus are perfect to me and worth saving.
    Rosesdaughter recently posted… Sweet Shot TuesdayMy Profile

  5. Once I switched to RAW, there is no way I can go back. Now when I try to work on pictures I took before that time it’s so frustrating if my settings were not just perfect. I’m so glad I figured out how to shoot RAW and I love my photography even more now.
    Brittney recently posted… Bam! And then it was SpringMy Profile

  6. I could not agree more! Shooting RAW is the only way to go for any serious photographer, whether they are an amateur or a professional.

    The ability to edit the image non-destructively through something like Adobe Lightroom is always a good choice too, but RAW just gives so much more in terms of flexibility and finished quality.

    The only time I would shoot JPG is if I have to shoot hundreds of images quickly, where the camera’s processing time would be a limiting factor.

    Good post, thanks for sharing!
    Nigel Merrick (Photography Coach) recently posted… How To Land More Photography Clients In Front Of Your CameraMy Profile

  7. I really like the third pic. But, there is something about the second one that I love. Pictures like these result in curiousty. I love it.

  8. There was a time right after I got my DSLR that I did switch to raw.
    The average processing time increased so abruptly that I quickly gave it up.
    Although I absolutely love how much control you have over raw images, there is something just absolutely fantastic about being able to whip up your photos in a minute without having to worry too much about photo processing.

    I do need to start shooting manually though.
    Living Waters recently posted… Horse PaintingMy Profile

    • Did you try a different memory card? Sometimes that helps. But ya try Manual first. There is always so much to learn but it’s so worth it. I always remind myself that those baby steps will lead to leaps in improvement. Hang in there. Thanks so much for stopping by : )
      Veronica recently posted… omg I vlogged & my TeetheMe ReviewMy Profile

  9. I began shooting in RAW and now find that I have no way of converting to JPeg since I do not have photoshop. I can’t even transfer the pictures to a cd or flashdrive.

  10. I just recently shot my first entire shoot in RAW – loved they way they turned out. But when I go to save them in Cs5 it takes the mp from 18 all the way down to 7 in jpeg. Since I am so new to this, I am not sure if this is normal. My setting are at max 12 – am I doing something wrong? Any help would be much appriciated.

  11. I started shooting in RAW mode within days of receiving my DSLR. My camera gave me the option to shoot in both RAW and JPEG, so until I got fully comfortable with RAW, I shot with both options. I don’t enough money to get photoshop yet, I’m using Google Picasa right now, and it’s really powerful for a free program. I also use GIMP, though not as much because Picasa does what I need for now.

    Now that I’m comfortable with RAW, there is no way I can go back to JPEG.