To RAW or Not to RAW?

October 24th, 2006

I’m not surprised that I got several comments about my admonishment to shoot RAW on my recent post on adding zap you images. I know this is and issue with several RE photographers I’ve talked to recently.

Sure there are other lots of other ways to achieve the same result without shooting RAW as Geoff and Marc comment but it’s just too easy to adjust exposure, saturation and white balance etc when you open a RAW file instead of using layers. Call me lazy but moving little sliders and watching for the result I like is pretty easy.

As far as size, sure shooting RAW files creates bigger files but once I open the file and make the adjustments I want I immediately save the adjusted files in a 800 x 600 72 DPI JPGs of medium quality. This means that all the RAW files for a listing shoot take around 500 Meg (7 to 10 meg per image for my camera) and the adjusted sharpened  ready to use JPG images for the shoot take around 1.5 meg. At the current cost of storage I don’t find this a problem. I think it’s a small price to pay to have the ability to make easy, non-destructive adjustments without selecting exposure, white balance, saturation etc at exposure time.

If after we put a home on the market we decide to do a brochure, or some use that requires a better file than the 800×600 72 DPI JPG I go back to the original RAW version.

If you want to get into more depth on the subject of shooting RAW one of my favorite articles on this subject is the one by Michael Reichmann at

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4 Responses to “To RAW or Not to RAW?”

  • For counterpoint, there is also this article RAW vs JPG.

    My perspective is that it is an individual choice. Most of what you can do with RAW, you can do with JPG. Thus it comes down to which workflow works best for you.

    As with any advice, the best approach is to actually try it out with your workflow. See if it makes a difference and then decide from there.

    For me, I’m happy shooting JPG as I have enough faith in my photoshop ability to correct anything in post processing if required. I’ve found by shooting RAW, I personally, take less care about the photo as I’m more inclined to believe I can simply adjust it. So for me, JPG forces me to pay more attention to the basics of photography.

  • I use photos in a team, so they have to be rapidly accessible on the network. 500 megs to be uploaded on a wifi network drive (this is the bottleneck, I have a fast built-in card reader), it will drive me insane 🙂 I count those times in seconds, not even minutes.

    After that, everybody should open it freely, and RAW image viewing is far away for mainstream yet. It should come with vista.

  • Although I can appreciate the advantages of shooting RAW and I always do so when shooting landscape/nature as my hobby, I shoot jpeg/medium almost exclusively and have rarely had a shot that I wished I’d had in RAW. One of the primary reasons I don’t shoot RAW is the additional time for the workflow. The potential or possible increase in the quality of RAW vs.jpeg would be lost on the majority of realtors. For the many realtors who used to shoot their own listings and now pay me to do it for them, good jpeg shots (with good lens, composition and processing) are a world of difference from what they were shooting. Now, if they want to pay me for magazine quality images…well, that’s another story. : )

    With some listings where the shoot is more demanding, I will shoot in jpeg+raw just to be on the safe side. But I have yet to need the backup. As Aperture and Lightroom mature, and my computer get upgraded, I may consider RAW in the future. But for now, jpeg rules.

    I will add that jpeg does not give you the latitude for exposure that a RAW image will. So always, always look at your histogram after every shot. And yes, first learn to understand it. If you have too many pixels to the left, you’ve got to make some adjustments and reshoot.

  • Wow! Great blog. As a novice photographer RAW is my best friend particulary when shooting interiors. Hard as I try, I can’t seem to manage bright windows very well. With a couple of RAW shots taken with a tripod, I can usually manage to put together and image which has a properly exposed room and a properly exposed window. Works for me.

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