How Shooting RAW Can Make You Look Like a Better Photographer

I generally take a mild offense when people look at my photos and say things like “wow, you must have a nice camera.” Sure, my Nikon D70 isn’t a bad camera, but it’s no D2x either. I also don’t have the greatest assortment of lenses either: I have the 18-70mm kit lens, along with the the 50mm f/1.8. That 50mm lens cost me $109 and is one of my favorite lenses. My point is that this NOT top notch equipment.

And while yes, I could go on ago trip and talk about how I studied photography and blah, blah, blah, it’s not valid for the point I’m trying to make. I do shoot my images in RAW mode and post-process them in Adobe Photoshop. But, this too does not make for an awesome photograph. Yes, you can pull out way more detail with RAW, tweak the colors more, etc., but it does not make up for a bad composition. So why am I saying that shooting RAW makes you look like a better Photographer? Because RAW forces you to edit your images. For me, about 10% of what I shoot could be considered “good.” The rest are either out of focus, not a good pose, or just simply not worth showing. Because I’m shooting RAW, I need to think about what I am going process and show.

No imaging service that I am aware of currently takes vendor-specific RAW images (or DNGs for that matter). In order to get your images printed, you have to process the images yourself. So out of the 200+ RAW images on your card, you are far more inclined to select only the best images out of the bunch to process. This generally a good thing since no one really wants to see all 200+ shots (30% which were out of focus anyway). Basically, the RAW work flow usually has people edit their images to best few. Some images look good on the surface, but when you start to process them, you can notice the flaws right away. When all is said and done, you a have a smaller collection of good images. The smaller good collection always stands out against the 600 images of your friends kid picking his nose.

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    • http://// Helen

      When people tell me “Wow, you must have a great camera” or “Your camera takes really great pictures,” I say “Thanks, I’ll tell the camera.”

      You’re right that the average person has no concept of editing. If they did, they probably also wouldn’t leave the house dressing like that!

    • Max

      Well, keep in mind the voluminous rolls (and endless contact sheets) that many professional photographers produced in the heyday of 35mm film — say from the 1950s through the 1990s. Lots of crap in there too.

      On a related note, I wonder how they teach photography in schools now that everything is digital. Do people even make their own chemical prints in labs anymore? Man, I miss that stuff.

    • Antoni Scott

      RAW is the only way to go. I shoot weddings and exposure with digital is always a problem. I’ve been shooting RAW for over a year now and have never shot a JPEG since. The exposure latitiude in RAW almost rivals film (almost), but my exposures are close enough that RAW always saves me. It was a nighmare back in my JPEG days.


    • Massachusetts Wedding Photographer

      Good points! I like taking the time to edit my photos, but not too many people want to take the time to do it because it does take up a lot of time, but if you want to create the most perfect photos to present to your customer and hope for repeat and referral business, then you better put the time into it!

      MA Wedding Photographer

    • Ed Lopez

      In regards to how photography is taught in schools, I recently returned to college to complete my degree in fine arts. This if 40+ years after I began my journey into photography. I was mildly surprised and delighted that old fashioned black/white developing and printing is still taught. There are plenty of digital classes but students who appear to be serious about learing photography the right way start at the basics. Personally, it would be a stretch to think that film would really ever disappear.