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.
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.
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?