RAW photography explained
To put it simply, if you’d like to edit your images to their fullest potential, then RAW photography is your best bet.
Fortunately, RAW photography has been available on various phones for many years now. Advanced camera editing apps are helping to bring in more sophisticated photographers to the format.
Professional photography and high-end DSLR cameras used to be synonymous with the RAW format, but that is no longer the case. Even many affordable smartphones now can take RAW photos, and the results can potentially be stunning.
What is RAW photography?
It refers to saving the raw data that is generated when you push the shutter button. Directly from the camera sensor onto your storage medium you are saving unprocessed and uncompressed data.
For a camera, especially a smartphone camera, RAW may not be the default output format. To reduce space, images are usually compressed and saved in JPEG format. Lossy compression is used to reduce the file size by removing “unnecessary” material.
For one thing, JPEGs are a lot easier to transport because they are extensively utilised on the internet and in various messaging apps. RAW, on the other hand, is a more specialised format that takes up a lot of space and is more difficult to use.
It’s possible that JPEG compression introduces an error signal when compared to the original, thus JPEG isn’t a perfect representation of what your camera saw. Before reducing a photo to JPEG, cameras have to set the picture’s white balance, exposure and sharpness as well. As a result, you won’t be able to make any later changes to the image.
RAW, on the other hand, does not compress the data in any way. For the most part, the format doesn’t do much to improve the quality of the images it stores. The RAW format isn’t even universally understood by different camera manufacturers, therefore it’s not actually an image file.
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For example, you may not be able to open a Canon RAW image on a smartphone or editing software from a rival manufacturer like Nikon, for example. It is not possible to see RAW photographs without the use of special apps or the conversion of your data into the universally recognised DNG format.
RAW and JPEG have different bit depths. Each pixel in a JPEG has 8-bits of red, green, and blue colour data. Compared to RAW’s up to 4.3 trillion different shades of colour, this is still only 16 million colours. Depending on the camera, RAW files can carry up to 14-bits of colour information per RGB pixel.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of photo editing and get the best possible editing results, the RAW format is the best option.
For starters, when you convert to JPEG, your camera has already determined exposure, white balance, saturation, sharpness, and more. Editing JPEG images for anything more than white balance and colours is impossible without clipping.
RAW editing gives photographers unlimited control over the final look of their images. It’s also non-destructive to edit this type of file. To put it another way, it’s quite possible to alter a RAW file and export it to any image format you like, without sacrificing quality. The quality of a JPEG image degrades when it is re-edited.
Additionally, editing in RAW is enticing because of the bit-depth advantage over-compressed images. If you want to modify the exposure of your photo without affecting the shadows or highlights, a higher bit-depth is essential.
As a result, RAW allows for more powerful editing because you’re working with a considerably larger and more precise data collection.
Apps that support RAW photography
To begin, you’ll need a camera capable of capturing RAW images. Most smartphone camera apps, as well as a DSLR or equivalent camera, will take care of the rest.
To determine if you can change the output format of your phone’s default camera app, open the app and check settings. The RAW+JPEG option is also available on many smartphones, allowing you to capture two files for each shutter push, which is perfect for sharing and later editing.
In order to edit your photos once you’ve captured them in RAW format, you’ll need photo editing software that can read the data. Adobe Lightroom is one of the most widely used solutions.
Another well-liked photo editor is Google’s Snapseed, which allows users to edit JPEG and RAW photos on their mobile devices regardless of platform.