Raw Files

Author : Sharon Powell

We recently purchased a 10.2 megapixel digital SLR and are trying to figure out the best way to store out images.  Since my Storybook software does not support the raw files I am saving them as JPGs, but the man at the store said to save them as a type of file that is huge.  We take hundreds of photos in an outing so this is really space prohibitive.  I read that JPG keeps averaging pixels each time you open it to make a change so I am afraid that is not the best way either.  I have noticed that when I save the changes, it is fewer pixels.  I want the best quality, but within reason.  I like to use full size pictures as backgrounds sometimes and I also want to be able to crop a small section of the picture to use for a close up.  What do you suggest?

Hi Sharon,

Storing images as raw files does require significantly more space than storing JPG files. Raw files also require more image editing to produce prints and other photo products.  Finally, camera manufacturers have not standardized the raw file format, which leads to long-term preservation concerns.  

Personally, I do  not shoot raw files. For the reasons I indicated above, I find it easier and more convenient to shoot JPG files; however, when I edit my image files I store the edited version as a LZW compressed TIF file, being careful not to overwrite  the original file. This avoids the successive image compresion issue you mentioned and always allows me to go back to the original file, if needed. Like you, I am considering using raw files and I will let you know if I make the change.

If you do choose to shoot raw files, I recommend converting these files to the digital negative format (DNG) using Photoshop or another imaging program that handles conversions. Converting your raw files to DNG format will increase the chances that they will remain accessible in the future.



About Mark Mizen

I have over twenty years professional experience in all aspects of photography and digital imaging. I am Chair of the ISO WG5 TG2 committee responsible for physical properties and durability of imaging material and am currently with HID Global working on systems for security printing for IDs, licenses, and credit cards. Previously, I was Director of Digital Development at Creative Memories from 2009 to 2012 and was responsible for the Creative Memories digital products and services. I also established and directed the Creative Memories Technology Center, which evaluated new products prior to product introduction, assisted with production difficulties, and provided technical information to support product sales.
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1 Response to Raw Files

  1. Keith House says:

    I find that RAW files from my Nikon D80 allow me more control over the images particularly when they are shot under difficult lighting conditions. Many/most digital cameras capture the original image in a RAW type of format and they use predefined algorithms to “develop” the RAW image to JPEG before it comes out of the camera. Getting the RAW file in my own hands allows me more control over how it is “developed”. I am in the process of developing a RAW Photo Class to teach at our local Arts Group. The lack of an industry standard makes that effort a challenge.

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