RAW image files are sometimes referred to as ‘digital negatives’ because they save the data obtained from the camera sensor as information that can be converted into an image. The data is unprocessed and requires a RAW converter to transform it into an image. What you have with a RAW capture is an incredible amount of data with a much wider dynamic range and color tonality from which to construct an image with more freedom. An in-camera JPG file is that same image data compressed with a predefined contrast curve and color management applied by the camera manufacturer as a fit-all solution to how images should look.
If you imagine a RAW file as a huge range of ingredients in a kitchen, then you’ll understand that the bigger the selection of materials, the more possibilities are available for creating something delicious. To continue the analogy, if a large counter packed with every imaginable ingredient is RAW, then a JPG would be a cake mix.
All cameras capture in RAW, but when you decide to shoot JPG, most cameras will convert your RAW file to a JPG for you, only keeping the JPG. We want to share why we think shooting in RAW is the way to go for more control, flexibility, and quality.
Diving into bit-depth
It sounds technical, but bit-depth can be seen as the number of shades between the darkest value of a pixel and the brightest value. When you capture an image in JPG, the depth is 8-bit. This provides 256 shades per channel per pixel. A 12-bit RAW file captures 4.096 shades per channel, while a 16-bit RAW file captures a whopping 65.536 shades.
Long story short, you have so much more information to play around with in a RAW file, making your images super flexible with smooth tonal transitions when you edit them.
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