The Benefits of RAW Format Photography

Whitby Pier at sunrise, Sony RX100, ISO80, f/5.0, 1/30".
Whitby Pier at sunrise, Sony RX100, ISO80, f/5.0, 1/30″.

I know that most if not every photographer reading this post will be aware of the benefits of shooting in RAW format. Despite this, I still wanted to emphasise one point by sharing this image. The image is from April 2013 which is a long time in “digital years”. I used a first-generation Sony RX100; the latest generation is MKVII, so it shows how things have moved on (I think).

At the time I was shooting RAW format, but the image disappointed me. The colours didn’t look good, the detail in the foreground wasn’t well defined and the sky was noisy. For those of you who love the technical details, I shot it handheld at ISO80 using an f/5.0 aperture and shutter speed of 1/30”. I can’t remember for sure, but I don’t think I used any filters.

Now some 7 years later I can process the image well using DxO PhotoLab 3. I should point out that I’m a fan of using DxO PhotoLab for Sony RAW files. I’ve found the results much better than I could achieve with Lightroom. The latest version of the software (PhotoLab 3) has made a superb job of processing the image. It’s crisp into the corners, the detail’s well defined and the colours are true to what I remember at the time.

If I didn’t have the RAW file, I wouldn’t have been able to progress the image to this level. Having a RAW file allows me to take advantage of the latest developments in image processing. Better software really is like upgrading your camera. Now I have an image that I like, and which will produce a 22” print at 240dpi. It also has enough quality to print at 30” without any problem. Now I don’t think that’s too bad for a pocket camera.

The only disappointment that I’m left with is that I sold the camera after a couple of years because I thought that it wasn’t very good. What I didn’t realise at the time is the processing software was at fault, not the camera.

Latest Colour Adjustment Video

If you haven’t already seen it, my latest video looks at adjusting image colours in Lightroom using the HSL Tool. This is something I use a lot, but the key is to keep the adjustment subtle. It’s not a long video and could well be worth a few minutes of your time

Lenscraft in Focus February Newsletter

Tomorrow is the first Saturday of a new month which means my latest Lenscraft in Focus newsletter goes out. If you’re not on the subscriber list, you can read the newsletter on Lenscraft from Saturday 1st February.

Have a great weekend.

6 thoughts on “The Benefits of RAW Format Photography

  1. Thanks Robin, beaut image and a thoughtful comment as usual.
    Those lines on both the planks and rails make a fine patterning.

    I’ve started using DxO PhotoLab, and am slowly getting over the learning curve.
    I must agree that sometimes its ability to make a lens that is great look even greater.
    I’ve watched you HSL in PhotoLab video, and I really don’t find it an intuitive application, but might just be me.

    1. Thanks David. I’m not sure PhotoLab is quite as intuitive as some applications but it’s worth persevering with. The results can be very good. I’m intending to do more PhotoLab tutorials in the future as I also think there’s a good material covering it.

  2. Hi Robin, I have always used a RAW based process for my digital photography and, like you, have noted improved results from old files re-procesed with new software.

    However, as time has gone on, I have found a downside to a RAW-only workflow, which is that not all RAW formats are supported forever, even by your camera manufacturer’s own software. For this and other reasons I now shoot RAW+JPEG for any serious photography. That way, whatever happens to future RAW file support, I have a widely supported backup copy of my image.

    1. Hi Ian, sorry for the delay in replying. I did respond on my iPad a few days ago but my reply seems to have vanished. I have heard the argument that RAW files will stop being supported in the future ever since digital came out. In all honesty, I don’t think it’s a large risk. I haven’t been able to find any examples of this happening and if there was a risk I would just convert the RAW file to DNG format which will probably outlive me. Once a software house has developed the code for the demosaic of a RAW file it makes sense to just leave it in the converter. Usually there’s a much larger risk and cost involved in removing something that leaving it alone.

  3. I think you are an honest and excellent photographer. I have tried using Dxo and I find it a struggle as tutorials are really very poor. I feel you have a great opportunity to make videos on how to properly use it and also to create an e-book which you are very good at.

    1. Thank you very much. I do try to be honest and thorough in expressing my opinions. DxO is a great product (with a few faults) and I have done a few videos with more planned. I would also love to do a book but I need a little more information yet on the size of the market. It’s taking me a long time to develop my books these days because I need to include so much information as the applications develop. I will add it to the list of possible titles though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.