Raw Image: The Ultimate Guide to Camera Raw Image Files

One of the first things you learn as a new photographer is about the different image formats available and how to work with them, especially if they’re created specifically for your camera. You might have already heard of JPEG or JPG, but there is another lesser-known format that you should consider—the RAW format. Professional photographers will tell you that shooting in RAW gives you more control over the image during post-processing.

So, what exactly is RAW, and how does it compare to JPG?

In this guide, we shall answer just that. This way, you can better decide whether a RAW file better suits your needs.

What are RAW camera image files?

In simple terms, a RAW image file is an unprocessed film. It comes out exactly as the camera's sensor sees it. Usually, the camera automatically processes the image as you shoot and converts it into a usable format like JPG. For a RAW image, you have to do all the editing and photo adjustments yourself. Because of their minimally processed, uncompressed data, RAW files are significantly larger than JPEG files.

Perhaps, the biggest advantage of editing raw images is that the process of making adjustments is non-destructive. You don't lose any data you don't want to lose. There's also a way you can enjoy the best of both worlds. Some of the more advanced digital cameras feature RAW and JPEG modes. With this, you can capture the image in RAW and process a JPEG image. Alternatively, you can shoot the image in RAW and then edit it using a picture editing software like Corel PHOTO-PAINT.

What is the JPG file format?

Now a JPG file format is the opposite of a RAW image. This means it is a digital image that has undergone processing and lossy compression.

So as you take the picture, your camera picks up all the light information, analyzing variables such as light temperature, white balance, and saturation. It then applies appropriate adjustments to the photo following a preset formula. All these settings are then locked into the image. Finally, the camera's processor compresses the image by discarding any data that the human eye is unlikely to notice. And this helps reduce the overall image size.

How does RAW compare to JPG

Okay, so by now, you have an idea of what JPG and RAW files are. But how exactly does RAW compare to JPG, and which one is superior?

Benefits of RAW images

There are a number of powerful benefits you stand to gain from shooting in RAW. For starters, in RAW format, many settings influencing your image will be kept separate from the image itself. This allows you the freedom to change them to your liking as you edit. For example, if the white balance is off, you can readjust it as you see fit. The same applies to color temperature, sharpness, and contrast adjustments. If you shoot in JPG, you won't have the same level of control.

Secondly, RAW files have all the original image data that the camera's sensors captured. So, even as the RAW file is compressed, all the data is still available for use during subsequent editing.

Also, when you shoot RAW files, you have a choice to convert them into 16-bit images. This will allow the file 65,536 levels of brightness for every color channel. JPG, on the other hand, only provides 25 brightness levels for each channel.

Disadvantages of RAW file format

RAW photos have one major downside. You can't use them straight from the camera. You'll have to edit and adjust the photo first. This can be hard because most of these files are proprietary, depending on the camera you're using. The format of Canon will not be the same as Sony's or Nikon's. Each one will require particular software to convert them into editable formats like JPEG or TIFF before doing any edits.

However, the good thing is that there are a lot of advanced picture editing software that can handle this. The Corel PHOTO-PAINT, for instance, can do the conversion as well as editing for you. With the one app, you can adjust such things as light temperatures and white balance in your photo. You can also correct any errors, highlight for more detail and increase color saturation, so the picture looks as good as you imagined it.

What's more, since you'll be doing it on your computer, you get more processing power than an ordinary camera would afford.


As you've seen, the RAW file format can be extremely useful to a professional photographer. It allows you greater control over how the final image will appear. However, as we've seen, images in RAW format cannot be used as they are. You'll need a third-party application like Corel PHOTO-PAINT to convert and digitally enhance them before use.

If this is too much work for you, you might consider simply shooting the image in JPG. Otherwise, as you experiment with RAW files, feel free to check out the Corel PHOTO-PAINT website and download their free trial software.

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