This is just intended to be a brief introduction to Camera RAW for those who might be new to digital photography, even if your not I can recommend some of the links and tutorial videos which I’ve included here I still find them useful to review from time to time, I always find something I’ve forgotten.



Camera RAW, what exactly is it?

Well first of all unlike other file formats such as JPG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) or TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) RAW isn’t in fact an acronym what it does stand for is raw as in unprocessed data and it is the data that is captured from the cameras sensor the actual file extension that your RAW file will have will vary depending on the manufacturer of your camera, Canon use the CRW file extension while Nikon use the NEF file extension, the reason for this is that each manufacturer like to specify settings which show the images shot with their camera in the best light. Here are the most common manufacturer RAW formats.

  • Adobe (.DNG)
  • Canon (.CR2 & .CRW)
  • Fuji (.RAF)
  • Kodak (.DCR)
  • Minolta (.MRW)
  • Nikon (.NEF)
  • Olympus (.ORF)
  • Pentax (.PEF)
  • Sony (.SRF)

RAW files are often referred to a digital negatives as with traditional film negatives a RAW file allows you a great deal of opportunity to manipulate the image in terms of exposure etc after the image has been taken allowing you to correct an under/over exposed image or just enhance the overall quality. All this would be done in your digital darkroom which will be whatever application you are using to carry out your photo editing in (Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture etc).


Benefits of using Camera RAW

I’ve already touched upon some of the benefits of using the Camera RAW format. That being the ability to make the sort of changes and adjustments to an image after you have taken the shot that you might do before you take the shot, such as exposure settings, white balance and a host of other corrective options.
Another major benefit with using camera RAW is that all your changes are none destructive, the original file is never altered in stead all the changes are saved as a separate file which your editing application will read the next time you open the image and again apply those setting changes.
All this does come at a cost and that is file size, a Camera RAW file will be many times lager than an equivalent JPG. For example the 8GB card I have in my camera will hold just over 260 shots if I shoot in RAW format where as if I chose to just shoot in JPG then the same card will hold nearly 1200 shots

Although there is a growing number of applications which these days supports RAW files they still all don’t, see the list bellow for a few that do.


Photo Editors
Adobe Photoshop & Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
Apple Aperture
GIMP ( Free application will need the UFRAW plugin)
Corel PaintShop Pro (budget option)

Image Viewers (some limited editing)
Google Picasa (free)


I have collected a few resources bellow which you might find useful some go into the Camera RAW format in much more detail than I have here. I’ve also included some good tutorial videos that I’ve come across.


PhotoTuts+ Adobe Camera RAW
Using Camera RAW with Photoshop
The RAW digital image format
PictureSocial, The Network for Photographers: How to use Photoshop camera RAW (YouTube Video)
Adobe video on RAW
Camera RAW 101: Photoshop CS3 Tutorial

Using Raw with GIMP
Video Part 1 (YouTube)
Video Part 2 (YouTube)

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