Learn the benefits of shooting photos using Adobe DNG and other raw formats for editing in Lightroom.
One of the choices we face when taking photos is deciding between shooting in raw or jpeg format. Raw gives you so much more creative flexibility in your photography and your editing in Lightroom: including a greater opportunity to fix exposure and recover detail, particularly in highlight areas, as in the clouds in this scene, and the ability to easily change white balance, as in this sunset.
Whether you use a point and shoot, a DSLR, or even some Android Smart Phones – you can choose Raw as the format for shooting photos. Every camera is different of course, but on most cameras there is a setting such as Image Quality where you can choose Raw as your capture format.
The advantages of Raw become clear once you edit your photos in Lightroom on a computer or mobile device. We’ll look at 2 photos shot at the same time - one in jpeg format and one in Raw. Here are the originals of both photos – jpeg on the left and Raw on the right. Let’s take a look at the highlights. In the jpeg photo there is not very much detail in the highlight areas of these clouds. By nature, a jpeg file captures a much lower number of levels of brightness than a Raw file.
If I try to recover some of the detail using the Highlights slider in the jpeg in Lightroom, I’m really not getting much improvement. This is where working with Raw files in Lightroom offers a huge advantage. Look at the difference in the Raw file when I move the Highlights slider. You can see I’m actually recovering some of the detail in the clouds. I have much more latitude in adjusting the exposure of the photo – in many cases recovering highlights that were simply too bright to hold any detail.
Now let’s compare working with white balance. Here is a photo that was captured in Raw, and when I go to the White Balance popup menu you can see there are lots of choices. This means that if you inadvertently chose the incorrect white balance on your camera, you can easily change it after the fact. And even if your white balance setting was correct at the time you took the photo, these choices give you wonderful creative freedom to try different looks by changing the white balance here in LR.
Now let’s work with the jpeg photo. This time when we go to the White Balance menu there are only 3 choices – As Shot, Auto, and Custom. This more limiting, leaving you to make one of these choices or manually adjust the settings using the Temperature and Tint sliders. There’s also a much smaller range available in the Temperature and Tint sliders when working with a jpeg as compared to when working with a Raw file.
By the way, a typical Lightroom workflow is to shoot and edit the Raw file, and then when you’re ready to export a copy of the finished file in the jpeg format for posting photos online or sending to labs for printing.
It’s worth noting that these kinds of edits could also be done in Lightroom Mobile on many Android phones. That gives you the ability to capture the raw format right from within Lightroom Mobile and then edit the files in Lightroom Mobile.
The advantages of Raw that I mentioned: a greater opportunity to fix exposure and recover detail, and enhanced white balance control are what make Raw and editing in Lightroom such a powerful combination. The ultimate benefit of shooting and editing in raw, of course, is that you’ll be able to create better looking photographs.