In my experience, once you head over to the RAW side you never look back.
And for very good reason.
Below we will dive into six important ones, but trust me the list goes on! Of course this is a debate amongst photographers.
I wonder: is the debate just because of the fear to try something new?
Hmmmmm ... I hear photographers say "I only shoot JPG" but sometimes they don't know why they should shoot RAW.
Just take a moment to be open minded and listen to the benefits.
1. Easily Save Over or Under Exposed Images & White Balance
Have an image that doesn't look fixable? Some of the most problematic photos can be saved when RAW. And this is because none of the data has been compressed or flattened (like a jpg is).
It's just beyond amazing the tools at your fingertips from exposure, saving highlights that may have been blown out, adding shadows back, filling a light source that wasn't there to begin with, creating contrast and clarity to define an image ... oh the list is amazing.
Have an image that was over or under exposed?
No problem. Use the Exposure slider and others to fix any problems you have.
The ease of use with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) is also incredible. You simply pull sliders left or right depending on your needs. (Image shown is an older version of ACR.) White balance can be a hard thing to control if you are in a setting such as a dim church but with the White Balance sliders you can really make a perfect base to any situation.
2. Sharpening & Noise Reduction (From High ISO)
Of course RAW is always going to be your best bet to a good exposure base. Beyond the obvious of still having major control over shadows, highlights, contrast and exposure, you also have control over sharpening.
Photos that are saved in camera as JPG have a low default sharpening value added. But if you open a RAW photo you can very quickly apply the desired amount you want or need before saving to JPG.
Sharpening: The default value of sharpening is set to 25. I like to change mine to high 40's. This works best with my shooting style, settings and camera. Please play with this to see what default value works best for you.
Noise Reduction: Fixing major grain caused from high ISO is fairly easy in ACR. You simply drag the Luminance slider to the right. Be careful not to drag it too far as this will also soften an image.
Masking: This is an important tool because it allows you to define what items in your photo you want to sharpen. Hold down your ALT button on your keyboard while sliding left & right. Drag it until the details (white) is perfectly defined - less white the better so that only the important things are sharpened.
3. Lens Correction
One of my most favorite tools in ACR thats possible because of shooting in RAW is "Lens Correction". So many times a lens will apply a vignette & distortion to an image but with this button you quickly can correct any distortion that has taken place.
4. Easily Select Your Colorspace & Create Workflow
This is the icing on the cake! Colorspace & resolution are key to high quality images. Your workflow options are done once so that each photo you edit continues to retain the same file type & resolution settings.
Here you can set your "Space", we recommend sRGB so that print & web colors are consistent but this is preference. Resolution is great here because you can ensure everything you are sending to the printer has the desired 300 resolution. If you have already added "Sharpening" to your image that we explained above you probably do not want to add more, this is why we have it set to none. (Available for Photoshop Users).
Clicking the purple link to the left of "Open Image" will bring you to the Workflow Options Dialog box.
4. Saving an image has never been easier
Clicking the Save Images button to the left will open a Save File Dialog Box which is also wonderful for remembering your settings.
Destination: This is perfect to set each session you edit. We make a folder under the clients name called "Edits" so that each edited photo goes into this and can be quickly & easily called upon later. Organization is key!
File Naming: This is so perfect for you to add a little keyword to each file name such as Document Name + Your-Location
Format: This should be set to the highest quality "maximum" jpg or other file type that you prefer.
"I don't want to use more than one program to edit my photos"
You aren't using more than one program, you are simply using an add-on that works in conjunction with your editing software. It's easy to click the "Open" button and pull it directly into Photoshop once you have made all your necessary adjustments.
6. Bulk Editing! Bam, I said it.
You can quickly bulk edit a chunk of photo that all match the original exposure base by highlighting them all in the left window pane or clicking "Select All" and then making one adjustment.
The greatest thing about bulk editing here is you can see if the changes are working with that photo by just clicking on it. Once done you can click "Save" and all files you have highlighted will be saved with the "Workflow Options" you setup prior.