For Beginners – All You Want to Know about RAW Format in Photography

Last Updated on December 6, 2021 by Peter Wood

WWhen you look at some beautiful scenery or join a party with your friends, you may want to take some photos to record the moments and save them forever. Digital cameras are increasingly popular and affordable to customers. The images taken by digital cameras are RAW images. Most digital cameras can compress the photos into JPEG files automatically after shooting. However, you should know that JPEG is a compressed image format, so you may want to keep the camera RAW files and their quality.

You may have heard about RAW in all kinds of photography blogs and sites many times. It seems that the RAW format is the best in photography. Is it true? Why do so many people prefer to shoot in RAW file format? Where is a RAW file used? If you are new to RAW, you come to the right place. This article collects some frequently-asked questions about the RAW format in photography. You can keep reading to get the complete answers.

RAW Format in Photography

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Question 1: Who Created RAW Format and What Is the RAW Format History

The RAW data format comes with the beginning of digital cameras. You can capture details in RAW, but there is no way to edit or store the RAW data. Adobe released the first RAW format in 2004. Camera manufacturers had used the DNG RAW image format in new camera models, such as Pentax, Leica, Samsung, Ricoh, and more in 2006. The DNG specification patent license was in September 2009. Thus, you can convert and edit RAW files with paid and free alternatives.

RAW Origins

Question 2: What does RAW File Format Stand for

Camera RAW is the camera image format and an unprocessed format with a wide dynamic range or gamut. The camera records all the data from the sensor in the photos.

RAW image files take much larger storage space than JPG, JPEG, PNG, and other image formats. Consequently, the RAW image format can preserve the most information captured at the time of exposure. So photographers could get the highest quality images and correct the images with the information in photo editing programs.

Different camera manufacturers save RAW files in different RAW filenames extensions. The available RAW file extensions include .3fr .ari .arw .srf .sr2 .bay .braw .cri .crw .cr2 .cr3 .cap .iiq .eip .dcs .dcr .drf .k25 .kdc .dng .erf .fff .gpr .mef .mdc .mos .mrw .nef .nrw .orf .pef .ptx .pxn .R3D .raf .raw .rw2 .raw .rwl .dng .rwz .srw .x3f.

Most recent digital cameras can compress RAW files to JPEG photos spontaneously. Generally speaking, JPEG files have some advantages, like smaller file sizes. But some photographers prefer to keep and deal with the camera RAW files because there are more benefits to taking photos as RAW files.

RAW Format

Question 3: Why Photographers Shoot in RAW

By taking pictures in RAW format, you can get an excellent image visual experience with the minimum loss of information and data captured from the sensor. The RAW file structure contains the following elements.

1. A short file header, a file identifier, and an offset.

2. Camera sensor metadata and image metadata.

3. An image thumbnail.

4. A full-size JPEG conversion of the RAW image.

5. The sensor image data.

There are many advantages of using RAW image format. The followings are some representative reasons for shooting in RAW.

1. RAW file will keep more levels of brightness

Camera RAW files record high levels of brightness. The brightness levels are related to the distribution of black and white. The greater the brightness levels the image file contains, the smoother the image looks. A JPEG photo has 256 levels of brightness, while RAW contains more than 4000 levels. That means you can adjust the brightness and white balance without losing quality. Brightness and white balance are the basis of a clear image. A camera RAW adjustment will make it closer to the real world. So you can shoot landscapes with high levels of brightness in RAW format.

RAW Brightness

2. RAW file provides more information to correct images

Apart from brightness, RAW files will keep more information about the exposure of the photos. When we take pictures with digital cameras, the problems of excessive exposure and underexposure are common. If you want to correct the image exposure with photo editors, you have to provide the information related to exposure. Camera RAW is easy to be correct, for it records more exposure information. That will make the photo editor smarter when dealing with images. So even though you have taken a dark RAW image, the editing program could produce a clear photo with extensive exposure information.

RAW Exposure

3. RAW file format gives more details of shot images

When you enlarge the images, you will discover that images have noises. It is okay to enjoy these images on digital devices. When you print the photos, the noises will affect the quality of the output. So after shooting photos, photographers usually utilize a program to reduce noise and sharpen the images. The camera RAW and the details it records will become very useful; because the noise algorithms embedded in programs, like Photoshop, will read RAW files. JPEG does not have the information that such algorithms could read. If you have printed JPEG images and RAW files, you can understand that difference is good.

RAW Noise Reduction

4. RAW provides a second chance

The first chance is when you shoot the picture. There are a lot of uncertain elements that decide the quality of the images, like the light, the shooting angle, and the natural environment. The second chance is when you edit the photos with programs. Although only a part of photo editors supports camera RAW, the RAW information will make the process easier. Photo editors could read RAW as a reading program language. On the other hand, the quality of the images will not reduce when photo editors deal with RAW images.

RAW Photo Edit

Question 4: Which RAW Viewer Does the Best Job

Find the best RAW file viewer to meet your demand. If you don’t have a RAW viewer, you can use WidsMob Viewer Pro to open RAW images and videos on your computer. The support of RAW format cameras and RAW file extensions allows users to view media files from all digital cameras.

You can play all media files flexibly with the folder-based viewing experience smoothly. With the help of the hardware acceleration algorithm, you can enjoy RAW files at 5x speed. Moreover, you can get powerful features to manage and edit RAW files within the RAW viewer software. Here’re the main features you can get.

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1. Open 50+ RAW formats captured by popular camcorders.

2. Play all photos and videos taken with the camcorder or phone with the folder-based browsing feature.

3. Read RAW metadata by checking the EXIF information.

4. View and manage all RAW files with thumbnail, library, slideshow, favorite, and EXIF modes.

5. Batch convert, resize and rename RAW files.

6. Save and share RAW images to the desired formats or platforms.

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Question 5: How to Open RAW Files on Your Computer

This section will show you the brief RAW viewer’s tutorial. You can also head to the official site and download the program to explore more features yourself.

Step 1: Import RAW photos to an image viewer

Just download and install the latest version of WidsMob Viewer Pro. Launch the program and click the Open… option to select the camera RAW files from the destination folder.

Import Photos

Step 2: View RAW images with different modes

The RAW camera images and videos will display in thumbnails. You can scroll down and browse all those RAW files quickly. Double-click any file to preview details with a larger screen.

Full Screen View

Step 3: Check the detailed information of the image

After that, you can click the View menu and choose the Show Info option to check the detailed information for the RAW files, such as camera type, ISO, LDR, flash, focal length, white balance, brightness, contrast, situation and more.

EXIF Data Viewer

Step 4: Add RAW photos to favorite folder

To get the RAW editing tools, you can unfold the Edit list. Here you can rotate, flip, crop, and batch edit any RAW files. In addition, you can add the picked RAW image or video to the Favorite folder by choosing Add to My Favorites. By the way, you can click My Favorite to locate the marked RAW files.


Step 5: View or convert the image files

If you want to save the files for other devices, such as iPhone or Android phones, you can save the camera RAW to JPEG or other formats in batch with the media viewer.

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Question 6: When You Had Better Not Shoot in RAW

It is not always good to shoot everything into the RAW format. If you don’t apply further editing to your image, shooting in RAW is not a good idea as RAW format files will add time to your workflow. You can get pictures in extremely high resolution, but you will fill up the camera’s memory card quickly. After all, RAW files take much more storage space than JPEG files. If there is no computer around you, and you need to take lots of pictures, you had better not take photos in RAW format.

Not RAW Image

Question 7: What’s the Difference Between RAW and JPEG

JPG or JPEG is also a popular image format. There is no winner in RAW and JPG. It depends on the occasion you use it. JPG is a compressed image format that keeps pretty good quality in small file sizes. Thus, many people download, share and convert photos to JPG format. JPG file extension is compatible with mobile phones and cameras. The RAW format is limited to DSLR, mirrorless cameras, and phones. Thus, JPG has better popularity than RAW in some cases.

The RAW file extension picture can store between 68 million and 4.3 trillion color shades. However, a JPG file can contain up to 16 million shades of color. If you want to keep all details, you should use the RAW format. You can regard JPG v.s. RAW as the light and ultimate versions comparison.


As mentioned above, JPEG also has benefits, like seizing just a little space. So you might become confused: when should shoot camera RAW and when should shoot JPEG. Generally speaking, you’d better take RAW images when:

1. The circumstance is poor, like in a dark room without light, under the shining sun, or there is interfering light surrounding.

2. You are taking portraits or preparing to process the images later.

3. You are going to enlarge the images or print them.

While in some conditions JPEG is the better choice:

1. Taking photos in perfect light conditions.

2. Sharing the photos directly without post-processing.

3. Record everyday snapshots.


With the above information, you can know when and why to use the RAW format in photography. RAW is the best image format and can preserve the data from the camera sensor data. If you want to get an uncompressed picture with massive image information, RAW format photography is your first choice. Consequently, you will also get large image file sizes while shooting in RAW.

Whatever, you need to drag and drop raw images from your digital camera to the computer for management. During this time, you can open RAW files with the RAW viewing software mentioned above. The program can view hundreds of RAW images simultaneously without crashing. You can still get the smooth RAW photo viewing experience here.

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