July 14, 2023 | 3116 Views

How to Edit RAW Photos: Mastering the Art of Editing RAW Images

Photography is becoming more accessible and widespread in the modern world. With the advent of high-resolution cameras and advanced photo editing software, photographers now have the opportunity to capture images in their purest form: RAW format. RAW photos, untouched by in-camera processing, offer a wealth of creative possibilities during post-production.

In this fast-paced world of visual storytelling, knowing how to edit RAW photos has become an essential skill for photographers at all levels. From amateur enthusiasts to seasoned professionals, harnessing the power of RAW images can elevate the quality and impact of their work. In this guide, we’ll dive into the intricacies of editing RAW images, equipping you with the knowledge and techniques needed to master the art of RAW post-processing.

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What Are RAW Files?

Before we dive deep into the nitty-gritty of editing RAW images, let’s take a moment to understand what they’re all about.

Think of RAW files as the holy grail of photo formats. Unlike JPEG, a RAW file captures pure, uncompressed data straight from your camera sensor. It’s like having a digital negative, a raw canvas that holds all the essential “ingredients” of your photo, waiting to be processed and brought to life. These files are a goldmine for photographers seeking to extract the full potential of their shots.

Now, here’s the deal: RAW files do come with a bit of a size tag. They tend to be larger compared to their compressed JPEG counterparts. But it’s a small price to pay for the incredible detail and information they pack. The unmatched quality and versatility of RAW photos for editing make them the go-to choice for ultimate control over your images.

The Advantage of RAW Photos for Editing

Every day, more professional photographers seem to hop on the RAW photo bandwagon for their editing adventures. But why go for RAW when there’s the ever-familiar JPEG format?

Here’s the deal with JPEG files: standard compression can mess with the picture. That’s why what you see through your camera’s viewfinder or screen isn’t always a perfect match with what you see on your computer later. It’s like a game of chance. In contrast, RAW photos for editing grant you full control and all the information right from your camera.

An 8-bit JPEG can handle around 256 luminosity levels per color channel, giving you roughly 16 million colors to play with. Sounds impressive, right? Not when compared to RAW. A 12-bit RAW image steps it up, offering a whopping 4,096 luminosity levels or a mind-boggling 68 billion colors. Meanwhile, a 14-bit RAW takes it to a new level with 16,384 luminosity levels, opening the door to a stunning 4.3 trillion color shades! All this extra color information is like an artist’s dream palette. It gives us tremendous headroom for tweaking and fine-tuning our images when editing RAW images, ultimately leading to jaw-dropping, high-quality photos.

What Equipment Do You Need to Edit RAW Images?

If you’re all set to embark on the RAW image editing journey, you need a few things to get started. First, you’ll need a digital camera that’s capable of shooting RAW images. Thankfully, most cameras come with this feature right out of the box. Even the latest iPhones can shoot in RAW with some help from third-party apps.

It’s important to note that RAW files require some processing and compression to be viewed on any device. This is where RAW image editors come into play. Don’t be fooled into thinking that any regular image editor will do the job – that’s far from the truth. RAW files demand specialized treatment and can only be edited or processed using a dedicated RAW photo editor. So, it’s crucial to acquaint yourself with these powerful tools to make the most out of your RAW photography.

How to Edit RAW Photos: 4 Tips & Tricks for Making the Most of Your Shots

When your RAW photos are ready for editing, you’ll need to experiment with all the available tools to determine your style. To give you a head start, here are four of our favorite tips and tricks to kick off your editing adventure.

1. Make the Most of Dynamic Range

When you get your hands on a RAW photo to edit, you’ve got an ace up your sleeve – an expanded dynamic range. This term refers to the difference between an image’s brightest and darkest areas. With RAW files, you can tap into this extended range and extract incredible details from the highlights and shadows. Say goodbye to those underexposed or overexposed shots because RAW editing lets you come to the rescue.

The best RAW photo editors have nifty features that can automatically enhance these aspects for you. But if you’re feeling adventurous and want to take matters into your own hands, give the shadows and highlights tonal sliders a whirl. They grant you the power to tweak and fine-tune those areas, giving your images that extra oomph you desire.

2. Take Advantage of Sky Shots

You know those outdoor photos where the sky tends to appear too bright, stealing the spotlight from the land below? RAW files have a hidden treasure trove of detail tucked away in those dazzling highlights. If you want to bring out this mesmerizing detail, it’s time to dive into local adjustment tools when editing your RAW images.

The best RAW photo editors have powerful tools and settings like clarity, dehaze, saturation and more. By skillfully masking out the sky and playing around with these tonal settings, you can unlock an astonishing level of detail in your sky shots without messing with the rest of the image.

3. Always Adjust Your White Balance

Here’s the deal with RAW files and white balance: they’re a match made in editing heaven. RAW files hold all that extra color information, allowing us to choose a white balance preset during editing and achieve the same results as if we had selected it before snapping the shot.

This nifty feature not only acts as a safety net if you accidentally goof up the white balance while shooting, but also grants you the power to rectify unwanted color casts and ensure accurate hues. The best RAW photo editors boast handy white balance presets, but if you’re in the mood for some fine-tuning, the temperature and tint sliders are your go-to tools.

4. Find Your RAW Workflow

Let’s talk about getting into the groove of editing RAW images like a pro – finding a RAW workflow that clicks with you and sticking to it.

Here’s a recommended starting point: sort through your photos and give them ratings to identify your absolute favorites. Once you’ve curated a collection of your best shots, it’s time to make some universal changes that apply to all of them. A great place to begin is by tinkering with the white balance or color settings to set the right tone.

Next, take each photo individually and apply your preferred editing techniques to enhance them further. This is where your creativity can shine, as you bring out the best in each image based on your unique style and vision. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach here. Experiment, explore and discover the workflow that resonates with you.

Choose ON1 – the Best Raw Photo Editor On the Market Today

If you’re ready to start editing RAW images, check out ON1’s RAW photo editing software – the best RAW photo editor for photographers of all levels. With its user-friendly interface and extensive features, ON1 Photo RAW empowers users to unleash the true potential of their RAW captures. You’ll have complete control over every aspect of your photos, from adjusting exposure and white balance to perfecting colors and seamlessly replacing backgrounds.

If you want to check out ON1 RAW for yourself before you buy, our free photo editing software can let you experience all the benefits of RAW editing right away. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a passionate hobbyist, ON1’s raw photo editor is an indispensable companion that will elevate your photography. Choose ON1 today.

Frequently Asked Questions: How to Edit RAW Images

If you still need more information or have questions regarding how to edit RAW images, check out the answers to our most frequently asked questions below.

Can I Undo Changes While Editing RAW Images?

Absolutely! RAW photo editors typically offer non-destructive editing, meaning your original RAW file remains untouched. You can always revert to the original or make adjustments without permanently altering the original data.

Are There Any Specific Techniques for Editing RAW Portraits?

If you have a RAW photo to edit that happens to be a portrait, you can focus on enhancing skin tones, adjusting exposure, fine-tuning color balance and improving overall clarity and sharpness. You may also consider applying selective adjustments to specific areas, such as softening blemishes or brightening the eyes.

Can I Print RAW Images Directly, or Do I Need to Convert Them to Another Format?

RAW files are not typically printable directly from the camera. To print a RAW image, you need to process and convert it to a printable format, such as TIFF or JPEG, with your preferred RAW photo editor. This allows you to optimize the image for printing and adjust parameters like size, resolution and color profile to match your printing needs.