Whаt is Raw Photography?


The RАW file format for photographs is a method of storing information data obtained by the camera when taking pictures recorded without processing or specification. RAW file format stands for unprocessed, as saving an image in this photo format is somewhat similar to film photography.

For this reason, all RAW photography files are also referred to as digital negatives, thereby emphasizing that the information in them is not intended for normal viewing. First, such files (as well as photographic film) need to be "developed" in a special program.

In relatively inexpensive cameras, such as digital "soapboxes" and cell phones, information about the modes and parameters of photography is read by the built-in program. In this case, all data is converted from the RAW format to JPEG and saved in a form that cannot be modified but is available for viewing photographs.

In the more expensive semi-professional and professional models, photo data can be saved in RAW or JPEG format, or both at the same time. In this case, all raw information from the file will be available for further use when processing photos in special graphics programs.

how to open a RAW photo file

How to open a RAW photo file in your device

RAW photo format is a generic name for the internal structure of files used to store information about digital photographs at the time of photography in cameras from different manufacturers. But although all these files are of the same format, each has its own algorithm for storing information.

This allows you to optimize the production technology of photographic equipment and keep the secrets of your developments, but it is inconvenient for working with RAW photography files at the software level. You can determine the belonging of such files to a particular trademark by their extension. Each developer has their own extension, and some have two or even three.

Digital cameras usually come with conversion software for processing their own photo files saved in RAW format. At the same time, a converter created for a camera of one manufacturer does not read competitors' files.

RAW-converter is a special graphics program that allows you to create final photo files from the raw data received from the matrix of any digital photo device. It is part of a digital camera since the quality of the "developed" images largely depends on its capabilities.

RAW photography converters from different camera manufacturers do their job in much the same way. The only difference is how comfortable it is for the photographer to work with them. Here are some of them:

  • Canon Digital Photo Professional;
  • Konica Minolta Dimage Viewer;
  • Nikon Capture NX;
  • Olympus master;
  • Pentax Photo Laboratory;
  • Sony Image Data Converter SR.

But there are also third-party RAW converters, both paid and free. Their main difference is that they support all RAW files and can work with photos taken with any camera and image sensor.



  • Dcraw and programs based on its algorithm:
    Faststone, UFRaw, a plugin for GIMP, and others;
  • Adobe DNG Converter;
  • Able RAWer;
  • Rawstudio;
  • LibRAW;
  • RawTherapee.
  • Adobe camera raw;
  • Adobe Lightroom;
  • ACDSee;
  • Apple aperture;
  • Bibble;
  • BreezeBrowser;
  • Capture One;
  • DxO;
  • RawShooter;
  • SilkyPix Developer Studio.

RAW photography and Nikon NEF features

Both ordinary Raw photography and Raw Nikon Electronic Format have a lot of advantages. Below you can find detailed information about these formats.

RAW photography and Nikon NEF features

RAW photos Features

RAW digital photo files contain much more useful info than other file formats. Typically, these files have a color-coding bit depth greater than 8 pixels per inch. However, they are larger in size than JPEG files but smaller than TIFF files.

RAW digital photography files typically contain:

- pixel data obtained from the camera matrix;

- IPTC metadata identifying the camera itself;

- metadata with a technical description of the conditions of photography;

- EXIF ​​metadata of photo processing parameters;

- graphic thumbnail in JPEG format of medium quality.

Such information can be uncompressed, lossless compressed, or lossy compressed. The choice is determined by the priority - the maximum quality of photos or the minimum size of their RAW photography files.

Processing RAW files before conversion allows you to change the parameters of your photos, such as exposure, brightness, contrast, white balance, sharpness, saturation, and others. They can be changed in the same way as in photography, which allows you to get the correct final image without losing detail in shadows or highlights.

However, keep in mind that some of these parameters, such as significant exposure errors, inaccurate focusing, or camera shift, cannot be corrected. You should detect these errors during photographing when viewing frames of photographs. Then you need to shoot and save them in a new file of RAW photo format.

Nikon NEF Features

A RAW file contains not only information about the resulting image but also a lot of additional information:

  1. Metadata about camera and lens model, parameters and shooting time, settings, copyright, etc. - EXIF.

  2. JPEG preview for quick preview on camera. Some RAW converters can also open it for quick viewing.

  3. White balance information. White balance is applied to the photo after shooting, at the stage of RAW conversion (it does not matter if it happens in a camera or a converter).

Nikon's NEF files also contain other information:

  1. Information about the Picture Control profile used. Picture Control is a way to make color and contrast corrections in a future shot right on the camera and image sensor. In the corresponding menu, you can select and customize the Picture Control profile. In-camera, the Picture Control primarily affects frames shot in JPEG, but RAW images also record these settings.

  2. Active D-Lighting settings. It is designed for in-camera dynamic range expansion in scenes with significant brightness differences.

  3. Noise reduction options.

  4. Focus point position information.

  5. Lens distortion correction profiles: distortion, vignetting, chromatic aberration. Nikon Z NEF files use these profiles by default when opening images in Adobe Lightroom or any other converter that supports this function. But these profiles only work with Nikon lenses - native Nikon Z mount optics and Nikon F lenses installed on a mirrorless camera via an FTZ adapter.

advantages of the RAW photo

The main advantages of the RAW photo format

You can store digital photos in different file formats, but RAW files are best suited for this purpose. They have a number of advantages over alternative methods of storing graphic information, the main of which are:

  1. More color tones can be stored in RAW files due to their 12- or 14-bit encoding of information per channel; this gives more options for correcting photographs during processing. In the JPEG format, this encoding is only possible in 8 bits.

  2. Besides color coding, RAW files also have their color gamut. It preserves all the colors the camera and image sensor can perceive in the Adobe RGB color space. And after converting them, you can also work with the ProPhoto RGB space. For example, JPEG files only have the sRGB color space, which does not contain any pure spectral color.

  3. Digital RAW files differ in that you can change camera settings after taking a photo by viewing the changes on the large screen. They have already been mentioned above.

  4. In addition, RAW files can be used to correct optical defects such as vignetting and chromatic aberration in photographs. For those photographic lenses, information about which is stored in the file metadata, you can eliminate other defects.

All of the above adjustments in RAW photography files can be repeated as many times as necessary for best results. No changes are made to the pictures. They are saved in a special file module, from which they can be deleted at any time, returning the file to its original form.

Such transformations of photographs are performed more efficiently since a powerful computer processor is used for this, and it does not have time restrictions as in a camera. But apart from the advantages, RAW files also have disadvantages that are important to consider when saving digital photos in them.

Disаdvantages of RAW photography

However, there are some disadvantages of raw photography:

  1. One of the main features of digital RAW photos is that they are represented by many incompatible files. Such files cannot be viewed on consumer devices, and special programs are necessary to work with them on a computer.

  2. To display RAW photos on the Internet, print them on paper, or for any other purpose, you must first convert the files to other formats. You need to understand these formats and be able to work with them.

  3. When editing photos without first converting the files in the camera, it is difficult to process them correctly on the computer. When developing files in a RAW converter, it is important to have a better idea of ​​the peculiarities of photography, such as weather, the color of objects, lighting, and others. This understanding is necessary in order to convey them in photographs as the photographer saw them.

  4. RAW photography files are larger in size than JPEG frames. This size means that fewer frames can fit on the memory card and the recording speed is slower; this is very important in such genres of photography as "sports" or "reportage", where serial photography is often used. The length of a series of frames in the RAW format is calculated in units and in JPEG - dozens of simultaneously saved files.


Summarizing the description of RAW digital photo files, you may notice that this is one of the most convenient tools that any photographer should have in their arsenal. Its аdvantages and disadvantages are not comparable.

In addition, almost any camera with this format has a “RAW + JPEG” function, which allows you to save photos in files of two different formats at once and use their advantages for different purposes.

But if this is not enough, then you can always compensate for the shortcomings of a RAW photo file by converting it to another photo format.

The RAW photo format contains more info; this is a tool for the professional photographer and the advanced hobbyist who processes their photos.

If you are shooting a vacation with your family, then you can safely use JPG. It will be easier for you, and the information in jpg is more or less enough for a small correction.

Hopefully, this portfoliobox information was useful for you.


  • How can I view RAW photos?

Most likely, you will not be able to open and view a photo in RAW format using standard Windows tools, but almost all photo viewers and catalogers can do this. To read the RAW format, you can use the ACDSEE program - it is easy to install and understandable to use.

  • What is the advantage of RAW photos?

The RAW format allows you to shoot without paying attention to white balance and not concentrating too much on exposure. During processing, you can increase or decrease the exposure of the picture without loss of quality.

  • What is the difference between NEF and JPEG?

The NEF (RAW) file format is a Nikon exclusive. The main advantage of saving images in NEF (RAW) format rather than TIFF or JPEG is that the images are not processed at the time of the shooting; this allows the image to be processed multiple times without altering the original RAW image data.

  • What can you do with RAW files?

You can keep your original source files in their original format. You only need to export RAW files to JPEG if you want to print or share them online. You can convert your original files to the open-source RAW photo format known as DNG.

  • What is the RAW file system on a USB flash drive?

If for any reason, "Windows" cannot detect the file system of the device, then it is labeled "RAW". Thus, "RAW" is not a kind of file system in its general sense but is a designation of the ambiguity of a specific file system of a device.

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