RAW processing (in-camera)

Some cameras now let you process RAW images and save them as new JPEG files on the memory card. That might sound a bit pointless when you could shoot JPEGs in the first place, but it does mean you can try out different white balance settings, picture styles and more.

RAW+JPEG

Cameras with the ability to shoot RAW files will almost always offer a RAW+JPEG option too. Here, the camera shoots a single image but saves two versions – the RAW file and a JPEG processed and saved with the current camera settings. The JPEG is useful because you can share it with other people straight away and it also offers a useful benchmark when you’re processing the RAW file later.

RAW file

Usually when you take a picture the camera will process the data captured by the sensor into an image file. More advanced cameras can save the image in its unprocessed state – a RAW file – so that you can do the processing yourself later on your computer.

RAW converter

Software that processes RAW files from a camera and converts them into regular image files. Not all RAW converters are the same. The closest analogy is the different developers used to process film. Examples include Adobe Camera Raw, Capture One Pro and DxO Optics Pro.

JPEG vs RAW

Most digital photos are shot as JPEG images. This is a universal image file format that uses sophisticated compression to keep the files small and manageable. JPEGs are created by processing the RAW data captured by the camera. Some cameras let you save these RAW files instead. The files are larger and you need to process them later on a computer, but they offer the potential for better quality.

Highlight recovery

When you shoot RAW files there is often a little extra highlight detail in the data than is initially visible, and a good RAW converter will be able to recover this detail to correct any ‘blown out’ areas. There’s no much margin for correction, however – typically you might be able to recover 1EV of additional highlight detail, but rarely more.

DNG Converter

This is a handy free tool you can download from the Adobe website for converting digital camera RAW files into Adobe’s generic DNG format. It’s useful if you have a new camera but an older version of Photoshop, Elements or Lightroom that won’t open its RAW files.

Develop

A terms used by some software companies, for example Serif in its Affinity Photo software, to describe the RAW conversion process, where a RAW file is processed into an editable image.

Demosaic

Process where the camera (or RAW conversion software) takes the ‘mosaic’ of red, green and blue pixel data from the sensor and converts it into full-colour information.

Adobe Camera Raw

Software that works alongside Adobe Photoshop to open and process RAW files before they open in Photoshop itself. Adobe Camera Raw’s tools are also built into Adobe Lightroom. Most people use Adobe Camera Raw to process their RAW files simply because they’re using Photoshop or Lightroom, but other RAW converters are available.

16-bit image

These are photos with 16 bits of data for each of the red, green and blue colour channels. These aren’t created directly by the camera, but you can generate 16-bit images from RAW files and they withstand heavy image manipulation better than regular 8-bit images. The file sizes are much larger, though, which puts more pressure on your computer’s storage capacity and slows down file transfer speeds, and not all software can edit 16-bit images.