Shooting RAW can be daunting, especially if you don’t know what to do with the files when you get them out of the camera. Unlike JPEGs, which are “cooked,” RAW files contain a ton of data that must be manipulated before you can edit your image and make it small enough to be e-mailed and viewed by family and friends.
Despite the extra work, RAW files are worth it. They let you control white balance, saturation, and contrast as if you were doing so while shooting. Because RAW files utilize lossless compression, you should be able to get better detail and sharpness, without artifacts, when you enlarge them. Finally, you’ll have more of a chance of recovering what seems like lost shadow and highlight detail in your picture.
Here are the basics on how to open, convert, and save your RAW files, from start to finish. These instructions are for Adobe Photoshop CS5, but will work similarly in previous versions and in Elements.
Most cameras give you the option of shooting RAW+JPG. Doing so is not a bad idea if you have lots of pictures you’ll want to share quickly online. Because RAW files are larger, shooting both uses up memory card and hard drive space faster. Devotees of RAW often opt to forego the JPEGs and instead use a program dedicated to RAW, such as Apple Aperture or Adobe Lightroom, to quickly process their RAW files into JPEGs.