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Why Post Process RAW Images?

Darrell Young (DigitalDarrell) on June 24, 2014

Keywords: postprocessing, raw, jpeg

Some have asked what is the point of post processing images. Here is an example of why I shoot in RAW and post process afterwards. This image was taken in RAW+JPEG mode so that I had a RAW and a JPEG image to work with. The image on the left is a camera-created JPEG, with no post processing—the famous SOOC (straight out of camera). The image on the right is a RAW image after minor post processing and conversion to the final JPEG.

Notice how my interpretation is quite different from the camera’s? That’s the point!

Camera-created images will rarely have the snap of a post processed image. Notice how I have pulled a bit more detail out of the water, where the camera burned it out. RAW images simply have more “headroom,” or the ability to access a larger amount of highlight and dark image data. At the same time, I selectively raised the brightness, increased contrast, and added a small amount of extra saturation to the colors. If you had done the brightness and contrast increase as a global operation on a JPEG, the background would have improved, but any detail in the water would have been obliterated.

Years ago, I didn’t like using flash. I told everyone that I just liked natural light photography. Secretly, flash was never one of my strong points in photography. Later, I learned how to use flash and suddenly, I found I really enjoyed flash photography. I honestly feel that shooting RAW and then post processing is similar. Many photographers don’t have the tools or know how to do serious post processing, other than global adjustments. Therefore they don’t “like” post processing. Later, they acquire some good software tools, learn some techniques, and finally understand the limitations of SOOC.



The camera’s built-in software can rarely give you an ultimate picture, for the simple reason that the camera is an averaging device. It wants to make things as average as possible. Unless a person seriously tweaks their Picture Controls, or uses full manual, the SOOC image is created according to the standards of the software programmers at Nikon.


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