What are Raw Images on a Digital Camera?

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Updated July 27, 2022

Are you an entry-level photographer wondering what are raw images on a highly-acclaimed digital camera? RAW images are files in your camera’s memory card that are uncompressed and minimally processed. Every camera manufacturer like Canon or Nikon has its own RAW format. For instance, Nikon uses .NEF and Canon uses .CR2 or .CR3.


  • RAW images contain uncompressed information that can produce high-quality image files.
  • On average, RAW images are larger compared to JPG images; for example, a JPG file may be 10MB while a RAW image file size can be as big as 90MB.
  • In cameras with dual card slots, you can set the camera to save RAW files on one card, and JPEG files on another.

What You Need to Know About RAW Files

The quality of image files depends on a couple of things such as what is optical zoom and digital zoom in a camera. When it comes to storage, RAW files take up a lot of space on the memory card. As a general rule of thumb, the size of a RAW file will be close to the same size as the megapixels of the DSLR. For example, a 16MP camera will save RAW files at approximately 20MB. A JPEG, on the other hand, will be five times smaller. Still, they have their uses.

Advantages of RAW Files

You Can Adjust the White Balance

When you take a photo, the camera will try to figure out the tonal values of the image. So, if you want to prevent your image from becoming too yellow or too blue, you need to adjust the white balance setting. Where you position your light source will vary the white balance. For example, you will get different tonal values when shooting under a tungsten bulb than if you are outside under the midday sun. That said, adjusting the aperture on a digital camera can help with finding the right balance, especially if you’re using a medium format digital camera.

This is where the RAW format comes into play. When shooting in JPEG, the camera will determine the white balance automatically and apply it to the image. If you try to edit the photo later, you’ll only be able to alter the relative values but not the white balance itself. On the other hand, when you shoot in RAW, you will have plenty of flexibility to adjust it to your liking during post-processing.  

RAW Images Provide All the Data About the Image

RAW is essentially a lossless format because it’s uncompressed. This means that you do not lose any valuable data, thus preserving the image quality. For example, if you take a photo when the sky is too bright or the subject too dark, you will have very little room to adjust the image’s exposure when you save your images in the JPG format. This is because the format’s data compression algorithm “throws away” small pieces of the image to make the file smaller. But a RAW file preserves all of that information, allowing you to adjust the image as you please. 

Insider Tip

Choose to shoot in RAW, because even if you do not know how to edit images, you can learn and produce better image qualities of your shot.

Allows for Noise and Sharpness Adjustments

If you set your camera to shoot in JPEG, the compression algorithm will apply edits to your image data to give the final image a certain look. The resulting reduction in pixels limits how much you can fix noise or sharpness issues. RAW images, on the other hand, provide a lot of room to make adjustments in Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, or any other photo-editing software because all the image’s pixels are still intact.

Disadvantages of RAW Files

Too Large for Sharing Online

You cannot take a RAW file and post it on the internet; they take up much space. In addition, the RAW is not universally friendly because few platforms support it. You should also find out what is the resolution of a digital camera and its impact on image size.

Additionally, some other support articles that discuss size include knowing the average file size of a picture taken by a digital camera, the average digital camera photo size, and what kind of file a digital camera creates.


How can I convert RAW to JPEG images?

  1. Open photos in Photoshop in RAW format.
  2. Go to ‘File’ and select ‘Save As.’
  3. Select ‘.jpg’ from the list.

Can I convert a photo to JPEG on my smartphone?

Yes. If you Google “convert RAW pictures to JPEG,” the results page will offer you lots of online tools to do this.

What should I use, JPEG format or RAW format?

A RAW file gives you complete control over the final appearance of your photo during the editing phase. Unfortunately, because JPEG is a compressed format, you won’t have as much flexibility while editing because of the inevitable data loss.

STAT: In 2020, the digital camera market dropped by 40% because of the COVID-1- impact and the shrinking market. (source)

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