Why I Only Shoot in RAW

We got a later start to the session than we had hoped for; the drive was twice as long as we planned, getting ready for the session added an extra half hour, and we got caught by trains in the countryside of Northwest Indiana on the way to the beach. Before we knew it it was an hour later than we were supposed to be shooting, and on the way to the second location the sun had begun to set. We ran down the beach to the shoreline at the Indiana Dunes and started shooting right away, trying to get the last bits of sunlight but the bride-to-be felt that it was hopeless because of how dark it was. I did my best to reassure her that there was plenty of light but it didn't reassure her completely and I understood why; I was literally shooting in the dark. I was continually shooting and hoping that their bodies were in frame because at that point it was so dark I couldn't see through my viewfinder. Though I was worried about cropping off feet or the composition would be skewed because I could see so little through my camera, I wasn't worried about losing the images themselves entirely to the dark. Once the couple saw their gallery they were blown away at what I was able to get out of the dark photographs, and it was entirely because I was shooting the session in RAW. 

Why is it so important
to shoot RAW?


 Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Engagement
 Fine art engagement session Indiana Dunes
 

Though I was worried about cropping off feet or the composition would be skewed because I could see so little through my camera, I wasn't worried about losing the images themselves entirely to the dark. Once the couple saw their gallery they were blown away at what I was able to get out of the dark photographs, and it was entirely because I was shooting the session in RAW. I'm a strictly natural light photographer because I've always disliked the aesthetic quality of artificial lighting and how it changes the feelings of photographs - I can never quite shake the feeling of being in a doctor's office waiting for a check up (my least favorite place to be). There's also just something so romantic and appealing about the way that natural light looks in photographs. But because I only use natural lighting sources I have to rely heavily on the sun and plan out shoots based on what time it sets on the specific day, and generally things run smoothly.  These are some of the before and afters photographs from Elaine's engagement session after the sun had begun to set at the dunes. During the shoot you can imagine how nervous she was because there is nearly no light left to see anything, and the only way I was able to salvage the dark photographs was because I was shooting in RAW - if I had been shooting in JPEG then I wouldn't have been able to bring up the exposure at all without losing quality, and the record of Elaine & Brandon's memories at their engagment session at the beach would have been lost.


 
 Fine art Chicago engagement session
 Engagement session Chicago beach
 

So if you haven't looked into the value of the RAW image yet, I encourage you to take the time to do so! There are a ton of tutorials and writings about it online that you can find easily through Googling, but the best advice I can give you is to just jump into it. The easiest way to begin to understand RAW photographs is to play around with them, try them out, and see what works best for you. :) 

Want to get education like this straight to your inbox?

 

Katharine Hannah

Chicago, IL

Katharine’s work has graced the walls of institutions such as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Harold Washington Library of Chicago, and local galleries such as Dreambox Gallery, Siragus Gallery and Blick Art Materials. She has also been featured on websites such as the Huffington Post, Phlearn, Fstoppers, Tigress Magazine for Girls, Bitchtopia, and Golden Boy Press.

In addition to photography, Katharine has been a mentor and educator in the arts since 2013. She has worked with students in various organizations and projects over the last two years, including Hive Chicago’s PROjectUS initiative and Digital Youth Network’s Digital Diva’s and Chicago City of Learning programs.