RAW photo editing explained using Capture One

Create better photos. Shoot RAW files and enhance them with a RAW photo editor.

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What is a RAW image file?

When you shoot with a digital camera, there are two main file formats you can use: JPEG and RAW.

A RAW file is the raw image straight from the camera – think of it like a blank canvas where you can make any adjustments you want, giving you total control of the final photo.

Using photo editing software like Capture One, you can easily transform your RAW images by adjusting elements like white balance, colors, shadows and highlights. To share and display your final edit, simply export it as a JPEG.

The RAW file name extension depends on your camera brand – Canon uses .CR2, Nikon uses .NEF, Sony uses .ARW, Fujifilm uses .RAF and Panasonic uses .RW2.

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What is a JPEG image file?

A JPEG is a universal format that can be accessed from any kind of device and shared instantly – it’s the default setting for most smartphones and cameras. It’s a compressed file, which means it is smaller and takes up less space on your computer.

You don’t need an image editing software which offers RAW conversion or RAW processing – JPEG files can be uploaded straight to social media or the web without using image editors or a single adjustment tool.

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What are the limitations of JPEG?

Because it is a compressed file, the image quality of a JPEG is much lower than a RAW file. Key elements such as white balance, exposure and color rendering have already been processed and determined by the camera and there is less information saved in the file.

The result? Much less creative freedom when editing photos. For example, if you shoot a photo in a dark setting, you won’t be able to recover the shadows to bring out more details with a JPEG file by using a relevant editing tool.

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How do you edit a RAW image?

Back in the analog days, you could alter images by choosing different types of film and processing it in certain ways to achieve specific looks.

With digital files, you can transform the look and feel of a photo – or simply accentuate a great shot – by using a photo editing software with a RAW converter.

By uploading their RAW files directly to Capture One Pro, users can create their ideal look by using the advanced photo editing tools to adjust different image elements like colors, shadows, exposure, contrast and highlights.

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How do I convert a RAW image to a JPEG?

A RAW file is not necessarily converted.  You can always go back to a RAW file and try out a different edit, or perhaps apply a black–and–white look – the possibilities are endless!  But at some point, you may want to share your edited photo online or print it out.  In this case, you need to export a new JPEG from the RAW file.

In Capture One, this is called a Process Recipe. This feature allows you to export the RAW file as a photo in your preferred file format and size – or even several different file types (such as TIF, JPEG, PSD) at once.

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How big is a RAW image?

The size of a RAW file depends on the size of the sensor, and whether your camera is an MFT, APS-C, full-frame or medium format camera. Most RAW files are sized between 20 - 40 MB per file.

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How do I save an image in RAW format?

If you want to be able to return to editing a RAW file before exporting the final edit to JPEG, then there are several options:

In Capture One, you can simply quit the program. The last edits will save automatically and reappear when you relaunch Capture One.

Another option is to export the image as a RAW file. Please note that you will not be able to display the file online without converting it to another file format, but it can be a good way to save your work so you can continue editing in RAW at any time. In Capture One, you do this by going to Process Recipes and choosing “Original” under File Format.

RAW editing is non-destructive. This means you don’t change anything in the RAW file and all the adjustments are saved in the RAW editing software rather than the file itself. This way, you can always go back to the start or make different edits to the same image.

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How do I store RAW image files?

It’s essential that you can easily locate your images and recover any files if something goes wrong. Capture One’s advanced asset management system allows you to determine your own file structure, so you can take control of organizing your files.

Besides storing the images locally on your computer’s hard drive, we recommend backing up RAW files to an external hard drive like a Raid or NAS server or using a cloud-storage service.

A good tip is to keep your RAW files on an external hard drive or cloud service after editing in RAW image software and deleting them from your computer to save space.  This way, you can always revisit your RAW files if you want to make future edits. 

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