I am an intermediate amateur (how do you measure these things anyway? Well, I can't say I'm an advanced, and don't think I am a beginner), and I feel that I should take the RAW leap. I avoided it until now mainly because of the learning curve - I don't use Photoshop for the same reason. I use simple editing tools that allow global editing, like Picasa in the past and now iPhoto. I guess I will move to Lightroom eventually, but my question is - can I move to RAW and stay with iPhoto for a while? I mean technically I can but does it make sense? Is it worth the effort of larger files and more complicated process? Will it give me the initial feeling of the benefits of working with RAW? Thanks.

EDIT: This is not a RAW vs. JPEG question. I do want to move to RAW, I feel a bit limited by JPEG editing and also want to see what's there. My question basically is, will I get a feeling of it with iPhoto or would it be a waste of time?

  • 1
    Once you try RAW and see how much you gain in editing (WB, dynamic range, etc) you'll never want to shoot anything else. You should download the 30-day trial of Lightroom and look for deals (I saw it for $109 last Friday, forget where though). Dec 3 '13 at 20:56

iPhoto ('09 and later) will automatically take full advantage of shooting in RAW. In particular setting white balance will work much better (no loss of color) and you will have more exposure headroom (you will be able to reclaim more shadows/highlights when adjusting exposure).

The only downsides are that you will fit fewer images on a given memory card, the images will take more space and probably be a little slower.

I would recommend you shoot a few test shots and make sure it works well for you. There is also a chance that you will not immediately like the RAW images as they may appear less vibrant -- this would be due to slightly different processing algorithms between iPhoto and your camera's JPEG engine -- this may not happen at all, just a heads up.

  • What's the recommended SD Card size for RAW images?
    – aneuryzm
    Dec 4 '13 at 10:12
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    @Patrick It depends largely on resolution, but I'd say approximately four times (just for the power of two) what you need for jpeg. And of course the more the better
    – clabacchio
    Dec 4 '13 at 10:59

It depends on what you want. One of the key things RAW can give you is the ability to adjust white balance after the fact, and to a lesser degree fix exposure errors. If you find yourself wishing you had that ability with important photos, it may well be worth it even if you never plan on doing any more advanced editing. That means iPhoto will be just fine, and will gain you something. If you don't, it really may not be worth bothering.

But, don't be afraid of Lightroom, even if you're not planning to do anything more complicated right away. It's very powerful, but you don't need to use all of its features. It is actually designed with a simple workflow in mind, and like the tools you are used to, primarily around making global adjustments. If you're a thinking of moving eventually, to might add well make it sooner rather than later. There are a few basic new concepts, but really you'll be up and running in no time.

  • thanks for the encouragement. I do want to try RAW to see what is there. My question is, can I get a feel of it with iPhoto or would it be a wasted effort?
    – davka
    Dec 3 '13 at 14:12
  • I've edited my answer to better emphasize that that question is exactly what I was answering. :)
    – mattdm
    Dec 3 '13 at 17:10

Only you can decide if it is worth it. If you are happy with where you are with your photos at the moment and don't feel the need for much advanced processing then you might be just fine with the jpeg files.

The RAW chapter is quite a long one and you will need to learn exactly what is and what isn't included in a RAW file in order for you to edit them in post, but if you need the room to edit your photos a lot then you will get away with doing it using the RAW files.

I would not suggest using them all the time. I tend to use it for my professional work or arty stuff but for my own personal pictures I often prefer to setup the camera for jpeg the best I can in camera.

I suppose in general the answer would be to try and learn a lot more about how RAW files work and how to edit them. The decision as to whether you use them or not will follow that.

  • thanks. I do want to try RAW. My question is, can I get a feel of it with iPhoto or would it be a wasted effort?
    – davka
    Dec 3 '13 at 14:10
  • My advice would be to use a piece of software like Lightroom or PS because this is what the majority of other people use and you will be better placed for support, tutorials etc.
    – connersz
    Dec 3 '13 at 14:34

Personally, if you are doing anything beyond the most basic of basic (crop, rotate, red-eye) touch up, then RAW is absolutely worth it. The advantage it gives you in terms of white balance, exposure and levels alone is reason enough to use them. RAW will simply save images that would otherwise be lost and make allow you far more useful options in your photos than moving to something like Photoshop or Lightroom while still shooting JPEG.

You say it isn't a RAW vs JPEG question, but fundamentally, you are asking if the advantages you gain from RAW over JPEG make it worth using for your level of experience. The answer is yes, I would recommend making the jump to RAW as your next step in improving your post-production skills as it will almost certainly give you the most bang for your learning buck.

I don't know if iPhoto has RAW support or not, but even if it doesn't, the software from your camera maker should provide the ability to work with the RAW files and output a JPEG that you can further work on in iPhoto, so you don't need to spend anything more to try working with RAW files. There are also free third party tools like RawTherepee and Dark Table that you can use for learning before (or even in lue of) Lightroom.


As the previous posters already mentioned it makes sense to shoot in raw or raw & jpeg if your have enough space. When I first started taking photos I started with jpeg as most do. After understanding the difference between raw and jpeg I switched and regretted that I hadn't done so from the beginning.

Your photo editing skills will improve over time. When you save your photos as raw files you can still edit your old photos and make the best out of them.


I suggest using Lightroom. There is not much of a learning curve and it is more streamlined towards photographers than iPhoto and Photoshop. It takes full advantage of RAW files. You will absolutely love it once you get the hang of it.


If you are looking to "make the change" but are a bit wary, why not shoot in JPG + RAW (Most DSLR's can do this now) - this will let you take advantage of both sides of the argument for now, until you really discover the added bonuses of RAW as mentioned in other replies.

IMO - If storage space is not an issue, always shoot RAW.

I have always been a Nikon-ist, and over the course of the last 10 years have had a D70, D90, D300 and now i am on the D800. It has not been until now that I am really shooting mostly RAW.

You will find that RAWs will look flat on screen next to the equivalent JPG, however you are free to play with it however you want without loosing anything, AND there is a lot more data in the file to play with, so you can bring out detail in the shadows and highlights that would be lost in a jpg.

I use Photoshop, as the RAW conversion is very good, and allows me to easily apply "my look". I really do not think that iPhoto will let you experience the full benefits.

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