Discrepancy in RAW Images


This story was originally published in June 2014.

I have shot my images using the RAW format. According to the camera’s histogram, the highlights in my photograph are blown out, but when I opened the same image in Photoshop, I could see detail in the bright areas. Can you explain this discrepancy?
Ishita Parabri, via email

A RAW file contains all the data that is captured by the camera’s sensor and needs to be edited and converted to a JPEG or TIFF format before it can be viewed properly. When you are shooting using the RAW format, the camera’s LCD does not show you all the raw data, but only a preview of what a JPEG would look like. Other camera settings like Contrast, Sharpness and so on also determine the kind of image you get to see on the LCD. For instance, if you have kept the Contrast settings in your camera to maximum, the preview image on the LCD will be contrasty and may not show adequate detail in shadows and highlights. Do note that these details can be viewed and retrieved when editing the RAW image in software.

The best way to deal with this discrepancy is to bracket your exposures if you feel unsure whether the camera has captured enough data. Also, analyse your RAW files and compare them to the JPEG histogram that your camera showed, so that you can make an accurate judgement on your own.

Tags: histogram, JPEG, Question of the Day, RAW images, TIFF