March/April 2007 HelpLine
Q) I recently began shooting only RAW images and I'm close to starting my own photography business. If I only shoot in RAW, will I be able to put images on disc and take them to a local camera store for developing? If this isn't feasible, how do I save the images in a different format for developing purposes?
Via the Internet
A) Most labs or local camera stores want to work with either JPEG or TIFF files for a number of reasons, including that these files always can be opened and they're "developed" compared to RAW. Since you're starting up your own photography business, I recommend that you talk to the camera store you want to use. While I can tell you what file would be most widely accepted (JPEG, with minimal compression), it's important that you establish a good relationship with the person who will do your printing. He or she may have suggestions about your process that will help produce the prints that you want.
Think about RAW, and you can see why others don't want to work with a photographer's own RAW files. When you download your RAW files to your computer, you go through a series of steps to get them to look right. Some call this "developing" or "processing" or a term analogous to developing film. Others take the analogy a bit further and refer to RAW as your "digital negative," but that may take it a bit too far.
If you think about film, once it's processed, there isn't much you can do to it until you move into printing. But if you sent me a RAW file, for example, I could change your negative-white balance, saturation, contrast or a whole host of other parameters! So you wouldn't want to send your camera store a RAW file, since it could "adjust" your image, too!