Yesterday I took a picture while walking on the beach…

All sorts of black.

It’s shooting into the sun so it’s no real surprise that it’s underexposing much of the frame.

Luckily I was shooting raw.

What is raw anyway? Well, your camera’s sensor records the light that hits it. Typically it’s recording 10-14 bits worth of image information. Once it takes the picture the processor takes that information and converts it to the normal jpeg that everyone is used to. With this, there are two different processes happening. Firstly, jpegs store only 8-bits of information per channel so there’s a lot of quantization going on. Second, while the sensor in most digital cameras is relatively linear, the processing applies some roll-off on either end — whites fade to white a bit gently, blacks to black. It also increases contrast to what you expect.

The result of that processing is above.

But raw, on the other hand, records all of the sensor information. All of the information is saved — since there’s detail in the blacks and white that don’t appear in the jpeg, we can start to have some fun.

The same picture, with only around two minutes of work in Lightroom mobile turned into this:

This. This is why you shoot raw.