What is a RAW File? Full Guide

Are you curious to learn about RAW files? This article will give a complete guide for you about what RAW files are. Take a look!

Decades ago, we had film cameras that used film cartridges. On shooting photos, these cartridges created images called negatives. Photographers then developed these negatives into photographs by using chemical processes.

RAW files are image storing files with the same control as on the negative film images in the past. In fact, the images taken by digital cameras in a RAW file format are very near to human eyes or the eye of the camera.

what is a raw file

What is a RAW File?

RAW is not an abbreviation; instead, it represents an unprocessed image file format. These are unprocessed files because they are meant to be modified using editing software. Photos taken by specific digital cameras are stored as RAW files.

Features of RAW Files

Professional photographers who always edit their photographs afterward mostly take photos in RAW format. It is not because of quality and color details only, but it is because of the flexibility RAW files offer.

As for the features of RAW files, you can see:

1. Resolution

The resolution of the sRAW file was about 5.2 Megapixels (8784x1856 pixels), while the RAW files can store a photo containing 21 Megapixels (5616x3744 pixels).

2. File Size

The size of RAW files is more or less 25 MB, while the sRAW occupies about 15 MBs. On the latest WINDOWS, the RAW files don’t take much space; instead, they need less space than the PNG files.

3. Unprocessed Image Files

RAW files are unprocessed, meaning shot for editing purposes. The final processed image will always be the one that is processed in some kind of software such as Adobe Photoshop etc.

4. Lossless Compression

The compression done on the RAW files is lossless. In simple words, the details about the image are not lost during compression, so you get the image as it was when taken.

5. Conversion

It is a feature of RAW files that you have to convert into other formats before printing. Conversion also reduces the size of RAW files, which saves you plenty of space on your storage.

Pros and Cons of a RAW File

Taking photos of celestial objects in RAW files can reveal new horizons, but it has been a bit secret until now. If you are an astronomer or a scientist working on such a project, then RAW is an option for you as it requires CCDs (Charge-Coupled Devices) and reliable storage media for producing a high-quality RAW image.

In addition, here are pros and cons of RAW files:


RAW files are high quality and more detailed images than the other formats. The image captured by these files is nearly close to the scene viewed by human eyes.

RAW files can be compressed and converted into other image file formats such as PNG or JPEG etc.

You can change the white balance, exposure, color tones, etc of a RAW file to a great extent.

HDR and Panoramic images can be created using RAW files and certain software.

Colors present in a RAW file have a huge range. If you zoom in on the RAW image file you will find different tones of the same color in it.


The size of RAW files is greater as well because these files are not compressed and processed.

It might be hard to share a RAW file without converting it because these files are not standard files.

Editing and exporting these files requires your time.

How to Create and Open RAW Files?

Well-known operating systems such as Windows and Mac have built-in mechanisms for creating and opening RAW files.

To open RAW files on Windows, you should:

    1. Open the "Paint App" and insert any formate image into it.
    2. Press "Ctrl+S" to save the art. A dialog box will appear to ask you about the name and the type of the file.
using windows operating system
    1. If the dialog box doesn't appear, then open the "File Menu" and select "Save as > Other formats."
    1. Name the file whatever you want but just write .raw at the end of the name of your file.

Note: For opening any RAW file, there is an Application in Windows called "Photos App." Just go to the image file you want to open and double-click it.

To open RAW files on Mac, you should:

  1. Go to the image file you want to create a RAW file of and double click it. The file will open in the Photos App.
  2. Now open the "Edit Menu" in the toolbar and select "Image > Use RAW as Original."
  3. After that, the file you save should be of the RAW format (.raw).

How to Convert RAW Files?

1. Convert RAW files in Windows

You can reduce the size of a RAW file only by converting it using the Windows built-in raw file converter:

    1. Right-click on the RAW image file and select "Open with > Choose another app."
    2. Find the Paint App and open the file in it.
convert raw files in windows
      1. Open the "File Menu" and select "Save as > Other formats."
      1. Select the format of the file right below the text box for naming the file and press "Save."
save raw files in windows

2. Convert RAW files in MacOS

For converting RAW files in MacOS, follow the steps:

  1. Just find the RAW Image file you want to convert and double-click it. The file will open in the Photos app if it is installed.
  2. Now open the "File Menu" and select "Export > Export as JPEG" or the other given formats.
convert images on mac with preview

3. Convert RAW files free online

We are providing you links to the online converters so you can convert the RAW files into other formats to save your space.

1. ZamZar

It is a free raw file converter that offers a wide range of free converters. You can convert RAW files to JPG, PNG to RAW, RAW to PNG, RAW to BMP, etc. Visit the link to open the site.

convert raw files with zamzar

2. Image.online

Using this RAW to PNG converter, you can convert your RAW Image Data File to Portable Network Graphic. This is one of the best online converters for images and documents.

raw to png converter

Note: To know more about the basic of raw to jpeg, here’s the guide on how to convert RAW to JPEG.

How to Recover Deleted RAW Files?

Just select the device you want to recover using the user-friendly interface and leave it to Wondershare Recoverit. The recovery time will depend on the size and amount of your files.

recover images with recoverit

Note: To know more about raw image recovery, here’s the guide on how to recover RAW photos from camera?.


This article is a very easy guide for understanding what RAW files are and how to create, edit and open them using well-known operating systems (Windows or macOS) and applications. After reading this article, you will be able to compress or convert RAW files into other formats of image files like PNG, JPEG, TIFF, etc. We hope that this article is helpful for you.


JPEG or JPG are compressed image files, but there are limits for making changes in jpeg images. JPEGs become blurry and pixelated when their size is changed. On the other hand, RAW files allow you to perform various changes without losing quality. This is why RAW files are better than JPEG. From an artist’s point of view, RAW files store more colors than JPEG images.

No, PNG is a different format, also known as a type of Bitmap image format or BMP. Original RAW files are not compressed, so they take up a lot of space in the storage. On the other hand, PNG files are compressed losslessly to save space without losing the image quality.