What are RAW stock photos, and do you need them for your project? We’ll answer all your questions about what RAW photos are, how they can be used, and where to find stock RAW photos (there’s only one agency that offers them so far).
First, here are the top five reasons you need RAW stock photos:
1. RAW is the most high-quality image file available.
Most people have heard of RAW photos before, but there’s some confusion about what they are.
You might compare a RAW photo to unroasted coffee beans and a JPEG to a brewed cup of coffee. With RAW, you can roast the beans however you like, and brew the coffee as strong as you want, and add any cream or sugar flavour to make the perfect cup. With JPEG, you have limited options to make it as you like, adding only cream or sugar after the fact. There are far more options when it comes to RAW than there are with JPEG.
Why is this? Well, RAW isn’t technically a file size. It’s the unprocessed, raw data from the camera sensor. It’s the alternative to the default of most cameras, which is to compress an image into JPEG once a photograph is taken. In the compression process, the file size is made smaller, and the post-processing capabilities are limited.
Because a RAW image is pure data from a camera’s sensor, there is infinitely more you can do with it. RAW stock photos are un-retouched data, which you will need to edit an image to fit your brand’s aesthetic.
Which brings us to our second point:
2. RAW stock photos can be edited in any way you like.
Because you get all the data from the camera’s sensor, you have all the post-processing editing power with RAW images. You can adjust white balance, highlights and shadows, and so much more by having the RAW camera data. RAW stock photos come un-retouched, which gives you the flexibility to make them your own in every way possible.
The most popular editing software for RAW images is Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, which require subscription services. You can learn how to use them with tutorials through Adobe or on YouTube.
Check out our guide to the perfect images for marketing and visual content here.
3. When you edit RAW photos, you’re editing non-destructively.
Remember when we said a RAW file isn’t an actual image file?
When you edit a RAW image, you are actually editing a copy of it, which means you never have to worry about ruining or messing up the stock raw photo you purchased and downloaded. That data is protected, so if you want an image retouched in a few different ways – or if you ever want to go back and start over – the data will be there waiting for you.
4. RAW stock photos can be resized to meet your needs.
A RAW stock photo is like several yards of unused fabric. It's so large, it can be cut or resized to fit multiple platforms. So, whether you need an image sized for an Instagram post, a printed poster to promote an upcoming event, or a large-scale banner to advertise a sale, one RAW image has the high-resolution and quality to do it all.
5. Get better print quality with RAW stock photos.
This goes back to image sizing. Because you have camera data, you get incredible resolution options from RAW data. Print quality, as a result, will be incredibly high. This is valuable if you’re printing something large, like a billboard, banner or sign. It also allows for clear and sharp printing of brochures, business cards, and other marketing print materials.
Are RAW stock photos expensive?
RAW stock photos will cost more than JPEG or lower-resolution images because they require a higher-quality camera and because they are so large. If you have a strict stock photography budget, it will be tricky to find RAW stock images that will fit in it. It may be better, for the time being, to go with JPEG images instead.
If you go into the process with realistic pricing expectations, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Where can I get RAW stock photos?
Most stock photo agencies don’t offer RAW photos because the file size is too large for their platforms. There is one that you can get RAW stock photos from, however, and that’s Dreamstime:
Dreamstime has been offering stock royalty free images since 2000. As a result, they’ve developed an excellent reputation for selling high-quality stock photos at a truly affordable price. You can purchase a subscription membership or credit packs, and depending on the subject you’re looking for, they’ll have either hundreds or thousands of RAW stock photos to choose from, like images that can be made black and white, closeup photos, landscapes, portraits, and so much more.
Here’s how to search for RAW stock photos on Dreamstime:
- Head to dreamstime.com.
- Before you search, click the down arrow next to the search bar and select “only vector/RAW:”
Then, use the search bar to find the specific theme or subject you are looking for.
Dreamstime offers RAW formatted images for as low as $29, which is an incredible price for so much data. Learn more about this agency by reading our in-depth review, or head to their site to see what RAW stock photos they have available before you purchase.
RAW Stock Photos: Are they really best?
In the end, RAW stock photos are the best option if you want to post-process the image yourself and print it in a large size, like for a billboard. If you don’t want to edit the image yourself, it’s best to go with JPEGs that have the work already finished. That’s because unprocessed RAW images appear very flat and washed out.
If you want to purchase RAW stock photos for your next project, head to Dreamstime for a great deal.