As you explore photography and your DSLR more, you may start to notice the limitations of shooting in JPEG. This is where RAW comes into play.
RAW is an uncompressed format and it captures all the image data when you take a photograph. This means you are able to take very high quality photographs, compared to using JPEG, which is a compressed format and loses some image data.
The main differences between JPEG and RAW are:
So what about the benefits of shooting in RAW?
Ability to dramatically correct under & over exposed photographs:
For me this is one of the best things about shooting in RAW. If your image is too dark, you are able to easily lighten it without a reduction in quality.
The same is true for an over exposed image, you can decrease the highlights to save an image from being unusable.
To see how to process/edit RAW images see this post
Adjust white balance:
Sometimes the lighting in a room can just throw off the white balance in an image. Shooting in RAW enables you to simply change the white balance with just a click of a button. This change to white balance is more natural and effective then trying to edit the white balance of a JPEG.
With RAW, the original file remains unchanged. You can keep going back to the original image, adjusting and changing it without permanently changing the original file.
There is a danger when editing JPEGs that you may accidentally save over the original file, unless you have copies backed up elsewhere.
This is why it is called non-destructive editing, because you can go back to the original file.