Shooting RAW

February 15, 2018

What is a RAW file?

A RAW image file is a capture of exactly what the sensor on the camera sees. RAW files are not compressed and contain unprocessed data, which is why RAW files are so much larger than JPEG files.

Why Shoot RAW?

  • Full control over white balance and temperature
  • A RAW file contains the unprocessed data that was collected by your digital camera’s sensor when you took a photo, like the scene’s colors and tones
  • Applying adjustments to a RAW image is a parametric (non-destructive) method of editing
  • In-camera mistakes are much easier to correct in post-processing

Note: Different manufacturers generally use their own proprietary file formats. For example, Nikon uses the .NEF extension, Canon uses .CR2 and Sony uses .ARW. Pentax generally uses .DNG.

How to set your camera to shoot RAW

Camera makes are all a little different, but generally you can do the following:

  1. Go to Menu
  2. Navigate to Image Quality
  3. Select RAW or RAW + L (RAW + JPEG)

Editing RAW Photos in ACDSee

Browsing RAW Files in Manage Mode

Because a RAW file is similar to a negative, it is necessary to develop or process it before it becomes visible. It would be very inconvenient if you had to develop all of your RAW files before you could browse your photos. In ACDSee you don’t have to develop your RAW files to browse them because ACDSee does some basic preprocessing for you.

If there is a thumbnail of the photo embedded in the RAW file, ACDSee displays it in Manage mode. Sometimes the quality of an embedded thumbnail is poor, so ACDSee initially displays embedded thumbnails in Manage mode, then creates and displays a higher-quality thumbnail.

If there is no thumbnail embedded in the RAW file, ACDSee Ultimate quickly creates a high-quality thumbnail to display in Manage mode.

Viewing RAW Photos in View Mode

When you double-click the thumbnail of a RAW image in Manage mode, ACDSee checks to see if you have previously developed the RAW file. If you have, ACDSee displays the developed photo in View mode. If you have not, ACDSee does one of the following:

  • If you have selected the Embedded preview radio button on the General page of the Options dialog (Tools | Options), ACDSee displays the embedded JPEG, created by your camera when you took the photo. This is the default setting.
  • If you have selected the RAW decode radio button on the General page, ACDSee quickly develops the RAW file and displays a temporary photo of it.

In View mode, when you zoom in past the resolution of the embedded JPEG of an undeveloped RAW image, if you have selected the Embedded preview option, ACDSee quickly develops the RAW image so that you can see it at that zoom level. When View mode changes the display from the embedded JPEG to the decoded RAW image, you might see a change in the color, light, or detail. This is due to a difference between the settings applied by your camera to the JPEG and the settings used by ACDSee to develop the image. Since different camera models apply different color, light, and detail settings to embedded JPEGs, these settings do not always match the settings used by ACDSee. However, you can then use ACDSee’s Develop mode tools to process the RAW image with your preferred settings.

Saving Changes to a RAW File

  • In Develop mode: When you make changes and click Done, the image’s develop settings are stored in the XMP file of the RAW, and in the ACDSee database.
  • In Edit mode: When you take a RAW file directly into Edit, and you click Save, ACDSee prompts you to save the file in a different file format. With RAW, to permanently save changes to an image, you will need to save the image in a different file format.
  • In Develop, then Edit mode: When you develop an image, the image’s develop settings are stored in the XMP file of the RAW. When you take the developed image into Edit, and then apply edits and save the image, ACDSee Ultimate prompts you to save the image in a new file format. For RAW files, to permanently save changes, you will need to save the image in a different file format.

View full list of RAW support formats for ACDSee.



  • bill

    ACDSEE HAS TAKEN OVER MY FILE EXPLOWER I WANT TO CHOOSE THE FILES IF I OPEN ADC when i open windows file explorer i do not want adc to open and take over

    • ACD Systems International

      Hi Bill, thanks for getting in touch. It sounds like you have ACDSee set as the default program for certain file types. What version of Windows are you using?

  • kanehi

    Does ACDSee support the new CR3 RAW from Canon?

    • ACD Systems International

      Currently, ACDSee does not support the new CR3 files. We’re working on it!

  • Brian Contant

    Does ACDsee support the Nikon D5600? Thanks

  • ACD Systems International

    Yes, ACDSee supports the Nikon D5600. For a complete list of supported RAW formats please visit,

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