Imagine capturing a perfect moment with your camera, only to realize later that the exposure is off. The photo is either overexposed or underexposed, and it seems like all your efforts have gone to waste.

But wait! If you shot in RAW, there’s still hope. RAW photography gives you unparalleled control over your images in post-processing, allowing you to salvage poorly exposed photos and turn them into stunning masterpieces.

In this article, we will explore how shooting in RAW provides you with a great degree of control over your photos in post-processing, specifically when it comes to correcting exposure issues. Get ready to unlock the full potential of your RAW photos and take your photography skills to new heights!

Key Takeaways

  • ISO cannot be changed in RAW photos as it is fixed when the photo is taken.
  • Choosing the right ISO is crucial, even when shooting in RAW, as it affects the sensitivity of the sensor to light and can impact image quality.
  • Higher ISO levels are generally needed for low-light situations, but can result in increased image noise or graininess.
  • RAW photos allow for adjustments in exposure, shadows, highlights, contrast, and color levels, but not ISO, shutter speed, or aperture.
  • Balancing shutter speed, aperture, and ISO is essential for achieving the desired exposure in a photograph.
  • Post-processing RAW video can be more resource-intensive due to larger file sizes, but ISO still plays a crucial role in video as well.
  • Adjusting exposure, shadows, and highlights in RAW editing software can greatly impact the final image quality and bring out details in different areas of the photo.

Can you change ISO in RAW photos?

It’s not possible to change ISO in RAW photos. While RAW photos do let you change things like exposure, saturation, contrast, and highlights, you can’t change settings like ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.

The only settings you can change in RAW are what the sensor can capture a large range of.

The ISO is fixed when you take a shot, so the sensor does not capture a range of different ISOs as it captures a range of exposure levels.

Similarly, the shutter speed and aperture are not in the sensor itself but in the lens, so RAW images can’t change that either.

editing raw files

Does ISO matter in RAW photos?

Since you can’t adjust ISO in RAW files, it’s very important that you choose an optimal ISO even if you’re shooting in RAW. If the ISO messes up your photo by making it too dark, too grainy, or too washed out, non amount of post-processing can salvage the photo.

The ISO setting determines the sensitivity of the sensor or film to light. You generally have to use higher ISO levels for low-light situations so that your sensor becomes more sensitive to light and can capture a brighter image.

That’s because a higher ISO enables the sensor to receive and register more photons.

However, the tradeoff with ISO is that the image becomes grainy after a certain ISO level.

In some cases, you can actually shoot a RAW at a normal range ISO and then play with the exposure and shadows to bring out more detail in the image.

For example, if you shot an image at 100 ISO and turned up the exposure in RAW, you may be able to compensate for a similar effect as ISO 200 to 300.

There’s only so far you can go, though.

If your subject is too dark(such as indoors with low light), or too fast(such as a racecar on a bright day), you’ll need to have your ISO settings dialed in to get a good shot.

You can’t expect to shoot a dark scene with a low ISO and bring out the colors and detail with just exposure, since the data has not been captured by the camera’s sensor.

Does ISO matter when shooting RAW video?

Just like with photographs, ISO matters when you shoot RAW videos too. Since the ISO is a measure of how sensitive your sensor is to light, it follows that the light sensitivity will be just as important in video as it is in photographs.

Obviously, post-processing RAW video is much more resource-intensive than post-processing RAW photographs because video files are so much larger and essentially contains 24 to 29 images for every second of footage!

ISO, aperture, and shutter speed

The three values of shtuter speed, aperture, and ISO put together make up the exposure triangle. You need to balance these three values to ensure you get the result that you want.

For example, if you’re shooting a very fast subject like a hummingbird, you’ll have to increase your shutter speed to a very fast speed. However, the faster shutter speed also means your sensor will capture less light, so you’ll have to compensate that with a slightly higher ISO setting to make sure as many photons are registered on the sensor as possible.

What can you adjust in RAW photos?

Even though you can’t adjust the ISO in a RAW image, there are a lot of things you can adjust to completely transform your photograph.

After loading your image into a RAW editor like Lightroom or GIMP, the first thing you want to adjust is the exposure.

Moving the exposure slider up and down will make your image significantly brighter or darker.

As the image becomes brighter, you’ll see the existing bright areas start to lose color.

You can then bring the shadows and highlights back out by adjusting the shadows and highlights sliders. As you move them, you’ll see the details in the washed-out areas slowly come back.

Then you can adjust contrast and color levels to give your photo a specific type of tone.

More: Is film ISO the same as digital ISO?

Can you change ISO while shooting film?

Do I need to set white balance when shooting RAW?


In conclusion, understanding the limitations of RAW photography is essential to make the most out of your images in post-processing. One crucial aspect to keep in mind is ISO settings, as they cannot be changed after the photo is taken.

So, before you press that shutter button, double-check your ISO settings to ensure they are properly configured for your desired outcome. Remember, shooting in RAW provides you with unparalleled control over your photos, but it also requires careful planning and attention to detail in the field.

By mastering the art of RAW photography, you can elevate your images to new heights and create visual masterpieces that leave a lasting impact. Happy shooting!