A question I am often asked is do i shoot in RAW or JPeg. The answer, emphatically is RAW. I always shoot landscapes in RAW. If your camera can shoot in RAW I would always recommend this.
So, what is RAW?
The simplest way I can describe it is that RAW is all of the raw data captured by your cameras sensor in order to create an image.
If you shoot in JPeg, for each shot, your camera will first record a whole load of raw electronic data. It will then use this data to create an image based upon the jpeg settings in your camera. It will then discard all of the extra data. So your camera has already post-processed your image and you are left wth a jpeg image that is smaller in size to the orginal raw data.
If you then take that jpeg image into a post-processing package such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, any further post-processing can cause noise or loss of quality as you are working on a smaller set of data.
With RAW files you are not actually capturing an electronic image, but a whole load of electronic data. You can then take this data into Lightroom or Photoshop and you have a lot more flexibility to manipulate the image qualities such as Highlights, Shadows, Contrast and Exposure to how you want them before saving as a jpeg or TIFF image.
So basically, instead of relying on your camera to do your post-processing, you are turning it into a more manual process that you have alot more control over.
For the image below, as it was shot in RAW, I was able to decrease the shadows in the images and make the colours a little bit more punchy.
Not all cameras have this option, but the majority of decent DSLR's should have. Another reason for choosing a DSLR or Mirrorless over the cheaper point & shoots. Having said that, we are now starting to see RAW options even in mobile phones!
I will write a blog post in the future explaining my RAW/Lightroom workflow. In the meantime, experiment. It's the best way to learn!