8 Reasons Why Your RAW Files Look Flat

RAW is a file format that captures lossless image data from a camera. Long preferred by professional photographers for the quality it offers, this format allows digital creators to achieve the desired vivid results. This makes avoiding a flat look essential.

At times, your RAW files may look flat, which may affect the overall quality of your images. Read on below to find out what can cause this issue.

1. They Need to Be Edited

Before processing, RAW files will look flat and washed out to the point of making you wonder why they are so frequently praised. This is a normal occurrence, as they first need to be edited before they will look usable.

To get to see what the fuss is about, you will have to use your favorite post processing software. Think of RAW files like photo negatives. You will have to “develop” them to see their polished quality.

2. There is Dirt on the Lens or Sensor

RAW files are generally not affected by most camera settings other than exposure. If you notice that your RAW files are coming out greyer or foggier than usual, this may indicate that there is something on the lens or sensor

Usually, if there is dirt on a camera lens, you may notice some specks showing up on the photo you are taking. If you start noticing any sudden issue with flat and foggy RAW files, check the lens and sensor, and clean off any dirt if necessary. If there was dirt on either of these, especially the sensor, you may see a huge improvement with your RAW files once cleaned.

3. The Profile Is Affecting the Preview

When importing RAW files into editing and post-processing software, RAW photos may look very flat in the preview.

This is usually due to the difference in camera profiles. Editing software tends to ignore camera profiles, which will make the preview seem very different from the preview shown on the camera.

This issue can be easily corrected by using the camera profile presets available with your editing software. You will then be able to see previews that are more like the result you saw on the camera and far less flat.

4. The Contrast Is Off

Many times, your RAW files look flat due to a lack of contrast. When importing RAW files, you may notice that the exposure is alright but the contrast isn’t set, which results in flat images.

To easily correct this, increase the contrast of the image in your preferred editing and post-processing software. You will see the improvement immediately and your image will no longer be flat.

5. Saturation Levels Are Not Set

RAW files may look flat especially when you take a photo of vividly colored scenes. When imported as RAW files, those vivid colors will be lost until post-processing is finished. The quickest way to get past the flat look of your RAW files is to change the saturation levels of the image. You will instantly see your photos come back to life in vivid detail.

6. You Haven’t Used Curves

When your RAW files look flat, you may have skipped past some editing steps. Using Curves to add life back to your RAW files is an essential step in the process. Curves add more nuance to contrast, exposure, and saturation levels, which creates a richer result that will completely eliminate any flatness.

7. Highlights and Shadows Are Missing

One of the most convenient aspects of RAW files is the depth of editing they make possible. The image data they capture allows impressive detail to be seen in the final product.

If your RAW files look flat, make sure you tinker with the highlights and shadows during editing. This will have a dramatic effect on the results, and will allow you to enjoy the images even more.

8. The Exposure Has Been Changed

While you should do many changes during the editing of your RAW files, you may find that keeping the exposure the same will provide better results.

If you notice that your RAW files are flat, check the exposure. Significant changes in the exposure levels will affect the look of the image.


RAW can look underwhelming because they tend to be flat, but that is one of their best assets. RAW files allow for fine editing to be done, and they will only reveal their glory once post-processing is complete.