Do RAW Images Degrade Over Time?

Every digital format has an unprocessed version that allows it to be changed into any file type. For digital images, this is the RAW format. RAW images are the core image data stored on a digital camera in its purest form. Do RAW images degrade over time?

RAW images do not degrade over time because they are lossless files. The only time there is a possibility that they could degrade is if they are stored improperly and you do not have backups for them.

Understanding how image files work and the best way to store them ensures that the precious memories you capture will last a lifetime. So, read on to learn more about RAW files and their integrity.

Can RAW Image Files Break Down Over Time?

RAW images are the image data that is stored inside your camera that is taken right from the digital sensor. They are large and have been processed lightly or not at all. This means they are the purest form of any digital image, so they are rich in color and have a whole host of beneficial properties.

RAW images themselves do not degrade over time unless they are stored the wrong way on the camera or do not have backup files. This is because RAW images are lossless files. Now, to share a RAW image, they have to be converted into a JPEG or other recognizable format since they are so large. 

Degradation can happen when RAW images are changed into other formats, but RAW images themselves are unlikely to break down as time passes.

What is a Lossless File?

Lossless files are those that have all of the original data preserved, such as PNGs. They are the most powerful quality-wise and some of them can be compressed without affecting the image quality. On the other hand, lossy files are those that have lost data, and when thinking about pictures, can become more pixelated depending on the conversions done.

Benefits of Raw Image Files 

Since RAW images lack shareability, those who love to show others pictures will rarely, or never, keep them in their original format. Aside from the fact that image degradation is rare, there are many benefits to the RAW format. These include:

1. RAW Images Display More Shades of Color 

Since RAW image files are not missing any data, they will show more hues of color than any other file type. There can be as many as 68.7 billion colors in a RAW image. This means that photos will be richer and look more vibrant. RAW format is perfect for appreciating the beauty of the world in full color.

2. RAW Images Have a Better Dynamic Range 

The better the dynamic range of an image, the lower the risk of overexposure or underexposure to lighting. The ability to bring back shadows and highlights naturally present in an image is also better with RAW files. Too much exposure to an image leaves them with a glare, and too little exposure creates so much shadow that it is difficult to see the subject or subjects.

3. More Control of the Image and Edits Made

Because RAW images are pure, you have full control of how they will look and how they are edited. You can choose to leave them RAW or change them in any way you wish. The possibilities are seemingly endless.

4. Proof of Ownership and Authenticity

RAW images are more difficult to manipulate than other formats, so it becomes harder for people to manipulate or plagiarize the images you create. Plus, if someone did try to take your image, the data from the RAW file is there to prove it is yours.

In short, the RAW image format is best for people that are serious about photography and want the highest quality images possible. It is best to pick and choose what images you want to keep RAW because they take up more space than other formats.

How To Store RAW Image Files Properly

Earlier, it was mentioned that RAW images can degrade if they are not stored properly, but what is the best way to store them to prevent this?

One of the best ways to save RAW photo files without them taking up space on your camera or computer is to use a cloud storage service like Google Drive or Dropbox. Many of these can store RAW images. Alternatively, you can use a hard drive that has much more space on it.


RAW images are the purest form of a photo that cannot degrade unless they are converted, not stored properly, or not backed up. They are also lossless, which means they contain all of their original data. RAW photos are rich in color, dynamic, and a canvas you can change in whatever way you want. It is best to store them on a hard drive or a cloud storage app.