How to edit RAW images for free

How to edit RAW images for free

A RAW image file (also called a digital negative file) contains unprocessed data from the image sensor of a camera, motion picture film scanner or an image scanner. This type of files aren't processed yet, hence, they can't be printed or manipulated with the help of specialized graphics editors. RAW pictures have wider dynamic ranges and more details than the final image formats. They also preserve the utmost info from the picture you take with your professional camera.

To view and edit this type of files requires the use of a specialized program, like Photoshop, ArcSoft PhotoStudio, and others. Some professional camera manufacturers provide you with this type of software while others leave you empty-handed. There's also the possibility that the utility you're being offered by the manufacturer of your camera doesn't bring you all of the features you could possibly require while handling your RAW images. Not to mention, some specialized RAW image editors are quite expensive.

An efficient and free alternative to using such tools for RAW files manipulation comes from the RawTherapee tool. This software is one of the best photo editors as it features a lot of advantages, such as the support for various types of cameras from different manufacturers, the compatibility with many RAW formats, the ability to process multiple files at the same time, and so much more.

Tutorial assets

You will need to download the following software to follow along with this tutorial.

In this article, I will show you how to use this free software to edit RAW images on your Windows PC. Here's what you need to do:

Step 1

Download and install the utility from the homepage of the developer. Make sure you select the installer file that's compatible with your PC specifications.

Step 2

Launch the software on your computer. Go to the File Browser panel and look for your RAW images in the Folders section. Double-click an image thumbnail and the RAW file will be opened in the program's editor.

Step 3

You will notice a wide range of editing options on the right side of the interface. For example, there's a panel that consists of adjusting bars for setting the preferred Gamma or Contrast levels. You can always undo your alterations if you're not happy with your results (press the Ctrl+Z keys on your keyboard). You can also use the program to complete basic image editing tasks, like cropping the photo or rotating the pictures.

RawTherapee's Image Adjustments PanelRawTherapee's Image Adjustments Panel

RawTherapee's Tone Mapping PanelRawTherapee's Tone Mapping Panel

Step 4

Once you finish altering your RAW image, save your photo to the preferred folder destination. The utility lets you choose between the following output profiles: JPEG (8-bit), TIFF (8-bit), TIFF (16-bit), PNG (8-bit) or PNG (16-bit).

Optional: RawTherapee is also packed with various types of predefined output profiles that are being listed on the upper-right side of the interface. You can create and save your own output profiles if needed.


Even though some manufacturers provide specialized software for handling the RAW images that were captured with their products, they're not always feature-rich or efficient. This is why I think using RawTherapee is a great idea. It gives you access to almost any editing option you could possibly be thinking of, works great, and comes without a price. So, what will you choose: the solution from the manufacturer of your camera or try another RAW image editor like RawTherapee? Let us know in the comments section below.

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