Why is RAW important?
RAW photo referrs to the raw light data collected by your camera's sensor into a file. This file format usually makes a pretty big photo (5mb JPEG could make a 25mb raw file), because it contains unrasterized light data.
Another way to think about it is raw files play back the light rays that were captured in a moment, where as a JPEG plays back a mosaic of pixels it interpreted when you captured a moment.
The difference is in the level of detail and control you the photographer have when you work with your photo in post-processing. RAW gives you the most amount of control. One the critisizems most people have with RAW, outside of the excess space they make, is that typically they don't look "as clear" or "as sharp" as the JPEGs their camera creates. Following the analogy above, that is because your camera did it for you, as opposed to the photographer doing it in post.
Polarr started as a web app, that moved to a mobile app, and now a cross platform desktop app. It allows you to edit your photos similar to Lightroom but with a flair of Instagram or VSCO. There are two great features to this app. The first is that it works in a browser, so you can edit just about anywhere. The second is that you can use it on your RAW files.
Polarr has two versions; version 2.1 (free) and the newly released version 3 (freemium/subscription). Version 3 Polarr allows for 10 exports per day for free, past that you need to have a subscription. The technologist side of me flairs up here, as free services may be here today; gone tomorrow.
Shifting away from its roots as a web based editor, Polarr now has a $19 desktop app (or the lite version is free) for both Mac and PC. Giving an affordable post-processing option for the budding photographer who does not want to go deep into Lightroom, or just needs a rich and lightweight editor.
I am currently in the beta/TestFlight version of what will be the upcoming release of their new iOS Polarr app. And so far- it is pretty impressive for a mobile app, with some nice tweaks (almost Pixelmator like) to the UI. Stay tuned
A Moment of Summary
Tools like this, I look at like I use a pencil. They are good to use when you have them on hand, and it is handy to use if you need them... but don't rely on it for your main editing. There are several apps out there that I have used for one off photos. To roll with another analogy;
A pencil is only useful; until you run out of pencil to sharpen.
Apps like these can be used in the same fashion. Use them if they work for your art...until you have no more pencil to use. The Instagram filter brought the idea of "presets" to the masses, I am glad that more folks are getting comfortable with post-processing and that tools are making it easy for anyone to become a better artist.
Much thanks to all my patrons this month supporting this series "Whats in my [digital] Camera Bag."