Keep your shots RAW.
Credit: Photograph by Ant Green

Most people capture photos as JPEGs, which is the default digital file format in most cameras. While shooting JPEG images can result in nice-looking photos, doing so means that the camera is automatically digitally compressing the shots to make them smaller, while also tweaking them to change color, sharpness, and other effects. This isn't a bad way to go if you don't plan on editing your shots in Photoshop, and it's fine for many people. If, however, you plan to control how your final images will look or have thoughts of using them professionally, then you'll want to shoot RAW images, which are uncompressed files – sort of like a digital negative with all the picture information intact.

"RAW allows you to clean up your pictures later, fix exposure issues, and make all the necessary adjustments," Steinmetz says. "It's a little more work on the back end, but you want to have control over the final result if you're going to improve your photography." Notably, RAW images are massive (about seven or eight times the size of a JPEG file) and also require extra software for you to even view them, much less process and edit them afterward. It all depends on your ambitions, but if you plan to "own" your images, you'll want to go RAW.