I have long known for a while that I should be shooting my photos in the RAW file format instead of/in addition to JPG. Most magazines that look for submissions prefer and some require the RAW file. I figured that I would have to start shooting in it.
For the photography class that I am in, the professor really hit hard on RAW, and I started to grasp, at least in my head, why I should shoot in RAW. So, I changed my settings to shoot in RAW + JPG. I started burning through memory cards and hard drive space like crazy, but I found myself amazed at what I was seeing. The image below is the JPG version of this morning's sky. Don't mind the blurriness! I got better ones :)Since JPG files are compressed, the camera tries to up contrast a bit and consolidates color. JPG photos have lost a lot of data, unfortunately. In this shot, you can see how the center of the sky is much too blown out.The RAW image above has more detail in general, and the colors are richer. This is what I have found to be the case with the majority of my images now. The RAW file has much more detail in the shadows and highlights.
I read a great article on this very topic the other day. Hopefully it is helpful!