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Is it a mistake not to backup RAW files, as shot?

If, like me, you always shoot your photos as RAW files then there is a bit of work to be done before saving them in their final, useable, format. I use Nikon Cameras so all my RAW files are in Nikon NEF format and I then edit them in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop before saving the final image in JPEG format. I then save the edited RAW and final JPEG files to my backup in case I need them again but, what I never do, is to return the RAW file to its original state before storing it. I haven't seen any problem with this because the final image is the final image, and if I want to change it then the edited RAW file is waiting for me. This might be a mistake!

Back in April 2019 I did a range of photographs for an article I wrote about how crab spiders can devastate the insect life on some flowering plants. This is one of the photographs that I used to demonstrate just how aggressive a predator the crab spider is.

The RAW and JPEG files were cropped 1:1 for all the images in the article and I have used the above image many times since 2019, and even put it on my website.

I recently needed the photo again, but it was required to be 16:9 format. I decided to simply expand the square JPEG image in Photoshop using the Crop Tool, with the Content-Aware option selected, to create this new image.

I was not very happy with the image as there was too much dead space around the spider and bee and a bit more colour above the spider would look better. I decided to recover the RAW file and see if there was any way I could get a better image from it, I knew it had been cropped originally and something could be recovered. I was astounded to find that the image was nothing like what I had expected. I had originally cropped it because I needed just the spider and bee, the thumbnail image for the RAW file mirrored the final JPEG image. When I reverted back to the default image size for the RAW file, I was expecting a messy background of leaves and petals to appear but, instead, I was presented with this delightful photograph.

I have now begun to ensure that my RAW files are always reset to default before storage and have gone through recent backups as well so, from now on, I will also always store the Photoshop PSD version of the JPEG's I create.

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