Say cheese! Google boosts support for RAW digital image uploads and online editing

Although it’s a ways off, Google(s goog) is one step closer to allowing digital photographers ditch traditional image editing software such as Aperture(s aapl) and Lightroom(s adbe). Instead, RAW images can be uploaded directly to Google+ where they’re converted to the JPG file format and can then be edited with Google’s browser-based tools.

Google’s Ronald Wotzlaw explains in a Google+ post from Wednesday evening:

“Of course: any time you view RAW files we convert them to JPEGs — to optimize the file size, and keep the service fast.
Starting today, and thanks to +Nik Photography, our RAW-to-JPEG conversion is now significantly improved. RAW images from more than 70 different cameras will look better as a result (full list below), and we’re tuning additional models over time.”

For those not familiar with the RAW file format, it’s a preferred one for photographers as it contains that actual image sensor data, not the image itself. As a result, the files are often much larger than compressed image formats. However, it allows for better image editing, provided you have software that can read and work with RAW files.

My new Sony(s sne) NEX-6 is one of the supported cameras for Google’s RAW upload functionality and I gave it a quick test on a RAW image file I captured last weekend. After uploading the 17.5 MB RAW file to Google+, it was quickly converted to JPG for me and I was able to use Google’s new photo editing tools right in the browser:

Summer light ends

It’s not the best example of what you can do, but I was simply kicking the tires of the photo editing feature in my Chrome browser.

Will thousands of photographers dump their expensive software and move to browser-based image editing? Certainly not. But as Google improves the service, that could happen. And in a pinch, while away from the high-powered desktop that’s often used for photo editing, you could grab any device running the Chrome browser for a quick-and-dirty RAW file edit. That’s the more likely use case for now.