1. How raw works
When you shoot NEF files with your Nikon, you’re intercepting your photograph data at a vital stage…
You’re not really asking your camera to do anything different when you shoot Raw because creating Raw data is part of its processing ‘pipeline’ anyway. All you’re doing is asking it to save this Raw data as a file you can process yourself, instead of leaving your Nikon to process the image in-camera.
In effect, the camera is a ‘Raw processor’ just like any Raw processing software you might use. The difference is that the camera’s processing options are locked in by the camera settings you choose. Whereas if you save a Raw file you can choose these settings yourself later.
This is important, because the processing used to create an in-camera JPEG means discarding a lot of data caught by the camera – and there’s no going back! With a Raw, however, you still have all the original photo data to use.