Regarding RAW format is it a Plus or just an opsolite waste of digital space?
Well lett me tell you from my personal experience. I ALWAYS shoot RAW plus JPEG, ALWAYS!!!
Why? you might ask - the anwser is simple.
JPEG's I use just to see if the composition is right, the light is corect overexposed/underexposed areas and other minute changes in the photo.
RAW's I use EVERY time I need to work on a serious postproduction on the photo like use for brosures, web design, online galery, printed materials and other.
I even shoot RAW for scenes from my personal life, You never know when you might end up using that digital negative. :) RAW is practicly that a digital negative, the main diference is that every color on the sensor is captured in it's layer (if you use the Canon EOS system since they first intruduced the CMOS sensor which had this ability), thus giving you much more to work with when you open the RAW format in any program specialised for RAW postproduction (Adobe Bridge and Light Room, Canon's own RAW program - Digital Photo Professional and others).
RAW enables you to corect a bundle of things in your foto with just a few sliders. The only thing that you can't corect are focus mistakes! :)
Everything else posible :) it's the easiest way to achive corection of autowhite balance, to add more hue or saturation, brightnes contrast, color balance and many many other things. Some intresting options also are removal of vingeting on the edges of the pictures, color aberations with some cheaper lensens, all of this you are able to do in just a few clicks in RAW file.
The added comfort to edit every color layer separatly will bring you more vivid photos in no time at all, and whats best you can save your presets for future use, exelent option if you are shoting a lot of photos in similar light conditions like product shots, studio portrait photography and similar.
If you tend to go for biger file size and biger photo dimensions you could try to make a High dynamic range imaging composite by using exposure bracketing and post-processing the separate images to create a single image with a higher dynamic range.
You can visit some of these sites to see waht i'm talking about:
High Dynamic Range - Wikipedia article
On HD Photo you can check:
HD Photo - Wikipedia article
Or you can download the Photoshop® plugin at:
HD plug in for Photoshop®
Or you can go for photostiching to create panoramas from multiple images or large size photo compositions of multiple images taken of a subject (instead of going wide go tele and make few shots of the subject details and later on stich them in a single photo composite).
As an example you can check out my photo at:
Panoramio - Panorama of Skopje City square
Panorama -Skopje City square full resolution
It is a 360 panorama of the city square made with Canon EOS 350D/Rable XT with the regular lense EF 18-55mm, camera was held Portrait oriented I shoot around 32 shots in circuit around me. The rest was done by AutoPano Pro a software for creation of Panoramas from shots like this. It's not perfect but it gives some fast and impresive results.
I hope this post will help you in your work.