I'm often asked whether I shoot in RAW or JPEG. And honestly, I do both. Around the house, shooting pictures of Lizzy and whatnot, I typically shoot JPEG--they're easier to process, and typically I'm not doing much retouching to those shots. However, when I'm doing an actual shoot (like for Kev's senior pictures), I usually shoot in RAW. Or sometimes RAW + JPEG depending on the day and the shoot.
Shooting in RAW offers several benefits--I don't have to worry about white balance, because I can adjust that after the fact. Additionally, it allows me to easily make tweaks that I think makes a photo really dynamic. For example, take this shot of Kevin:
It was one of my favorites from the session. But it didn't look quite like this straight out of the camera. It looked like this:
I knew that the sun was going to wash everything in the foreground out a bit, but I also knew that by shooting in RAW, I'd have the capability to get some of that color and vibrancy back.
A lot of photographers take this, and run with it for a very desaturated look, but I didn't think Kevin would be crazy about that, so I decided to try and add some color and depth through the RAW version.
Initially, I think the shadows were around a 10 or so. I bumped them up until they looked right to me--about a 37 or so. I don't recall if I also bumped up the contrast and saturation--it was mostly about the shadows.
Adjusting the shadows slider is my FAVORITE trick to giving photos some nice dynamic range. Give it a try sometime--I'm sure you'll like what you see!
PS- I believe that the Canon software that comes with the camera also has a RAW editor that lets you work with RAW versions, so you don't necessarily need Photoshop to give this a try!