What are RAW photos?

For most digital photographers, RAW is as crucial to the art of photography as the photos themselves; and now, RAW has been brought to iPhone.

A great analogy in order to understand RAW photos is to compare it to food. Think of RAW photos like an actual raw ingredient to make a meal; you have raw veggies, meat, etc. and with those ingredients you can make many different meals. In the same way, a RAW image has the highest amount of imaging data, which allows you  much more freedom to creatively alter the photo during editing. Lastly, the RAW image format is one that needs to be processed in order to be read, which is why it has not existed on many smartphones previously.

RAW is a file format of a digital image that the camera captures and records into the camera’s memory. Ultimately, a RAW image is uncompressed and unprocessed.

Why shoot in RAW?

There are 3 major reasons why most photographers choose to shoot in RAW. The first reason has to do with image quality; because RAW photos are uncompressed, you have the highest level of detail and quality (compressed photos usually sacrifice image detail for file size and ease). The second reason is the ability to utilize all the imaging data during the editing process; because the sensor captures a full uncompressed spectrum of colors and light when shooting RAW, the photographer is able to utilize more editing tools. Additionally, all imaging data is recorded, so it is much easier to recover dark parts of underexposed photos as well as bright parts from overexposed photos. Finally, the third reason to shoot RAW is that it allow photographers to experiment with editing without altering the photo itself. Because most photo editing softwares (like Adobe Lightroom) simply read and process the data from RAW photos, the original files are not actually altered; an editor simply make their edits from a read copy of the original file, which allows for creative freedom.

Below are some edited examples of photos I shot using the two apps shot on an iPhone 7 Plus.

How to shoot RAW on the iPhone.

So I did mention that RAW is available for iPhone, this is true. Although, the iPhones’s native camera app at this time does not support shooting in RAW; to do this you will need a 3rd part application. If you are already a photographer, then I am almost certain that you are familiar with the application Adobe Lightroom, which until recently, was solely a desktop app. If you already own this app, you’re in luck because Adobe has made a stelar mobile version of their desktop app. From the app, you can capture RAW photos in DNG format with ease. Additionally you can edit those photos on the go, which is pretty awesome. Download the Lightroom Mobile app here. If you have not invested into the Adobe ecosystem quite yet, don’t worry – there is another great iOS app called Manual. Manual is a great app because it gives the same familiarity as the native camera app while also providing a BUNCH of manual (hehe the name) controls in order to fine tune your photo; this is about as close to a DSLR that you are going to get with an app on your iPhone. Download the Manual app here.

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