Your iPhone camera is capable of taking incredible photos without much input from you. The camera’s default settings are more than adequate for everyday photography, so why would you mess with that? It comes down to how much effort you’re willing to put in.
You may have heard photographers talk about shooting in RAW. When you snap a photo with your phone or digital camera, it’s saved as image files, such as JPEG, TIFF, RAW and more.
A JPEG file is a processed, compressed image that is ideal for everyday use. These images don’t take up much storage space and are easy to share via text, email, social media and more. But RAW files are huge and can eat up all of your device’s storage. Let’s go over which type of files you’ll want to use and when.
RAW files are just that — raw. The camera/smartphone stores the photo as it was taken, without any processing or compression. The result is a much larger file than you get with a JPEG, but that comes with greater control of your footage. You can edit a photo’s white balance, color, exposure and more.
Have you ever taken a photo of your dinner and noticed that the white plate comes out looking a bit yellow? Most restaurants use soft lighting and your plate will pick up on that. A JPEG photo is the result of your phone doing its best to balance the light. You can tweak this slightly in editing, but you will be limited.
If you take that same photo in RAW, you can adjust the white balance afterward to show the plate as it looked to your own eyes. All of the image data from the original photo is there for you to change to your heart’s content.
Photography tip: 5 hidden smartphone features for better photos and videos
Welcome to the Pros
It wasn’t long ago that the RAW image format was reserved for digital cameras. You can go out and buy a DSLR camera from any major manufacturer and it will have RAW capability. The feature came to smartphones via third-party apps, but Apple introduced its own ProRAW format in December with iOS 14.3.
If you have an iPhone 12 Pro or 12 Pro Max, you can use ProRAW. This not only gives you the benefits of lossless imagery, but it also works on all four of the iPhone 12 Pro’s cameras. This means that your RAW images make full use of Apple’s Smart HDR and Deep Fusion, as well as night mode.
ProRAW also uses the industry-standard DNG file extension, allowing you to edit photos with third-party software.
Go to Settings > Camera > Formats, then toggle Apple ProRAW to try out this feature. A RAW icon will appear in your camera app, which you can toggle on and off as you shoot. When you close the camera app and reopen it, ProRaw defaults to off. To keep it on permanently, go to Settings > Camera > Preserve Settings and toggle ProRAW on.
Note: Remember, ProRAW is available with iPhone 12 Pro or 12 Pro Max models.
Shooting in RAW gives you limitless control over your photos, but this comes at a price.
With great power comes great responsibility
RAW photos take up a ton of storage space, and Apple itself puts a warning in the camera settings, citing that each file is 25MB. Compare this to the standard JPEG photos on your phone that use up about 1MB of space. Tap or click here to see which apps you should delete to free up more space.
You can fit hundreds of JPEG photos for each gigabyte of space on your phone, but fewer than 50 RAW photos. The smallest storage capacity available for the iPhone 12 Pro is 128GB. If you have 50GB free, that’s enough room for 25,000 JPEG photos at an average of 2MB each.
That same space can only fit about 2,000 RAW images. This may seem like a lot, but remember that you cannot do much with these photos until they are edited and saved as a different file. They are unwieldy and not easily shareable.
We recommend you leave ProRAW turned off until you actually need it.