Join Seán Duggan for an in-depth discussion in this video Shoot in Raw, part of iPhone and iPad Photography with iOS 10.
- One of the big, new developments in photography on iOS 10 is that we can now capture raw files on certain iPhones and iPads. Now, if you are already a photographer who shoots in raw on some of the other cameras, and you already have an iPhone, then you are probably already up to speed on this development, but for those people who are new to the whole idea of shooting in raw, I wanted to take some time to go over just what a raw file is, and what possible benefits it might bring to your own mobile photography workflow. Before we get into that, I just want to clarify that in order to shoot in raw on an iOS 10 device, it has to be an iPhone or an iPad that has a 12 megapixel camera sensor, so that's going to be the iPhone 6S, the 6S Plus, the seven or seven plus, or a 12 inch iPad Pro.
So, when you are taking pictures with a digital camera, whether it is an iPhone or another digital camera, the image sensor in the camera captures the scene and creates a raw file, and it really is just the raw information that the sensor captures. Raw meaning it has not been processed yet. Because all digital cameras will process the files that they capture if they save them into another format other than that raw format. Now, obviously with camera phone, the common format that is used is JPEG.
JPEG is a really useful format for digital photography because it is a compressed format, so it makes the file much, much smaller, meaning you can save many more images onto your device. But the one issue with JPEG is that it discards a lot of information in that compression format, so a lot of the information that is gathered by the original raw file is discarded when the file is saved as a JPEG, so in terms of the tonal possibilities offered in the file, a JPEG can support eight bits of information, and what that translates to is 256 levels of tonal detail per color channel, whereas a raw file can capture much, much more, well over 16,000 tonal levels per color channel.
So, what a raw file gives you is just a lot more tonal overhead, in terms of making changes to the file, and making the file look better. Now, if your picture is perfectly exposed, it's not that big of a deal to shoot in JPEG, but if you have a file that has certain issues or challenges to it, if the file is very, very overexposed, or underexposed, or there's a lot of contrast in it, you're going to have a lot more flexibility and possibility to improve the file and make it look better when you work with a raw file rather than with a JPEG.
So for example, take a look at these two images here. These were significantly underexposed images, a lot of really dark shadow areas where I just didn't get a lot of good exposure. In the JPEG version, when I tried to open up those shadows and make the image look better in post processing, you know, I was able to have some success, but if I zoom in close, the quality of the tonal transitions in those darker shadows is still really kind of rough and not very good, however in the raw file of the same scene photographed at the same time, when I open up the shadows on that file, I just had a lot more success, and I came up with a much, much better result.
Again, that's because the raw file has over 16,000 tonal levels per color channel, whereas the JPEG only had 256 tonal levels. I just had a lot more detail to work with with the raw file, so when you do have images that have challenges, and need some salvaging, some rescuing, some tender loving care, you're just going to have a lot more options to you when you shoot with a raw file format. Now, the irony of the fact that iOS 10 supports raw capture is that apart from the underlying architecture of the operating system that makes this possible, there really is nothing about the camera app in iOS 10, or the photos app in iOS 10 that lets you deal with raw files.
So, in terms of shooting raw images on your iPhone or iPad, as well as processing them, you're going to be relying on apps from other developers. So, the app that I like to use most often for capturing raw files on my iPhone is Lightroom Mobile. I like that because it has a camera app as part of it, and also, all of the pictures that I take in that will automatically synchronize to my Lightroom catalog back home, so any changes I make to that file in the Lightroom Mobile app are going to synchronize back to my computer back home.
So, another aspect of raw files to be aware of, which could influence your decision about whether or not you're going to shoot with that is that they are much, much larger than JPEGs, so from this iPhone seven plus, which is a 12 megapixel camera, the file size for a JPEG is around two, two and a half megabytes, but for a raw file, it's going to be anywhere from about 12 to 16 megabytes, depending on the image, so obviously, you're going to be using up storage space a lot faster if you're shooting entirely in raw.
So, what I would recommend is not to be shooting raw all the time, because of course, we take a lot of different types of pictures on our iPhones. You know, we have the quick, casual shots that aren't really meant to have a long shelf life. It might be that shot to remember where you parked at the airport. Maybe it's something you're photographing to make sure you pick up the right item at the store, something like that. Obviously, I'm not going to be shooting raw with those type of pictures, but for those photographs where I am consciously trying to create a good photograph, maybe a more creative, artistic image, or for those scenes where I'm working in really challenging lighting conditions, I would definitely consider shooting in raw just 'cause I know I'm going to have a lot more options available to me.
And then, another thing to keep in mind about raw is that in addition to the possibility of processing it on the phone in whatever camera app you're using, or processing app you're using that supports raw editing and capture, a lot of the benefit of working with raw really comes from moving the photos off your phone and onto your computer, and working on them in a program like Adobe Lightroom or in Adobe Photoshop. So, that is the rundown of what a raw file is and what some of the benefits are. For me, I am really excited that this has come to the iPhone.
Raw capture has been available on Android devices for a while, but I'm really excited at the possibilities I now have to capture and edit raw files on my iOS device.
- Shooting panorama photos
- Creating slow-motion videos
- Taking time-lapse videos
- Capturing RAW photos
- Working with editing extensions
- Previewing and trimming videos
- Sharing photos with the Photos app
- Using facial and content recognition
- Transferring photos to and from your device