Want better iPhone photos? Shoot raw

Raw photos give you more control when editing images. If you have a newer iPhone and iOS 10, here's how to get started.

Lexy Savvides Principal Video Producer
Lexy is an on-air presenter and award-winning producer who covers consumer tech, including the latest smartphones, wearables and emerging trends like assistive robotics. She's won two Gold Telly Awards for her video series Beta Test. Prior to her career at CNET, she was a magazine editor, radio announcer and DJ. Lexy is based in San Francisco.
Expertise Wearables | Smartwatches | Mobile phones | Photography | Health tech | Assistive robotics Credentials
  • Webby Award honoree, 2x Gold Telly Award winner
Lexy Savvides
2 min read
Watch this: Shoot raw photos in iOS 10

If you love taking photos, one of the best features in iOS 10 is the ability to capture in raw.

Raw photos are images captured straight from the sensor without any processing. Usually when you take an image on your phone -- or any camera -- noise reduction, white balance and sharpening are all applied to the image as soon as it's been taken.

With raw photos, you don't have any of this processing, which means that you have a lot more data to play with when editing.

What you need

Unfortunately the default Apple Camera app does not support raw capture right now. You'll need to download another app to shoot and edit these files.

Some apps you may want to try include:

Note that raw capture is only supported on the iPhone 7 , 7 Plus , 6S, 6S Plus , SE or the 9.7-inch iPad Pro .

Raw photos typically take up a lot more space than their JPEG counterparts, so make sure to clear some space on your phone's storage if needed.

Now you've selected your camera app, look for a raw photo option in the settings. This will either say raw, or else you might find it described as DNG (digital negative).

Now what do I do with them?

The best part about shooting in raw is having lots of editing flexibility. You can edit raw photos on iOS 10 in an app like Snapseed, an Adobe Lightroom Mobile has comprehensive editing options.

Some apps like Manual will save raw images to your camera roll. If so, make sure you don't edit your raw images using the edit tools here, as you'll only be altering lower-resolution JPEGs.

Enlarge Image

In the photos above, the same edits were applied to the JPEG (top) and raw (bottom). You can see lots more highlight detail retained around the sun in the raw compared to the JPEG.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

How can I export raw files?

Sometimes you might just want to take the raw photos on your phone and edit later on your desktop. The export process depends on each camera app but generally, if the app saves raw files to your camera roll, you can simply AirDrop from your iOS device to a Mac.

For Adobe Lightroom Mobile you have to have a Creative Cloud subscription in order to transfer the native DNG file from phone to desktop. Otherwise you might prefer to make your edits on the phone screen, then export a JPEG in the regular way.

Find out more about taking raw images on phones, including Android devices, in this article.