Mac Tip: Save RAW Photos from iCloud Photo Library

Instructions: How to get the RAW files of the photos from the iCloud Photo Library on the Mac.

I've been a fan of RAW photography for a long time. Anyone who has ever noticed how much you can get out of photos in this format with Lightroom or other image processing with RAW import will understand me.

Recently I also have two photo apps on my iPhone, Halide and Manual, to snap photos in RAW format and save them in the camera roll. I do not want to go into any further detail here about the advantages of the apps. They can both be recommended as RAW photo apps. Anyone who would like a little more information can feel free to use the post "RAW photos with the iPhone camera" Continue reading.

Instructions: How to get the RAW files of the photos from the iCloud Photo Library on the Mac.

Instructions: How to get the RAW files of the photos from the iCloud Photo Library on the Mac.

Where are my RAW images?

But what made me want to make this post is the fact that I just couldn't get any RAW photos out of the Photos app on the Mac. I am using the iCloud Photo Library and have NOT turned on the "Optimize Mac Storage" option. This means that the originals are always locally on my Mac in the photo library.

Usually you can get the photos "out" by dragging and dropping them onto the desk. Then a JPG appears on the desktop and you can continue working in Lightroom or Photoshop with it, if you like.

Incomprehensible: Even if the file is clearly in DNG format, the Photos app only saves it as a JPG file when you drag it onto the desktop.

Incomprehensible: Even if the file is clearly in DNG format, the Photos app only saves it as a JPG file when you drag it onto the desktop.

In this case, however, a RAW file with the file extension .DNG should appear on the desktop, but this did not happen. Instead a file came up with the correct name, but with a ".JPG" at the end. If you call up the information about this photo in the Photos app, the filename is clearly "5.dng" and not "5.jpg". So what's wrong?

The Apple Support Document "RAW images in Photos and iCloud Photo Library"Is not very helpful, by the way. It only explains that the RAW photos are saved in the media library. How to get them out is not explained. But that's what this post is for! ;-)

But we learn something from the support article at Apple: If you have activated the "Optimize Mac memory" option in the Photos app, only small JPGs end up in the local photo library. How to get the RAW photos is even more questionable ... and of course not explained.

Update 20.10.2019/XNUMX/XNUMX: Drag and drop with pressed ALT key

I also learn every day ... among other things, that you don't have to go the cumbersome way via the export menu, as I will describe below. Instead, hold down the ALT key and then drag and drop the selected photos onto the desk. This is how the originals end up there and not the converted JPG files.

Solution: Export instead of drag and drop

I tried around for a long time and almost wrote to the developer of the "Manual" app. But shortly before sending the mail, I came across the solution. You mustn't use the drag-and-drop method, you have to save the image file in the Photos app on the Mac via the menu "File" -> "Export" and then "Save unedited original for 1 photo".

If you then look in the selected folder for the backup, the corresponding DNG files can be found there! Yippie!

HEIC and DNG files can only be saved to the Mac using the export function from the Photos app.

HEIC and DNG files can only be saved to the Mac using the export function from the Photos app.

Backup HEIC files from iPhone

The whole thing also works with the new "HEIC" image format in which Apple's own photo app on the iPhone has been saving its photos for some time. If you drag and drop these onto the desk, they are also converted into JPGs, which of course leads to a deterioration in the image quality.

In the photo information you can see that the file is in HEIC (High Efficiency Image File Format) format.

In the photo information you can see that the file is in HEIC (High Efficiency Image File Format) format.

So if you want to have the highest image quality before throwing the files into the image processing of your choice, you should use the export of the "unedited original". This is the only way to prevent the funny conversion into JPGs, which are always lossy due to the compression.

I hope this post has helped you to work with the RAW data. If you have any tips that would be a nice addition to the article, please comment below. I am happy to expand this guide.

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5 comments

  1. Andreas says:

    Hi,

    In addition to my Canon, I also like to take pictures with Halide and the iPhoneX in RAW.
    And was able to determine (because I had the same problem) that it is completely sufficient to open the photos media library in the "Pictures" folder by right-clicking and "Show package contents". Then simply navigate to the Masters folder, you usually know the year and month, by entering .dng in the search field at the top right of the Finder you can find your DNGs quite quickly and can, for example, drag and drop them into the target folder move. Comfort is different, of course, but after you've done the stuff two or three times, it's quick.
    Important: The photos app should stay closed ... otherwise the process just hangs ... at least for me.

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Thank you for this alternative way! What is your favorite app for RAW photography with the iPhone X? I use Halide and Manual, but can't decide. : D

  2. Hello, thank you very much for this article, which saved me a lot of energy. This is how I easily get the DNG files from Pro Camera onto my Mac. Excellent!
    Regards
    Matthias

  3. Brigitte says:

    Thanks for the tips. I've only just started editing photos in Lightroom and didn't know how to get the raws out of photos. In contrast to iPhoto, the pure display of the raws in photos can only be realized very laboriously via editing.

  4. Andreas says:

    Super thank you!!! I was completely desperate when trying to get my RAWs from Procamera on the Mac! I had already found the way through the "package contents", but I found it cumbersome and when copying it then somehow stuck in the meantime (was probably the problem with the open photos app).

    Drag & Drop with the Alt key is the optimal solution for me! Thank you again, you definitely saved my evening ????

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