Take RAW photos with an iPhone camera: here's how!

Shoot a DNG Raw photo with your Apple iPhone

If you use the iPhone camera as a professional tool and want to take RAW photos instead of JPEG images, you can do so with just a few steps and one or the other additional app. How to take a photo in raw data format and what advantages this offers in image processing, I have summarized for you in this guide. In the future, you will not only use the iPhone as a hobby camera, but also take photos that can be processed much better (and with less loss) in RAW format. Take RAW photos with an iPhone camera: here's how! ;)

Take RAW photos with an iPhone camera: here's how! Here I will show you apps, thanks to which you can take raw data photos with the Apple smartphone camera, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

Take RAW photos with an iPhone camera: here's how! Here I will show you apps, thanks to which you can take raw data photos with the Apple smartphone camera, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

What is special about the raw data format?

Digital photographs in raw data format can to a certain extent be compared with the negatives in analog photography. RAW photos offer a lot of detail as well as information about brightness, dynamics, color and exposure. JPEG images are the digital counterpart to a photo print from an analog negative. Many parameters are set here, as well as format, exposure, type of development and paper for photo prints. In short: The special thing about the raw data format of digital photos are the possibilities that arise for later processing and "development".

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Requirements for RAW photos on iPhone

Anyone who has ever made more professional recordings with a system camera or mirror reflex (DSLR) may be familiar with the raw data format (Canon: TIF, CRW, CR2 / Nikon: NEF, NRW). It is suitable for a differentiated post-processing in the photo processing software and is blessed with a better quality or its preservation. So if you want to activate RAW photos on the iPhone in order to enjoy similar advantages with smartphone photos, you first need iOS 10 or a newer version like iOS 11. In addition, your Apple iPhone should have at least a 12 megapixel camera. Which models correspond to this? These:

The right iOS app for RAW images

So how can you take RAW photos with the iPhone camera? For this you need, because the iOS cameraApp does not offer raw data formats, the third-party photo app. A free iOS app for RAW photos on the iPhone is included Adobe Lightroom CC (offers in-app purchases). When researching, I'm also on the promising-looking apps Manual, Obscura Camera, Halide and ProCamera encountered:

[appbox app store id878783582]
[appbox app store id917146276]
[appbox app store id915939220]
[appbox app store id694647259]
[appbox app store id885697368]

Some of the apps are also intended for the Apple iPad and / or for communication with the Apple Watch. With one or two of these programs you can also take RAW photos on the Apple iPad Pro 9,7 inch (and newer models). The download pages provide detailed information.

Take RAW photos with iPhone camera

So, now we come to the main topic of this guide. To take RAW photos with the iPhone camera, install one of the above apps and then select a raw data format in the settings. At Lightroom if you choose, for example, the Pro mode, which shows you DNG as the recording mode (for the Adobe DNG format, which stands for "Digital Negative"). The other apps also offer RAWs in .dng format. In addition, there is Live Photo support, ISO settings, video in 4K and much more. You can find the individual features on the download pages linked above.

Have you found the right settings, then you look for a nice motif and press the shutter release. Zack, done: you took a RAW photo with the Apple iPhone;) More professional programs on the Mac, iPad or iPhone are now available for editing. If you've downloaded Lightroom, you can try it out for free. When displaying the raw photographs on the iPhone, however, it can happen that they do not look as high-quality as they actually are. So if you have the opportunity, drag them to the Mac / MacBook and try out photo editing there. Here are a few posts about recommended apps:

Do more with RAW HDR

The RAW-HDR (High Dynamic Range) offers more possibilities and higher quality Adobe Lightroom CC App for iOS since the beginning of 2017. For the HDR feature, which offers better illumination, nicer color distribution and adapted dynamics, three images are created, aligned and superimposed, so to speak. For optimal results it is advisable to stabilize the iPhoneto put it down or use a tripod.

The disadvantage of raw data photos

Raw data photos such as those in .dng format have a significant disadvantage compared to JPEG, JPG, PNG, GIF and other formats that can be viewed as prints, which should be kept in mind with the iPhone: they take up noticeably more storage space. If you want to save them locally directly on your Apple smartphone, you will benefit from models with a large memory if you take a lot of photos. Otherwise, external, connectable storage media such as iCloud, Dropbox and Co. are available for outsourcing. Or you can use the appropriate photo editing apps for the iPhone to edit the pictures directly, save them in the desired appearance as a JPEG and delete the DNG.

The advantages clearly outweigh this

When it comes to pictures with a .jpeg ending, it is not uncommon for you to get annoyed about this and that error that you actually don't want to have in a picture. In order to save the photo as space-saving as possible, some areas are combined with this image format and image errors are automatically compensated for. This creates artifacts and blocks of color that don't look pretty. In addition, very dark or very light areas are normalized and adapted to the rest of the image so that too much information does not have to be saved. With the digital negative none of this is necessary and you get the "original" image of your surroundings with as much information, richness of detail, dynamics, light and shadow as possible;)

Recommended reading: Comparison of raw data and JPEG on Wikipedia

When the format is not worth it

As I said: this post is aimed primarily at those of you who want to (professionally) edit their iPhone photos. If you prefer the “magic” that Apple packs into its smartphone and prefer noise reduction, image selection from multiple shots and many other features, or if you don't want to have anything to do with time-consuming post-processing, then the best thing to do is to use the camera app from iOS. With the hardware and software, especially newer iPhones, you get very good results and Apple is making it easier and easier for users of its smartphones to take good photos. Further explanations, many comparative images and background information are also provided this post from the HALIDE blog.

Bad display in the Photos app

If you take RAW photos with your iPhone and then view them on the device's default app, they probably don't look nice. As described in the last paragraph, this may be due to the lack of automatic post-processing; but also simply because the app is designed to display JPG images. The DNG file is quickly converted and displayed poorly, which makes the actually good photo look blurry and look like "unsuccessful". Ergo: Take snapshots and not professionally treated pictures with the photo app rather than JPG and use the "magic" in iOS;)


Do you not only want to take snapshots and selfies that you can quickly share on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat, but prefer photos that you can treat as professionally as possible? Then RAW photos with the iPhone are just the thing for you. The digital negative with the file extension .dng plays an important role here, even if you are used to other formats from the system or reflex camera. DNG photos from the iPhone or iPad offer you more image information, details and thus options for editing. Do you have any hints, comments or know other software that makes recordings with mobile device cameras more professional? Then please leave a comment on the topic!

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