RAW Photography with Older iPhones

Only the latest iPhones (and top of the line models at that) can take advantage of Apple's new ProRAW format. But earlier models capture RAW quite well, and by following a few simple steps, can yield beautiful results.

I photographed this fall vineyard scene shooting RAW+Jpeg with an iPhone X using the Halide app. Thanks to the smarts of the iPhone, the Jpeg version looks good despite the strong backlighting from the sky.

unmodified-jpeg-Photos.jpeg Unmodified JPEG captured with an iPhone X using Halide.

But I wanted to get a bit more out of this image, so I decided to spend a couple minutes working with the RAW file. Here is the workflow that I use and recommend. I use Luminar 4 as an Editing Extension for Photos for macOS. Earlier versions of Luminar work well, as do other editing extensions.

  • Open the image in Photos for macOS on a Mac.
  • Go to Edit mode.
  • Go to Image > Use RAW as Original (this switches you to the RAW file from the JPEG).
  • Click on the 3 dots in the top toolbar and choose Luminar (or your favorite Editing Extension).
  • Enhance the RAW file to your taste in Luminar and click Save Changes.
  • Add any finishing touches back in Photos for macOS.

finished-vineyard.jpeg RAW version of vineyard edited in Luminar 4 and Photos for macOS. Images by Derrick Story.

The aspect of the image that I really appreciate being able to adjust in RAW is the sky. I can prevent blown-out highlights with the clouds and bring back some blue in the midtowns.That's far more difficult, if not impossible, with a JPEG version.

If you use iCloud with Photos, then the finished RAW file will be available on all of your Apple devices, including the iPhone that originally captured it. It's a good workflow for those times that you don't have one of your other cameras with you.

How to Watch Photos for macOS Catalina and iPadOS

Learn everything you need to know about Photos for the Mac and iPad by checking out my latest course on LinkedIn Learning and on lynda.com. This course is perfect for Mac and iPad based photographers who shoot with iPhone, Mirrorless, and DSLR cameras. It covers both photography and movies. And if I say so myself, it's a lot of fun.

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