iPhone, iPad & co.

Instructions: Record RAW files with the iPhone – without Pro

iPhone models without "Pro" in the name can also record RAW files. They give you significantly more options when post-processing the iPhone images.

have RAW files einige interesting merits. Unfortunately, the iPhone cannot output RAWs out of the box. That's a pity, especially since RAW files are also recorded with the iPhone by default. However, the device deletes them after generating the JPEG files. RAW processing would be desirable, especially on the small iPhone camera. Luckily there is a workaround.

The difference between RAW and JPEG

Before we get started, a little excursion into the technical background: RAW files are "raw" image data, i.e. what the camera sensor really records, i.e. what the camera "sees". This raw data is first recorded and then automatically chased through a JPEG converter, which makes sense in most cases: JPEG is lossy and compressed, which means that the files are significantly smaller. A JPEG is about 10 times smaller than its RAW predecessor. This saves space, and the software also ensures an optimal JPEG version. At least, most of the time. Because if the picture fails, the JPEG does not have the data to save it. A RAW file could possibly be the salvation here with significantly more image content. This is exactly why it is advisable to use RAW, at least in some recording situations. In short: the RAW is a digital negative, the JPEG just a print.

With RAW+, RAW photos are created quickly on the iPhone.
With RAW+, RAW photos are created quickly on the iPhone.

Create RAW files with iPhone

In order to bypass the internal image processing, it is imperative to use an alternative camera app. Not only does it use the raw data from the iPhone camera to generate JPEGs in order to delete them afterwards, it also intercepts the raw data image and saves it separately. There are many apps in the App Store that can do this, we recommend them to get started with Raw+, which is free except for a bit of ads. The advertising can be removed for 5,49 euros. There is also an alternative VSCO, which requires a login. But if you prefer to spend money, you should take a look at Camera + (Warning: current version is Camera+2!) throw for 3,49 euros. All these apps can record photos directly in RAW format.

Left before, right after: We exaggerated here, but you can see where the journey is going.
Left before, right after: We exaggerated here, but you can see where the journey is going.

Shoot RAW photo on iPhone…

Now take your RAW camera app and go on a photo tour. RAW+ does not have an automatic mode at all, you have to set the exposure time and ISO value manually. You can also set the focus manually. Do you like what you see on the display? Then fires: The photo will in *.dng format (digital negatives) saved. If you iCloud-Photos you don't have to do anything else: iOS has supported RAW storage in this format since version 10, and MacOS can also handle it. You may need one on the PC Additional tool such as IrfanView. If you don't use iCloud Photos, the RAW files will either via photo stream, AirDrop or transfer to the cloud service of your choice.

... and continue editing on the computer

Now you can edit the DNG files on Mac or PC. A pretty one Raw Therapee is the free tool for RAW editing, the same as GIMP plugin is working. With this you can bring your RAW files (which at first glance look ugly compared to the iPhone JPEGs) into shape. Compared to the automatic JPEG creation of the iPhone, you have full control here. The only point of criticism: Even on an iMac Pro, the tool was downright lame here; who access a paid RAW converter like Lightroom, Affinity Photo or Picktorial should therefore better fall back on this one.

Christian Rentrop

Graduate journalist, born in 1979. First attempts at walking in 1986 at the Schneider CPC. In 1997 it went online. Ever since then as a scribbler in deadwood forests and on digital highways. Often also on the Vespa or with the caravan on the way. Daughter father since 2020, so always very happy about one small coffee donation.


  1. Thank you for your article. I use the Lightroom app (incl. license) and another app.
    What I find really stupid is that RAW is integrated into the Apple camera on the iPhone 12 Pro and not on the 11. I hope this will be followed up. But that's probably another selling point for a new phone. I'm quite happy with the 11er... well.

    Regards Ralf

  2. Update: Darkroom is now (February 2020) transitioning to a subscription model. This means that I no longer recommend it for new users.

    For existing customers, the developer has announced lifelong continued use of the previous range of functions. In my view, that is fair.

    An alternative for RAW development on the iPhone is Lightroom, which has increased functionality and can also be used in the free version. Or you can move the photos to iCloud and edit them on the iPad with Affinity Photo.

  3. My recommendation is the combination of Halide as a camera app and darkroom for RAW development. The surface is tidy, but allows many professional settings in depth. Halide is constantly being developed, for example the new possibilities of the iPhone 11 Pro were integrated into the app very quickly.

    Unfortunately, getting this as a release for free is no longer a matter of course with a relatively cheap purchase app.

    Spectre is a nice addition from the same developer: the app stabilizes long-term recordings from the hand and allows, for example, photos with traces of movement to be taken without a tripod. Grasses in the wind, pedestrians in front of the city scene, traces of light in night photos - with more options for influencing than in the camera app.

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