Mobile Raw Photography

I’ve had a stressful couple of days. In the grand scheme of life these are really nothing more than deep sighs, but sometimes dozens of deep sighs can create some big internal tension. This tension needs a decent outlet.

Yesterday actually provided an outlet for the box of stress in which I am currently living. First, iOS 10 came out 1. Second, a new version of Lightroom Mobile was released which allows me to shoot raw in my phone. Android users have been able to shoot in DNG for a while, it’s nice to have the ability in iOS at last.

A raw photo contains every bit of information a camera sensor receives when the shutter is open. A DNG, or Digital Negative, is Adobe’s open spec for raw images which anyone can use. Most consumer digital camera, and mobile phones, shoot jpeg. This makes images smaller, but at the expense of information disregarded by the device as it produces and image. Because raw photos do not disregard any sensor data to display image, it’s as close to using film as a digital photographer can get. An amazing amount of controls can be configured in post-processing, the manipulation of which is an art form unto itself.

So, to relive stress I took a walk with my wife. The only camera I took with me was my 6S+. The results blew me away.

I took several photos down by the river as the Sun set, and straight from the camera the results were typical “snapshot” quality. The highlights in the sky were washed out, and the shadows in the foreground were extremely dark. With the compressed photos I’d normally take with my phone camera, I’d be able to recover some of these, but my range of manipulation would be extremely limited. Being able to shoot directly to DNG, however, changes the game.

Here is a “before” image from my walk. It looks “ok,” but the colors in the sky are very muted and the definition in the clouds is barely visible.

pre-edited Raw photo of a delaware river sunset
Now here is a picture which has been edited in Adobe Lightroom Mobile. The clouds are more defined, the foreground shadows have been lifted slightly to reveal detail on the ground, and the colors of sunset now pop in the frame.

same delaware river sunset after processing
Despite Apple’s excellent camera developments, I don’t see my iPhone replacing my Nikon any time soon. But now that I’m able to capture raw photos right on my device, at least I won’t be as bummed when I see a great shot when my camera is back at home.

  1. And I was not affected by the restore bug, otherwise this post would be pictures of me weeping in frustration.