Breaking Free: The Future of RAW Camera Support

You buy a new camera and start taking pictures. You load them into Photos or RAW Power but you discover the RAW images are not supported. You think, “Well, it’s a pretty new camera; support will come soon enough.” So, you wait. And you wait. RAWs start piling up on your disk. Your Lightroom-using friends are happily editing images from the same camera. You start to reconsider your decision of editing platform.

We’re tired of this.

And this.

While Apple supports hundreds of cameras, the problem of unsupported RAWs happens all-to-often to photographers on the Apple platform, and the problem is getting worse with time. In addition, GoPro users have never had RAW support for any of their cameras from Apple.

Today, I’m going to describe how RAW Power is breaking free of its dependence on Apple’s camera support schedule with a new, unique feature that provides support to you faster than ever before.

What takes so long to add support for a camera?

Manufacturers have generally considered their RAW files to be proprietary or to contain “secret sauce” — metadata about their cameras or sensors that they hide in proprietary tags or even encrypt. RAW files are not documented, which is problem #1 for camera support.

Companies have to reverse-engineer the file format and then try to understand the proprietary data. At that point, they can try to decode the sensor data for display. If successful, a preliminary image becomes visible, but it’s not ready to ship. The next phase involves careful calibration and analysis of images from that camera. That phase is the difference between file format support and camera support and it’s very important.

Each software company (Adobe, Apple, etc.) has its own process for calibrating a camera, but in general, the process involves taking a series of images under controlled circumstances. The images are shot to measure such things as noise characteristics, color gamut, sensor sensitivities, and lens distortion / vignetting. There can be other attributes that must be determined camera by camera, but this is a core set.

The time to calibrate varies from company to company, and camera to camera. Some cameras have many modes, each of which has to be calibrated separately. Calibration can be very time consuming.

With respect to Apple’s camera support, it’s always been a little slow. For the past couple of years, it’s been abysmally slow. High profile cameras have been out for over a year without support. For example, the Fujifilm X-Pro3 was released in November of 2019. Apple just released support in May 2021 — eighteen months later. Other cameras have also taken over a year to support. I will say that Apple has issued two or three camera updates this year, which is certainly good news. Still, the backlog is considerable, and new cameras come out all the time.

Eighteen months for a popular camera brand is not acceptable. I don’t know why it took that long, but priorities undoubtedly factor in. I believe that camera support is just not as important to Apple as it used to be. Other cameras have been out long enough that one has to wonder if they will ever be supported by Apple.

The Pros and Cons of Using Apple’s RAW Engine

RAW Power, Photos, Pixelmator, and other apps use Apple’s RAW engine to decode and display RAW images. Apple supports hundreds of cameras with high quality decoding, excellent performance, and good color. The decoder is well integrated into Apple’s software frameworks, which makes it easy to connect to a high precision imaging pipeline like RAW Power’s. Overall, the Apple engineers have done an excellent job here. RAW Power has always had the most complete integration with Apple’s RAW engine, offering both the most features and the most control over Apple’s engine.

However, the lack of reliable camera support undermines the entire affair. Further, Apple doesn’t support Fujifilm compressed RAW images at all. This rankles in particular, as other companies’ compressed formats are fully supported. Fujifilm compression is an issue that has been going for at least five years – I have made multiple requests to no avail. 

In addition, for technical reasons, Apple sometimes limits camera support to the most recent OS version, so getting a new camera can require upgrading your OS, or even having to get a new computer just to open those images.

I get emails all the time from prospective customers, who want to use RAW Power but cannot because of camera support. Or they are forced to put their cameras into special modes to avoid limitations of that support. One option is to convert unsupported RAWs to DNG. Adobe provides a free app to do this, and both Photos and RAW Power support DNG. I have suggested that to many photographers, but almost none of them have been interested in doing that. 

I’m tired of turning people away. It’s time to break free of Apple’s sluggish camera support!

Breaking Free – Introducing Extended RAW

I’ve been working for a very long time on improving camera support because I wanted to provide as seamless an experience as possible. And because it’s a lot harder than I thought!

Here are the goals:

  1. Support missing cameras — there are many cameras that are not supported by Apple, and I suspect some of them never will be. While non-mosaic cameras like Foveon are still not supported, GoPro RAW files are now supported by RAW Power.
  2. Support new cameras faster than Apple will.
  3. Support Fujifilm Compressed images — this was actually the original impetus for the feature because after this many years, I got tired of waiting for Apple.
  4. Leverage Apple’s RAW decoder — there are open source libraries that can decode a large range of images, but they are slow and/or produce inferior image quality. Extended RAW images must decode quickly and with the same high quality we have come to expect. I’m not going to say how, but with my deep knowledge of Apple’s RAW decoder, I am able to use it for these images. That way, you get high quality noise reduction, highlight recovery, and more.
  5. Offer the same unique RAW editing features — you must get the same control over Apple’s RAW decoder (like Boost and Moiré) for these images as for other RAWs. This includes extended range and full control over highlights and color gamut. No compromises.
  6. Display thumbnails and metadata just as they appear for other images.
  7. Provide Automatic Lens Correction – Apple provides automatic lens correction for some cameras (by reading metadata stored in the proprietary files). That is not a large set of cameras, but it would great not to lose that.

To be honest, I would rather not have to implement Extended RAW at all. But, I’m proud to say that I achieved all of these goals except the last one — automatic lens correction. I did add a manual lens correction module to RAW Power. That module also has a semi-automatic mode that learns to correct your images based on manual corrections you make in the app. (One of the reasons automatic lens correction didn’t make it is because the lens correction data is not documented by camera companies.) Full automatic correction is a high priority for the future.

Which cameras have been added?

Company Camera Notes
Fujifilm X100V, X100F, X-H1, X-S10, X-T2, X-T3, X-T4, X-T20, X-T30, GFX 50S, X-Pro2, and X-Pro3 Adds Compressed Support
Fujifilm X-E4, GFX100, GFX100S Not supported by Apple – Adds Compressed and Uncompressed support
GoPro Hero5, Hero6, Hero7, Hero9, Fusion Not supported by Apple (File Browser only)
Olympus E-PL10, TG-5, E-M1 Mark III, E-M5 Mark III, E-M10 Mark IV Not supported by Apple
Pentax KP Not supported by Apple
Panasonic DC-S5, DC-G100, DC-G110 Not supported by Apple
Sony Alpha-1 Not supported by Apple

The full list is at:

Here is Extended RAW in action showing a Fujifilm GFX100 image with full RAW editing sliders

 Here is Extended RAW in action showing a Fujifilm GFX100 image with full RAW editing sliders. Photo copyright: Alan Bevan. Used with permission.

Future Proofing — What if Apple adds support?

The Extended RAW feature is built with future OS updates in mind. If Apple adds support for a camera on the RAW Power extended list, Apple’s support automatically takes precedence. And if Apple provides automatic lens correction for that camera, then the RAW Power manual lens correction turns off. 

How do I get it?

This feature is part of RAW Power 3.3, which is a free update, available for download on the Mac App Store ( and iOS App Store ( 

Extended RAW support requires macOS 11 and iOS 14. It works in the RAW Power file browser, and even when RAW Power with the Apple Photo library. So, yes, you can actually view, edit, and work with images in the Photo library that Apple’s own Photos app doesn’t support. You can download an unlimited trial version for Mac here:, and the iOS version now has a built-in unlimited trial mode, so you can check it out for yourself.

If your camera is missing, drop me a line at and I can see what I can do. 


Quick Tips For Improving Your Photographs

When it comes to digital photography, the iPhone is a marvelous piece of engineering. Each time Apple introduces a new iPhone model, it always comes with more improved photography performance and much better features. Capturing everyday subjects is easy to do and you will get great results with your iPhone. Still, as with anything, there is always room for improvement and, with some easy tips and the RAW Power® App, you can take your photography to the next level.

How To Take Your Photography To The Next Level

Get it right the first time – many of us inadvertently take photos with a smudgy lens, causing photos and videos to look blurry. With a few wipes using a proper lens wipe cloth, you can get completely different results. An important step to take better shots with your iPhone is to get closer. You will lose clarity and details when you use digital zoom in too much. Instead, Zoom by moving your feet. Taking your shots closer will also improve composition. For balanced composition, you should use grid on the viewfinder screen. When using the 9-rectangle grid, make sure that the primary subject is right in the center. Go to Settings> Photos & Camera and enable the Grid feature. You can fix composition issues in RAW Power, but it’s best to get it right the first time.

Improved Lighting- if possible, take pictures at the golden hours, during sunrise and sunset, when natural light is softest. Because pictures then have more yellow, orange, and red, they appear warmer. These moments are also perfect to capture breath-taking landscapes and silhouettes.

Although newer iPhone’s have excellent low-light performance, it’s recommended to use artificial lighting such as ring lamps, daytime permanent photographic lights, or hand lamps when necessary, such as when you are photographing outside and running out of daylight. Avoid using flash because it’s harsh and colors will tend to look washed out. Good artificial light shouldn’t be too bright, and it should come from all sides. Make sure to enable the HDR mode, because it increases contrast and color range when taking low-light photos. HDR measures the brightest and darkest parts of the photo and balance them.

Use Photo Editing Apps- a good photo editing app such as the RAW Power Photo Editing App can tune images by enhancing details, exposure, and color digitally. To improve composition, you can change perspective, rotate, and crop your photos.

RAW Power’s Professional Photo Editing Features

Giving you a wide range of professional photo editing features, the RAW Power® Photo Editing App can help you produce professional looking photographs. With an all new HSL Color Adjustment feature with 9 built in hues as well as a custom hue option, you can truly customize the final appearance of your images with more vibrant colors than ever. Many workflow features make the editing process simpler and much more intuitive. Users can edit either the RAW or JPEG of a R+J pair in the Photos library, filter them by date, favorite status, and location status, as well as use the improved adjustment menu to collapse all adjustments, expand all adjustments; collapse all others or keep only one adjustment open at a time.

It’s important to note that, while taking the actual photograph is important, much of the work making it perfect comes afterward, during the editing stage. RAW Power’s editing features are designed to be easy to use, feature rich, and to provide professional level results. If you have an iPhone 12 Pro, you can shoot in Apple’s new ProRAW format. One of the most powerful features of RAW Power is its ability to edit ProRAW images using local tone mapping for contrast, exposure, and highlight recovery. There is also a video you can watch about ProRAW Editing at:

Contact Gentlemen Coders

To learn more ways to take great photographs, contact Gentlemen Coders and download the RAW Power® app today.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it on your favorite social media sites.

6 Expert Tips For Macro Photographers

Macro photography is all about taking pictures of tiny objects from a remarkably close distance. Today, it’s one of the most popular photography techniques, because it’s interesting to see intricate details of everything from insects and plant life to birds, fish, and more. If you’re an aspiring macro photographer and want to get better results, here are some tips that experts suggest.

6 Expert Tips For New Macro Photographers

Stabilize – because you are taking pictures of a very small object, any slight movement could cause blurriness or loss of details. Blurriness could be exaggerated if the lens is very close to the subject and the magnification level is high. So, it is important to keep the camera stable and motionless.

Adjust The Subject – if you already set up the camera with the proper settings and stable tripod positioning, you shouldn’t move it. Instead, move the subject to place it at proper distance and position from the camera lens. In macro photography, this technique is a big timesaver.

Improve Composition – if you are focusing on a tiny object, make sure it’s positioned in the middle of the frame. If you are shooting at a small pattern, try to fill whole frame with it. Experiment with different composition styles, until you get best results.

Clean Up – when taking macro photographs, you will realise that fingerprints, hair, dirt, and dust could become annoyingly visible. Make sure that the subject and camera lens are perfectly clean.

Use Flash Properly – beginners are reluctant to use flash, because it could make the subject too bright and the details less visible. Flash still works in macro photography if it’s positioned farther away. Use off-camera flashes that may give you more natural results.

Use The RAW Power® App- today’s smartphones have incredibly advanced cameras. Giving you a wide range of professional photo editing features, the RAW Power® Photo Editing App can help you produce professional looking macro photographs.

Contact Gentlemen Coders
To learn more ways to take great macro photographs, contact Gentlemen Coders and download the RAW Power® app today.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it on your favorite social media sites.

How To Take A Good Shot In The Snow

Snowy Scene

How To Take Great Photographs In The Snow

Taking great photographs outdoors can sometimes be challenging. However, regardless of your skill level or the equipment you use, just about anyone can take beautiful, creative photographs in any weather using the following tips. Even with a smartphone, and even in the snow, you will be taking photos like a pro in no time!

Focus On Contrast– Your camera’s autofocus will struggle when everything it sees is white. Switch off the autofocus setting and try focusing on something dark in your field of view. This will enable you to adjust for contrast and get a good shot.

Shoot In Aperture Priority Mode – If your camera or smartphone has it, take outdoor photos in Aperture Priority mode. This enables you to change your depth of field quickly, giving you a lot more creativity with less settings.

Capture The Snow While It’s Still Fresh – The best time to photograph snow is when it is still fresh. This gives you a blank canvas where the snow is the star and footprints, colored snow, and other image fouling debris is non-existent.

Keep Your Camera Warm – When it’s cold out, your camera or smartphone battery doesn’t keep its charge as long as it would in warmer weather. If you are taking a lot of photos, this can shorten your day in a hurry. When not photographing, or when setting up shots, keep your smartphone warm and dry in your pocket.

Don’t Let Bad Weather Stop You – Sometimes, the worse the weather gets, the better your chances become of capturing the perfect winter shot. Don’t be afraid to bundle up, grab an umbrella to keep your camera dry while shooting, and start looking for an opportunity. The umbrella also acts as a buffer zone for falling snow which can sometimes affect your camera’s ability to focus.

Be Fast, But Patient – Once it begins to warm up, snow can melt fast. You have to be quick to capture some good shots before this happens, but you must also be patient to ensure that you are capturing the shots that matter. It can be a delicate balance.

Use The RAW Power® App – Once you have your shot, make it even better with the RAW Power® app. Giving you a wide range of professional photo editing features, the RAW Power® Photo Editing App can help you produce professional looking photographs even in the snow.

Contact Gentlemen Coders
Check out the many videos on our YouTube channel and download the RAW Power® app today.

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Version 3.0.x – Call for Feedback

In the past, I have released large feature updates about once a year, somewhat in line with Apple’s OS updates. This year, I fell far behind that schedule. I had a lot of improvements (like the UI changes) done almost a year ago, but there were too many essential features unfinished. Also, large features like Photo library support on Mac required Catalina (actually, it required a stable Catalina).

Now that 3.0 is in the books, I have begun a different approach to development and releases. Future versions will be smaller and come out more often. 3.0.1 and 3.0.3 had a bunch of bug fixes and some improvements. Version 3.1 will continue that; it won’t be a huge release, but I plan to add a mix of fixes, minor features and few mid-sized features as well (for example, a new adjustment or two). Brushing won’t be in that release, before you ask.  That requires more work than a 3.1 can absorb (and some time to think about it).

Many of you send me emails with requests or bugs, which is a very good way of getting feedback. There is also the forum which has been more active recently.

However, sometimes I get feedback from places like YouTube comments or App Store reviews, which are not good ways to give feedback. Same with Twitter, frankly.

Still, here is another way to give feedback. I have a large list of features, so I’m not looking for any more of those right now. Instead, I’m asking you to suggest small tweaks or report annoying bugs that you would like addressed. Include the issue and your suggested fix. It’s fine to email me instead if you prefer (

I’ll get you started. “When cropping on iOS, if I miss one of the corners in the crop box by just a little, the app will resize the box from one of the edges (like the left or right edge). Instead, it should just do nothing, and it should be more forgiving about how close I have to be to a corner.”

Version 3.1 already has a bunch of improvements (like the one with crop I just mentioned), as well as improvements to swiping and zooming on iOS, Favorites on Mac, and more).

Finally, if you were not on the 3.0 beta, but want to be on the 3.1 beta, email and let me know if you want to test Mac, iOS or both. Thanks.

Aperture For Catalina

Using the excellent investigation and instructions from Tyshawn Cormier (article here), I have replicated his work and gotten Aperture to open on Catalina.

You can follow his steps where you build everything from scratch, or you can use my approach which provides most of what you need. Note: this is untested software. No promises.

EDIT: he now has an installer that does all the work, though I have no experience with it. Also, for my steps, you will need to download Xcode (free) from the Mac App Store.

Note: If you have not installed Catalina yet, then make sure to copy the NyXAudioAnalysis.framework from /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks from your Mojave or earlier OS. It’s not present on Catalina. If you have already installed Catalina and don’t have a Mojave installation, then review the steps in the medium article to see how to extract one from a Mojave installer. Previous OS installers will also work for this.

To be able to do this, you need the following:

  1. Your copy of Aperture from the Mac App Store
  2. Some degree of comfort with using the Terminal
  3. A Mojave install from which you can extract a necessary system framework
  4. A sense of adventure and detail-oriented personality 🙂

Here are the steps:

  1. Download and unzip this: Aperture For Catalina
  2. Copy Aperture to the ApertureForCatalina folder
  3. Right click on the Aperture copy and choose Show Package Contents
  4. Go into the Contents folder
  5. Replace Aperture’s Info.plist with the one you downloaded
  6. Locate the NyXAudioAnalysis framework from your Mojave install (or an earlier OS, it probably doesn’t matter) (it’s located in /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks)
  7. Copy the NyXAudioAnalysis into Aperture’s Frameworks directory
  8. Open the Terminal app and execute the following command:
  9. cd ~/Downloads/ApertureForCatalina

  10. Execute this line:
  11. sudo codesign --remove-signature

  12. Execute this line in the Terminal
  13. sudo install_name_tool -change "/Library/Frameworks/NyxAudioAnalysis.framework/Versions/A/NyxAudioAnalysis" "@executable_path/../Frameworks/NyxAudioAnalysis.framework/Versions/A/NyxAudioAnalysis"

  14. Run your first test by executing the following line:
  15. DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES=ApertureFixer.framework/Versions/A/ApertureFixer

  16. You may get a gatekeeper warning about an inability to check for malicious software. If so, execute this line and retry the DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES command.
  17. sudo spctl --master-disable

  18. If it launches, then copy the ApertureFixer.framework into Aperture’s Frameworks directory
  19. Execute this line in Terminal:
  20. sudo ./insert_dylib @executable_path/../Frameworks/ApertureFixer.framework/Versions/A/ApertureFixer --inplace

  21. Test with this command in the Terminal:
  22. ./

  23. Code sign it with this command:
  24. sudo codesign -fs - --deep

  25. If you ran ito the GateKeeper warning, then re-enable GateKeeper with this line:
  26. sudo spctl --master-enable

You should be able to open this updated Aperture from the Finder now. You can move it into Applications if you like (I renamed my original Aperture copy before putting the patched one in.)

If you run into any failures, you can copy your Aperture installation into ApertureForCatalina and start over.

If anyone wants the source to the Fixer framework (based on the medium article), you can download it here: Framework source
Here is the source to install_dylib

Notes (including some from Tyshawn’s article):

  • Video will not import or play back because that requires 32-bit code that’s no longer supported on Catalina
  • I have used this very little, so I don’t know what issues or bugs might be lurking.
  • This has not been tested, so have backups and don’t use it with important data.
  • This will likely break again at some point in the future.

RAW Power 2.1.5 for iOS Now Available

This free update contains some important improvements.
iOS 13 Users: iOS 13 has a bug for which RAW Power 2.1.5 has a work around, so please install 2.1.5 right away

  • RAW Power is now a single purchase, including all adjustments. Existing customers who have not purchased the adjustment packs get them for free! (Please note that the price of the app for new customers is increasing to account for the additional adjustments.)
  • iOS 13 compatibility
  • Fixes for Export (both batch and single image)
  • Fixes for metadata display of portrait images
  • Fixes for crashes while editing images
  • Use the current sort order when performing batch operations.
  • Better error message for unsupported RAW, especially for Fujifilm RAWs
  • Fixes for iCloud Photo Library
  • Quality improvements when straightening images.
  • Miscellaneous improvements and bug fixes

Get the free update here

Follow RAW Power progress on Twitter: @gentcoders

RAW Power 2.1.5, with iOS 13 support, available for beta testing

Hi everyone,

While I’ve been very hard at work on RAW Power 3.0, I have also been fixing bugs in RAW Power 2.1 and working around issues in iOS 13.

There is a beta build of RAW Power 2.1.5 now available. If you would like to try it out on iOS 13, please click / tap here to email the Beta List.

Thank you!

Should I Shoot RAW or JPEG? What’s HEIF?

While many photographers are familiar with RAW images, not everyone is, and there is some misinformation out there as well. In this post, I discuss the differences between RAWs and camera-generated JPEGs, the advantages of each, and ways to decide which is best for you. I also discuss a new file format called HEIF.


What is RAW?

A RAW file contains the image as captured from the camera’s digital sensor, with minimal to no processing. Decoding software on your computer or device is required to turn this sensor data into an image on screen. Decoders also improve with time, so RAW files shot ten years ago often look better now, than they did when originally decoded. On the downside, different decoders will produce somewhat different results for the same RAW file.


Camera-generated JPEGs

JPEG is a standard file format and JPEGs look the same on all computers. All digital cameras capture RAW data, but they do not necessarily offer a way to store that RAW data in a file. Instead, cameras have specialized hardware to convert that RAW data to a JPEG file. You can influence this conversion in many cameras through their on-board menus. The controls are quite extensive in higher-end cameras. Many cameras also have built-in styles or scenes for challenging shooting conditions (like indoor portraits or fireworks). The most important thing to realize is that once the camera makes the JPEG, much of the image’s appearance is locked down and some image data has been discarded. This is not true of RAWs. RAWs contain all the data about the shot, and anything in a RAW can be changed afterward.


It’s Like Carry Out vs. Cooking at Home

Camera-generated JPEGs are like carrying out food from a restaurant. You usually get a nice meal, made by a professional. However, if you want it mild and the restaurant makes it spicy, you can’t completely eliminate the spice. If you ordered a pizza and the bottom is a little burned, you can’t unburn it. Similarly, you cannot turn a black and white JPEG back into color – the color information is lost. If the camera uses aggressive noise reduction and loses detail, then that’s what you’re stuck with.

Editing RAWs is like cooking at home. You can substitute freely, and you can adjust the recipe as you go. You may make mistakes but you can also correct them before you serve the dish. But it’s more work and takes more time (and like a well-equipped kitchen, you need better gear, like a faster computer and more storage space). Advanced photo editors give you full control over the RAW’s appearance.


Advantages of RAWs

RAWs can store all of the detail and color richness that camera sensors can record. JPEGs cannot. To explain why, let’s talk briefly about how color or gray is represented in a computer. If you want to represent black or white, you need one digital “bit” to store that. If you need to represent black, white, light gray, or dark gray, then you need two bits, as shown below:

The more bits, the more shades of color or gray you can represent. JPEGs are limited to 8 bits while RAWs can store 16 bits.

Standard digital cameras have a grid of sensor cells that are sensitive to either red, green, or blue light (a bit like the cones in the human eye). Each cell can capture a brightness value from 0 to as high as 16,383. RAW files can store the entire range of values, but because JPEGs are limited to 8 bits, they can only store brightness values up to 255. When a sensor records a brightness value larger than 255, the number is clamped to 255. This can be devastating to bright areas of the image:

The difference is staggering. RAWs can store over 260,000 times (!) more color information than an equivalent JPEG from the same camera. RAWs can simultaneously capture much darker and brighter parts of a scene (the “dynamic range”). That adds up to richer, higher quality images.

To be clear, the value of 255 is still considered “white”. When a RAW stores a large value like 1024 or 3234, those values are “brighter than white” or “super white”. You cannot normally see such super white colors on your screen, but a RAW editor lets you work with them and bring them into view. In contrast, when your camera makes a JPEG from sensor data, it makes a decision about what is “white” and what is “black.” Areas darker than this “black” value are clamped to black, and areas brighter than white are clamped to white. The extra information that the sensor captured is lost forever.

With a RAW, you can reveal at least 2 stops of detail in over-exposed (bright) areas. This is impossible to do with a JPEG. Similarly, while a JPEG has a fixed value of zero for black, the concept of black is controllable in a RAW (this is called the black floor or black point). The camera (and decoder) will have a definition of black, but you can raise or lower this definition while you edit. This can be a life-saver if all the detail in the darkest areas of an image has been smashed into a black smudge.

Here are two good examples of recovering detail. In both examples, the left image is the original RAW. For the middle image, I lowered the exposure by 2 stops, and lifted the shadows. The right image applies the same exposure and shadow operations to a JPEG. (I can make the RAW look better than this using RAW-only controls, but I made sure to do exactly the same operations on both the RAW and JPEG).

The background color and detail is revealed in the RAW, but the background in the JPEG just gets murky and gray. That’s because the camera recorded bright data in the RAW (a variety of values of 1000 or higher), but that same data was clamped to 255 in the JPEG before I could work with it. I should also mention that RAW files store “linear” data, while JPEGs store “gamma-corrected” data. Gamma-corrected data matches the way our eyes perceive light, but gamma-corrected files squash bright areas of the image, making them even harder to edit. A full discussion of linear vs. gamma corrected will have to wait for another time.

RAWs have a wider range of colors (brighter and more saturated) than most JPEGs. This range is called the color “gamut.” While some JPEGs also have a wide color gamut, such as P3 photos taken from newer iPhones, the 8-bit limitation of JPEG becomes an issue, causing banding in some images. Banding causes areas that should have a smooth transition of colors to show obvious lines or blotches. This can be particularly noticeable in the sky. Banding occurs because 8 bits is simply not enough to represent all of the colors defined in the Display P3 or the Adobe RGB color spaces. This artifact does not occur with RAWs because 12 or 14 bits is generally sufficient for P3 or Adobe RGB.

RAWs can be white-balanced better than JPEGs (especially underwater and other extreme lighting situations). In addition, after white balancing a RAW, highlights can turn out better.

Noise reduction and lens correction are much better when done to a RAW than a JPEG. This is because the best time to make such corrections is super-early in the decoding process, before changes in color or brightness have occurred. If you noise reduce a JPEG, the image has already been significantly manipulated by the camera (or software), and critical information has been lost. Some cameras have built-in lens correction for JPEGs, but not all of them, and the corrections are less sophisticated than computer-based software.

A Bit about “HEIF”

Apple has recently popularized an image format called HEIF (High Efficiency Image Format). Pronounced “heef,” this is a standardized and general-purpose format that has many improvements over JPEG, such as support for 12 and 14 bit images, and more efficient compression, which results in smaller files for the same quality. While HEIF has the ability to address a number of the weaknesses of JPEG, images shot on iPhones with HEIF are still 8-bit, and the images have been significantly processed by the camera. In practice, the advantages I list for RAW are still valid for iPhone-generated HEIFs. Apple uses the .heic file extension — those are HEIF files using a specific compression technology. HEIC-based files are roughly half the file size of equivalent JPEGs, which is a big savings, both in cloud storage and on your device.

JPEGs have their place…

I’m not saying that one cannot white balance a JPEG, or perform noise reduction to one. It just doesn’t turn out as well. JPEGs offer their own advantages. Modern cameras produce outstanding JPEGs for well-exposed images. In addition, through a field called “computational photography,” cameras can often generate high-quality JPEGs / HEIFs that exceed what’s possible with a RAW. For example, newer iPhones will often take multiple exposures and combine them into a single high-quality image. This happens automatically – you just see the one final image. These techniques help a lot in low-light, and iPhone JPEGs have less digital noise than an iPhone RAWs. Many iPhones can also create pleasing portrait images with nicely blurred backgrounds.

Panoramas and HDR images are other examples of useful built-in camera features, both of which require a lot of time and effort to replicate using multiple RAW images. Regardless, note that all camera JPEGs have the limitations listed above in terms of editing, dynamic range, sharpness, etc.

Smoothness of Colors (bits)RAW
Dynamic Range (bright and dark parts)RAW
Highlight RecoveryRAW
White BalanceRAW
Overall Editing FlexibilityRAW
Minimizing Compression ArtifactsRAW
Wider Color GamutUsually RAW
Noise Reduction / Lens CorrectionUsually RAW
Best looking right out of cameraJPEG / HEIF
Easy Panoramas / HDRsJPEG / HEIF
Smaller FilesJPEG / HEIF
Burst Mode SpeedJPEG / HEIF


RAWs are 16-bit lossless files containing all the information captured by the camera. They have superior color detail, a wide color gamut and extended dynamic range. They offer much better exposure and white balance latitude. They are better suited for lens correction and noise reduction as well.

On the downside, RAWs take up more disk space and take longer to open. RAW Power uses the GPU heavily, so for RAW Power, it’s best to have at least a mid-range Mac that is relatively new (within the last 5–6 years). On iOS, an iPhone 7 or later works well.

For 12 or 14-bit HEIF files, the RAW advantage is lessened, but still present, because RAW files are minimally processed, allowing the maximum latitude when editing. Remember, though, that iOS devices do not generate 12 or 14-bit HEIF files — their HEIFs are only 8 bit.

Bottom line

  • If you primarily “shoot and share” with little or no editing to your pictures, then shoot JPEG / HEIF.
  • If you are generally happy with the look of the JPEGs from your camera, shoot JPEG (or RAW+JPEG).
  • If you want panoramas, HDR, and portrait images as easily as possible, shoot JPEGs.
  • If you have limitations on disk space, or if you are going to shoot thousands of pictures quickly on a tight deadline, shoot JPEG (for this reason, professional sports photographers often shoot JPEGs).

Otherwise, if you want the best possible results, and the most flexibility when editing your images, shoot RAW. Your future self will thank you.