Are the photos taken on your Android phone bright, colourful and pin sharp? If they aren’t, one way to improve them is to save photos in the RAW file format instead of JPEG. Here’s how to do it.
JPEG is what is called a lossy compressed file format. In order to keep the size of photo files small, the image is compressed by discarding image information.
The amount of compression used affects the image quality and highly compressing photos results in poor quality images. The best way to shoot high quality photos is to use as little compression as possible.
Even better is to use no compression at all. Saving images in a RAW file format means that the raw data straight from the camera sensor is stored without being processed. This avoids compression and other factors reducing the quality.
Professional cameras can shoot digital photos in RAW file format, but what about mobile phones?
Some phone cameras can save images in RAW file format and for this article I will be using a Samsung Galaxy S6 running Android 6. Other phones may have similar features and you should explore the settings and see what options are available.
Not all phones can shoot in RAW, but you won't know if yours can until you look for the feature.
1 Select the mode
Open the Camera app and press MODE. This displays all the different camera modes that are available.
2 Turn on RAW
Back at the camera screen, press the gear icon to open the camera settings.
Scroll down and turn on Save as RAW file.
3 Shoot a photo
You can now shoot photos and while you remain in RAW mode, photos will be saved twice.
One file is a JPEG file, but with minimum compression. It results in a larger, but higher quality image. The file is twice as big as usual because of the minimal compression.
The other file is the photo in the RAW file format.
You cannot see RAW images because gallery apps on the phone only shows JPEG images. RAW files are .dng files (digital negative graphics).
Normal photos can be viewed, uploaded to Google Photos and online storage like Dropbox, Google Drive and so on. But if you can’t see .dng photos, what do you do?
4 Browse the storage
Go to the phone’s Settings app and press Storage.
Press Explore to view the files and folders in the phone’s storage (basically its disk drive).
Open the DCIM folder (Digital Camera IMages), and then open the Camera folder.
Here are all the JPEG photos taken with the camera and among them are .dng files, which are the RAW file format images.
5 Transfer photos to the computer
So how do you get the photos off the phone?
Press and hold on a .dng photo until the checkboxes appear on the left. Tick one or more photos and then press SHARE at the top.
Now you can choose the app to use, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive and so on. It depends on what apps you have installed.
If you share it to Google Drive and you have the Drive app on your PC or Mac, the photos appears on your computer about 30 seconds after uploading them.
6 Open the photos
RAW photos potentially offer the best quality photos. Normally the phone camera processes the images and optimises them. With RAW photos you must do that yourself. To get a better photo you must therefore do a better job of processing the image than the camera’s software.
It can be done and photography experts prefer RAW images, but it isn’t easy.
Another drawback of RAW images is that not all photo editing software supports them. Pro tools like Photoshop are perfect for editing RAW images.
Now go and check your phone to see if it has the RAW setting after selecting the Pro shooting mode.
- Written by Roland Waddilove
- Created: 01 December 2016