When and how to shoot in RAW mode on your phone

Mobile photography has become awesome in the last decade. From pixelated images on your Motorola Razr to shots that rival professional photography, the meteoric rise of smartphone camera technology has given way to a host of amateur enthusiasts who want to get the most out of their images. And while the basics of how smartphone cameras work are straightforward, tools like RAW image files are a bit more complicated. Still, if you know how and when to shoot RAW, you can take your mobile photography game to another level with devices like the Google Pixel 6 Pro or Samsung S22 Ultra.

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If you’re willing to spend time editing and processing your smartphone images, using your device’s RAW photography features might be what you’re looking for. In this guide, we explain what a RAW image file is, why you should take RAW photos, and how to use your Android device to take RAW photos.

What is RAW?

RAW files are raw, uncompressed image files that allow for a more forgiving editing process. As long as you have a device that can take and supports RAW photos, you can take photos in this format which is supported by most smartphones and other devices. Yes, there are some limitations and additional steps to take and view these image files. However, if you want the ability to edit your photos more effectively and noticeably, RAW is better than the more common and often default JPEG option.


Why shoot in RAW?

The only reason you should shoot your images in RAW is if you plan on editing and processing them after the fact. Taking your images in RAW and letting them sit on your smartphone is a waste of time and a waste of space, as RAW image files are larger than their compressed JPEG counterparts. Later, shoot in RAW if you’re looking to edit or process your photos.

To be more specific, RAW image files are more malleable when it comes to software like Photoshop. They allow you to edit things like contrast, highlights, tones, and other photographic elements for a more noticeable finish. RAW image files are designed to be large, uncompressed, and ready for editing. Subsequently, if you’re not looking to seriously edit your photos, RAW is not for you. In most cases, you won’t be able to properly use your RAW image files without some processing, so amateur smartphone photographers can safely avoid the format.


How to shoot in RAW on your Android

How do you shoot in RAW with your Android device? The process of getting copies of your RAW photos is simple. Follow the steps below and you will be able to take RAW photos, and you can switch between shooting RAW and shooting JPEG, which can save storage space. Follow these steps and you’ll be shooting RAW photos for your editing needs in no time.

  1. Go to the camera app on your phone.
  2. Click on the Settings gear icon at the top of the screen.
  3. Select More settings in the dropdown menu.
  4. scroll down to Advanced in the next menu.

  5. toggle the RAW+JPEG control to activated.
  6. return to the Settings menu in the Camera app.
  7. Change the RAW settings to activated.

RAW images are big. To avoid clogging up your digital storage, disable this setting by default. So you won’t be inundated with copies of your photos that you have no plans to edit or process. When you are in photo mode, you can easily turn it on.

RAW shots

And there you have it. Now you can take your images as JPEG and RAW with the click of a button. Even better, you can easily switch between shooting in RAW and JPEG and JPEG only, allowing you to take more editable images when you need them and save on storage when you don’t. Check out our best Android phones list to find the best cameras for shooting RAW.

For more mobile photography tips, tricks and stories, check out the rest of Android Police’s Mobile Photography Week 2022 coverage. Throughout the week, we’ll be covering one of the most important aspects of smartphones: the camera. You’ll find how-to guides, explanations, deep dives, and more on where smartphone cameras are right now, and where they’re headed in the near future.

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