From the following guide, you will learn what RAW is, why you should use it in photography, and how to configure your phone to be able to save photos in DNG (RAW) format.
If you already know what a RAW file is and why it should be used instead of regular JPEG files, then you can go to the main part, which is how to configure the phone to take pictures in RAW format (* .DNG).
1.1. What is a RAW file and why is it worth to use it not only in professional photography?
The RAW is a file format that allows you to losslessly save what the camera matrix has recorded. It is characterized by the fact that the data is processed i a minimal way and usually has a greater tonal range than JPG or PNG files. The tonal range is simply the difference between the lightest and darkest point of the image. The larger the number is, then more of details we can register, without losing them in highlights or shadows.
Photos taken with the phone usually look very nice, but unfortunately – only on phones. Very often, when you watch them later on a computer or larger screen, you notice that something is wrong. The face can be unnaturally enhanced (blurred, smoothed), the photo is noisy or strangely blurred. Sometimes you just want to do a small retouching, e.g. remove the rubbish lying on the sand in our favorite holiday photo. Otherwise, we may want to lighten the picture a bit, because the faces are a bit too dark. Unfortunately, the photo in JPG format taken by the phone is optimized to look nice on the phone screen. With any processing, it turns out that there are no details in the shadows or highlihts and the whole photo is decorated with various types of artifacts of the compression process.
Here, a raw data dump from the matrix (RAW) comes to the rescue. Having it, we can repeat the steps and processes it like the camera software do and finally get similar photo to the original JPG one. We can also make a completely different interpretation of the photo with the maximum details on hand that our device was able to register. Below is an example of the same photo in RAW and JPG format. Then I made an attempt to extract details from it to better illustrate what the difference is. After brightening the JPG image, you can clearly see how much detail has been lost forever.
2. How to take RAW photos with an Android phone?
In the Play store you can find quite a lot of applications that allow you to take pictures along with saving to RAW format. Personally, I recommend the Open Camera application. Below I will confuse the steps that need to be taken to configure Open Camera to write in DNG format.
2.1. Open Camera – Setup RAW (DNG) + JPEG/PNG recording
- Install Open Camera application on your deviceRun the application and go to the application Settings
- Enable Use Camera 2 API option
- Go to Photo settings
- Select DNG(RAW) only in RAW menu
That’s all. From the moment Open Camera saves DNG files in /DCIM/OpenCamera directory.
2.2. I have a DNG file and what now? How to process (develop) RAW files
As I mentioned before, RAW files contain much more information than JPG files. They are stored in almost unprocessed form, therefore it is necessary to develop such a photo later. I mean – its processing and conversion to one of the standard graphic formats, e.g. JPEG or PNG.
For processing DNG files you can use e.g. Adobe Lightroom or free application called darktable. If you need to develop photos using your phone or tablet, you can find the application that suits you following this article.
2.3. I don’t want to develop every photo but I want to have RAW just in case. What can I do?
If you are one of those people who do not want to give up the convenience of automatically developing photos to JPG, but on the other hand you want to be able to take advantage of the benefits of RAW format at any time, you can simply use RAW + JPG. Thanks to this, two files will be created on your device. To enable this setting:
- Open Open Camera application and go to the Settings
- Go to Photo settings
- Choose JPEG and DNG(RAW) from RAW menu.
From the moment the Open Camera application saves DNG and JPG in /DCIM/OpenCamera directory.
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