Mobile Capture Formats

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Today’s Question: Recently you addressed importing files from an iPhone. I think you favored the TIFF format. I started to import from my iPhone X and the only option beside JPEG is DNG. Am I using the wrong app?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The answer you’re referring to related to a question about exporting from the Photos application on a computer, not importing photos directly from the iPhone. With an iPhone your capture format options are JPEG or HEIC with the default Camera app. You can also capture in Adobe DNG using the Lightroom mobile app.

More Detail: Photographers are accustomed to being able to use a proprietary raw capture format with most cameras, but this is not an option with smartphone photography. Most smartphones will capture using the JPEG file format by default. The iPhone now also supports capturing as HEIC images. HEIC is a variation on HEIF, or High Efficiency Image Format.

With the Lightroom mobile app, you can also capture in Adobe DNG, which effectively means you are capturing in a raw format. This will help preserve image quality right at the time of capture, and provide more flexibility in post processing.

Note that when importing photos into Lightroom you also have the option to convert the photos to the Adobe DNG format. For JPEG captures this would provide minimal benefit for your image-optimization workflow, and would increase the overall file size compared to a JPEG capture.

In other words, you can achieve better image quality by capturing smartphone photos with the Adobe DNG option in the Lightroom mobile app. When importing your smartphone captures into Lightroom, I recommend keeping those images in their original capture format, simply using the “Copy” option during import rather than the “Copy as DNG” option.