Adobe gave Lightroom Mobile a big update today. The app now uses RAW files in a cool new HDR mode that greatly enhance the photos you take. iPhoneographers should care because images taken with Lightroom Mobile are one step closer to what you get from a regular camera.

Lightroom In The RAW

When the iPhone 7 was released last September, Apple improved the iSight camera and unlocked the ability to shoot in RAW. A RAW file isn’t technically a photo. It’s an uncompressed file that contains all of the details you get from your camera. When you’re shooting JPEG files, your camera removes some of the information and compresses the image to save space. Shooting in RAW gives you more control over colors, highlights and shadows, and white balance.

Lightroom HDR mode iOS

Lightroom HDR Mode

Adobe quickly updated the Lightroom mobile app to take advantage of this. Using the app you can capture RAW DNG files. DNG stands for “digital negative” and is a file format standard for RAW images used across Adobe’s products.

Lightroom HDR Mode

HDR stands for high dynamic range, and it’s a way to evenly balance highlights and shadows in a photo. Almost every modern photo editing app has an HDR mode, including Apple’s default camera app. But the way in which Lightroom uses HDR is unique.

separate exposures in Lightroom hdr mode

Separate exposures combined into a final HDR photo

When you take an HDR photo, your camera is actually taking separate images, usually three. Each image is shot at a different exposure level, to control the light. The camera combines the three images into one final photo. HDR mode lets you take better photos in low-light, for example. Lightroom goes through the same process, as described in Adobe’s blog post.

“The new HDR mode works by automatically scanning the scene to determine the correct exposure range and then capturing three DNG files which are then automatically aligned, merged, defrosted, and tonemapped in the app. You get a 16-bit floating point DNG, with all of the benefits of both an HDR and a raw photo, which is processed by the same algorithms with the same quality as the HDR technology built into Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom [on the desktop].”

Lightroom For iPhone

To use Lightroom’s HDR mode, you’ll need an iPhone that can shoot in RAW. This means the iPhone 6s/6s Plus, iPhone 7/7 Plus, iPhone SE or the 9.7” iPad Pro. Other updates included in the latest Lightroom release include new gestures in Rate & Review mode, a new 3D Touch and Notification Center widget, and a new Prevent From Sleep option. This prevents the screen from locking as long as your iPhone is plugged in.

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