Note- A Mavic Pro was used for these photos – but the advice given will apply to most all DJI drones and to some other brands.
This article is for Beginners and Advanced Beginners – those who know their imaging will likely already have other programs (Lightroom, etc.) that process their RAW and other photos. This article involves editing with the free (included) MacOS program “Apple Photos”, formerly called iPhoto.
What is RAW?
RAW is a photographic file type – one that takes as much as possible of the information from the camera sensor and stores it in a larger (usually 5X the size in bytes) format than the JPEG (.jpg or .jpeg) that most are familiar with. Most DJI Equipment now allows you to set the Photo type as RAW…or, as both RAW and JPEG at the same time. In the later case, the Drone will take and store two photos – one processed with your JPEG settings and one RAW.
Should you use RAW as your Photo file type?
This is an open question. If you do a lot of work on your photos after you download them (this is called post-processing), then RAW is the preferred format due to it containing more actual light and color information…which then gives you more to work with. However, if the majority of your work is “as-is” or only slightly adjusted afterwards (crop, light, etc.), then the JPEG format should work fine. However, it will benefit you to check and test the JPEG photo settings on your machine before you take it into the field. DJI provides various options – I currently use “Landscape” on my Mavic Pro and the result are quite good. Reports from the field indicate that DJI has occasionally changed these settings with firmware updates, so it’s important that you check to make sure the photos are satisfactory before doing any important flights. This can be done by checking the settings in the DJI Go (4) app while connected to the Drone – and also taking a couple photos outdoors. I just hover a few feet above my house and do so, but you could also do it hand held. Make certain to touch the screen to focus and try to take a sample photo of something at a distance – then inspect it closely on your computer or any larger screen.
RAW Photos will often look “washed out” compared to JPEGS – this is because JPEGS are automatically improved inside the camera. In other words, the basic work (sharpening, brightening, colors popping) is done for you – whereas with RAW you have to do the post-processing.
Up until recently, working with RAW files often meant you needed expensive programs like Lightroom – and also the education on using them. However, the free (included) Apple Photos App on Macs now has the ability to process these files. Following is a short tutorial on editing RAW (and other) photos in Apple Photos.
Selecting a Photo in Apple Photos
The screenshot below shows part of a typical Apple Photos “Photos” screen. These Photos have been imported from the Micro-SD card plugged into an adapter on my Mac. The thumbnails which have a “J” at the upper left also show a second shadow behind that “J” – this indicates that both a JPEG and a RAW copy of the photo are in the program. If nothing is shown, that means only a JPEG exists – if the upper left only contains an “R”, that means only a RAW photo was taken. Note that RAW photos will have a .DNG (or .dng) extension.
Double clinking a single J photo will then fill most of the Apple Photos screen with that particular file. The next step is to click the Edit rectangle in the upper right hand side of the Apple Photos window.
This will bring you into the Editing Mode “Adjust” Screen. However, you will be editing the JPEG version by default, so those who want to fiddle with RAW will have to take an additional step as shown below. Under the Image Menu, scroll down to “Use RAW as Original”. This will bring the RAW image into the Editing Screen.
A typical work flow is to crop and/or level first, which can be done by selecting the “Crop” tab at the top center of the Editing Screen. Once the imagine is cropped, select Adjust again and you will then have all the available editing options available to you on the right hand menu. Most of the adjustments have an “auto” checkbox which works quite well – or, you can manually adjust the various sliders. I tend to use Color, Light, Definition and Sharpen more than most other editing tools. These are often sufficient if the picture was taken in decent lighting conditions. However, each person has a different “eye”, so take some time and experiment with the various options.
Exporting for Email, Messaging and General Web Use
Once you are done editing your RAW (or other) file, it’s time to export it in a format that can be easily used on Facebook, with email and/or on other online uses. However, if your final use is going to be as a physical print you’ll want to skip the size reduction part. For most uses, I would suggest the following:
- Export as JPEG (JPG, jpg) – in medium or high quality.
- Resize using “custom” to 2000 pixels wide
This will result in a much smaller file size – easier to work with and will use up much less of your internet bandwidth (important for mobile users and faster for all users). Apple Photos will always save your original (higher resolution, bigger file size) copies, so all you are doing is creating a new file using the Export command. Here’s how:
- Finish up in the Editing Screen by hitting the “Done” button at the right top of the window.
- Under the “File” menu, choose Export –> Export 1 Photo
- Modify or select the setting(s) you want to export with – my sample is shown below.
In most cases, this will result in a file size of 1 MB or so, which should only take a couple seconds to email, post on Facebook or upload to a Forum, etc.
Note – IOS (phones and tablets) differs quite a bit from MacOS (the desktop and laptop operating system). Importing and editing RAW photos on these devices is not addressed in this article however you can find many web links on 3rd party programs and devices which make this possible. Example:
Thanks for reading – and please leave any comments below!
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