VSCO's iOS app supports capturing and editing RAW files on certain mobile devices that satisfy Apple's hardware requirements. To determine whether or not your device is capable of shooting in RAW with VSCO, please see our article How do I use RAW?
Before we begin, we’d like to explain what RAW means as it relates to VSCO. We encourage you to read the article How do I use RAW? which describes the benefit of capturing in RAW vs. JPEG. This article can also help guide you to determine whether or not shooting in RAW is right for you. If you are already familiar with the RAW file format, you can continue reading below.
If you have recently captured an image using the RAW setting in the VSCO camera, you may have noticed that your captured image appears differently in your Studio and Detail view compared to what you see in Edit view.
When you capture a RAW file in VSCO, you are actually creating two images at once, a RAW file and a JPEG preview of that RAW file. The initial image you are seeing in Studio or Detail view is the JPEG preview instead of the actual RAW file. Additionally, this JPEG preview is displayed first in VSCO Studio and Detail views to help you quickly identify the RAW file you want to edit. We found that rendering the actual RAW file in real-time can require a lot of processing power on a mobile device, especially if there are many RAW images in your studio. In order to provide a faster and more responsive user experience on VSCO, we opted to show the JPEG preview in your Studio and Detail view.
Studio, Detail and Edit View of a RAW file in VSCO
Once you enter into the Edit view to edit the RAW file, the original RAW file is rendered in real time and then displayed.
This RAW file has much greater editing flexibility due to the amount of data captured in the file, but it does not contain any in-camera processing included in the JPEG preview image.
This is the original RAW file and not the JPEG preview you saw in the Studio and Detail view. This is also where you may notice the visual difference in the RAW file versus the JPEG preview. In certain lighting conditions, you may notice your RAW file looks darker compared to the JPEG preview.
If you are seeing a darker RAW file, what you are seeing is this: When you capture an image with the VSCO camera and the exposure is set to preserve highlight detail, the Apple processing that creates the JPEG preview will boost the shadows, sometimes reduce highlights and add a slight boost in color saturation. The JPEG preview is rendered in a "pleasing" way by giving it a wider tonal dynamic range and a slight color saturation boost. This processed JPEG is created by Apple and not by VSCO. We do not offer the ability to disable this processing on the JPEG preview in VSCO at this time.
When the RAW file is brought into Edit view, the shadows become darker as there is no Apple processing on the RAW file; it’s completely RAW data from your camera sensor. While this RAW file does give you greater control when editing the file, it may not necessarily suit your photography needs. If this is the case, shooting in JPEG rather than RAW maybe the better option. Common scene types that may create this RAW file are high-dynamic scenes such as a landscape image taken in mid-day sun in which the foreground is much darker than the lighter background.
An example of a high-dynamic scene captured in RAW. Notice the foreground (concrete walls) is much darker than the background (open sky).
An example of the JPEG preview in Studio / Detail view processed by Apple. Notice Apple will boost the shadows and even the mid-tones and highlights to compensate.
Please note that mobile camera sensors are typically smaller and have fewer megapixels than DSLR / mirrorless camera sensor and as such, you may not have as much flexibility in recovering lost shadows or detail in a mobile camera RAW file as you would with a camera with a larger sensor.
Additionally, VSCO allows importing of RAW files from most supported camera types such as DSLR / mirrorless cameras. Note that different camera manufacturers may also provide their own JPEG preview, similar or different to the JPEG preview Apple provides in VSCO. So, you may notice the same differences in the Studio and Edit views as illustrated earlier.