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How to import and edit RAW photos on your iPhone or iPad

The iPhone and iPad's cameras are impressive for portable devices — especially so if you've just picked up the new iPhone 7 or 7 Plus.

But if you love shooting with your DSLR or other professional camera, too, you can have the best of both worlds: Snap RAW images on your primary camera, then transfer them to your iPhone for editing and publishing with Apple's Lightning to SD card reader (opens in new tab) or Lightning to USB cable (opens in new tab). Here's how to go about it.

How to import RAW or JPG images to your iPhone or iPad using the SD card adapter

  1. Remove the SD card from your camera and place it into the Lightning to SD card reader, then connect the adapter to your iPhone or iPad.

  1. Open the Photos app if it doesn't open automatically.
  2. Tap the Import tab. If you have many images on your card, your iPhone or iPad may take a few moments to display this screen.
  3. If you want to import every image or video you have on the card, tap Import followed by Import All; if you want to import selectively, tap individual thumbnails, select Import, and choose Import Selected.

  1. When the process is finished, you'll be asked whether you'd like to Delete the imported files off the SD card, or Keep them.
  2. You can now disconnect the SD card adapter and return the card to your camera, or continue importing more files.

How to import RAW or JPG images to your iPhone or iPad using the USB adapter

  1. Turn on your camera.
  2. Connect it to its cable and plug the USB end into the USB adapter.
  3. Connect the adapter to your iPhone or iPad.


  1. Open the Photos app if it doesn't open automatically.
  2. Tap the Import tab. If you have many images on your card, your iPhone or iPad may take a few moments to display this screen.
  3. If you want to import every image or video you have on the card, tap Import followed by Import All; if you want to import selectively, tap individual thumbnails, select Import, and choose Import Selected.

  1. When the process is finished, you'll be asked whether you'd like to Delete the imported files off your camera, or Keep them.
  2. You can now disconnect the USB adapter and turn off your camera, or continue importing more files.

Fun fact: You can use this process for just about any USB-connected camera, including connecting another iOS device. (It won't charge your iOS device while you do, however.)

How to process and edit RAW images on your iPhone or iPad

There are a bunch of programs that support editing RAW files, but our current favorite is Adobe's Lightroom Mobile (opens in new tab) for iPhone and iPad (opens in new tab). (Note: Lightroom requires an Adobe.com account to edit RAW files.)

You can also do so in the Photos app, but be aware: If you don't duplicate your photo first, you'll lose the ability to let third-party apps process and edit your RAW file.

To edit a RAW image on your iPhone and iPad, you need only open the editing pane in a compatible app, make your edits, then export to your preferred format. (Some apps, like Photos, auto-export to JPG and won't let you pick a specific file format.)

Will my RAW images sync to my Mac using iCloud Photo Library?

Yes! In a change from previous versions of iOS, RAW files now sync to iCloud Photo Library in their original state, rather than being compressed and saved as JPEGs on the server (and thus, your other devices). So you can upload your images on your iPhone, and they'll be sent to your Mac's library as Raw, too.

iOS 13 now supports external hard drives

Apple announced that iOS 13 will allow you to use external hard drives with iPhones and iPads. With this feature, you'll be able to freely move RAW photos and any other file type between your external drive and your iPhone or iPad. Even third-party apps are able to import these files directly from the external drive, speeding up the overall workflow process.

How to use external hard drives with your iPhone or iPad in iOS 13 and iPadOS 13

Questions?

Let us know in the comments and we'll get back to you.

September 2019: Added information about iOS 13 and external hard drive support.

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

42 Comments
  • So in theory, I could plug the Lightening to USB adapter into my iPhone6, then plug my iPad into the USB adapter and move video from the iPad to the iPhone?
  • Yup! Though it honestly might be faster via AirDrop.
  • If you choose "Keep", then shoot some more photos on the card, then plug it back in, is the app smart enough to offer "import all" that only copies the NEW photos, or do you need to manually manage at that point?
  • Has anyone tried this import from a Canon, such as the EOS 7D? I ask because I wasn't able to import photos from the Canon to a friend's computer who didn't have the Canon EOS Utility installed. I shoot RAW, if that matters, though I've heard iOS does understand that format. It would be wonderful while traveling, camping especially, to be able to review the shots from the day on my iPad Air 2. I photograph birds and dragonflies, and sometimes it is important to determine the species - which is extremely difficult even magnified on the camera's LCD - to plan the next day's shoot. Thanks. (PS, I enjoy your little iPP sketches.)
  • I have a 7D and yes, it works (imports RAW).
  • If you shoot Raw and JPEG is it possible to import just the JPEG's? Can you easily tell which version is the JPEG and which is the RAW in the thumbnail view? When you import images does the ipad automatically add the images to your icloud photo library? Thanks
  • It will only import the JPEGs. iOS create's it's own JPEG preview image. This is a bummer if you shoot RAW+JPEG and have some basic image adjustments applied in-camera.
  • Is there a way of teathering an iPad Pro to a DSLR (I am using a Canon 7D Mark II)? My goal is to have the iPad Pro on a stand that would have the images pop up as I shoot in the studio. This is a common practice using a laptop but I am trying to find a solution using the iPad.
  • I'm not sure about Canon, but my Sony a7r has a wireless feature ( built-in wifi and NFL) that streams the view finder on my iPhone and iPad. Is your camera wifi direct ( kind of like airdrop) capable? Sent from the iMore App
  • You can definitely do that. I've been doing that with my Canon 6D, using its built-in WiFi and the Canon Camera Connect app: https://appsto.re/us/zECr4.i The great thing about it, is that it gives you a live look on photos that are on the camera and you can decide which ones to actually import. The negative is that even if you shoot only in RAW, it auto converts and drops a JPG into your iPhone / iPad. Where as with this cable you can actually import RAW. But it doesn't give you anything other than thumbnails to decide which ones you want to import.
  • Unfortunately, the Canon Connect app only works on their camera which have built-in WiFi, not with 7Ds, 5Ds, etc.
  • I use wireless method (wifi direct, NFC) on my Sony a7r to my iPhone and iPad. Pictures transfer instantaneously. I also stream my view finder live to the ipad occasionally as well. Sent from the iMore App
  • Hopefully I'll be doing that too soon!
  • Does this transfer RAW files and then be able to use them in Lightroom?
  • I also would like to know that. I plan to use the iPad as a back up on my vacations. But I need the RAW files.
  • It download the RAW, but probably convert it to JPG before working with it.
    After all, iCloud even deny PNG upload and PNG files downloaded from web are saved as JPG.
  • I did transfer a raw file to my phone but never fooled with it since I don't have Lightroom on it
  • Since this will allow import of RAW, have you been able to test if Adobe Lightroom on iOS will edit and save back to camera roll in RAW as well? Would love to leave desktop Lightroom behind, yet retain RAW. I have been importing photos from my Canon 6D via wifi and Canon's app, but it only sends JPG over to iOS.
  • Can the card reader read SDHC cards or is it limited to the endangered species 2GB only ?
  • Is there a third party app that can be a substitute for what the iPhone 6 is using to import images?
    I just updated to 9.2 and bought the usb adapter, the problem is that I had over 650 images on my card all very similar, there is no way with the current Apple interface at the moment to zoom in on the thumbnails shown to see which is the image/images that you would want to import. I did an headshot session today and a lot of images are nearly identical when viewed at such small thumbnail size on an iPhone 6...Hopefully if nobody makes a better app yet, someone will soon.
  • Am I lost in a time warp? This technology and the cables have been around for years. Am I missing something new?
  • Art, the cables have been around either with dock connector or lightning connector for a while (I think since original iPad if memory serves), but for whatever reason until this latest update to iOS 9.2 they only worked with iPads. Apple blocked it from working with iPhones. Now with 9.2 the cables work with iPhones as well. They also now support RAW import which I believe is new but not 100% on that.
  • I use the ezShare wifi + tf card in my P & S Camera. As soon as I shoot it on my Camera, the picture is visible on my phone. Been using my Panasonic Lumix much much more after the wifi card purchase.
  • Is it possible to export the photos/videos from an iPhone or iPad to the SD Card? Sent from the iMore App
  • OK, I'm curious. How is this Lighting adaptor different from the one they used to sell?
  • It's not. 9.2 only allow it to be used with iPhone. Previously, using that card reader is a privilege for iPad users only.
  • Actually, if I'm not mistaken, the new one is USB 3 compatible, so on iPad Pro you get faster transfer speeds, old cable and all other devices are USB 2 compatible. I may be wrong, but that's what I thought I read somewhere. Sent from the iMore App
  • Thanks. So its just redesigned. Cool.
  • I picked up the SD card reader and on my iPhone 6 Plus I noticed it imports RAW files just fine from my EM10, but they are reduced in resolution to 3200x2400, although the file sizes look full size. I then noticed that RAW files I import into Photos for Mac are full resolution, but once synced to my phone they are only 3200x2400. What gives Photos for Mac!? Anyone else with RAW experience?
  • Ok I just imported a rew 5D mark III file onto my phone and email it via mail drop to may macbook , the files stays at the origin; size.
  • How did you import the file? Did you use a SD card reader? I'm trying with canon's app but I can't import RAW files!
  • I edited in camera a raw file on 5dM III, saved it then imported. The file is still at its original size. Not sure about importing raws.
  • when I shoot 500 RAW's with my EOS 5 I do an in camera RAW conversion and create 5 small jpegs that I want to transfer.So,Apple,please let me import ONLY jpegs,because the thumbnails don't show if it's a RAW or jpeg!
  • Can I use the usb cable with an SD adapter and an SD card?
  • I did this and they moved to a certain file. I want to move them to my computer, and don't have the camera, but the file isn't detected. I can't move them to the camera roll, either.
  • No need to buy any extra stuff. Just download an app called 'Infinit', and it'll transfer all your movies without compromising the video and audio quality. Simple as that. Sent from the iMore App
  • When looking at the iOS Camera Roll, is there any way to tell whether a photo is in RAW format or a JPG?
  • Unfortunately, the easiest way to tell is to either download Lightroom and add images (you will see a DNG or RAW badge of some sort), or install a metadata app like Metapho or Exify, then "share" the images in question to one of those apps using the share extension and they'll show you the image format.
  • They really should have a badge within the app like they do with panoramas. Same with HDR images; that info should be visible from the grid view in your photo library, but at least it tells you if the image is HDR when you tap on an HDR image. Furthermore, there really ought to be a fixed smart album for RAW photos, just like there is for screenshots, panoramas, etc...
  • Why in the world did Apple discontinue the iPad Camera connection kit? ( I guess I know the answer since it now costs double to get the same capability.)
  • So how do you guys get around the storage issue on iPhone/iPad? Sure, it's great to talk about putting RAW photos on your iDevices, but if you're like me, you soon run out of local storage. Even with iDrive, iCloud, etc - Just the local files of RAW end up filling my 32/64GB devices after a few days. Is there any kind of decent seamless option for DLSR > iDevice > Cloud? iCloud really isn't what it probably could be. I don't want my RAW photos to be spread across all of my devices, thus filling their local storage to, I'd just love an effortless way for my photos to pass through the iDevice and go straight to the cloud, and only the cloud!
  • With iOS 9/ El Capitan:
    Import RAW files (.nef Nikon) to Photos app on Mac. Keep originals on Mac, sync to iOS devices using iCloud Photo Library. When photo was downloaded to iPad, the RAW file showed up (.nef file shown in Exif viewer) and I was able to work with it in e.g. Snapseed as RAW (develop module) or push them as a JPG to VSCO.
    Import RAW files to iOS (using SD card reader) with optimized storage setting worked fine. Photos synced via iCloud to Mac, showed up there as RAW file.
    This was both great and it worked. With iOS 10/El Capitan:
    Import RAW files (.nef Nikon) to Photos app on Mac. Keep originals on Mac, sync to iOS devices using iCloud Photo Library. When photo is downloaded to iPad, the optimized JPG showes up – no more RAW file, no more Snapseed editing of RAW.
    Import attempt to iOS: the SD card reader is not being recognized/photo import does not start. Am I missing something?
    a) Does anyone else have the SD card reader issue
    b) How do I get to my RAW files on my iPad?