The hidden iPhone setting that can eat up all your storage in a flash

Kim Komando, Special to USA TODAY
·4 min read

Remember back when you had to lug around a digital single-lens reflex camera to take decent photos? Now our smartphones have cameras capable of taking gorgeous pro-quality shots.

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The new high-end iPhone models bring a new feature that can take your photos to the next level but think twice before you turn it on.

iPhone photos RAW files

You may have heard photographers talk about shooting in RAW. When you snap a photo with your phone or digital camera, it is saved as an image file, such as a JPEG, TIFF, or RAW.

A JPEG is a processed, compressed image that’s ideal for everyday use. These images don’t take up much storage space and are easy to share via text, email, and social media.

On the other hand, RAW files are huge by comparison and can eat up a ton of storage space. RAW files are just that – the raw photo data. Your camera stores the photo as it was taken, without processing or compression.

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The result is a much larger file than a JPEG, but that comes with greater control. You can edit a photo's white balance, color, and exposure much more precisely with a RAW file.

Where RAW really shines is saving your under- or overexposed photos. Say you underexposed your subject’s face and he or she is just a shadow; there’s no saving it. If you shot in RAW, you’ll most likely have enough data to bring out the details in your subject’s face.

iPhone ProRAW setting is good and bad

It wasn't long ago that the RAW image format was reserved for digital cameras. The feature came to smartphones via third-party apps more recently. In December, Apple introduced its ProRAW format with iOS 14.3.

Here’s the bad news: This is only available if you have an iPhone 12 Pro or 12 Pro Max. ProRAW gives you the benefits of so-called lossless imagery and works on all four of the iPhone 12 Pro’s cameras. This means that your RAW images make full use of Apple’s Smart HDR and Deep Fusion, as well as night mode.

ProRAW also uses the industry-standard DNG file extension, allowing you to edit photos with third-party software.

To turn it on: Go to Settings > Camera > Formats, then toggle on Apple ProRAW to try it out.

A RAW icon will appear in your camera app, which you can toggle on and off as you shoot.

When you close the camera app and reopen it, ProRaw defaults to off. To keep it on permanently, go to Settings > Camera > Preserve Settings and toggle ProRAW on.

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Leave ProRAW turned off

RAW photos take up a ton of storage space, and Apple itself puts a warning in the camera settings, citing that each file is 25MB. Compare this to the standard JPEG photos on your phone that take up about 1MB of space.

You can fit hundreds of JPEG photos for each gigabyte of space on your phone, but fewer than 50 RAW photos. The smallest storage capacity available for the iPhone 12 Pro is 128GB.

If you have 50GB free, that’s enough room for 25,000 JPEG photos at an average of 2MB each. That same space can only fit about 2,000 RAW images. This may seem like a lot, but remember that you can’t do much with these photos until they are edited and saved as a different file type. They are unwieldy and not easily shareable.

My recommendation? Leave ProRAW turned off until you actually need it.

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Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: iPhone 12 Pro photos: This feature can use a lot of space