My RAW Workflow explained in Detail

In this tutorial, I'm going to explain, step by step, an example RAW workflow using Lightroom Mobile on the iPhone. This tutorial is more about outlining how I process RAW files on the iPhone in general than how to process a specific photo.

And of course, this process is a way of developing a RAW photo that works for me. You may want to use it as a starting point to improve your RAW workflow on the iPhone e.

For this RAW workflow tutorial, I'll use a photo taken at a lost place in Austria.

I think I can safely assume that you know how to import a RAW photo into Lightroom Mobile as you're reading this. So the tutorial starts right after I've imported a RAW photo into Lightroom Mobile.

And here's how the DNG file, which is the RAW file format on iPhone, looks like after I've imported it into Lightroom

A RAW photo after I imported it into Lightroom Mobile

A RAW photo after I imported it into Lightroom Mobile

It's rather dark, flat and not very dramatic. But we'll develop this RAW and fix these issues.

Editing RAW is a Lightroom Premium Feature

But before we start, here's a little reminder. To be able to edit RAW photos with Lightroom Mobile, you need to have an active Creative Cloud Subscription. If you've been thinking about it for a while, now is maybe a good time!

And if you need some help to decide if a Lightroom subscription is worth it, please head over to my Lightroom Mobile Premium Review where I highlight what's included with a subscription and why I decided to subscribe.

First adjustment of Lights

As the first step in my RAW workflow, I adjust the lights using all the sliders you'll find in the lights panel in Lightroom Mobile. And please mind the following words: I'm adjusting the light, so it looks about right. The key phrase is the word "about".

I'm stressing this because many of the other steps I'll describe in this workflow will also affect the lights!

So, why lights first? There's no artsy reason for that; I'm doing this so that I can see what I'm doing with all the other sliders as the photo is a bit dark.

So, for this photo, I increased the overall exposure (so I can see something), then I increased the contrast a bit, bring down the highlights and increase the shadows.

Light Adjustments in Lightroom Mobile

Light Adjustments in Lightroom Mobile

So now, I can see the effects that all the other adjustment sliders will have.

Cropping the Photo

You may want to skip this step, but in my workflow, the second step is always to crop the photo to the desired format.

If you've been reading my iPhone Photography blog for a while, you'll know that I love the square photo format. So I'm using a 1:1 crop here.

Crop the photo in Lightroom Mobile

Crop the photo in Lightroom Mobile

Adjusting the Colors

This is usually the step where I spend most of the time. It's about adjusting colors.

In Lightroom Mobile, you can adjust hue, saturation, and luminance for eight different colors, and I'm outlining this procedure just for one color, the color yellow.

The entire image has quite a few different shades (yes, probably more than 50) of red, yellow, and orange. First, I want to adjust these shades more to the reddish side of yellow.

Adjustier Colors in Lightroom Mobile

Adjustier Colors in Lightroom Mobile

In the cellar, looking through the door at the back of the wall, you'll see an area with a bright yellow hue.

As a next step, I'm increasing the luminance of yellow to make this area stand out from the surrounding area and to add depth to the photo.

The door works great as a frame here. I want the wall behind the door to stand out more and to convey depth in this photo.

Please note that there are some other colors in this photo that I adjusted, for example, blue and cyan colors. You'll find these in the sand that's coming in from the left side.

I desaturated these two colors to separate the sand better from the surrounding area that's mainly orange-is to get a better foreground.

Effect Adjustments

For photos of lost places, I tend to increase clarity dramatically, to add, you guessed, more drama. I added a bit of texture as well, knowing that we'll lose a bit of texture when applying noise reduction.

Applying Clarity and Texture

Applying Clarity and Texture

I also increased the dehaze slider to remove haze from the bright white light shining into the scene from the right.

Fixing Geometry

As the frame of the door is not perfectly upright, I'm using the geometry adjustments in Lightroom Mobile to fix that.

For such an image, I tend to use the guided perspective correction where you need to draw two lines, and Lightroom will try to make the photo upright based on these two lines.

Fixing geometry in Lightroom

Fixing geometry in Lightroom

However, all perspective corrections tend to distort the photo. Thus I'm using the aspect and scale sliders to fix the aspect ratio and to zoom in so that the picture fills the entire frame, and we don't get any white borders from the perspective correction.

Detail and Noice Reduction

I've written an extensive article about noise reduction when editing RAW photos. You may want to read how to reduce noise in Lightroom Mobile before you continue.

For lost places or any other photos with a lot of texture, I'm quite careful with noise reduction, so I don't kill all the texture.

I also increased detail and contrast for noise reduction to protect and bring back the fine lines.

Back to Light

Next, I'm going back to lights adjustments again and adjust the almost final image using tone curves. For this photo, I want to add more contrast, and thus I move the bottom point of the curve a bit to the right.

Adjustier Curves as the final touch

Adjustier Curves as the final touch

Lastly, I look at the photo and see if I need to adjust further exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, white and black points.


Once I'm done with RAW editing, I assign a few keywords to the photo. These keywords are mainly those that the intelligent search from Lightroom, Adobe Sensai, does not recognize like "Lost Place" or "RAW."

Tagging Photo in Lightroom Mobile

Tagging Photo in Lightroom Mobile

If I plan to publish the photo right away, then I switch to the Info panel and tap on "accepted."


So, this is my personal RAW workflow on Lightroom Mobile. I think the three most important takeaways are:

  • Don't try to get light right in the first place because many other sliders will affect that.
  • Take your time with colors. Go through each of the colors and make sure your image looks like you want it.
  • Once you're done, come back to the lights adjustments and fine-tune them to give your image the final polish.

Now share your masterpiece with the world! And speaking of sharing, if you like this tutorial, I'd be happy if you share it with your friends - maybe they'll find it useful.

If you still have a minute or two, I'd love to hear from you. Did you find it helpful? If not, what are you missing?