If you’re a Mac-owning photographer, you probably used—or toyed with, or still stubbornly refuse to give up—Apple’s long-abandoned Aperture application for editing photos and managing your image library. The official replacement, Apple Photos, is targeted at a broader audience and lacks many of the Raw-editing features Aperture was built for.
Now, former Aperture development lead Nik Bhatt, via his company Gentlemen Coders, has created RAW Power, a Raw image editor for Mac and iOS that digs deep into Raw editing and throws in some unique features, too. The just-released iOS version works on the iPhone and iPad, and pairs with the macOS version, which was released in 2016.
On both platforms, RAW Power operates as both a stand-alone app and as an editing extension in Apple Photos. If you already use Photos to store your photo library, it can still be your hub.
|RAW Power reads your Photos library directly, including Photos-created special albums for Portrait images, Favorites, and Selfies.|
A Raw file is the fullest available expression of the output from the camera’s sensor, creating a file with a lot of image data to plumb. Aside from obvious adjustments such as exposure and color, a Raw editor can control aspects specific to the Raw format, such as sharpening and reducing digital noise.
RAW Power leans on the Raw image support Apple builds into macOS and iOS. That includes reading Raw files from various cameras (because every model, maddeningly, has its own Raw variation, even by the same manufacturer), as well as how the data is interpreted.
Sometimes that means manually circumventing some adjustments. Apple’s Raw converters apply a Boost setting to Raw photos to add color and punch to what would otherwise be a flat appearance. RAW Power can pull that back or turn it off for more control. A Black Boost slider gives you more latitude when adjusting dark portions of the image. Similarly, you can turn off the Gamut Map, which is a feature that reigns in tones to help prevent the values from going beyond the working color space (Adobe RGB or P3).
|Adjusting a washed-out Raw image using RAW Power on an iPad Pro. Here we’re viewing the “before” image by tapping the Show Original button.|
|The same Raw image as above, with the Raw Processing settings applied.|
As for other Raw-specific options, RAW Power can also adjust the overall black point, compensate for luma and color noise, apply sharpening and protect detail, and adjust local contrast using a Raw Contrast control.
For all images, RAW Power offers clipping indicators, both in the histogram and as temporary overlays to see where the brightest and darkest portions have exceeded the image’s tonal and color ranges.
The Curves feature adjusts each channel (red, green, blue, and the three together), with a couple of options. Normally, curves are applied in Gamma mode: a gamma correction is made to the data before the curve adjustment is made, and then the correction is reversed after the adjustment. As with Boost and Gamut Map, Gamma mode is designed to present a well-rounded result. Switching from Gamma mode to Linear mode removes those guardrails to give more editing latitude. Curves can be applied equally to the combined RGB channels, or, in Luminance mode, using an equation that doesn’t push color casts out of whack.
|Curve adjustments in Gamma mode|
Curve adjustment using Linear mode.
Applying a curve in Linear mode initially presents a less saturated version of this image, but it opens the possibility of more specific editing.
The Portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X uses the dual cameras on those devices to create a depth map of the scene, identifying objects in the foreground, such as a person’s head, and isolating it by artificially blurring the background. RAW Power can read the depth map and independently edit the shadows and highlights for foreground and background areas the iPhone identified. This works only for Portrait images captured under iOS 11, which saves the depth map with the original image. It can’t change the amount of blurring in the background, however.
|The depth overlay reveals the areas the iPhone cameras identified, with closer objects appearing brighter.|
|The Depth Effect adjusts the highlights and shadows of foreground and background areas.|
RAW Power saves all of its edits non-destructively. When you grant the app permission to modify the image stored in the Photos library, the edits themselves are saved as instructions; the pixels in the original image aren’t changed. The adjustments carry over to iCloud Photo Library to be updated on all your devices. The photo can be reverted to the untouched original at any time in Photos; if you re-open it in RAW Power, all of your adjustments are where you left them.
|RAW Power saves its edits back to the Photos library, with your permission.|
RAW Power is free to use, and includes most of the app’s editing features. The Advanced Adjustment Pack, a one-time $9.99 in-app purchase, unlocks the Curves, Depth Effect, and White Balance tools.