I take most of my pictures on mobile, and I use mostly jpeg for the convenience, but I sometimes use RAW because of annoying whites blowout, bizarre clouds or unreal colors. For instance, my sunset pictures are terrible in jpeg.

But something is really annoying me and I can't find the reason. I'm fairly decent in post-processing, but for some pictures I just can get in the RAW the same colors and whites balance as the jpeg, no matter how I edit. Any ideas on how to improve this?

In the example I attach, even though the jpeg is over-saturated, the colors on the sea are much more balanced, and the whites and mid-tones on the bottom-right are much better.

(Sorry the jpeg and raw labels should be the other way around!) raw Vs jpeg

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Does this answer your question? Why do RAW images look worse than JPEGs in editing programs? \$\endgroup\$
    – LuZel
    Aug 12, 2020 at 13:29
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Please fix the labelling to save confusion. imo, the top image has a whole lot more 'spark' than the bottom - which may hint at in-camera processing - & belie the incorrect labelling. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 12, 2020 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's no such thing as THE raw image that can be displayed on your monitor. What you see is one interpretation of the raw image data in much the same way that the jpeg is one such interpretation of the raw data from which it was derived. The only difference between the two is how the information in the raw data was processed to result in the image you see. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Aug 14, 2020 at 20:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does this answer your question? Shooting in RAW Format \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Aug 14, 2020 at 20:14

2 Answers 2


This is likely due to the AI processing aspect of most phone cameras.

When a phone camera takes a photo its often (Especially on newer models) not as simple as taking a single sensor readout and processing it. They often are buffering frame the entire time the sensor and camera app are open, once you press the image button multiple exposures are taken (Unless you are in a pro mode where you have selected the shutter settings). The powerful processors in mobiles these days are also used to do a form of object & edge detection to do some 'Smart' sharpening around objects the phone thinks are the subject and they often have an option to add artificial bokeh (Defocus of background). Basically, a combination of complex algorithms are used to generate a standard out of Phone jpeg.

If you want to read more about how modern phones process images look up neural processing unit (NPU) Apple & Samsung are big players in this game. Verge Article

Whereas when you take a RAW photo on a mobile you are genuinely taking a single exposure from the sensor. You are limited with the data of that single frame to work with. A comment on why your RAW photo after processing looks different would be what software are you using, I’d imagine you could make these images basically look identical with enough editing especially of the HSL and cures in Lightroom.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow that's really helpful, I guess I'm stuck with the "modern algorithms" unless they are really screwing up! My phone has 3 cameras, do you also think that raw pictures would use just a single one? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 12, 2020 at 13:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd imagine whatever focal length you are currently at selects the sensor / lens to readout the RAW data. That's an interesting point, I know lots of phones have multiple sensors and focal lengths, and I know that most phones use digital zoom. I wonder what happens if you shoot raw while digitally zoomed. I'd guess you still get the full sensor readout (Unzoomed?) \$\endgroup\$ Aug 12, 2020 at 13:55

It looks like a midtone/gamma issue to me... too much shadow recovery? I honestly believe a lot of people spend a lot of time just to gen a raw image up to the level of a SOOC jpeg...

I adjusted the gamma for the upper image and the exposures/colors are closer now. I would have to start with the original raw file to do much better.

enter image description here


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