How Photos and iCloud Photo Library handle RAW images

Learn how to work with RAW images using iCloud Photo Library and Photos for OS X.

iCloud Photo Library keeps your pictures updated across your iOS devices and Mac computers. If your photo library includes images in RAW format, you can view and edit them on your Mac. The availability of RAW files on your Mac depends on a few conditions:

  • If you have the Download Originals to this Mac option turned on in Photos (Photos > Preferences > iCloud > Download Originals to this Mac), then your RAW files are always present in Photos on your Mac.
  • If you have the Optimize Mac Storage option turned on, then your RAW files are stored in iCloud Photo Library. Photos will save disk space on your Mac by displaying optimized JPEG versions of your RAW images. If you edit an optimized image on your Mac, Photos will download the RAW file for that image.
  • When Photos downloads a RAW image from iCloud Photo Library, it creates a new full-sized JPEG for optimal viewing on your Mac. It won't replace the RAW and embedded JPEG file already stored in iCloud. iOS devices will view the embedded JPEG.
  • RAW files that you store outside the Photos library (for example, in your Pictures folder) are always present on your Mac, but aren't stored in iCloud and won't be up-to-date in the Photos app on iOS devices.

RAW files imported to iPad with Camera Connection Kit

If you import RAW images to an iPad using Camera Connection Kit, the files will be available on your Mac via iCloud Photo Library if the Download Originals to this Mac option is turned on or if you edit the images on your Mac.

When you work with RAW images on an iPad, the iPad will show the embedded JPEG thumbnail of the image created by the camera, not the actual RAW file.

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