What you need to know about JPEG, HEIF, HEIC and ProRAW

AppleInsider is supported by its audience and is eligible to earn an Amazon Associate and Affiliate Partner commission on qualifying purchases. These affiliate partnerships do not influence our editorial content.

Your iPhone, iPad, and Mac natively support a variety of image formats. JPEG, HEIF, and ProRAW being the most common, here’s what they mean and how to choose between them.

A wide variety of image formats are supported on iOS, iPadOSand macOS, with each format having a specific purpose and intended use. When it comes to photographing with your iPhone and iPadthe list can be narrowed down to a few commonly used types.

The camera on iPhone and iPad natively supports JPEG and HEIF. With a iPhone 12 Pro functioning iOS 14.3 or later, the sensor can even capture in ProRAW.

Here’s what each guy does.


JPEG is also the most compatible among the three formats, with the format being compatible with virtually all online image downloaders. Therefore, if the user wants universal compatibility, it is generally advisable to use this format.

However, the small size of JPEG photos requires compression. Color gradients in images will use fewer tints and shades, which might look unnatural in some images, such as the blue hues of a midday sky.

The compression algorithm will also eliminate a lot of detail to minimize the file footprint, which could impact image quality and compromise clarity.

To achieve a smaller file size, the algorithm selects colors and details to retain the most information while using the least amount of space. This has the effect of preserving some finer details, while parts of images with minor details are more heavily compressed as they have very negligible negative effects on the final images.


Apple’s High Efficiency Image Format, or HEIF, is a format that attempts to further reduce file size while preserving image quality.

The default image format since iOS 11, HEIF retains the same appearance characteristics as JPEG images. It is more compact than JPEG, allowing the user to store more HEIF files on the same amount of disk space.

A HEIF image uses 20% less disk space per image than traditional JPEG files, allowing the device to store 25% more images than JPEG would allow.

A HEIC file contains several HEIF images, as well as audio data. You will see the HEIC format in place when the photo taken is a Live Photo, where a greater diversity of data types needed to be saved in a single file.

However, HEIF is not supported by many online image downloaders. This famous lack of compatibility caused problems for a student taking the AP university entrance exam, who failed the exam because the photo he uploaded was of the unsupported HEIF.

It is recommended that users capture, export and convert files to JPEG format for maximum cross-platform compatibility.

Perhaps the most important thing to note is that HEIF is a file format that supports capturing 4K video at 60fps, slow-motion video at 240fps at 1080p, and HDR video.

Versatility makes HEIF the perfect choice for the amateur photographer or filmmaker who prefers better resolution and color without complicated image workflows or large file sizes. The relative compatibility between Apple device workloads also makes it easier to work with images in lighter versions of Photoshop and Pixelmator.


Designed for photographers, ProRAW on iPhone 12 Pro or later gives the user more control over exposure, color values ​​and white balance. This format is for the power user who wants to get the most out of the camera sensor.

As the name suggests, ProRAW provides the user with the raw image data. The format produces a 12-bit linear DNG compatible file that allows it to store more information.

Long a part of high-end photography and an essential part of professional work, these raw image files are optimized for the more casual user who demands a little more control. Rather than giving full control from the start, in-camera processing of ProRAW images is limited and optimized to give maximum results with reasonably low effort.

This makes it easy to make high-quality edits on an iPhone. However, the files still contain all the main elements that amateurs and professionals would need for further image processing.

User can take this file to their favorite image processor to make edits with high end output. The extra data translates to a file size 10 to 12 times larger than images in JPEG and HEIF formats.

The format is also incompatible with many online downloaders, so you will need to edit and convert the image to a more usable format before downloading.

How to switch between formats

By default, your Apple device captures in HEIF format. To use JPEG or to enable ProRAW mode, you will need to adjust the camera settings.

ProRAW is only available on iPhone 12 Pro and later devices.

How to enable JPEG and ProRAW modes for the camera

Leave a Comment