iPhoneography 101: Photo Post Processing on Your iPhone

Snapping pix with any old camera is easy nowadays. You can buy great pocket cams that'll yield results only pros could deliver a few short years ago. However, as dedicated consumer cams become more sophisticated so do the camera on smart phones. In fact, I know pros who've traded in their dedicated pocket camera for smart phones and associated apps.

I'm not talking about DLRS, you'd have to pry my Canon 7D from my cold, dead fingers before I'd trade it in for anything but a better Canon, but I have left my 7D and smaller pocket cam at home and relied completely on my iPhone on several trips and have been surprised by what I was able to get. That’s how I got into iPhoneography in the first place.

Anyway, back in the Day film shooters had to adhere to a strict process when producing pix, pros and serious hobbyists still do today, but for everyone else producing a great shot takes three step; point, click, view. Our cameras take care of the rest. Even so, there are times when we’d like to enhance the pix we take, that's where post processing apps come in. The beauty of these apps is that they often provide the complete package by including a decent camera app integrated into the filtering app. Think Instagram and you get the idea.

Here's a photo taken with PureShot on an iPhone 5.

Indian River with Kenndy Space Center in the distance
(Photo by Vern Seward)

Whenever I take “serious” pix I use a dedicated camera app that lets me save in TIFF format so as to preserve as much photo info as possible for post processing. What you see is a jpg version of the TIFF file, no alteration was done to the photo. It's not a bad shot as it is, but because the camera didn't produce the jpg there was no processing done and the resulting photo looks a bit flat. The colors aren't true and some contrast is missing.

This second photo is the same shot after processing in SnapSeed. Here the colors are richer, closer to what I saw. Contrast was increased which brought out more cloud and water detail.

 Same shot with a bit more punch
(Photo by Vern Seward)

Now, to add a bit more drama I cropped the shot, used a vignette filter and added a bit more contrast. The result is the third photo. All of this was accomplished in a few minutes in SnapSeed.

Same shot with more drama
(Photo by Vern Seward)

Another post processing app I'm taking a shine to is Big Lens [34.4MB, iDevices capable of running iOS 6.0 or later, US$0.99], it lets you add a bokeh effect to your shots. This is especially nice if you're dealing with portraits and busy backgrounds. (Bokeh is used to describe the effect where the subject is in focus but the foreground and background are not. This is also known as Depth of Field.)

Big Lens lets you highlight your subject...
(Photo by Vern Seward)

It's pretty simple, really. You highlight the area you want to keep in sharp focus then the app does the rest. You can adjust all aspects of the filter including the addition of stylized lens blurs. What I like is that you can zoom in to get better detail control when highlighting. The app also provides some basic photo adjustments tools and other filters, but you'll want to use it just for bokeh effect.

...to give it some depth
(Photo by Vern Seward)

And while we're on post processing apps that focus on one thing, check out Touch Retouch [23.2MB, iDevices capable of running iOS 4.3 or later, US$0.99]. Similar in operation to Big Lens, you use your finger to highlight spots and areas you want to remove, then hit the process button.

 And Touch Retouch does the samething...
(Photo by Vern Seward)

Like magic the offending photo bit disappears. This is great when you've discovered a zit in the middle of your latest selfies shot. (If only blemish removal work this way in real life!)

...only it removes what you highlight.
(Photo by Vern Seward)

I should mention too that if you do take portraits, even selfies, with your phone you might want to get a small tripod and phone mount like the MOS Kick, a tiny metal stand/tripod mount that's pocketable. It's a Kickstarter project that got well funded, so you should see these appearing in a store near you soon.

Well, that's it for this week. Next week I'll talk about workflows. If you have questions or topics you'd like me to cover, please let me know.

Stay tuned.