How To Enlarge iPhone Photos

by Nov 22, 2023Photo Editing Tutorials0 comments

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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How To Enlarge iPhone Photos

As a keen photographer, you probably know you can’t always use your camera. Sometimes the situation demands you fall back on your camera phone. That’s the position I recently found myself in when I captured this image from my hotel in Dubai. I could only use my iPhone at the time, and now I want to produce a framed print for my wall. Unfortunately, my iPhone image is too small.

Original iPhone Photo following editing with Snapseed

This article explains how I created a print-quality enlargement from my iPhone image using Topaz Photo AI.

What You Need To Enlarge An iPhone Photo

There are two essential things you will need to enlarge an iPhone photo:

  1. An edited photo that you want to enlarge. That’s because it’s best to enlarge the finished photo. Enlarging and then editing a photo tends to produce inferior results.
  2. Software for producing the enlargement.

While you can use many software products and online services, I’ve found my best results come from using Topaz. Topaz Photo AI seems to be ideal for enhancing photos taken with an iPhone or smartphone.

Side Note: I’ve previously tested Topaz Photo AI on images captured with a camera and found the individual Topaz AI products (like Gigapixel) work better. But when used with my iPhone photos, the results have been extremely impressive. To test Topaz Photo AI for yourself, you can download a free trial from the Topaz website.

In a moment, we will look at how to create a high-quality iPhone enlargement. First, I want to explain more about the technical details of the photo we are enlarging.  This will help you to appreciate the results better.

Analysing the Photo

The photo we are enlarging was taken using an iPhone SE, 2nd generation from 2020. This is a stripped-down version of the iPhone 8 with a single wide-angle rear-facing lens on the camera. The camera produces a 12-megapixel image in JPEG format, which measures 4032 x 3024 pixels. At 300dpi, that would produce an A4 print but requires enlarging for anything bigger.

The image we are working with was captured in JPEG using the standard iPhone Camera app. It was captured handheld shortly after sunset, and the Camera app managed the settings. If we check the camera data, we can see it set the ISO to 160, which is high for this iPhone. The Camera app then applied noise reduction to the image.

After editing the image using the Snapseed app from Google, quality problems can be seen. There are compression artefacts, particularly in the sky and faint banding. Here’s an example.

A mottled sky in the original iPhone image indicates quality problems

Notice how the sky appears mottled when viewed at 100% magnification. This is caused by image compression, noise reduction and processing. Initially, I thought this might not be visible when printed, but it was.

Now you understand a little about the image, let’s look at how we can enlarge it and fix the quality problems using Topaz Photo AI.

Opening the Image in Topaz Photo AI

Whilst we can use Topaz Photo AI as a plugin for Photoshop and Affinity Photo, it can’t enlarge the photo when we do this. To enlarge our photo, we need to use the software standalone.

When you launch Topaz Photo AI standalone, the interface looks like this.

Topaz Photo AI interface when launched stand alone

We can then drag and drop our iPhone photo onto the centre area to open it. Alternatively, click the “Browse Images” button to open a dialog. You can then use this to navigate to the folder holding the image and select it.

After opening an image in Photo AI, we see the adjustment controls on the right side of the interface. It’s also likely that your software will be in Autopilot mode. This causes it to analyse the image and automatically apply any enhancements it identifies as necessary.

Understanding The Topaz Photo AI Interface

Here’s the result of opening our sample image in the software.

iPhone image open in Topaz Photo AI

Here, we see the image magnified to 100% in the frame’s centre and displayed as a split-screen preview. The left side of the preview shows the original image, whilst the right side shows the adjustments applied in the software. We can also click the centre line of the split preview with our mouse to drag it left and right.

A second smaller preview of the entire image is at the top right of the interface. There, we see a small rectangle indicating the area of the image displayed. We can also click and drag this rectangle with the mouse to reposition it on the image. This is useful for inspecting the image for problems.

Then, below this, we have the different controls and filters available in the software. Currently, only the sharpening filter is on, which was set automatically by the software. Whilst the Autopilot mode may work well with some images, it hasn’t done a good job with this image.

Let’s configure the software for better results when we enlarge our iPhone photo.

The Upscale Option

We use the Upscale option to enlarge the photo. You can turn it on by clicking the small switch icon to the right of the Upscale heading. After this, you can expand the section to reveal further controls, as shown below.

Upscaling options in Topaz Photo AI used to enlarge the iPhone photo

At the top, we have the scaling options, which are 2x, 4x and Max (currently 6x). Then, below this, we see information about the size of the resulting image. In this example, the image would be 8,064 pixels on the long edge. At a 300dpi resolution, this would be approximately 27 inches, which is a significant enlargement from the original iPhone photo.

The second section of controls shows the different AI models used for the enlargement. Currently, the software is set to use the “High Fidelity” option, which is intended for high-quality images, usually taken with a camera. I’ve found that it’s best to check the results between “Standard” and “High Fidelity” when enlarging iPhone photos, as one is often better than the other. Here, “High Fidelity” is slightly better.

In the third set of controls, we see three sliders. The Fix Compression slider is extremely useful and removes the compression artefacts we saw in the sky earlier. Here’s an example showing the results with our image.

Split screen view showing the results of the Fix Compression slider in Topaz Photo AI

The left side of the split screen shows the compression problem, whilst the right side shows the effect of the slider. The results are extremely impressive. I’ll also mention that this is a 100% magnification of the image, which is shown as a 2x enlargement of the original.  

The two other sliders in this section can be used to remove image blur and noise. You’ll also see an information notice below the sliders. This advises that the Sharpen filter has been disabled because the Upscaling filter can handle the deblur. This may work well with some images, but I found I can achieve better results by disabling the Deblur and Denoise sliders. Instead, I will use the individual Denoise and Sharpen filters for greater control.

Removing Noise

To remove the noise from the photo, click the small switch icon to the right of the Removing Noise heading. You can then click the heading to expand it and reveal additional controls, as shown here.

Removing Noise in Topaz Photo AI

Here, we have three AI models we can use to remove the image noise. In this example, we are using the Normal model but with more extreme noise, try the others. We can then use the Strength slider to control the effect.

Like with the Upscaling we looked at earlier, we see a “Minor Deblur” slider we can use to sharpen the image. Here, I’ve set the slider to the minimum value as I want to use the Sharpening filter to ensure the detail is sharp.

Checking any fine detail in the image is a good idea when using this filter. I found the filter was removing some tiny window frames in distant buildings. I therefore increased the “Recover Original Detail” slider until these were visible again, but the noise wasn’t.

Sharpening

Like the other filters, we can turn on the sharpening by clicking the small switch icon to the right of the heading. We then expand this section to reveal its controls, as shown below.

Shapening the image in Topaz Photo AI

At the Top of the section, we see an option to sharpen the “Subject Only”. Alternatively, if we disable this, we can sharpen the entire image. We only want to sharpen the buildings and not the sky for our iPhone image.

The software has automatically selected the subject in the image. It does this well with some images, but with our image, it only detected one of the buildings. You should always check what’s been selected by clicking the Edit Subject button. I then manually set the subject to “Landscape” which created a good selection of the buildings but not the sky.

Using the Detect Subject option to select the buildings but not the sky in the iPhone photo

You also find brush tools in the “Edit Subject” section. You can use these to paint over the areas to include or remove from the selection.

After selecting the subject to sharpen, click the Apply button to close the controls. This returns you to the Sharpening controls.

The other options in the Sharpening filter allow you to change the AI model used for the sharpening. As with the other filters, it’s worth checking these to identify the best. You can then adjust the level of sharpening using the Strength slider.

Comparing the effect of the Sharpening on the image

Here, we see a section of the distant buildings in the photo. The left side shows the image without sharpening and the right side with sharpening. It may be difficult to see from this screenshot, but the sharpening filter snaps the image into sharp focus.

Saving the Enlarged Photo

Having adjusted the various settings, click the Save button at the bottom right of the Photo AI interface. This opens the save dialog shown below.

Saving the enhanced photo in Topaz Photo AI

Here, we see the image in the processing Queue on the interface’s left. Topaz Photo AI allows you to open and queue multiple images for processing whilst you get on with other tasks.

Then, on the right, we see the options for saving the image. Here. I’ve added the suffix ‘-topaz’ to the image name. It’s then saved to the same folder as the original image and in the JPEG format at maximum quality.

Finally, click the save button to produce the finished image.

Summary

The iPhone photo enlargement produced using the steps in this tutorial is outstanding. It’s approximately 27 inches on the long edge and produced a wonderful A3+ print for my wall. Although I can’t share a physical print here, I showed it to my wife, who couldn’t believe it was from an iPhone.

Whilst I could enlarge an iPhone photo using many other software packages, Topaz Photo AI made it easy and seems made for smart phone photography. It dealt with the quality problems in the original image effectively to produce a first-rate photo. I must admit that when I first tried this software, I wasn’t clear about why I might want it. Now that I’m doing more iPhone photography, I can see a clear purpose and reason to use it.

But I now have one more question. How big can I enlarge my iPhone photos?

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