My Desktop Approach To Editing iPhone Photos

by Jul 7, 2023Photography Blog

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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Why an Article About Editing Phone Photography?

In my July 2023 newsletter, I published a photo that I’d shot whilst visiting the Basilique Saint-Nicolas in Nantes, France. At the time, I never realised how much interest it would create from people wanting to know about how I shot and processed the photo. I was also equally surprised by how popular phone or mobile photography was amongst Lenscraft subscribers. It seems that not only have many photographers embraced it, but many also now prefer it to using a bigger camera.

As a result of the interest, I want to use this article to explain how I edited the image. This isn’t though my only approach to editing iPhone photos. I also like to edit with my iPad (and even iPhone) using applications like Snapseed.

Shooting With my iPhone

Below you can see the original photo that I shot. It was taken with a basic Apple iPhone SE 2nd generation using the standard iPhone camera app. This is pretty much like setting your camera to auto to take the shot.

starting image inside the church

When I look at the camera data embed in the photo, I can see that the lens is 3.39mm which is 28mm in full frame terms. It was a handheld exposure of 1/35” at f/1.8 and ISO320. The camera app did everything for me. I just pointed the camera and took the shot.

After taking the shot, the photo is added to my phones Photos app. It then synchronises with my Apple iCloud so that the image is available from any of my other Apple devices.

Opening the Photo for Editing

Whilst I could have performed the editing on my iPad, I decided to edit the photo on my iMac using Photoshop.

To open the image in Photoshop, I first open the Photos application on my iMac. This displays a grid of thumbnails, allowing me to browse and find the one that I want.

At this point, it’s tempting to drag and drop the image thumbnail onto the Photoshop icon to open it. If this is you, resist the temptation because it only produces a small version of the image. Instead, right click on the thumbnail of the photo that you want to edit. This displays a popup menu where you can select the “Edit With” option. You then see a list of compatible applications, where I could select Photoshop.

Opening the image in Photoshop for editing

The advantage of opening the photo in this way is that it’s now at full size which is 3,024 x 4,032 pixels (the iPhone SE 2nd Gen has a 12Mpixel camera).

Removing Distractions

Now with the photo open and magnified, I want to remove the distraction of people in the centre of the frame. Here’s a section of the image magnified to 200%.

Centre of the image showing people

To remove these people, I used the new Photoshop Remove Tool. If I had been editing using Affinity Photo rather than Photoshop, I would use the Inpainting Brush Tool instead.

I first want to add a new empty layer to the image which is where I will make the repair. I do this in the Photoshop Layer menu where I select the New Layer option. This adds a new empty layer as the top layer in the image. I can then select the Remove Tool from the Photoshop Tools palette.

Selecting the Remove Tool

With the tool selected, I can configure its settings in the Photoshop Context Sensitive Toolbar at the top of the interface. You can see the settings I use in the screenshot below.

Remove Tool toolbar and settings

Notice that I have the “Sample all layers” option on so that my repair is made on the new empty layer. I also turn off the option to “Remove after each stroke”. This allows me to build up a repair by making several brush strokes so I can work in more detail. Then when I’m satisfied, I click the tick mark icon in the toolbar to apply it. There is also an icon to reset the brush strokes in case I make a mess of it.

Painting the repair with the Remove Tool and then the finished result

Here you can see that I have painted over one person in the photo to select them. Then once I apply the change you can see the repair. In the following screenshot I have used the Remove Tool to remove all the distractions from the photo and not just people. Please remember that you are viewing this at 200% magnification.

All distractions removed from the iPhone Photo

Now it’s time to fix the iPhone photo’s perspective.

Perspective Correction

There are several options for correcting the perspective in the photo. As this is a JPEG image and I’ve been working in Photoshop, I chose to use the Nik Perspective plugin which is part of the Nik Collection. This is an extremely useful plugin which I’ve shared examples of using in the past.

To open the image in Nik Perspective Efex, I launch it from the Photoshop Filter menu. Once it’s open I select the Vertical level tool and then click and drag on a point at the top centre of the image. As I do this it draws a vertical line which I can position on the areas that should be vertical. When the line is in place, I click the Apply button to rotate the image.

Correcting the vertical alignment of the iPhone Photo

Next, there’s a degree of converging verticals in the image. This is where the verticals, like walls in the image converge inwards rather than being vertical. It was caused by my tilting my phone slightly back when I took the shot. I needed to do this as there was too much foreground in the shot and I wanted to include more of the arched ceiling.

To remove the converging verticals, I used the Up/Down slider control in Nik Perspective Efex. This was followed by an adjustment to the H/V slider to change the ratio between the Horizontal and Vertical aspect of the image. I did this to squash the image vertically but widen it horizontally. You can see the adjustments in the following screenshot.

Correcting the converging verticals in the photo

Following these changes, I saved the image and returned to Photoshop.

Converting the Image to Black & White

To convert the image to Black and White I chose to use Nik Silver Efex Pro from the Nik Collection.

I started by checking the various presets that come with Nik Silver Efex Pro until I found one that I liked. This was the “Fine Art Process” which I then applied. Following that, I made some manual adjustments to darken the image and increase the contrast. After that, I added a Vignette using the “Light Falloff 2” option. Finally, I used a Control Point in the centre foreground to increase the brightness there. This helps to draw the eye into the centre of the image. You can see it in the screenshot below.

Converting the photo to black and white

A consequence of applying these adjustments was that the light coming through the columns to the top right of the frame has almost vanished. This needs to be added back into the image.

Adding the Light Beam

When I was taking this photograph, there was light coming from the top right of the frame. You can see this to a degree in the original photo. But for some reason, my phone was struggling to capture the light clearly. Additionally, the changes I’ve made to the image have reduce the bright light and I want to add it back into the photo. Whilst I could have created this in Photoshop manually, I chose to use Luminar Neo to do this.

After launching Luminar Neo, I added a Sunrays filter to the image. I then positioned the source of the light to the top right of the frame. What’s important about this is that I positioned it outside of the area of the image. This is a trick that’s often overlooked, although you may need to reduce the size of the image to give you enough room.

You can see the position of the source and the settings used in the following screenshot.

Using the Sunrays filter in Luminar Neo to add a ray of light to the photo

Other important settings to make the effect work are:

  • Having the “Number of Sunrays” set to 0.
  • Setting the Sun Warmth and Sunray Warmth to 0 so that it doesn’t add colour to the image.

You can then adjust the Amount, Overall Look, Sunray Length and Penetration to control the lighting effect.

The Finished Image

You can see the finished image below, next to the original as shot with my iPhone.

The finished image compared with the original iPhone image

Whilst producing this image, I was surprised by a few things:

  • How easy it was to take this shot with my iPhone. I haven’t done much mobile phone photography in the past because I was worried about image quality. Whilst the quality is still less than my cameras, it’s good enough. It’s also more than compensated for by the ease of use.
  • It was very easy to manipulate this image despite it not being shot in RAW.
  • The results appear to be higher quality than I was expecting when printed.

Whilst this image is around 12 inches when printed at 300dpi, I found I could easily produce a quality 24-inch print using Topaz Gigapixel. If you’re not already familiar with Gigapixel, I produced this review that you might find interesting. Another alternative is explained in my tutorial How to Enlarge iPhone Photos which I recommend reading next.

Here’s to exploring a new phase of iPhone photography.

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