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Reader Question: How to Improve My iPhone 4 Images

by Chris Gampat on 07/21/2010

My review of the iPhone 4’s camera made quite the stir; and some users are even wondering how they can make their photos better. Take the recent case of Kyle, who found the posting through Google. He’s got some problems with his images and he wants to make them better, but he’s not a photographer. As I’ve learned in the commercial world, great editors can also create great images. I’m going to show you how to create better iPhone images by converting them to RAWs.

Chris,


I stumbled across your blog while searching for any information regarding why iPhone 4 pictures look great on the retina display, but VERY disappointing on the PC.  I found two sentences at:


that supported my thoughts.

In NO way am I a photographer.  I’ve always been very interested in photography, but I’ve never had the time nor capital to invest into a hobby for me.  I was at a wedding in Costa Rica last week and was able to capture what I thought were AMAZING pictures, using lower-than-I’d-like light (it was quite cloudy that day).  The iPhone 4 made the sky look amazing.

Then I got home and moved the .jpgs to my PC.  Man, was I disappointed.  The colors were dull, there was more noise than I’d have thought, and it was just all-around “ugh.”  (I see what you meant regarding the lack of Image Stabilization.  There is NONE.)

Do you have any tips for a non-photographer to make the .jpgs that I moved to my PC look almost as good as they do on the retina display?

Thanks for a great blog,
Kyle

First off, thanks for reading the blog Kyle. It’s always appreciated and I love interacting with my readers.

For starters, you may want to check out my quick introduction to many pieces of software for photo editing. Since you’re not a photographer though, I’m going to go ahead and recommend either Lightroom or Photoshop Elements. Truthfully, everything you want/need can be done in Lightroom very quickly and easily.

Now here’s the best way to do this: Turn your iPhone images into RAWs.

Yes, I said that correctly and you read that correctly. Here’s how:

First off, you’re going to want to import your images into Lightroom and head over to the Develop tab. Now you’re going to need to highlight/select all the images there.

Once you’ve done that. Let’s get ready to export the images as shown above.

For your export settings. Save them in a specific folder and rename your images something customized. But the most important setting is under the File Settings tab. Change the format to DNG. This is Adobe’s Digital Negative RAW file format. Leica cameras shoot in this format.

This is the new iPhone DNG file imported into Photoshop Elements with Camera RAW. This was the original image, which is very bland.

This is it after tweaks. You’ll be playing with the sliders a bit. For starters, raise your contrast, fill light, exposure just a bit, and clarity. Also be sure to saturate your images a bit.

Here are the results:

Before

After

Just a minor note: this could all be done in Lightroom once again.

Kyle emailed me some images of his own and I told him that I’d try to retouch them the most that I can. All retouching and editing was done in Lightroom.

Before

After

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Happy editing!

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