Quality of iPhone Photos

Why are so many people picking on the quality of iPhone photos, and of any smartphone for that matter? Everybody says the photos are just not good enough for print or to show them on large format. Well, let’s talk about that for a minute…

I bought my 1st digital camera back in 2001. I took it with me on vacation to Hawaii and shot this photo of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor with it.

Pearl Harbor

The Olympus E-10 that I had back then, had a 3.7 megapixel sensor. Compact Flash cards cost a fortune. So I shot in what was called HiRes JPEG on that trip to get the most out of my memory card. Effectively, this photo is 1600 x 1200 pixels (that is a mere 1.83 megapixel).

This photo is hanging on a wall in my office, printed at 60cm x 40cm (23.6″ x 15.7″) behind plexiglass. After 15 years, I still love it. And I can promise you I will not take it down from my office wall anytime soon.

If you look real close at the print, it is grainy and a little soft.  The people on deck of the USS Arizona Memorial are nothing more than multi-colored blobs. And you can see some grain in the clouds too. But when you look at it from the right viewing distance,  it is a stunning photo that brings back quite a few memories.

Now consider this: my iPhone 7 has a 12MP camera, plenty of memory, shoots RAW and I can edit my photos in Lightroom Mobile right on my phone. So why should it produce photos that are inferior to that 15 year old photo I like so much?

Well, it doesn’t! The other day, I was in Antwerp attempting a long exposure shot of the new Port House, the Antwep Port Authority HQ designed by architect Zaha Hadid.

Antwerp Port House by Zaha Hadid Architects

While waiting on the sun to set, I flipped out my iPhone and shot and edited this photo of the building in Lightroom Mobile. On my iPhone! Guess what? It holds up to that 15 year old photo of the USS Arizona Memorial. And if that one was good enough to print at 60cm x 40cm, the iPhone photo should be good enough for print too.

Editing Photos on your iPhone with Snapseed

When it comes to editing photos on my iPhone, Snapseed is one of my favorites. It was conceived developed by Nik Software and after Google acquired Nik Software, Google continues to develop it.

I love the versatility of Snapseed: you can apply on of many Instagram-like filters to give your photo a specific look or you can decide to use the more Photoshop-like tools to get the most out of your photo. Photographers have been using Snapseed for years. As have I.

Snapseed on your iPhone

I love the individual controls of Snapseed. I will use it’s features Tune Image, Details and Brush a lot. All of them are done on a separate layer which still can be change after you apply them. So you can always undo or tune your edits. True non-destructive editing in a sense.

Snapseed has a couple of cool looking frames to put around your photos too.

The combination of shooting RAW on your iPhone with Camera+ and editing in Snapseed is second to none. I have largely switches to doing it all in Adobe Lightroom Mobile. But that is because I am a heavy LR users. Snapseed however is my backup solution.

Snapseed is available for iOS and Android. And on top of all this, Snapseed is absolutely free.