Enhancing iPhone photos in Lightroom/Photoshop


Smartphones nowadays have plenty quality on the image sensors equipped with their cameras to produce stunning results. For those who expect the eternal discussion on which camera is better, here is not the post where you are going to find the answer, but rather learn (if you are an iPhone user) how to get the most of your smartphone shots using Lightroom and Photoshop.

Why using Lightroom and Photoshop for post processing your iPhone photos

Even if you can use apps like Lightroom Mobile or Adobe Photoshop Express, which are by far the best ones for editing your images, you can also ask yourself: why if I have good apps on my iPhone do I need to import my pictures into Lightroom/Photoshop?

Let’s face some facts:

  • Fidelity: No one can even doubt about Photoshop or Lightroom capacity when it comes to editing an image. It is what professionals use, and also the most comfortable way to apply several effects at the same time while working in a non-destructive interface
  • Comfort: It is not the same to take a look at a tiny screen and move sliders with your fingers than actually do it at a large monitor with your mouse for controlling every single aspect you want to change.
  • Accuracy: It is not the same to apply an overall effect to the whole image than to work with tiny areas (like what you do with the Adjustment Brush inside Lightroom) for digital post processing.
  • Variety: With either one of this two software created by Adobe, the sky is the limit; whereas with mobile apps you can just stick to what the app offers.
  • Safety: Imagine what happens if by some reason (please lord no) your screen breaks. Or you can’t turn on your device, and even worse – you got mugged. Under those circumstances, if you only have your images inside your iPhone, everything is lost. And even with iCloud, photos can be erased from the iPhone itself and all the data is lost. Better get used to saving your images at your HDD than sorry.

Considerations when taking pictures with your iPhone

And here comes a big question for new users: “what does that yellow square in the middle of the screen means?”. The square works not only for the auto-focus of your iPhone camera but also it is a measurement tool for exposure. Try and see how much lighting condition can change on your iPhone screen prior taking the shot if you tap around the screen sampling different areas. That’s because the iPhone will recognize and work for the exposure values sampled on the area the yellow square is placed at. If you tap and hold your finger at the yellow square, you will enter the Auto Exposure Lock mode, where you have to manually set the exposure with the slider for every picture you take. This can give users more control on certain lighting conditions.

My set of tools

For my iPhone photography experience, I work with an iPhone 6, complimenting my job with Lightroom 6 and Photoshop CC.

It is really important that you keep up to date with the iOS software, since camera improvements on software are quite often applied, and you can lose advancements like new filters or stability on the camera application.

In my personal opinion, iPhone 6 did a major jump in what regards with the camera when you compare it to previous models. Users tend to become confused when someone says that they are not that good due being “only an 8 Mpx camera”. That’s not true. Megapixels doesn’t matter in this, the most important thing is the quality of the image sensor, and that is something Apple guys keep working more and more on this.

Even if I didn’t have enough time to play with my new iPhone’s camera, I can assure you its quality is outstanding for being only a smartphone camera. You won’t probably need another app rather than the built-in camera app, but having Instagram on your phone is not only fun but a need nowadays.

Lightroom workflow for enhancing pictures

Start by importing your pictures into Lightroom. Either if you choose to work with the import panel of Lightroom and move the files to the Lightroom catalog or work by importing from your HDD copied files, this is completely up to you. I use the second method mostly because I want to have an extra copy of my pictures just in case.

With this picture I am currently working on, you can see how much accurate the camera can be, since I took this image while in movement inside a bus (yes, this is what the image looks like even by going through the glass of the bus window).


Correct the WB values with the Dropper tool. At the area I found a neutral grey, the WB values were just a really little bit off, almost unnoticeable.


I won’t touch the exposure values by now, but I am going to increase the contrast slider like this.


Reduce the highlights to bring in more detail, since I was focusing on the sky while I took the picture.


Bring the shadows slider to positive values in order to compensate for the low exposure value without losing detail.


Increase the whites-only a little bit to bring more light to the image


And reduce the values on blacks for enhancing dark tints.


By far, this is the overall result.


Now we can move on to further adjustments. Add clarity to bring to life more details on the scene; this comes particularly useful since this is a beach scene.


Next, add more vibrance to the image


And finally increase a little bit the saturation values


This is what we are reaching for in comparison with the original image


Not only too much detail was missing from the original file but also it looks more vivid now. Perhaps it can go much further given the fact I took it through a window glass, but for now on, I am pretty satisfied with the result.

Since this image was taken almost half an hour before sunset, I want to add a Split Toning effect with the highlights nearing an orange tint


And the shadows becoming close to the values of the sea; therefore, enhancing the feel of calm of the waves.


I don’t think my image needs any kind of correction regarding detail enhancement, but if we were working on an image scene like a macro shot of a picture or a portrait, that is a must to you ought to do inside Lightroom.

Enable Lens Correction, and since Lightroom has its own profile for Apple cameras, this works really nice for us. You can appreciate an immediate straightening effect on the image itself.


Finally, add the always appealing vignetting effect for finishing our picture


And there we have. With the Before&After shot, you can now see what was our dull looking image and the magic Lightroom can bring to it.


Photoshop Adjustments

Even if for this photo I won’t add any further adjustment, you can work your way with Photoshop for adding effects such as:

  • Selective focus (via Gaussian Blur or Motion Blur)
  • FOV effect
  • Bokeh effect
  • Lens Flare
  • Selective coloring effect

And much other stuff you can achieve inside photoshop, even lettering your images with cool looking fonts.


As you can see, all you need is creativity to bring to life your iPhone images. Try to have a good set of presets for going even further on the adjustments you are making, and also some cool looking actions of Photoshop can become a plus.

Hope this guide on Enhancing iPhone photos in Lightroom/Photoshop was useful, and keep working!


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