Sure some photos need more editing than others, but I truly believe that every photo could use the power of editing to go from a good photo to a great one. When it comes to taking photos on iPhone, the app store has tons of apps that come with hundreds of presets and filters that promise instant transformations for your photos. And yes, filters can help with editing, but its definitely not just that.
Editing is about understanding what is missing from the photo and how to enhance it to make it the best it can be. It is not about transforming the photo to something unreal, but rather making the photo look as close to the scene in real life. I‘ve put together a comprehensive editing checklist to help you step-by-step with editing your iPhone photos. You can download it right here.
For the recent floral photo pack I created with my iPhone, I used just one app – Snapseed – for editing all of the photos. Snapseed is a powerful editing tool with an easy to use interface that can help you largely improve your iPhone photos. Plus its FREE – you can download Snapseed here!
For this tutorial, you can use any editing app ( Here are the ones that I recommend ). I will be using Snapseed and this photo below as an example to navigate you throughout the tutorial.
Editing tools of Snapseed:
To bring up the editing tools available on Snapseed, you need to click on the little edit icon at the bottom right corner of the screen. That will open up the full gamut of editing tools that you can use to edit your iPhone photos.
Step 0: Rotate
Depending on the way you hold your iPhone camera while clicking the photo, the image will be horizontally or vertically oriented. Since this is a vertical photo and I want to hold my phone vertical while editing, I am using the Rotate tool on Snapseed to flip the photo to the vertical position.
Step 1: Exposure
One of the first steps in editing is to fix the exposure. Exposure refers to how light or dark the photo is. So if the photo is on the darker side, you may want to slightly increase the exposure and vice versa. Make sure not to go over board with the exposure as it may leave your photos too bright and overexposed, making it hard to concentrate on the subject of the photo.
In the photo below, I am increasing the exposure slightly by using the exposure brush feature thats available on Snapseed.
Step 2: Fine Tuning
Fine tuning involves adjustments made to details like:
Brightness: You may want to alter the brightness of the photo in order to adjust the mid-tones. Sometimes, the amount of light in the photo is perfect, but you may want to brighten the photo a little bit – this is when you use the brightness adjustment instead of the exposure.
Here I am slightly increasing the brightness to add a little cheer to the photo without overexposing it.
Contrast: Increasing the contrast helps bring out the colors and tones of the photo. It helps make the whites whiter and the blacks darker which fills life into an otherwise dull photo.
I am increasing the contrast here to make the beautiful pinks and yellow colors of the petals stand out against the white background.
Saturation: If you want to intensify the colors of your photo, you need to increase the saturation of the photo. Again, don’t saturate the photo too much as it can look unpleasant and be harsh on the eyes.
Here, I am bumping up the saturation to intensify the colors of the petals.
Highlights & Shadows: If your photo has strong shadows or highlights, use the shadows/highlights tool to lighten shadows and correct washed out highlights. I am using shadows tool here to lighten the shadows around the petals.
White balance: Depending on what lighting you use for your photos, the photos can be slightly blue or yellow. In order to balance the colors, you can use increase or decrease the warmth of your photo.
Step 3: Healing
Despite being careful, there can be some unwanted dust particles that may creep into your photos. In order to remove those, you can use the healing tool. Just brush over the dust and voila! it disappears!
In the photo below, I am using the healing brush to remove the black dust particles that are present in the photo.
Step 4: Crop and transform
If you want to alter the composition of your photo, you can use the crop and transform tools. Use the crop tool to cut out any unwanted parts of the photo that may have entered the frame.
You can use the transform tool to adjust the vertical and horizontal perspectives of your photo. In this photo, I am slightly adjusting the vertical perspective of the photo to make it look more straight and flat.
Step 5: Sharpen
Lastly, I love to sharpen the photo to increase clarity and definition of the photo. I am using the sharpen tool to increase the definition in the photo below. And then, its time to save. Make sure to always select – Save as copy so you don’t overwrite the original image just in case you need it later.
Step 6: Filters
Using filters and effects is a personal choice. I do occasionally use some Instagram and VSCO filters, but most of the time I try not to. Some of my favorite presets are the T1 and C1 filters from VSCO and the Juno filter from Instagram.
Of course, every photo doesn’t need every single edit. I have put together a comprehensive editing checklist to help your editing process, in an order that works best. You can download it right here and use it as a reference when you are editing your photos.