Pushing the iPhone Post Processing

The iPhone is really the most widely used “smartphone” on the planet. They are everywhere and some of us revel in pushing them far beyond what the Apple engineers dreamed we could do with them. One of the strongest features of the iPhone is also one of it’s weakest. Everyone loves the camera and apps of the iPhone. Those of us that know enough hate the JPEG processing currently used on the iPhone and iOS7. With iOS 6.x, the JPEG was somewhat loose on it’s processing and could easily handle being manipulated by apps and external software like Lightroom or Photoshop. But, with iOS 7, the processing of the JPEG was changed to a more highly compressed version and the end result is that the OEM JPEG cannot withstand nearly as much editing as it used to be able to.

This has lead me to work more with third party apps like ProCamera 7and PureShot. Both of these have excellent choices for saving files with uncompressed TIFF as an option. A difference is that PureShot offers a MAX JPEG that is very, very good with not too much post processing and quite a bit of data to work with. How much more? Well, the default Apple iOS camera app saves the 8 megapixel image as a 1-2 Mb JPEG file at 72 dpi. Pure on the other hand in MAX JPEG mode, saves about a 5Mb file at 300 dpi. The image dimensions have not changed, they are still 3264×2172 but the AMOUNT of data is significantly more going from 2 megs to 5 megs. This means you can really push the image around in post processing much more than with the standard Apple image. An added feature is you can embed your own copyright info into the metadata when the image is taken.

Pure Home iPhone 5S

Pure MaxJPEG screen iPhone5S

This image was taken in very bad conditions for the iPhone. In other words, extreme contrast in light going from very dark shadow to very bright light. Normally speaking, the iPhone (and most smartphones) doesnt have a prayer of getting a good shot. They just do not have the exposure latitude needed. But with PureShot, I knew if I got the highlights right and not blowout, I could pull up the shadows in post since I had so much data. Not only did I do that, I also applied a 25% crop which didn’t bother the image at all.

Sara dueling Darth Maul Disneyland Jedi School

With the standard iPhone app, you would get blocked out shadows and no hope to get them back or you would blow the highlights. I did the processing on Snapseed but in Lightroom, I could push it even harder. Lightroom excels at highlight recovery even if you cannot see them on the iPhone and has excellent shadow enhancement tools.

Here is the original image from Pure without any post processing
Sara vs Darth Maul Disneyland Jedi  untouched

And here is the same image cropped and retouched in Lightroom. You can see I could crop tighter, there is now details on Darth Maul’s outfit that didn’t show up in the Snapseed image and the Jedi sign is not looking like it melted. The post processing tool you use, makes a HUGE difference in the final outcome of your image. Don’t be married to the idea “I’m only going to use my iPhone”. You are cheating yourself doing that. The iPhone works very well but a real editor makes a difference.

Since I’m working with PureShot, even cropped as it is, I can still print an 8×10 without any issues if I wanted to. I was able to export out at 2500 pixels and 240 DPI without any issues

Sara vs Darth Maul Disneyland Jedi  Lightroom

This image shows that you can really push an iPhone image as long as you use the right tool to shoot with and the right tool to process with. I could push this image more to bring up some of the trooper’s white armor but I spent only 30 seconds in Lightroom to make a point.

I shot with PureShot but ProCamera 7 can produce the same results but using uncompressed TIFF files. Their JPEG is not quite as robust as Pure’s. I love the split focus and exposure of ProCamera but Pure shoots faster. So you decide which is more important to you and your style of shooting. I use both depending the situation.

*** edited 6-2-2014 to Pure screenshots ***

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This entry was posted in editing, editing software, iPhone, musings and tagged , .


  1. Mike Hardaker June 2, 2014 at 6:39 am #

    Mike—if you tap the Spot Meter button you get “split focus and exposure” on PureShot too.

  2. Mike Sweeney June 2, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    Mike – I got the screen to split but it didn’t work nearly as well as ProCamera. But I will admit I’m still learning Pure so I may have missed something in the rush to use the app. Thanks for the heads up

    • Mike Hardaker June 2, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

      Once you have the have enabled spot metering and spot metering exposure point-of-interest indicator on screen, and then tap the screen for the focus point-of-interest indicator, both apps are using pretty much exactly the same focus/exposure logic—as developers, we have no real control over that!

  3. Mike Sweeney June 2, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    Sweet.. I broke my own rule yesterday by using an app I was not completely familiar with but then what better time to see how well it works 🙂 As I say, I love the HQ JPEG for post processing. That alone makes it a winner for myself. I could use TIFF but I shoot ALOT and every bit I can save helps.

    • Mike Hardaker June 2, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

      As a half-way house you can enable (lossless) LZW compression for TIFFs in MENU->Advanced settings. That cuts file size quite a bit, at the expense a somewhat slower save (unnoticeable on iPhone 5s, quite, er, pronounced on iPhone 4…).

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