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How to edit photographs on an iPhone

Carlton Boyce / 11 January 2016 ( 27 April 2017 )

Improve your iPhone photos with our guide to editing photographs on your smartphone.

Taking a photo of a tree on an iPhone
A few simple steps can dramatically improve your photos

We’ve covered taking better photographs with your iPhone in a previous article and hopefully you’ve been out practicing and are reaping the benefits! 

If so, it’s time to take your Smartphone photography to the next level with some simple hints and tips on editing your photographs to bring out the best in them.

The editing programme you need

I think that Snapseed is the easiest and best in-phone editing programme on the market today. It’s available for Apple iPhones and iPads as well as for Android phones.

To show you how to use it I’ll talk you through the editing of a photograph I took in Birmingham. 

I’m not saying it’s a classic example of its type, but it is useful to show you how the image developed from the initial snap through to the final, published photograph.

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Basic adjustments in Tools

Once you’ve downloaded and installed Snapseed, open it up. Click on the ‘OPEN’ icon and then open a photograph from your camera. 

Don’t worry about messing anything up as it’s non-destructive programme, so you can’t permanently ruin your precious pictures.

It’s got to be a good photograph, though; even Snapseed can’t turn a bad photograph into a good one. 

But, it can turn a good photo into a great one, so give it a fighting chance by trying it on one of your better snaps!

You’ll then see a pen icon in the bottom right-hand of the screen. Click that and a two menus will open: ‘Tools’ and ‘Filters’. 

The editing tools menu in the Snapseed app
Editing tools menu in the Snapseed app

The first option is ‘Tune Image’ in Tools. Open that, and have a play with what it can do. 

Sliding your finger up and down the screen scrolls between the various editing options while moving your finger from left to right alters the intensity of the effect.

It takes longer to describe than to do, so feel free to experiment to see what works for you. 

If your photograph is already in good shape then this is often the only editing function I use, along with some basic straightening in ‘Rotate’.

However, for photos that are a little further away from being a masterpiece, I’ll move on to the next stage…

Photograph taken by an iPhone and edited to make it straighter
In this image, I only used ‘Tools’ to straighten it a little

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Using the HDR function in Filters

The High Dynamic Range (HDR) filter adds depth to your photograph across the whole dynamic range, so it will bring detail to both your shadows and highlights. 

There are pre-set options at the bottom of the screen, so try clicking on each one to see which effect you prefer. 

You might, like me, find that less is more, so feel free to scroll the effect down to about 25%, which is a good, multi-purpose setting that works well with most subjects.

You can also add or subtract brightness and saturation. I rarely do this at this stage, preferring to wait until the image is almost finished.

Photograph taken by an iPhone and edited to add depth
In this image, I’ve added some HDR from the ‘Filters’ menu to add depth to the photo

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Add a little bit of drama…

HDR made a big difference to the photograph, but it still doesn’t ‘pop’ like I want it to, so it’s time to add a little drama. 

Again, you’ve got a choice of presets (and a little goes a long way) but the image is now starting to look how I envisioned it.

I now adjust the saturation (which is just a fancy name for the intensity of the colours in the image) to make the gold men and the blue sky stand out. Of course, for some photos a de-saturated colour palette works well to give a lovely vintage feel.

Photograph taken by an iPhone and edited to add saturation
In this image, I’ve added some drama and boosted the saturation

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Closer. No, even closer than that!

We’re getting close, but not close enough. I want the men to be the part of the image that draws the viewer in, so it’s time to crop the image. I’ve chosen a square format from ‘Crop’ in the Tools menu.

iPhone photograph that has been edited to improve the quality of the image
In this image, I’ve cropped it in ‘Tools’ to make the men the most visible part of the image, an effect that was strengthened by using ‘Lens Blur’ in the Filters menu
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The centre of attention

Almost there: I’m still not sure that the men are drawing me in as much as I’d like, so it’s time to unleash ‘Lens Blur’ in the Filters menu.  With that – and again, try small and work up to a bigger, stronger effect – the image is complete.

Once you are happy, it’s time to save your final image. You’ve got a choice of two main I options: ‘Save’, which permanently alters your image, and ‘Save a copy’ which makes a copy and leaves your original image untouched. I always choose the second option as I want the ability to be able to return to my initial image at a later date.

Filter menu on the Snapseed app
Filter menu on the Snapseed app

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That’s all there is to it! 

Please do try it and play around with the various effects. I also love the ‘Grunge’ filter, which I used to great effect with this shot of a Suzuki Vitara on the beach. It’s a Marmite effect, I’ll grant you but we’re creating art here! 

Image of a Suzuki Vitara edited with a filter
Image of a Suzuki Vitara edited with a filter

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.