Creating High Resolution Images on iPhone, by Sid Peña

high res, photo, iphone, mobile photo
Cherry Blossoms by Sid Peña

UPDATED March 2015 – Most of the time, Life In LoFi focuses on getting the highest quality image in camera so you can app it into digital lo-fi afterwards. In his first post for us, Photographer/iPhoneographer Sid Peña explains how he gets impressive results getting high quality images for oversize prints using his iPhone. =M=

My Workflow Secrets:
Creating High Resolution Images on iPhone 5

by Sid Peña

Most iPhoneographers would love to create high resolution, detailed, print-ready images.  High quality output greatly increases the desire for your work across many venues of the graphics industry.  Larger prints mean more potential buyers, higher DPI means more detail in those reproductions which could lead to more industry recognition and possibly more green in your pocket.

high res, photo, iphone, mobile photo
Cherry Blossoms by Sid Peña

I’m going to show you the basic workflow I use on 90% of my photos.  This tutorial will take you from snapping the photo to a finished image with a resolution of 4896 x 3672, DPI of 300 x 300 and a way to create a master RAW image in TIFF format for archiving.

To follow this tutorial you will need:

  • an iPhone 5 or newer (an iPhone 4S should also work nearly as well. =M=)
  • ClearCam (Unfortunately, no longer available. See below.)
  • Snapseed (Free, App Store link)
  • Photogene 4 ($2.99, App Store link)
  • KitCam (Since this post was written, the original KitCam has also been deleted from the App Store. There are a number of KitCam clones currently available, but none work nearly as well as the original app. =M= )
  • Filterstorm, ($3.99, App Store link) (

(Since this post was originally published in 2013, several of the photo apps above have been end-of-lifed and are no longer available in the App Store. Here is a list of comparable photo apps you can use in place of them: )

The Base Image

When I worked as a roadie, a sound engineer once explained why the band onstage sounded so bad.  He said, “Crap in, loud crap out.”  In other words, if you want a high quality result you need to start with the highest quality ingredients.  The first ingredient is a crisp, clear photo which incorporates a great subject, composition and tone.  I can’t help you with subject, composition and tone but for a crisp clear photo; “There’s an app for that!”

ClearCam is my goto Camera Replacement app for 95% of my shots, and for good reason.  It does what it does amazingly well, which is produce sharp, high resolution images.  With a tripod you can get images so tack sharp that only a pro could discern them from DSLR images.  The way it works is it shoots 6 frames in fast succession and then you apply an align and enhance process from the app’s photo queue.

Editor’s Note: Cortex Camera, ($2.99, App Store link) is a favorite of ours. It still works in iOS 9 and it does a lot of what the now-unavailable ClearCam did. =M=

There are two shooting modes in ClearCam, Quick and Enhanced.  I use the Enhanced mode because the Quick mode only produces native resolution images.  ClearCam also has some quirky characteristics you should take into consideration when framing your images or preparing for the next shot.  The ClearCam screen only displays 16:9 aspect ratio but the resulting photo will be in full 4:3.  This means that in portrait mode you can’t see what is just to the left or right of the screen or in landscape mode what is just above or below the upper and lower limits of the viewable screen.  When you process the image that area will be visible.  After I got used to this issue it was easy to frame my shot properly.  Also, I found that if you close the app with the home button or turn off the screen by pressing the power button before ClearCam has finished processing your last shot, that image will not be there when you go back to the app.  If you need to shoot a burst or rapid succession, this is not the app you’re looking for.

ClearCam, high res, iphone, resize photo, mobile photo, rez up
Original image as captured by ClearCam

The size of the processed RAW images in ClearCam is formidable (about 70MB to 90MB).  On my first day of SXSW 2013, I had about 4GB of available space on my 16GB iPhone 5 and hit capacity after about 40 photos.  Since I didn’t bring my MacBook Pro with me I was forced to align, enhance, export and delete lots of the ClearCam files to free up the needed space (the next day I had my MacBook with me).

One quirky characteristic of ClearCam that I love is the effect the align and enhance process has on moving subjects.  In my photo, The IT Crowd, the motion blurs and double and triple exposure effects really provide a dynamic feel to the image.  I suggest playing around with this to see what kind of results you get, your mileage may vary.

Sid Pena, mobile photo, resize iphone photo
The IT Crowd by Sid Peña

The Sharper Image

Once you have a good base image from ClearCam, it’s time to take it into SnapSeed for a little Detailing.  This is a quick and simple way to really make the final image pop.  I always dial Sharpening to 20 and Structure to 5, then save and export to Camera Roll.  Anything higher and you start flirting with Edge Glow and what I call Retina Burn (a common result of over zealous HDR).


This article continues on Page 2

Next: Enhancing the Photo

About Sid Peña 2 Articles
Sid Peña began his photographic journey in 1985 when he bought a Nikon FG in Kitzingen, Bavaria, West Germany. He has worked as a photojournalist and graphic designer, among many other interesting jobs. He is currently working for a very well known computer firm in Austin, Texas. When he’s not at work he can be seen lurking around downtown with his iPhone 5, on the hiking trails of Walnut Creek with his dog, Angie or hosting a MST3K marathon at his house for fellow MSTies.
  • Olf

    Interesting article. Thanks a lot! One question, though, which of all these saves includes decompressing the jpg and thereby losing image quality?

  • carlos

    interesting Tutorial. Any recomendations for labs doing a good job of printing these works of art?
    Thanks Sid for you article and Marty for posting it.


  • Mar

    Wonderful article on a clean workflow. With so many apps available, I loose sight on a solid workflow. It’s fantastic to learn how apps behave in aspects that are usually not covered in blogs and reviews. Didn’t know that KitCam maintains the image size regardless of crop/zoom applied. Highly useful. Thank you.

  • Cat Milton

    Very cool recipe – thank you!

  • Fletch

    Thanks, great article. I have tested ClearCam and Cortex Cam and I find that Cortex has less noise. May be worth trying?

    As far as changing the DPI to 300 in PhotoGene, is this really worth it? Since the onscreen prompt says this only changes the EXIF data and not the actual resolution per se.

    I am kind of wary of changing resolutions after the fact as I’m not sure that this makes the quality better, just like resizing in Photoshop

  • Bridget

    Very nice tutorial, thank you! I have the new ipod touch and most steps are the same with the exception of the Photogene2 app. Still, I found it made an improvement using clearcam to take the initial photo. Thanks! The ipod touch is only a 5MP camera so I was a bit saddened when I gave my iphone4s to my daughter and lost a better camera, but with your suggestions, it truely helps! Thankfully I also already have all the apps you suggested. 😉

  • Paul Klosterman

    This is awesome. I always wondered if others had workflows as involved as mine. Now I can see how my workflow compares to your results.

    This is a great solicitation for other photographers to share workflows. I always get asked about how my image detail. Apps I use in my workflow are Retouch(if needed), dynamic lighting, fusion and snapseed.

  • petyr campos

    thanks for the tutorial. great info

  • Paul Klosterman

    This is awesome. I always wondered if others had workflows as involved as mine. Now I can see how my workflow compares to your results.

    This is a great solicitation for other photographers to share workflows. I always get asked about how my image detail. Apps I use in my workflow are Retouch(if needed), dynamic lighting, fusion and snapseed.

  • Jeff Perry

    Sid, I am not sure I can agree with a standard practice of upsampling from 8mp to 13mp. At 300ppi the resulting image is 9×16. I never print my high res images directly from my iDevice, prefering instead to export to Photoshop or Lightroom for final processing and pinting, so unless I was actually printing directly from the iDevice or sending to a Lab for printing from me iDevice, I would never upsample an image without first knowing the final output size, and then only upsampling as much as is absolutely necessary. In fact an 8mp image in native iPhone5 resolution when printed at 240ppi will give you a superb 8×10 print without upsampling. And as you know, when upsampling, the software is creating new pixels, the software is making a decision as to which pixels to duplicate. I have not directly compared the results of upsampling using any number of iDevice apps compared to the PC-based solutions, but I would lay odds that there is a visible difference, and I for one prefer checking my images on a 24″ screen before final output.

    Thank you for sharing your workflow. I too, like many others, use the same apps, and find it very helpfull to learn how others use them.

  • alain goldfarb

    great tuto, thank you

  • Drew

    Great article. Thanks very much.

    One question . . .

    In PhotoGene2, under Resolution/Resize, my iPhone 4s only gives me limited choices–a list that starts with 300 and ends with 3264. I don’t see any of the options you mention in that menu. Are there different versions of this app? Maybe I have a different version?



  • Excellent, thanks!

    One more tip. For some images you can increase the apparent sensor size and signal to noise by “stitching”. We’ve used AutoStitch in hi-res mode for a couple of years to create a wider field of view with amazing detail and clarity. In low light stitching reduces the noise by averaging it out.

  • Thank you. Really interesting, and apps I’ve never tried. But I reckon I will be!

  • Brian

    I’m curious why you don’t just shoot with KitCam? Instead of up-sampling later in the workflow, KitCam can save a master TIFF right when you shoot, and all edits in KitCam are non-destructive so you can edit to your hearts content without ever disturbing the master. I was a die hard ProCamera user but recently switch to KitCam because of the non-destructive edits and the fact that you can also have your preferred film and lens turned on while shooting to help with composition. You can always revert back to the master later after taking the picture. Thanks again for sharing your workflow, I always appreciate seeing how others work.

  • Dgy Geezer

    A very muddling article. Features between different apps are mixed up. This workflow cannot be followed in practice. Rewrite it, with the apps open & ready to use & CHECK that the features assigned to an app are actually present and can be used in the order suggested.

  • Diane Crosby

    ebay is now requiring photos with a minimum of 500 pixels on the longest edge. When I put a photo on there from my new Iphone5, ebay rejects it saying it is not “big” enough. How do I correct this? Any ideas? Thanks!

  • Zoe

    Thank you so much this is just what I needed.

  • Enzo

    KitCam is not longer available for iOS. Can you suggest an alternative?

  • Andy Bee

    any suggestion now kitcam has gone? Great article and thanks 🙂

  • michelley

    what do you suggest we use instead of kitcam??

  • Ingrid Hobbs

    Hi there – i loved ClearCam thanks to you, but now it’s gone. have you found any other alternatives that take beautifully high resolution photos? I can’t seem to find a replacement that is as good. Thank you.

  • Lisa England Schuster

    Is there ANY way to use the iPhone6 to get to a100MB? I’m an artist interested in taking my own pics of my huge (48″x 60″) paintings, tweaking them thru Photoshop and reproducing as 48″x 60″prints.

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